Irony in Shooting an Elephant

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George Orwell's 1936 novel "Shooting an Elephant" describes the trials of the Burmese under British imperialism. A linguistic review reveals that the article uses a variety of literary techniques to demonstrate the impact of colonization on both the colonized and the colonialists. Orwell addresses nationalism, influence, and the contrast between conqueror and conquered. Orwell used literary techniques such as imagery and metaphor, as well as figurative languages such as simile, alliteration, oxymoron, fallacy, metaphors, symbolism, onomatopoeia, and personification, to accurately discuss various concepts in the article. There are different elements of fiction depicted in ‘Shooting an Elephant' that assists in understanding the unpleasant effects of imperialism.

Orwell uses the first person Point of View (POV) in narrating the story as the main character. As the narrator of the story, he reveals the troubles brought by the British imperialism and the misguided reaction put forth by the Burmese towards the imperialists. Orwell states that "I was stuck between my hatred for the empire I served and my rage against the evil spirited little beast who tried to make my job impossible" (Orwell 214). Use of the first person point of view places Orwell in a convenient position to scrutinize both Burmese and British imperialists. Through the first point of view, the author reveals the atrocities committed by the British colonialists and overreactions by the Burmese towards colonial rule. The choice of words and description of events is done using eastern terminology so as to give the story a local touch. He uses works such as Bazaar, Betel, Mahout, Raj, and Coolie among others. Use of local words helps the author in establishing the setting of the story and showing the cultural diversity of the people of Burma. Use of Latin words, words commonly used in the Hindu culture, Turkish, and Arabic words depicts the presence of Hindus, Turkish people, and Muslims. Also, diction and description used by Orwell depict the religious diversity that existed in Burma at the time. Imagery is used in the essay to reconstruct the event and bring an image of how it happened. An example of imagery is when the author says that "…we heard yells a little distance away. There was a loud, scandalized cry of "Go away, Child! ..." (Orwell 215). Through imagery, the author depicts the painful and slow death of the elephant that had destroyed property, as well as killing a Coolie.

Orwell has used literary devices such as a figurative language to capture uncertain moments in the story. For example, he uses irony to show the dilemma he got into when the natives were eagerly waiting for him to shoot the elephant down and yet he clearly knew killing an elephant was not the right course of action. Orwell states that "I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool" (Orwell 219). It is ironical that he Orwell want to kill the elephant but does not want his colleagues to know that he killed the elephant alone to avoid being seen as inferior by the natives. Although the author appears to be free by being a British colonialist, he does not have freedom of choice and therefore he is happy the elephant killed a person an instance he uses to justify his killing of the beast. The author kills the elephant to avoid being seen as a fool by the local people. The narrator says, "… to avoid looking like a fool" (Orwell 219).

The narration of the story is made interesting by the use of alliteration. Orwell does not want the reader to lose focus and interest in the story and it is the reason he uses alliteration. The author compares unlike things with the aim of elaborating the distinct characteristics of an object. For example, the narrator says, "I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly" (Orwell 216). Further, the use of symbols has been important to the narrator who assists the reader in understanding pertinent aspects of the story. An elephant is used as a symbol representing the British Empire which was the colonial power. The elephant was destroying properties of the Burmese in the Bazaar and they were unable to contain it. The Burmese could not resist the British Empire as it was more powerful and had a stronger army with superior weapons.

In conclusion, the rhetorical analysis of ‘Shooting an Elephant' shows that the author was creative in using varying literary devices to present the narration. Use of the first person point of view gave the narrator the chance of analyzing both Burmese and British Colonialists. Through the point of view, the reader is able to understand why an attack to the British Imperialists was justified. Literary devices such as metaphors, symbolism, and alliteration have been used by the narrator to make the story interesting and meaningful.

Work Cited

Orwell, George. "Shooting an Elephant (1936)." A Collection of Essays (1970).

Orwell, George. Shooting an elephant. Penguin UK, 2003.

Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant: And Other Stories. Secker & Warburg, 1953.

January 20, 2022


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