Discuss how Orwell reveals “the real nature of imperialism in Shooting an Elephant.

Discuss how Orwell reveals "the real nature of imperialism in Shooting an Elephant.

Discuss how Orwell reveals “the real nature of imperialism in Shooting an Elephant.

Imperialism has been the most powerful force in world history over last four or five entaries. The world has moved from the colonial to post-colonial era ar neperialion Through the period, the imperialism have changed their grounds and strategies in imperialistic rules. But the late objective has remained the same to rule and exploit the matters with their multifaceted shimminance-tehnological, economic and millary. Thrigh dominance with these, they have hem, to a great sublishing their racial and cultural retry George Orellis pearly known to be an anti-imperialist writer. This paper, I believe, will lead us to an a different conclusion Here, we diver the inable dilemma in a disguised imperialist We dier the seeds of imperialism under the mask of anti-imperialium in this regard, it s sing short story “Shooting an Elephant” tal humbly approaches to refice Barry Hinders spporting comperiation

Imperialism is a state of mind, fuelled by the arrogance of superiority that could be adopted by any nation irrespective of its geographical location in the world. Evidence of the existence of empires dates back to the dawn of written history in Egypt and in Mesopotamia, where local leaders extended their realms by conquering other states and holding them, when possible, in a state of subjection and semi subjection. Imperialism was reborn in the west with the energence of modern nation-state and the age og exploration and discovery. It is to this type of empire building that the term imperialism is quite often restricted. To Michael Parenti,By imperialism, I mean the process whereby the dominant politico-economic interests of one nation expropriate for their own enrichment the land, labor, raw materials and markets of another people. In the years since world war II, territorial imperialism is no longer the prevailing mode. Rather than being directly colonized by the imperial power, weaker countries have been granted the trapperings of wvereignty, while westein finance capital retains control of the lion’s share of their profitable resources. This relationship has gone under various names: “Informal empire”, “Colonialism without culonies” “Neocolonialism”, and

It is his political writings (Burmese Days, Shooting an Elephant, A Hanging Animal Farm, 1984 etc) that turned Orwell from a minor English figure into a world figure Orwell himself goes on to say that, were it not for his strong political views, he might never have fulfilled himself as a writer. “What is important about Orwell is that he served Indian imperial police in Burma for about five years (1922-1927). Therefore his colonial writings must have contained intense and insightful implications on colony, colonizers and the colonized. The importance in shooting the elephant lies in how the incident depicts the different aspects of imperialism. In this essay, the elephant and the British officer help to prove that imperialism is a double edge sword. The shooting of the elephant is the incident that reveals that imperialism inflicts damage on both parties in imperialistic relationships. The British officer, Orwell displays many aspects of being the

absurd puppet under the institution of unperialism.

The elephant along with the two thousand Burmese plays an even more depressing role

when compared to the police officer. The elephant represents the stricken, shrunken;

immensely old countries that have been invaded and conquered by imperialism, while

the Burmese represent its helpless people. The once great and powerful elephant is

reduced to “senility” by the bullets just as imperial countries with superior technology

dominate the countries like India. The “great beast” meaning both the elephant the

countries it represents, becomes “powerless to move and yet powerless to die” under the

hands of the white man

Orwell has been left with Hamlet’s dilemma “to shoot or not to shoot the Elephant. The

“tiny incident” has provided Orwell “a better glimpse of the real nature of imperialism

the real motives for which despotic govemments act. When he killed the animal he

joined ranks with the imperialists as he was acting unnaturally to appease the natives. The

fact of the Burmese deciding what the narrator, a white man must do, creates the irony of

master becoming slave to fulfill his racial and imperial obligations. The British felt that

they had control over the Bammans but rather the Humans unwittingly had control over

the British. This raises an important question if a good man can be corrupted and

destroyed by imperialism, then what could it do to others who are not an principled?

There are two Orwells in the story. Each Orwell has his own perspective of events. The

young police officer who undertakes his own journey to meet and shoot the rampaging

elephant sees things without the distance that the older author does. This older author

Orwell recall the event after years of pondering it of being haunted by it. The antude

expressed by the writing Orwell is one the shooting Orwell could not have known, since

the event was too cline in time to realize it in broader perspective, What the older Orwell

in trying to do is to mend his own feelings of guilt by trying to create circumstances that

will allow him to live with himself. But he fails. As he looks back at the young Orwell

and presents rather matter-of-fact circumstances of the day he sts an elephant, he

realizes so many things the young man could not have known, or could not have seen. He

realizes larger issues. Mainly, it sheds critical light on the complex issue of imperialism.

