Shooting an Elephant

By Connor Raab

Symbolic meanings in Shooting an Elephant

"Shooting an Elephant" is perhaps one of the most anthologized essays ever written in the history of Enlish. The source was written by George Orwell, in the autumn on 1936. He wanted to indirectly portray how evil imperialism is to readers. These points were shown in a number of ways.


  • The British officer represents Britain and the elephant represents Burma. This shows off that imperialism has a negative affect on both parties.
  • "I was hated by a large number of people... I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter." This shows that if the host country forces one of their rules onto the imperialised country, the people will hate you for it.
  • “As a police officer I was a an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so.” Imperialism also made the foreign people in the controlled country furious. They had to do the dirty work of the host country.
  • “It was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie”. Through this, it points out that the Europeans did not even consider the natives as human because they worth less than an animal.
  • “It was obvious that the elephant would never rise again, but he was not dead.” This shows that a country being controlled is never completely under the power of a bigger country. There is always hope.


The bias in shooting an elephant

The bias in "Shooting an Elephant" is very clear, George Orwell is strongly against the idea of imperialism. I would say that this is a reliable source to take information from. George Orwell is a world known writer, I don't think that he would be writing unrealistic things in his essay. The only limitation of this source would be that there is only one side of the argument.

My thoughts on Shooting an elephant

I found this source very interesting since I love finding out about symbolic meanings in pieces of texts. I found it useful to find out what George Orwell's opinion was about imperialism. Although I do not agree with him that imperialism always has a negative affects on both ends, I agreed with a few other points he raised. It was also interesting finding out about his history. He started writing because he was stuck in a hospital during WWII with a fatal lung disease called Tuberculosis (which he died to at the end of his life). Also, of course there were negative affects of imperialism in Burma, but there were also positive affects.

George Orwell Timeline


  • George Orwell was born on the 25 June 1903 in Motihary which is located in the British India.
  • In 1904, Orwell moved to India with his mum and his six year old sister, only seeing his father when returning from India every once in a while.
  • In the May of 1917, Orwell was offered a scholarship to the prestigious school "Eton".
  • In 1921 Orwell leaves Eton without a diploma.
  • In June 1922 he applies for a job in Burma to work for the Imperial Police. This job may have been the one which inspired him to write the essay.
  • On June 9, 1936, Orwell gets married.
  • In August 1941, Orwell begins work for BBC India.
  • In March 1945, Orwell's wife dies.
  • In August 1945, Orwell writes possibly his most famous piece of writing. "Animal Farm"
  • On January 21st, 1950 George Orwell dies due to a lung disease called Tuberculosis. His place of death is in the University Hospital in London.


Primary or Secondary Source

"Shooting an Elephant" has not been confirmed if it is a primary source or a secondary source. Most people think that it is a primary source because it is described in the time when he himself was working in Burma as a police officer. However other people think that it may be a secondary source, Orwell may have had a fellow policeman tell him about what happened to him.

Imperialism in Burma

Pros - Burma gained new technology, ways of communication and transport. Burma was open to more education, they were taught lots about bacteria and such which meant their medical research was boosted. Later on in the imperialisation, the food supply was increased due to Britain advertising settlers to move to Burma to grow crops. Burma was made a firmer than it was before the imperialism.

Cons - Drained Burma's wealth since Britain needed money for the wars in which they were involved with. Britain encouraged/forced farmers to grow crops which could be sold for lots of money instead of food, this resulted in a widespread famine.

"In favor of imperialism"

"In Favor of Imperialsm" is a speech by Albert Beveridge which endorses imperialism. I chose this for my extension primary source since it counters "Shooting an Elephant", which does the opposite of endorsing imperialism. If you were to mix together the speech and the text, you would get an excellent representation of the pros and cons of imperialism. The conflict between these two pieces is very interesting, the speech (In Favor of Imperialism) very clearly states that imperialism must be upheld and how both of the countries gain huge advantages. However the essay (Shooting an Elephant) wants to warn us of the dangers of imperialism. This can help people to make a decision to say if they are against or for imperialism.

Bibliography