« Last minute exam help | Main | Document Analysis: The Disinherited Family »

George Orwell

Since we're talking about Orwell (and writing about him) over the next few weeks, I wanted to give you a place to post comments as you read. So here it is.
So, what do you think of Orwell? Let's start with these pieces on imperialism. What is his purpose in writing "Shooting an Elephant"? What insights does his discussion of Rudyard Kipling provide for our understanding of empire and the British public? Any questions and coments are welcome.


I liked the Orwell readings. What do I think his purpose for writing "Shooting an Elephant is"? Orwell is Anti-empire and anti-imperialistic. There is a quote along the lines of him realizing the "Futility of white man's work". I don't know if this comes from the fact that the reading said he was insulted often as a policeman in Burma or from the fact that as the white man he was forced or felt a sense of obligation to eventually shoot the elephant because he had to appease the crowd. As to Kipling. He defends Kipling enough that he believes calling Kipling a facist is wrong and that it couldn't be further from the truth. However, Kipling doesn't fully grasp the nature of the British empire. Kipling doesn't see the economic reasons behind the money making concern that is the British Empire.

I agree that Orwell's stance against the empire is quite clear in "Shooting an Elephant," and he uses it both humorously and alegorically. He abhors his job as a policeman in Burma, and yet he sees the British Empire as a nearly inescapable behemoth. His experience with the elephant shows how the empire must "prove itself" to remain powerful throughout the world. Not only must the colonists impress the colonial subjects, but they also feel it is necessary in order to remain competitive throughout the world. His argument in defense of Kipling is logical, since Kipling is more of a delusional idealist than a true fascist. The various motives behind the empire become ends within themselves, since fears persist about revolts from the sepoys and even the British military officers. Appeasement and subjugation are among the main tactics used to build the empire.

I found the "Shooting an Elephant" essay to be extremely interesting. One of the strongest points in his anti-empire argument is the reason why he actually did shoot the elephant. The entire time up until he actually does shoot the elephant he has no intention of doing so. As he does finally shoot the elephant he realizes that the only reason he is doing so is so as not to look the fool. He relates his feelings in this situation to how the white man must act in relation to the peoples of the various parts of the British Empire. The white man has to do what the 'natives' expect of him. He has to do things which he may or may not want to do simply to fulfill the expectations of the 'natives'. The white man becomes a 'puppet' to the desires and will of the 'natives', eventually becoming what the 'natives' think he is. It makes the white man a fool; he is no longer free to exercise his own will.

I wonder if, at least to some extent, the native population in Orwell's view doesn't function as the guard in the tower of the panopticon.

I found "Shooting an Elephant" extremely intriguing because it was a new perspective on British Colonialization. I was interested by the amount of conflict in him. This kind of account makes history more personal and more real. I love history, but i find at times when I am studying it, I can not always get a personal feeling from it. Most often history are impersonal stories of events, but "Shooting an Elephant" gives this particular history a face, a mind, and an opinion. It gives more insight in to what some of the British soldiers or officials were feeling when they were in these new lands, and I find that extremely useful.

It is interesting that Brenda referred to the idea of the panopticon, since a lot of ideas throughout British history have had unexpected interpretations. The idea of panopticism was devised by Jeremy Bentham, a utilitarian. If the "natives" are guarding the tower of the panopticon, then the masses have the true power, and imperialism is just a facade. Orwell succeeds in convincing the reader of this point. Some would view it as inevitable that an empire built on looting other lands will effectively make the colonists powerless in a number of ways.

You will have to forgive me it has been two weeks since I have read "Shooting an Elephant" but one aspect of the story that lingers in my mind is how the elephant refuses to die. For some reason the elephant resembles local resisitance to imperialism, to me. The oppressor can attempt to suppress resistance but in the end it will be futile. The oppressed will always continue to fight back. The humorous part of it all was the fact that the elephant finally died after Orwell left. I especially appreciate Orwell's perspective of society in"Such, Such were the joy". Society hasn't changed over the years because you will always be considered of lower class if you lack money, courage,beauty,strength, and power. "Such, Such were the joys" also caused me to examine education and what is failure. Orwells notion of failure still continues to exist today. Failure is that we accomplish everything we are told today but it is still not enough to the elites and the rest of society. I hope my analysis is somewhat correct.

