Literary Analysis on the story Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell


Most authors share their personal experiences through writing. In the novels, short stories, or poems, the authors write about their previous or current experience, aspects surrounding the society among others. In Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell, the narrator shares his personal experience. The tale dwells on the speaker, who is a colonial police officer within British Burma. The protagonist does not command respect among the villagers, with most of them constantly demeaning him. On learning that an elephant was causing havoc in the region, he immediately arrives at the place and kills it to avoid ridicule from the Burmese. As such, this paper will strive to analyze the literary devices like metaphors utilized in this tale to entice the reader as well as give meaning to the same.

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One of the most prominent devices is the metaphor. The tale’s mood is set at the juncture where the author demonstrates the setting of the story as “cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginnings of the rains.” As such, the sentiment portrays the narrator’s speech as feeble and discomforting. The author had already described the situation as weak depicted by the people who laugh and mock him. The elephant portrayed in this story is metaphoric. The author illustrates the destructive aspects of imperialism via the elephant’s raging spree causing havoc to the food shelves, homes, as well as killing a member of the area. The elephant is a metaphor of imperialism, which impacted negatively on many residents within the region. After finding the animal, the writer states, “I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him.” However, after looking at the multitude of people watching him, he changes his mind. “…but I did not want to shoot the elephant.” He does not know whether to kill the animal (immoral) or let it live (shameful). Though his conscious was not clean, he is influenced by the Burmese to shoot the elephant (Orwell).

The writer also utilizes an element of symbolism to aid the reader’s comprehension of his attitude towards colonialism that also helps the reader to understand the setting. As the tale begins, it is evident that the author typifies the contemporary westernized English that was against the conventional or rather primitive Burma people. The focal symbolic aspect is the stance against the elephant. The narrator fires the elephant three times before it falls. This instance is symbolic to the historical war between Burma and the British Empire. The country resisted the British rule indulging in war three times before it could surrender to colonialism. As such, “shooting the elephant” symbolized aspects involving the Burmese and the British realm.

The author also utilizes figurative speech to make the tale enticing to the reader. For instance, in the sentiment “…foot had stripped the skin from his back as neatly as one skins a rabbit,” he uses a simile comparing the actions of the elephant to a person skinning a rabbit. The author employs alliteration to give the tale a rhythmic sound as evidenced by the sentiment, “yellow faces of young men” among others.

In conclusion, it accurate to state that power draws huge expectations. By “shooting the elephant,” the author shows how leaders lose their own freedom to suit the public domain. Though the narrator was in a dilemma, he was forced to please the public rather than follow his moral judgment. The author manages to intertwine the moral of the story with literary devices to make it enticing and implore the reader to seek the inner meaning of some sentiments. For example, the elephant and its actions symbolize British Imperialism and how it impacted on the Burmese. The author also uses figurative speech like similes and alliterations to give the tale a poetic sound. However, the central literary device is the metaphoric depiction of imperialism through the elephant. In general, “shooting the elephant” dwells on the aspects surrounding Colonialism with the victims being the Burmese.


Works Cited

A study Guide for George Orwell’ “Shooting an Elephant”. 2010. <,%E2%80%9D+George+Orwell+summary&source=bl&ots=8OkMQtm8jB&sig=9ZlYQPhKayV5DWGePL38ghtoeSs&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Shooting%20an%20Elephant%2C%E2%80%9D%20Geor>.

Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. Penguin Classic, 2009. 14 May 2017.