October 23, 2008
The Depravity of British Imperialism
In 1886, Burma lost its independence and sovereignty to Great Britain in the “Third Anglo-Burmese” War. At that time, Great Britain had one of its colonies in the sub-continental region of India which was known as “British India.” Eventually, Burma was annexed into British India and was oppressed under British imperialism. Imperialism is “a policy of extending a country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force” (Oxford Dictionary). In the essay “Shooting An Elephant” by George Orwell, imperialism is portrayed as a corrupt act in which the British Empire imposes ...view middle of the document...
The elephant’s rage also represents British oppression on Burmese natives. The violent elephant illustrates how imperialism is tyrannical towards the Burmese people. Furthermore, when the police officer tries to kill the elephant by firing his “two remaining shots into the spot where” (261) the elephant’s heart is located, it is still not dead. It takes the elephant “half an hour to die” after the police officer pours “shot after shot into [its] heart and down [its] throat” (262). The elephant’s slow death indicates that imperialism is large and powerful and therefore, it is hard to eradicate. Consequently, the elephant is a metaphor for the unethical and destructive act of British imperialism.
Besides symbolism, Orwell uses irony to demonstrate the iniquity of the British imperialism through the police officer. The police officer enforces the British rule even though “he [hates] it more bitterly than [he] can perhaps make clear” (256). He is “seemingly the leading actor of the piece” (259) as the Burmese crowd surrounds him during the process of shooting the elephant. However, when the police officer “turns tyrant, it is his own freedom that he destroys” (259). This is ironic as he is the oppressor who limits the Burmese people’s freedom but actually loses his own freedom during the process. The police officer’s action reinforces the corruption of imperialism because his initial intention is not to kill the elephant. But, the Burmese pressure him to do so and in the end the police officer becomes victimized. Moreover, the police officer serves his country, which emphasizes his loyalty for Britain. But, he believes that “imperialism [is] an evil thing” (256). The irony is that he opposes imperialism while he obeys its rules as a police officer. Again, his characterization underlines that British imperialism is corrupted and tainted...