The essay "Shooting an Elephant" was an interesting read. The story in itself is simple, Orwell goes out and kills an elephant, but the actual context of the story is complex. He was hated by and large by many if not almost all of the natives in the area that he was a police officer in. He was mistreated as well and in playing a game of football he would be knocked down and the ref would be looking the other way.
This made me wonder why he shot the elephant in the first place. If the people of the village hated him so, why did he decide to shoot. Wouldn't he have not shoot just to show the people that a white man could be civil and care for a native's property? Did he simply shoot just to not look the fool? But, if the crowd was smaller or if he was by himself, he would not have shot the elephant. He shot it simply because he had a crowd behind him that wanted him to shoot it, wanted him to show how powerful his weapon was.

I do not blame him for shooting the elephant for I might have done so as well. Crowd mentality and peer pressure is a pretty strong influencer in many people. To not be a fool, to not be looked down upon, these are many reasons why one does things that he would normally not due.

Maybe this is the reason why he decided to work for the Empire he most despised, he didn't want to be seen as a person who defied the Empire. He was only a simple man and could have been arrested.

He did what was expected of him in that situation and in the end he stated that the only reason for doing it was to not be seen as a fool.

I agree with Jeff, that peer pressure and mob mentality can be extremely influential. He has to work around the people who are in that crowd, and the ridicule that would have undoubtedly ensued could have been quite difficult to endure. However, he did not necessarily do the right thing. He avoided ridicule by shooting the elephant and he avoided legality problems thanks to the dead person the elephant had killed, but it really was not fair to the man who was the owner of the elephant. Fear of embarassment should not have been his reason for shooting the elephant. As well, had he not shot it, he would not have gotten into any legal problems either. Thus, I think that he did the wrong thing in killing elephant, especially since it had calmed down. He should have waited until the owner got back or until the elephant freaked out again.

The point that Zach made about the number of times that the elephant had to be shot in order for it to finally die is an interesting one. He was shamed by himself into shooting the elephant. He had a decision to make and he decided to go for it. Could this represent the way that he personally feels about being in Burma? He is apprehensive about imperialism yet he is facilitating it in every way. He didn't want to shoot the elephant but he did it regardless of what his gut told him. No, he did not want to be seen or thought of as a fool yet in reality he himself felt like the fool in more contexts than one.

I liked "Shooting an Elephant" because it gives a reason why Imperialism is bad for Britain. There are dozens of reason against Imperialism, but many of them focus on why it's bad for the subjegated, and not the ones in power. Those reasons may convince humanists, but they do little in the way of moving those who wish to fight for the glory, honor, and prosperity of Great Britain.

Orwell is doing more than arguing against Imperialism, though. This story is a realist account of what happens in the British colonies. There is no overblown romanticism in "Shooting an Elephant." Rather, Orwell tries to tell it how it really is.

I think it is interesting how many times the police officer shot the elephant. He shoots it once because he "had to", then countless more times to try to put it out of its misery. Yet, in this attempt, he actually increases the misery the elephant goes through in dying: "It seemed dreadful to see the great beast lying there, powerless to move and yet powerless to die...I sent back from my small rifle and poured shot after shot into his heart and down his throat. THey seemed to make no impression. The tortured gasps continued...I heard later that it took him half an hour to die."
I think that it is impossible not to relate this scene with the decline of the English Empire, which Orwell discusses in his essay on Rudyard Kipling. The Empire in the story is something that Orwell hates, yet works for anyway, a concept that could be comparable to the Orwell writing the story. Despite his dislike for the English empire, he benifits from it, and for that people dislike him simply due to association with it. This explains the complex the Orwell in the story finds himself in. He can save the Elephant, something that has caused mass destruction but is worth far more alive than dead. Or shoot it in an attempt to not only kill the dangerous creature but, in the sence of the Empire, prove his dislike for it and win favor with a crowd of critics.

The purpose of "Shooting an Elephant" was to show the importants of the few english officers who helped run the english empire of Burma. Essentially, by killing the Elephant George displayed the sort of power expected of him by the village people. This simply affirmed his power and that of the english empire. If he hadn't carried out the murder of the elephant the village people, who greatly out numbered the english presence in burma, would have seen it as a lack of power and authority. Orwell simply displays the importance of maintaining positive ethos, so the people of an empire respect the authority and submit to it accordingly. At the same time Orwell offers us the notion of the "Futility of the white man's work." He doesn't want to be part of the empire, he is upset at what he is forced to do because of the empire. The Futility envoled may represent the need for the white man to prove himself to the people of the british empires.

