“Shooting an Elephant”
I was not comfortable with many aspects of this story. The prejudice
throughout the book was unimaginable, I find I am uncomfortable with any
kind of bigotry. Reading of the Burmese people and their disrespect toward
someone who was there to “protect and serve”, was difficult. I suppose I am
naive, I try to hold on to the belief that people of God are inherently good. I
know there are bad apples in all walks of life, bad people are everywhere so
holding on to this optimism is harder each day. This story wasn’t like that, this
was a blatant attitude of prejudice for sport, ignorance, and peer pressure. I
found it very hard to embrace. Story or not, it was and is deeply disturbing.
The idea of a group of Burmese people, growing to huge proportions in
size, following a police officer who is going after a mad elephant, was
fascinating. I liken it to a train wreck , horrible to see yet hard to look away.
That being said, again, I was uncomfortable with the overall story line.
The elephant had shown frightening behavior, however, by the time the
crowd caught up to him he had settled down. With the owner not around, and
the crowd reaching riot proportions, for this officer, there seemed to be only one
solution. It seemed to be a no win situation for anyone, especially the
The story itself was about shooting an elephant, but the main story line
was that of people with great prejudices and immense fears. All through this
story, there was talk of hate and hostility and prejudice. It appeared to be the
motivation for any and all actions taken. Whether it was for sport, out of
boredom, or just angry people, the actions that were taken to appease the crowd
and their feelings were horrifying.
I know little of George Orwell or his body of work. I am familiar with his
science fiction novel entitled “1984”, though I have not read it. My personal
opinion of George Orwell is that of awe. The combination of his amazing mind
and creative ability to take what is, what could be and what might have
been, mix it up with some fantasy to produce what he has in his stories,
boggles this students mind.
The officer shoots the elephant in the end because “a white man mustn’t
be frightened in front of natives”, and to be laughed at would be worse than that
of being trampled alive by an elephant in front of two thousand Burman. Peer
pressure is the factor.
So to be a police officer with no respect, in a place filled with
Hate, left few options. For him, shooting the elephant was the only answer to the
fear, hate, prejudice and peer pressure he was surrounded by.