Because irreconcilable conflicting perspectives are considered to debate on imperialism

To Noam Chomsky, Orwell is an honest author in speaking truth and exposing lies

Orwell’s presentation of colonial Burma, the internal sufferings of a sensitive colonial

officer and explicit and implicit hatred towards the natives by the colonizers are, in fact,

the honest and authentic picture of Burma under imperialism

The plight of an imperial officer is pervasive throughout the story. Here Orwell has

introduced us to that idea of humiliation, of bow the imperialists, strive everyday to avoid

being laughed at. His whole life. Orwell, sells us, “every white man’s life in the east was

one long struggle not to be laughed at.” Orwell wants to convince himself. But he is

hardly successful. He tries to justify the shooting of the elephant on the pretest that it had

killed a coolie “and afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me

legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. It is a

confession of a moral guilt. It is the rumination of a man possessed and haunted. His

final confession comes in the last line of the story. “I often wondered whether any of the

other grouped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.” Orwell admits to enjoythe death of an innocent man And that is nonstrous. He could deceive others but he could not deceive himself. The elephant’s long agonizing death is representative of how long the memory of his actions has lasted and the pain that he has had to endure because of his action. This evil deed, thus, haunts the author past the time of the incident. And it is a guilt, which is large and difficult to kill.”

Orwell’s imperialistic eye could not discover anything positive in Burmese people. The readers get a very bad impression of the Burmans because they are portrayed as nothing but nasty creatures through every thing they do.” They have “neering faces” and “cowed faces”. This is not a pleasant image that builds up of them. Their actions are even worse. They spit at women, joer at the police officers, and just generally make themselves nuisances. This makes the Burmans a very unsavory set of characters for whom the readers get a distaste, even though they sympathize for their poverty. The opposite picture we get in the same story. The Europeans are the ruling class in Burma. They consider themselves to be superior in everyway simply because they are Europeans, educated and ure in charge of running the Empire. The dialogue at the end of the essay is most telling about them. Among the ruling class, there is a difference in opinion between whether the death of a coolie was worth the price of an elephan

The people of colonized country show that imperialism has taken from them the confidence to defend their country. Instead of ceganizing to drive out imperialists, these people “spit betel juice on white women to release their anger, and instead of saving an elephant that a fellow Burmese owned, they have decided to take its meat. The people who are suppressed by imperialism become hateful and selfish in their struggle to survive. Together with the officer, the Burmese and the elephant portray an instituation that is only capable of harm. The shooting of the elephant is wrong just as imposing imperialisms is wrong. People know that imperialism is destructive, just as Orwell knows he “ought not to shoot the elephant. The flaws in imperialism begin to emerge when t

elephant dies for the selfish reas

Unlike. Soyinka who wrote about colonialism from African point of view Orwell like Joseph Conrad in Hean of Darkness presents the moral dilemmas of the imperialist. His service in colonized Burma burdened him with a sense of guilt about British colonialism as well as a need to make some personal expiation for it. Shooting an Elephant chronicles an incident in which Orwell confronts a moral dilemma and abandons his morals to escape the mocking of the native Burns. He repeatedly shoots and kills an elephant which had ravaged a bazaar and scared many Burmans even though it was not necessary to kill it Orwell’s moral conflict stems from his position as the despised imperialist in

colonized country Orwell endured overwhelming bitterness and hatred of the natives because of his British heritage “the meeting faces of young man that met me everywhere, the insults booted after me got badly on my nerves.” Orwell sums up his feelings of guilt coupled with his reaction against being hated “all I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the Empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. Although part of him saw the British Raj as tyrannical “with another pa

I thought the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest

gusts Orwell rationalizes his feelings saying, “Teelings like these are the normal 

products of imperialism” Barry Hindess truly comments that such feelings reflect 

particular commitment to the liberal value of freedom.” He sapports the racial superiori

of the author and explains it from that point of view. Thus, it is very normal to him that astynoby’srt aonhet. an officer of the imperial power the author finds himself with a problem responding to the approval and disapproval of those who are beneath him. Orwell abandons his morals and kills the elephant to garner the approval of the Burmese Orwell speaks of himself when he says, “it is the condition of nile that he shall spend his

life in trying to impress the natives” And so in every crisis he has got to do what the

natives expect of him. He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it. Orwell’s story

portrays him as suffocating under a mask, which he wears

Orwell stands with the rifle in his hands “first grasped the hollowness the futility of the

white man’s dominion” in the cast. Orwell’s fear of mockery represents the fears of

imperialists of a loss of control. While the British could control the economics and

politics of their colonies they could not control the mockery and disdain of the natives