Orwells makes his position perfectly clear in "Shooting an Elephant." He doesn't want to shoot the elephant, but yet he does it. I found the interpersonal conflict to be very relatable: of I don't have to, but I have to. Orwell doesn't seem to hate Kipling, he seems to have a sense of empathy for him. Kipling suffers from a lack of knowledge and experience, he speaks/writes without really knowing.

Shooting an Elephant, as so many have written before, actually allowed the reader to be a part of the story. There was a certain ability for hte reader to connect with the story. That ability is really rare in history readings because they are usually so dry, and jsut the facts. There is no opportunity for the readers to interact with the book.

I really liked reading Orwell's essay "to shoot an elaphant" because it gave me a new perspective on the english empire at that time. At this point in Orwell's life he had power and authority, just as the english empire had, and he hated it. Being in this position actually helped persuade him to think of imperialism as an evil thing, and caused him to hate the empire he served. He uses the incident of shooting elephant and compares it to the real nature of imperialism, as he sees it. In the story Orwell only shoots the elephant because as a white man and a figure of authority that's what he's expected to do. The crowds' pressure persuades him to kill the elephant. What he is really saying is that empires like the english empire, that have power, often act how people would expect them to act. They are in the fight worldwide to be the most powerful, and the most wealthy, even if that means commiting acts they don't necessarily agree with. If they stopped and walked away, the world would look at them as a cowardly nation.

Chris's comment above makes a good point about allowing the reader to be a part of the story and draw his or her own conclusions. It is clear early in the story that Orwell is unhappy about a lot of things the empire does, and he does not want to shoot the elephant. Once he does, he pretty much feels obliged to carry through and kill it, which proves to be a difficult task. This story and others in the Orwellian style could be seen as an allegory that the reader can interpret on a number of levels. His lack of knowledge keeps him from being omniscient, and in some ways it helps the reader relate to him.

I thougth that "shooting an elephant" was a great essay. It was emotional as well as gave great insights into imperialism. I have never thought of imperialism in the way that Orwell described it. As something that a white man must do, and there are certain things he needs to do to keep his place amongst the natives. My initial view of imperialism was that it was horrible, and the way that they treat the natives and the land that they take over is bad. But the way that Orwell talks about it, it seems like in the end, the natives are the ones that controls how the white man acts in their land, it is the natives that made him shoot the elephant, despite his unwillingness to. I felt bad for the elephant while reading the descriptions of his death, i felt worse when in the end, the elephant did not die right away, even after orwell shot him repeatedly many times. I also thougth that it was horrible the natives took all of the elephant's meat, all the way to his bone. I guess the slow dying death of the elephant could be another representation of the British empire, as described by orwell as slowly dying. Orwell goes into great detail regarding the hatred he had for his job as well as his position in Burma. He did not want to be the white man in a yellow man's land, controlling the people. This is very different from the initial view that we learned of imperialism where the empire loved taking over other countries and having power over them.

Just a small comment, but I found it interesting that he talked about reading Kipling in his boyhood, yet he wrote such an anti-Kipling piece. Is he embarassed about his boyhood enjoyment of Kipling? Is he disavowing anything he associates with a bad childhood? I just found it strange.

I think this essay by Orwell shows how the English officers hold the power in England. His story about shooting the elephant allows readers to be able to relate to the character in the story and the pressures that the character is under. I think that Orwell's view against imperialism is perhaps not generally shared among the general public and is expressed by people such as Kipling. I also thought that maybe the elephant in the story relates to England. England is one of the most powerful countries of the time and elephants are generally thought of as strong tough animals. Maybe in the end of the story with the elephant getting shot, Orwell hoped that imperialism too would eventually end.

In "Shooting an Elephant" George Orwell declares he is against imperialism and he does not like the British empire. But he also does not like the Burmese either because the people continually harrass him and the other British officials. Although Orwell condemns the actions of the British empire, I thik he also condemns the Burmese for their part in the empire. During Orwell's epiphany, he realizes the empire has to do what the "natives" expect of them whether it is what they want or not just to keep their control over the population. Like Orwell, he was intent on not killing the elephant until the crowd of Burmese were watching. he felt he had to kill it, otherwise he would lose his authority over the Burmese people because they would see him as weak.

I see the elephant as an opportunity for the British Empire to further establish itself as the civilized and dominant society. If man is superior to beasts, then why couldnt the natives have killed the elephant? Are they more beastly than Europeans? Do they lack the technology and the structure of civilization that the British do? Orwell is the one who must shoot the elephant to further exert the British idea of a more advanced race/society. In shooting the elephant, Orwell has perpetuated this binary and racist domination, which is one of the reasons why he didnt want to shoot the elephant. Also, it shows how the indigenous population has come to rely upon the white man; he has become integrated into their society though the Burmese will never be integrated or even thought a part of the British people.

