Throughout the course of the years, a variety of people such as scholars, teachers, and historians have discussed a controversial topic, did George Orwell want to assassinate the elephant? George Orwell was a sub-divisional police officer in Burma that was hated by the Burmese because of his association with the British. Despite several claims, George Orwell actually opposed imperialism and its rules, yet his actions have muddled several and have caused them to think otherwise.
One day, he is notified that an elephant had broken free from its chains in a rage of “must”. The elephant had caused havoc, destroyed property and killed a man. Orwell in this instant decides to act like a hero and asks to be handed a . 44 rifle despite the fact that he had no real intention of shooting the elephant. On his way to the location of the elephant, he was nerve wrecked because he had a huge crowd following and observing him, they were expecting something prodigious from him.
Orwell gave into peer pressure and killed the elephant to satisfy the crowd’s bloodlust. Throughout his short narrative, he bluntly tells the reader that he in no way wanted to kill the elephant. Orwell only switched rifles to defend himself in case the elephant decided to attack, repeatedly claimed that he felt pressured by the Burmese and only killed it to avoid humiliation and felt remorse after he shot the elephant. When George Orwell decided to switch rifles he had no real intention of killing the elephant.
For instance, the only reason he thought it would be logical to carry a weapon with him was because he had seen the destruction the elephant had left behind. Orwell only took the rifle to ensure his safety in case it went feral again. For example, George Orwell bluntly states that it is “a serious matter to shoot a working elephant — it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery — and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided” (Orwell. 136).
This one statement clearly proves that from the beginning Orwell was instantly against shooting the elephant. He classified shooting the elephant as being on the same scale as murdering a person. In addition, Orwell makes comments such as “and at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and I think now that his attack of ‘must’ was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him” (Orwell. 36). Orwell did not want to shoot it because he knew he would be killing an innocent creature, he would not have made this statement if he had real intentions of eradicating it. Yet, Orwell only brought the weapon as selfdefense with no malicious intentions to end its life. His statement and subtle remarks prove that his intentions were to solemnly protect himself. Everyone at some point in their lives, experiences peer pressure and are faced with arduous decisions that can impact their life.
George Orwell found himself in this position he did not know whether to give in to the pressure or let himself be humiliated once more. George Orwell was constantly humiliated by the people in this town, he was insulted, tripped and essentially harassed, but for one moment he was revered by the people that once hated him. George Orwell found himself in a very complicated emotional state, after being harassed and tormented for so long he was given the opportunity to possibly seem like a hero to the Burmese with some hope of stopping the harassment.
Furthermore, George Orwell describes his trip to the location of the beast as “unnerving” because he had a crowd of people watching and analyzing his every move. Orwell feels peculiar and is nerve wrecked with this immense crowd following him, which could have deeply clouded his judgment. Furthermore, Orwell also mentions that the crowd was wild and laughing once they saw the rifle in his hand. The Burmese were obviously expecting him to kill the elephant which intensified the pressure. Orwell was solely concerned with what the Burmese would see him as.
The cacophony of the wild crowd made Orwell uneasy, they were not following him just to see him let the animal live. Orwell comes to realize the amount of damage he is about to cause and how the pressure drove him to this point. George Orwell was overwrought and feared what they would say about him, he gave in to what they wanted and became their “puppet”. In the end, Orwell states that he had only done it to avoid looking like a fool in front of the many people that once humiliated him. Despite the fact that George Orwell decided to shoot the elephant he felt remorse.
In the rice field, the elephant lay injured, one gunshot wound was certainly not enough to kill it. For example, as George Orwell saw the animal slowly die he felt horrible. His choice of words, lets us know that he feels the elephant’s pain and keeps shooting it to speed up the process. Additionally, George Orwell describes the beast’s death as slow and painful, he could not take it anymore, he could not bare to see the elephant in severe pain and left. The choice that Orwell made did not make him happy, he felt guilty afterward, which comes to prove that his intentions were not to kill the elephant.
Orwell wanted to feel resolute in front of the crowd, yet he let his pride consume him and made an undesirable choice. The opposing sides strongly believes that Orwell was conscious of his actions and as soon as he picked up the rifle he had already decided to terminate the elephant’s life. They believe that Orwell wanted to kill the elephant because it had viciously killed a man and because he wanted to show the Burmese that he was no coward and could easily eradicate the elephant.
Towards the end of the story, Orwell claimed that legally he had done the right thing by shooting the elephant. However, they have failed to analyze Orwell’s emotions and comments before and after the death of the animal. When observing the animal from a distance, Orwell describes it as peaceful and calm and tries to look for reasons not to shoot the creature. For example, when Orwell was in the rice field observing the elephant, he thought of maybe approaching it and if it reacted violently, he would shoot it.
Yet, he eventually realized this would not work out because the elephant could kill him and the Burmese would end up laughing about it regardless. Furthermore, after Orwell shot the elephant one is able to tell that he had emotions of extreme guilt because he immediately walks away, disgusted at the terrible decision he had just made. Orwell could have made a better choice by leaving the animal alone despite the fact that the Burmese would think he was a coward, but feared the consequences and cared about his reputation more.
In essence, Orwell truly did not want to harm the animal in any way but was pressured and left with no other option than to fend for himself. In closing, George Orwell did not want to kill the creature because he only brought the elephant rifle to defend himself in case the situation got out of control, shot it because he felt pressured by the crowd and did not want to seem like a coward, and felt sadness and remorse as he observed what he had done to the poor creature. Throughout his short story, Orwell provides a glimpse of what he went through and the choices he had to make.
Yet, his true intentions were not to kill it because he claims that killing an elephant was essentially murder. Although, Orwell could have sought a better solution such as to let the elephant live and ignore the crowd’s detrimental remarks, he felt like he was left with no other choice but to end the life of the elephant. There are times in life where we make decisions that we do not want to make, George Orwell had to choose between two undesirable choices and ended up choosing his reputation over the life of the creature.