George Orwell Imperialism Essay

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George Orwell was born in colonial India, receiving his British citizenship by descent, before being raised by his mother and sisters in England. Following the conclusion of World War I, he returned to lower Burma as part of the British Imperial Police to follow in his father’s civil-service footsteps. Through the eyes of this young and inexpeienced Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant” takes a multifaceted view of imperialism. In the essay, he presents a revelation: it is not only the oppressed Burmese people who lose their identity at the hands of the occupying British imperialists, it is also the imperialists themselves who are stripped of their free will and conscience in order to play their part in the charade. This concept, which Orwell describes…show more content…
Orwell describes the crowd as “happy and excited over this bit of fun…,” implying they have nothing to lose because they are already oppressed (573). On the other hand, Orwell is “the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd—seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind” (573). At this point in the essay, Orwell changes the tone of his writing and becomes increasingly critical of his role in the “real nature of imperialism” (571). He no longer sees just the suffrage of the oppressed, he also sees the plight of the oppressor: “For it is the condition of his rule that [the oppressor] shall spend his life in trying to impress the ‘natives,’ … He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it” (573-574). Backed into a corner by imperialism, Orwell knows what he ought to do in order to save face: “shoot the elephant”
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