I really thought that "Shooting an Elephant," was very interesting look at imperialism because it removed the responsibility or the blame from the leaders to the citizens. If Orwell is the Empire and the people of the small town are symbolic of the population then their expectation of Orwell to shoot the elephant becomes his only real choice. For him to race to their protection and then realize that the elephant does not need to be shot while they look on in admiration, he would be letting down society if he did not do what they expected. It took away the stereotype of the blood thirsty/power hungry leaders of empirial societies and replaced that stigma onto the citizens. Maybe the elephant represents the natives and the citizens are scared and hold prejudices against them and want them to be killed while Orwell sees the good in them or at least does not see a need to do away with them. There are many ways in which this story can be translated but in short it is Orwell's way of illustrating his dislike for Imperialism and showing the ways in which it can be generated.

I enjoyed “Shooting an Elephant� because George Orwell’s perspective of a time in history is not typical. He does not portray a glorifying story of the “winners� as we often encounter in history readings, and he does not necessarily sympathize with the oppressed of this period of time. He was against imperialism, yet he working for the British Empire. He lends a personal account of his conflicted feelings and actions of doing something he doesn’t want to do but feels he must, and this is mirrored through his account of shooting the elephant. I enjoyed this essay because I felt it easy to relate to his conflicting feelings and imagine many other people can also, aiding to an understanding of what it may have been like to be an officer in Burma at this time.

I think shooting the elephant definately is not just political in nature. For example some may view the work as anti- imperialist which to some extent it is. However its hard to know If orwell was agienst the stupidity of empire or simply stupidity in general. I think its a shame to narrow a signifigent piece of literary art into one small aspect such as anti-imperialism or not. "Shooting an elephant" seemed more a work about people using common sense than about anti-imperial viewpoints. Orwell displays this when discussing his emotions when he felt pressured to shoot the elephant. This example showed the influence of empire over Orwells life as he felt his decision about killing the elephent was not dependent on the importance of the elephant. Insted the descision was based on pleasing the empire and people a thoughtless act. This thoughtless act later seems to reflect the empire at large. The United Kingdom always seemed to be a misfit of the areas it conquors. India one of the worlds most populace nations is one example of why the Empire didnt work. The brown skinned people who had very different beliefe systems and ways of life. These people in essence were just being used to better the empire bring wealth. In no way were the people of India incorporated into the ruling class of society. This was dictated by wealth as we will see in most of the other countries conquered for this Imperial Empire. Ultimately "Shooting an Elephant" seemed more a lesson for people to show the invisible forces that make people act in certain ways. Orwell was so brainwashed by the empire that he based his whole descision on the life of the elephant on how people viewed him. He should have been concerned with the right thing to do, a classic example of power corrupts

I really enjoyed the reading "Shooting an Elephant". I think it shows the struggle that Orwell endured between his distaste for British Imperialism as well as the Burmans. On one hand, he does not necessarily agree with the British mentality that the Burmans are just "natives" and their land is free to be colonized because of their inferiority. I feel that his shooting the elephant was actually conforming more to imperialism and the empire than to the Burmans. He spoke of the dead man as a relief, because it justified him in killing the elephant. He didn't stop to consider the man's identity. The reason he shot the elephant was not to appear weak or foolish, but I think it was also to show that he was not wanting to feel inferior. It brings up the idea of race; if he hadn't killed it, it would have projected the the British empire was in some way inferioir to the natives.

I really liked Orwell. I think he is an amazing writer altogether and he really brings his audience into the stories and essays. I also liked his vivid descriptions of events. In the essay "Shooting an Elephant" I could see Orwell running around the corner and finding a trampled "coolie" dead on the street. I could also vividly see him preparing to shoot the elephant and the crowd of yellow faces watching him and waiting to see what he would do. I think Orwell's propurse of writing "Shooting an Elephant" was to illustrate the power that the English colonial subjects had over their English oppressors. The colonial subjects always held a certain amount of power because the English would always be reacting to or pre-ampting what the colonial subjects were going to do. I think that the brutal oppression used by the English kept the colonial subjects in line, but eventually I think that the colonial subjects saw the power they held over the English and realized if they rebeled they may get their freedom back. The last two paragraphs of the essay "Marrakech" illustrated how the English knew that one day the colonial subjects were going to use the power they held against them.

