SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT BY GEORGE ORWELL
Introduction: The British Empire is evidently the dominant historical setting for “Shooting an Elephant.” During the nineteenth century, the empire expanded quickly, spreading its territories to far off places like New Zealand and India. Burma (now Myanmar ) was the place where Orwell was located and the place was gained by the British in 1886. Burma obtained its freedom from Britain in 1948, a moderately short time after “Shooting an Elephant,” an affirmation of Orwell’s observation in the story that “the British Empire is dying.” Here George Orwell narrates an incident he had with an elephant when he was serving as a young police officer in Burma. The elephant had gone mad and killed an Indian coolie.
Orwell’s task was to shoot the elephant and thus prevent more damage. This story gives us the point of View of a white man, a colonial. It sensitively probes the subtle relationship between the colonizer (whites) and the colonized (natives).
About the Author: George Orwell (1903 – 1950) whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair was a noted British author, Journalist, novelist, a cultural commentator, and a noted essayist. His short life did not prevent him from producing many works Which are now considered masterpieces. His works Animal Farm and 1984 further glorified his fame.
Meanings and Explanations
I had halted …………. home
In this paragraph ‘we see Orwell coming face to face with the elephant, whom he will have to shoot, for the first time. Here he describes the thoughts that came into his mind as he watched the elephant. He says that he had ﬁrst decided to watch the elephant for a little while and not shoot him if he did not turn savage.
“must”: an attack of frenzy
mahout: the man who looks after elephant
But ………. laughed at
In this paragraph, Orwell describes his feelings as he sees the Burmans watching him. He was the only white man in the whole crowd. These were the days when the British used to rule to rule over many parts of the world; Orwell expresses his view that the Westerner who ruled over the East Was actually controlled by those whom he ruled over. He had to act in order to save his Sahib image or the impression the natives had about him as a sahib would be lost. He was thus a mere dummy playing his role.
momentarily. : for a moment
irresistibly: without any resistance
dominion: here, power
unarmed: Without weapons
native: people originally belonging to the place
absurd: not reasonable
puppet: a doll, (here) one who acts according to another’s instructions
tyrant: an oppressor
trail feebly: follow behind slowly
But ……….. better aim
Here we understand that Orwell was against shooting the elephant. But in his mind, he knew that he had to shoot the elephant. Otherwise, the Burmans would attack him or laugh at him. He gives many reasons why he had to kill an elephant. He makes plans on how to shoot the elephant.
preoccupied: lost in thought
squeamish: ” easily made nauseous”. (nausea => vomiting sensation)
poor shot: not able to shoot properly
toad: big frog.
pursued: to go after; followed
trampled: to be smashed underfoot
alternative: option, choice
cartridges: Charges for gun
magazine: gun from which shots can be fired without reloading
The crowd ……………… I lay
Orwell does not have much experience in shooting elephants. Therefore he aims incorrectly. The reaction of the crowd is also explained here. In these two paragraphs, Orwell also tells us what happens to the elephant when it is hit.
still: silent, without moving
glee: great joy
mysterious: not very clear, secret
shrunken: to reduce in size
paralyzed: unable to move
knocking: striking, making him fall
sagged: to sink, to lose strength
senility: the weaknesses of old age
agony: great pain
remnant: remains, what is left behind
tower: to rise in air
Skyward: towards the sky
trumpeted: the cry of the elephant
I got up …………. afternoon
Here Orwell gives you a vivid description of the last few moments of the elephant’s life. He also tells you about what the Burmans did to the elephant.
obvious: very clear
rattling: short, hard sounds
torture: extreme pain
remote: far away
dreadful: very painful
stripped: to remove covering; here remove flash and skin
Afterward ………….. fool
These were many opinions among the people about the shooting of the elephant. Orwell ends his essay by telling you the truth as to why he shot the elephant.
furious. very angry
legally: according to law
Comprehension Short Answer Questions
1 What was the author’s first thought as he looked at the elephant?
Ans: As soon as the author saw the elephant he thought that he should not shoot it.
2. Why did Orwell think that he ought not to shoot the elephant?
Ans: Orwell thought that he should not shoot the elephant because it was a working elephant and therefore very precious. Also, the elephant looked very peaceful as he stood eating.
3. Why is it a serious matter to shoot a working elephant?
Ans: A working elephant is equal to a huge and costly piece of machinery. Hence it is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant.
4. How did the elephant look from a distance?
a) According to law, she is my wife.
A: Legally, she is my wife.
b) He looked towards the sky to see if it would rain.
A: He looked skywards to see if it would rain.
c) When she saw the snake, she was unable to move.
A: When she saw the snake, she was paralyzed
d) They stood without moving until the bear had gone.
A. They stood still until the bear had gone.
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