The moment when be faced the elephant, Orwell says, “the sole thought in my mind was

that if anything went wing those two thousand Harmans would see me pursued, caught.

trampled and reduced to a grinning corpse.” Orwell tells a story of moral suffering. His

sary evokes pathos for the politically powerful imperialist who suffers from his own

tyranny: “When a white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.” But

Orwell fails to say how the freedom could be restored. The destruction of colonialism

will restore to the white man that freedom.”

Orwell’s anti-imperialism hardly shows any sign of anti-patriotism. For instance, Orwell was able to hold to anti-imperialism alongside a eulogizing of the English at times. This precisely, was because he believed they could administer an empire befitting the colonized more reasonably than any new colonizer: “I did not knew that the British empire is dying, still less I did know that it is still a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it.” Here the magnitude of the contradictions is made apparent. The contradictions are of hatred for the Raj and also a sense that for all its failings it is still better than anything to which imperial mations might aspire. This is a sentiment that links directly into that sense of service, duty and responsibility, which the authorities were so keen to emphasize. This sentiment viewed the continuation of British rule (as opposed to anyone else’s) was the surest way of maintaining the liberty of colonial subject. In other words, the established regime was viewed, as a great deal better than those that would supplant it. Definitely Orwell recognizes the superiority of the imperial forces. Eventually, the natives appear to be inferiors who need to be colonized and rule. So, Orwell could not overcome the limitations of his political context accepting the natives as equal human beings.

The critics have reasons to believe that Orwell’s resignation from the British Inperial Police in Burma was the result of his hatred of British imperialium in India: “I was in the Indian police for five years, and by the end of that time I hated the imperialium I was serving…I had been part of an oppressive system, and it had left me with a bad conscience. But his colonial writings show his self-image to be an anti-imperialist to be misleading. “Those critics who view Orwell as primarily anti imperialist overlook the fact that he writes not from the perspective of the Burmese but from that of the English, the ruler, in India. He is unable in respect Burmese aspirations and deal adequately and genuinely with native life and society, rather he concerns himself chiefly with the Explocation of a subjective truth that has significance only for the imperialist, What is of central importance in Orwell is an English or Western interpretation of the imperial situation which de-emphasizes the Burmese perspective and the detrimental effects of the British Raj on Burmese economy and culture but stresses the ironic plight of the imperialist; he is a victim of imperialism, a captive of its by-products, of isolation and

moral corruption, and of its code of behaviour

We find a graphic picture of agony of a British police officer in the story. It has been described throughout from his own perspective. Under the pressure of “two thousand will” he fails compelled to commit the “under” only to uphold his image of being a “habib” “A shahib has got to act like shahib, he has tu appear resolute, to know his own mind to do definite things… At the cost of his personal likes and dislikes he becomes slave this imperialistic ethos. One-sided and questionable Imperialistic justification ranks the writer to be of a superior race. And it determines his code of conduct. We see him undergoing a lot of painful indecisions and hesitations. But finally be has to succumb to the demand of imperial seder, which cannot be justified by morality and neutrality. Thus, there is the picture of an unperial officer being suffocated under the unnatural and unjustified mask of imperialism. He becomes temibly alienated and hopelessly entangled. We get the first-hand account of tortures and troubles suffered by a colonial officer. But in no way, the story gives us a scope to consider and observe the condition of the natives. Though Orwell has defined the imperialistic system to be an “oppressive one”, he is hardly concerned to narrate the aspects of the oppressed natives. He was left with “bad conscience” but it only sees the plight and predicament of the imperialists. It has not been good enough to locate pains and pangs of the natives.

Orwell’s attitude to imperialism is explainable in terms of the existentialist dichotanies

of the Self and the Other, the former being the essential, the other the messential, the inelevant. Here, Orwell represents the Self, whose predicament under imperial rule has been given the supreme importance. And Orwell’s narration of the story undermines and marginalizes the other, the Object Orwell’s disregard of Hurmese realey is also noticeable in his incapacity to portray Burma as a society of real human beings, who are grotesquely evil and preposterously innocent to merit any attention, In this way the imperialists depict the characters of the natives in their own way where the perspective of the natives is marginalized or totally ignored.


