George Orwell Argument against Imperialism

Imperialism is a strategy used by political leaders to acquire and maintain empires by extending their authority over foreign entities. The imperialists would be able to exert political and economic control over other countries if their authority was extended. In his story “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell argues against the taste of imperialism and its abuse of power. Because of the integrity and viability of individuals, it is critical to show concern in resolving racial discrimination. Imperialism entails exploiting natives and oppressed peoples and squeezing them from various angles, such as limiting the oppressed’s freedom. George Orwell expresses anger and disgust against any kind of oppression and tyranny to the less advantaged individuals (Alam and Sarwar, 55). The imperialists burdened the poor natives by inflicting on them hatred and torment. The imperialists considered the Asians as culturally inferior as they humiliate and subjugate them as racially inferior individuals. George Orwell desired to rescue the poor natives from the exploitations by the imperialists (Doyle and James, 15). The Orwell’s narrative “Shooting an elephant” is a demonstration of George Orwell’s argument against the taste of empire-building and its abuse on the poor natives.


Orwell introduces the idea of humiliation of the poor natives by the imperialists. Having served as a British soldier, Orwell experienced overwhelming bitterness and hatred of the natives because of his British heritage. Orwell expresses his suffocation under a mask which he wears because he did not like to oppress the natives but had to do it only out of fear of mockery (Orwell and Kernerman, 36). Orwell tells a story of moral suffering. Orwell proves he is anti-imperialism when he pretends to celebrate the death of a poor native killed by an elephant (42). Orwell subjects the elephant a slow but an agonizing death which shows he never actually celebrated the death of the poor native. During imperialism, the British humiliated the poor natives by referring to them as racially inferior individuals. Orwell states disagreement with the exploitation of one human race by the other. However, he has a mandate to represent the British Empire and uphold the law. The poor natives suffer oppression from the imperialists. The imperialists oppress the poor natives so that they can expand their territory and gain political and economic control. On the other hand, the natives mock and laugh at the imperialist so that they can feel humiliated and live. The imperialists adopted different oppression methods to avoid such mockery from the native for example in Burmese (Rollason and Christopher, 19). Orwell hates to oppress the poor natives but has to do it because he hates humiliation and mockery by the natives (42). Orwell opposes imperialism because he considered individuals as persons of integrity and viability. Therefore, individuals deserved better treatment but not oppression and humiliation.


Orwell’s attitude of imperialism is explained in the narrative “shooting an elephant”. The poor natives hated the colonizers and the imperialists because they showed no respect for the natives’ culture. The imperialists referred to the natives as culturally and racially inferior individuals. As a result, the imperialists extended their empires so that they can impose their culture on the poor natives. The natives resisted the idea of the British people oppressing them in their own empire. The imperialists experienced humiliation from the Asians who mocked and laughed at them. Orwell receives insults from the oppressed Burmese people and that makes him feel humiliated though he has no powers to stop the natives from hurling insults at him (Orwell and Kernerman, 52). The humiliations from the oppressed natives humiliated Orwell and he even wished that the British military could wane in Asia so that the oppression could stop. Orwell shows his lack of support for imperialism when he hated working for the colonies when he saw how the British colonies oppresses the natives in a prison for wretched criminals (Seshagiri and Urmila, 106). According to Orwell, imperialism did not focus on education the poor natives on how they can rule themselves. However, the imperialists had personal interests of expanding their empire and to acquire economic and political stability across the world.


Imperialism causes decay of culture and may erode the basic values of life. Imperialists often consider the poor natives as racially and culturally inferior. Thus, imperialists tend to inflict their culture and values on the lives of the natives. As a result, the natives forget their values and culture as they try to adopt to the imperialists ways of living. An imperialist no longer remains a man if he becomes a tyrant therefore Orwell aimed at exposing the hollowness of the British Empire (Pearce, 47). Orwell writes how oppression and excessive authority on the natives caused the waning of personal relationship and vigor which were part of the pre-imperialistic period. Imperialism destroyed such personal rapport and therefore Orwell argued against imperialism in his narration “Shooting an Elephant”.

Works Cited

Alam, Mohammed Sarwar. “Orwell’s” Shooting an Elephant”: Reflections on Imperialism and Neoimperialism.” IIUC Studies 3 (2006): 55-62.

Pearce, R. D. “The Prep School and Imperialism: The Example of Orwell’s St. Cyprian’s.” Journal of educational administration and history 23.1 (1991): 42-53.

Seshagiri, Urmila. “Misogyny and anti-Imperialism in George Orwell’s Burmese days.” Ed. Alberto Lazaro. The Road from George Orwell: His Achievement and Legacy. Bern: Peter Lang (2001): 105-19.

Orwell, George, Ari Kernerman, and Ari Kernerman. Shooting an elephant. Yehud Comprehensive High School, 1969.

Doyle, James M. “Orwell’s Elephant and the Etiology of Wrongful Convictions.” Alb. L. Rev. 79 (2015): 895.

Rollason, Christopher. “Empire, Sense of Place and Cultures in Contact-George Orwell‘s‗ Burmese Days ‘and Amitav Ghosh‘s‗ The Glass Palace ‘.” Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures 9.1 (2009): 10-21.

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