Thursday, June 30, 2011

“Analysis of a Narrative: George Orwell’s “Shooting An Elephant”

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George Orwell’s works are very compelling and descriptive. I have previously read the story “Animal Farm,” which was also by Orwell. Seeing different works by the same author has been beneficial because I know that there is more than one way to write an interesting essay. In “Shooting An Elephant” Orwell depicts an intriguing narrative essay that motivates his readers’. In it Orwell describes how he is hated by the Burmans and Buddhist priest because he is an officer for the British Empire. One day a sub-inspector from the police station calls and tells him there is an elephant that has broken loose and is going through the village causing destruction. The trainer is too far away from the elephant, so Orwell has to think of something. After he finds the elephant he is faced with the decision on whether or not to shoot it. All the Burmans are there waiting on him to kill the elephant so they can use it as food. So finally, he gives into the pressure from the Burmans and kills it so he doesn’t look like a fool. At first this essay may seem bland to some, but as the reader continues they are captivated by his conflicts, narrative points, how he relates everything back to his thesis, and his descriptive details. This is what makes Orwell’s essay such a good example of a narrative.

Displayed in the essay are not only internal conflicts that Orwell deals with, but external ones as well. The first conflict introduced was man versus man. The Burmans and Buddhist priests do not like Orwell because he is a European police officer for the British Empire. This is ironic because he disliked the Burmans too. He stated “that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts” (10). This is a good example of how there can be more than one conflict within a story and within a main character. Then, the conflict man verses self came about after Orwell finds the elephant and he has to make a decision on whether or not to shoot it.

People can perceive this essay’s narrative point differently because there are many good ideas illustrated. Some may be hard to find but personally, I found the narrative point easily at the beginning of the essay. Orwell states, “It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism-the real motives for which despotic governments act” (10). Reader’s may go over and over an essay and never find it, but if it happens to be expressed as explicitly as it is in Orwell’s, there will be no difficulty in identifying it.

Evaluating Orwell’s essay, it is apparent his details flow together and are consistently interesting. In the beginning he has a descriptive introduction that causes the readers’ to reflect back and remember why he shoots the elephant. Throughout this essay, how the people will react and think of him is important to

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Orwell and his actions. He states that, “in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him,” (1). Again, this leads to the outcome of the remaining

paragraphs in the essay and is crucial in keeping readers attentive.

The details described in Orwell’s essay are so realistic; it makes the reader feel as if they are really there. For example, when the elephant was on the rampage he killed and trampled an Indian. The words he uses to explain him were very visual and specific; it made the reader feel as if they were present. He also stated how he felt as he was looking at the Indian, which gives the essay extra meaning. He said, “Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish” (11). This allows the reader to picture the Indian’s corpse more clearly, through someone else’s eyes. Also, when Orwell shot the elephant, he uses descriptive terminology to keep the reader’s attention. It was not just one shot and the elephant was dead, it was a drawn out tedious task that took a while. He wrote, “I waited a long time for him to die,” and “It seemed dreadful to see the great beast lying here, powerless to move and yet powerless to die, and not even be able to finish him” (1). These statements affect the reader because they are so descriptive and they take them into the story.

Overall, Orwell wrote a narrative essay that had an unusual conflict that made the readers’ realize how weak humans are when their integrity is challenged. The arrangement of the essay was effective. The conflicts he wrote about were interesting and displayed his narrative point quite well. The descriptiveness

present keeps the readers’ attention until the end. Once the reader starts the essay, it will be difficult to put it down before they are done with it.

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