Orwell is Working as the Police

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Orwell is working as the police officer of Moulmein, Burma, a British colony. In the eyes of the village, Orwell is, like the rest of the English, a military occupier, leaving him loathed by the majority of the village. Although the villagers never stage a revolt, they do express their repugnance by harassing Europeans at every given opportunity. Orwell is tripped up during soccer games and insults are hurled at him as he patrols the streets of Moulmein. Even the young Buddhist priests torment Orwell. While Orwell may hold military supremacy and symbolic authority, he is still relatively powerless against the jargons and abuses he receives from the Burmese people.

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Orwell is both theoretically and secretly on the Burmese side and is opposed to the domineering empire he serves, so the actions of the Burmese people confuse him. With his role of handling despicable prisoners, grants him a firsthand view of the dirty work of Europe, causing him to feel enormously guilty for his role in everything. This leads Orwell to contradictory thinking and causes him to pit different sets of his personal principles against each other. It is apparent that his morality starkly opposes the abuses that are caused by both his empire and his role within that empire. With his hasty bitterness of being humiliated, paired with a sense that those participating in this humiliating, should see him as their superior and their better. While Orwell considers the British Empire an immoral tyranny, he still despises the impudent Burmese who continue to make his time there, torture. Orwell even states that his mindset is one that is shared by many of the other officers in the British Raj.

Orwell’s story takes a turn when one day he receives a call from another policeman, informing Orwell that a rogue elephant has been rampaging through town. Orwell makes his way to where the elephant was last seen. En route, locals explain to Orwell that the elephant is having an outbreak of the must, when a tame elephant who is held in chains, breaks their restraints and goes berserk. This is where the elephant can be viewed as a symbol of colonialism. Much like the Burmese people who have been colonized and who also torment Orwell, the elephant has been provoked into this destructive behavior by being oppressed. As Orwell continues to track the elephant, he tries to make out what is what in this situation.

Much like is previous experiences in Asia, he is discovering that the story begins to make less sense as he gains more knowledge. In the same way, he does cannot comprehend precisely how he squeezes into the power dynamics of colonial Burma, Orwell struggles with finding a clear narrative of the elephant’s mysterious rampage. Clearly, colonialism and the power dynamics it involves are much too intricate to be withheld in a single straightforward point of view.

After finding a victim of the elephant lying dead in the mud, Orwell orders a subordinate to retrieve a firearm large enough to stop an elephant in its gigantic tracks. As the gun is brought to Orwell, he discovers that the elephant is in a nearby rice field. Now followed by almost the entire village, Orwell walks to the field. Even previously disinterested residents are now following after hearing of the weapon Orwell is carrying, wishing to see the great beast shot. Orwell’s feelings of discomfort become apparent as he had not planned on shooting the animal, he had simply wanted it as self-defense. However now with the pressure of the whole village weighing on him, it appears that the Burmese appear to wield the power over Orwell, undermining the colonial hierarchy.

Orwell no longer appears as an authoritative figure, rather a spectacle, he begins to sense he cannot completely control the situation he has been placed in. Orwell and the crowd enter the rice fields, only to discover a calm animal eating grass. Orwell compares killing an elephant to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery, and now looking at a peaceful animal, he comes to the decision that he cannot shoot it. Orwell empathizes with the oppressed Burmese, identifying that the elephant is a passive, peaceful creature that has been ushered into rebellion only by its maltreatment. Much like the elephant is to Orwell, Burma is essentially a valuable piece of property, yet another metaphorical link between colonialism and the peaceful elephant.

As the crowd grows to over two thousand people, Orwell feels as he is a magician tasked with entertaining his crowd, and comes to the conclusion that he is now obliged to shoot the elephant. By being placed in front of a crowd, Orwell has to take on a performative persona that makes him act opposite to every rational instinct within his body. Orwell states, when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. Realizing that he committed to killing the elephant the moment he spoke for the weapon to be brought. Orwell cannot tolerate mistreatment from the people, even though he realizes that he, a colonist, is in the wrong.

Orwell continues to fight his inner thoughts to kill the elephant. He says that it appears Grandmotherly to him killing it would be a waste of an expensive commodity, along with a form of murder. Orwell decides to approach the animal, putting himself in danger in order to see if the animal behaved aggressively, and if it did, he would shoot. Orwell’s fear of humiliation is now the driving force behind his decisions. It appears that the conventions of imperialism are what is causing Orwell to feel bound to perform such an inhumane and irrational deed. He loads the gun, lies down, and takes aim.

Orwell’s description of the elephant’s distress is unbearable, and Orwell is clearly emphasizing the barbarity of his actions. He depicts the elephant as almost most magnificent right as it falls with defeat, symbolizing its moment of bodily defeat, becoming a more powerful representation of the illogical viciousness of colonization. The way in which Orwell killed the elephant, is in the same as how the British are inhumane not out of necessity, but rather out of ignorance regarding both the land and the people it has colonized.

Orwell’s decision to kill the elephant was contentious. The owner of the Elephant was angry, with right. However, being Indian, had no legal right to react. Orwell continues to note that he is thankful that the elephant killed a man, giving his actions legal reasoning. Orwell even ponders if any the other police officers would understand that he killed the elephant solely to avoid looking like a fool. Orwell’s conclusion is that although logic can be paced into colonialism from afar, the real underlying inspiration of its savagery is the simple triumph of irrational uncertainty and the role-playing over ethics or human empathy.

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Orwell Is Working As The Police. (2019, Jul 23). Retrieved December 1, 2022 , from

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