Source Analysis assignment

Shooting an elephant

Context (History)

Britain had conquered Burma for 62 years (1823-1886). Burma attaining its independence on January 4, 1948. During that time, elephants were used for labor, carrying logs in timber firms. They were quite expensive.

George Orwell was born on 25 June 1903. In 1927 George Orwell became a writer and resigned from the Burmese police force. "Shooting an elephant" was written in 1936.

Shooting an elephant is a primary source, as it is from a person who lived at that time (Orwell). The purpose of the story was so that Orwell could project his views to other people, and according to some sources the story was nonfiction, and that provides information on George Orwell's views and his job in the Burmese police force.

Orwell demotes the idea of imperialism and oppression, as "...[Orwell] had already made up ...[Orwell's] mind that imperialism was an evil thing...Theoretically – and secretly, of course – ...[Orwell] was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British." From this story we can learn the downsides and evils of imperialism.


The source is written in first person perspective, and the events in the story might have actually happened to Orwell. The first person perspective in this story allows you to learn about what he thought whilst on duty. We can learn that even though he was imperial and had the badge and uniform, the natives all around him influence his actions and decisions. As stated in the story, Orwell "... had done it solely to avoid looking a fool."

Shooting an elephant strongly demotes the idea of imperialism, as he implies that the conquered control the conqueror, as the conqueror "wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it." This quote means that even the mightiest is wary of looking like a fool to the natives.

The author's strong disagreement with imperialism creates bias. Orwell's negativity towards imperialism masks its benefits and exaggerates its downfalls. However, most sources have bias, and agrees with imperialism. Orwell's disagreements with imperialism allows us to learn more about it and the people it controls.

I found that shooting an elephant's first person perspective allows the readers to learn more about imperialism's darker side, and the way things worked in the typical streets. However, if it had been in third person perspective or from another view, they could've noted facial expressions or body language.


"Shooting an Elephant" George Orwell,1936,"Shooting an Elephant"

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