In my opinion, Orwell was one of the best authors all semester. I really enjoyed the first-person point of view, and how he would mix some of his own perspectives in too.
In "Shooting an Elephant," both of these techniques are very predominate. On the one hand, it is all about one small experience that he had. On the other, he tells us about great views and perspectives about the British Empire. In short, Orwell's view is that once a power decides to be a tyrant in another land, it is actually giving up its power to the native people. This is because, it will always try to gain the favor of the locals, by doing what they want all time.In this way, it loses its freedom. The same is in Orwell's personal case: If he didn't shoot the elephant he wouldn't havethe apporval of the locals, and the would humiliate him.
In "Rudyard Kipling," Orwell basically attacks Kipling's view of the British Empire. According to Kipling, the reason for the British empire is the idea of the "White Man's Burden," saying that it is up to the civilzed white man to help out other countries and take care of (control) them.In Orwell's mind this is false, saying instead that the reason for the British Empire is actually money.

Orwell is alright I guess. He's a lot more entertaining than the other authors we have read about throughout the semester. I really enjoy most of his stories about his past experiences while he was in the army or about his childhood. I think the purpose of Orwell about the story "Shooting an elephant" shows us that there were many issues for the white soldiers in these far away lands. I do not personally think that he was writing to show us the deeper meaning of how these native people viewed the white man and so on. i think the purpose of his story in "Shooting an elephant" was that he was just writing to share with us one of his experiences he had in one of these foreign countries. Probably like a journal entry or something.

Orwell's purpose in writing "Shooting an Elephant" is to show that empire/race is only a charade and pattern. This continues because the race with the upper hand must always perform to convince the lower races that they are a lower form of human than the white man. He says in his essay that the only reason he shoots the elephant is so that he won't look like a fool in front of the natives. He knows that if he allows them to think he is a fool, he is losing credibility for his entire race. In his other essay, "Marrakech" he mentions that the negro who looks at him gives him a look of admiration and shows Orwell that he knows his place in society; as inferior to the white man. Orwell says that white men realize that they are not superior; the only people who dont realize it are the other races.

I pretty much love anything that Orwell writes. I remember reading "Shooting an Elephant" in high school and for some reason it really stuck with me. I read it for the first time in an English class, so this time around it is so much better because now I can look at it from a more analytical perspective. British expansion was obviously a major part in this time in history. I really enjoy the part of Orwell's story when he states that when the British expanded into India they thought they were taking away the freedom of the Indians but in actuality they were just taking away there own freedom. This is a hard concept for a person to grasp and be able to write clearly about but Orwell does this wonderfully.
Kipling is almost the opposite of Orwell. When I read his poems and writings I seem to think that he believes that the British empire is a good thing for the nations it has conquered and that it is necessary.

I think my favorite essay of Orwell's has to be "Reflections on Gandhi" because his "epiphany" had something to do with love. This quote I especially liked: "The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals."

In life, it's a risk to fall in love, and he showed that by saying one gets defeated and broken up by life. He showed that Gandhi, although having good intentions, wasn't a real person. I don't believe there is anyone that could relate to him on a personal level because of how he acted with relationships.

After finishing the semester and in looking back on all the readings I just wanted to comment on Orwell's again because I think I probably learned the most and gained the most perspective from his writings. We read so many hardcore readings about the economy and sociology and war but they seemed to be written from a more distanced perspective than Orwell. He really does seem to be the "conscience" of British society. I think that he realized along with the rest of society some of the discrepancies of their government and of Britain's history of imperialism, social darwinism, racism, nationalism, etc that maybe made their world a little smaller. Think of the somewhat horrible realization that British citizens must have come to especially during the inter-war period when the end of imperialism was over but was just starting to be truly realized by the citizens, that maybe their great history was not so great. Their treatment of Africans was not some act of charity but rather just another stepping stone to their power and commerce. Power that they could not handle. I really think Orwell conveyed this confusion and horrible realization that their country needed to seriously humble itself and re-evaluate the messages that it was giving to its people. I am glad we got to read is writings and I really learned a lot from him in regards to the true feelings of the citizens of Britain in this historic time.

Reading Orwell is interesting, to say the very least, given the culture of the Bristish Empire back then. But I do not think I would have liked Orwell had I met him in person. In my opinion, if one feels that strongly about something (in this case Imperialism), one should take a more active role in helping to destroy it than just simply writing about it.