In his reading of Conrad, Edward Said discovers a criticism of imperialism bat Conrad’s criticism ironically fails to locate any alternative to the imperial world onder and reproduces the imperial world order of his time. Said’s contrapuntal reading of novelists like Dickens. Conrad and Kipling exposes the varying patterns of superiority western culture has constructed for self in relation to its understanding and knowledge of the east. However, in studying the history of imperialism and its culture, Said moves beyond the literary texts, relying on History to draw some of his most powerful conclusions

I do not believe that authors are mechanically determined by ideology,

class or economic history, but authors are, I also believe, very much in

the history of their societies, shaping and shaped by that history and

their social experience in different measure. Culture and aesthetic

forms it contains derive from historical experience…As I discovered in

writing Orientalism, you cannot grasp historical experience by lists or

catalogues and, no matter how much you provide by way of coverage,

some books, articles, authors and ideas are going to be left out.

(atroduction. Culture and Imperialism, xx-xx)”

“I had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every English man in the East” is the comment made by Orwell Who like Conrad is evidently indifferent to discover an alternative to remove the sufferings of the natives. Orwell proves himself to be a true Western who has been shaped to believe in his racial superiority. Thus, this

becomes a story of how a man can become corrupted by his national and social pride.

which makes him believe that he is better than other people.

Orwell’s lack of sympathy for the colonized is evident. Understandably, Hurma as a

country, a nation, a history, a culture, does not really exist. The imperialist’s moral

suffering predkaminates. This kind of textual denination may be seen as a form of

“Orientalism”, which in the words of Said, is awestern style for dominating

restructuring and having authority over the Orient (Orientalism. 3). “The inevitable

paradox is that Orwell was fated to be an imperialist

While refusing “liberal commitment to freedom” in Shooting an Elephant, Barry Hindess has observed that substantial portions of humanity consists of individuals who are not or not yet capable of acting in a suitably autonomous fashion. With this view he gets a division of the world into settings in which individuals can normally be trusted to conduct themselves as autonomous rational agents and other settings in which they cannot he trusted to behave in this fashion. So, not surprisingly. Hindess tries to justify the imperial rule over the second group of people who could not or cannot conduct themselves. Perhaps, this type of meatality gives reasons to make pre-emptive attacks on countries like Iraq Even, Hindess discovers supportive examples from the west to strengthen his view of authoritarian or imperial rule. He clarifies some points. Throughout the nineteenth century all Westem states restricted the freedom of important sections of their own populations and the more powerful among these states forcibly imposed their rule on substantial populations outside their territorial borders. Western states now no longer practice direct imperial rule. Rather they have chosen some indirect methods to contine their imperialistic rule

Hindess has not commented on how far this imperialistic rule is democratic or how far

this type of rule is supported by the natives living in those territories. Apart from other

observations, I will only bring in consideration his ominous support to indirect imperial

nile or neimperialism. He feels satisfied us say that the new indirect methods of

neoimperialism are operational to improve and advance the less advanced territories. He

Finally, of course, the world has changed dramatically since Orwell wrote his memoir

The great liberal project of improvement operating now under the label of

development, is still pursued by Westem states hut it has to work through a remote set of

indirect means, relying, in effect, on diplomacy, national and intemational aid programs

that assist, advise and constrain the conduct of post colonial states, international financial

institutions and abso, of course, the market

Imperialism, we know, has always preferred its own interest. So, we have reasons to

doubt Hindess ungrounded or evil-grounded complacency. Our doubts can be justified by

the following extract

Historically U. S. capitalist interests have been less interested in acquiring more colonies

than in acquiring mom wealth, preferring to make off with the treasure of other nations

without bothering to own and administer the nation themselves. Under neoimperialism,

the flag stays home, while the dollar goes everywhere frequently assisted by the

Hindess like Orwell could not go beyond the western context in supporting

neoimperialism. The peoples of native countries now painfully realize the curse of

colonized rule. But under neoimperialium, they have been thrown from frying pan to the

burning fire. Despite the awareness, peoples of these counties often suffer unwillingly and helplessly under neoimperialism After years of colonialism, the Third World country finds it extremely difficult to extricate itself from the unequal relationship with its former colonizer and impossible to depan from the global capitalist sphere. Those countries that try to make a break are subjected to punishing economic and military treatment, by one or other major power.

nowadays usually the United States,

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