A European man is stuck in a dreadful job, in a foreign country, where he is already disliked, and is faced with a decision that would impact a few thousand people. George Orwell, the author of the essay, is a sub divisional police officer in lower Burma. He is bitter towards his job and is ridiculed on a daily basis. He feels as though he is living only to impress the local Natives. There is an elephant loose in the town and George is called to help. When he arrives in the village and does some investigating he finds that the elephant went on a rampage eating, destroying, and killing. A local Burman had been in the way of the elephant and was trampled. Gun in hand, George located the enormous animal with no intentions of harming it, only intending on defending himself if necessary. A large amount of people had followed him, over two thousand and counting.
He then realized he had given his followers the idea that he would be shooting and killing the elegant elephant. Now he felt obligated to do so or the Burmans would think less of him and laugh in his face. He internally struggled trying to make a final decision of what to do, although on the outside he knew he could not let the people know he was struggling to decide. He did not want to look weak; he wanted to be viewed as a strong authority. He truly believed the elephant was over his must and would no longer harm anything or anyone, as it was gracefully grazing in a pitiful field. However, he knew that would not be acceptable to the thousands in the audience waiting for him to pull the trigger. He considered testing the elephant by getting close to it to see if it would charge, but then decided that that would not please the crowd either. His final decision was to shoot the beastly elephant.
I believe the essay Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell was intended to point out how peer pressure can impact a persons decision and to make the audience question how they would react had they been in that situation. In the essay George takes many things into consideration as he is faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to shoot the elephant. He considers all the things the elephant destroyed, including a human beings life. He considers the owner of the elephant. He considers how many people are watching him and how they want him to shoot the elephant. The one thing he seems not to consider is his own feelings. He acknowledges that he feels it to be unnecessary to shoot the elephant. In the essay he says As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him.
(Orwell) Although he thinks this, he still does not act on his feelings due to the pressure he felt from those thousands watching and wanting him to do it. He thinks The crowd would laugh at me (Orwell) if he did not do it. He cares more about what others think about him than what the actual right thing to do is. He thinks I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it¦ (Orwell) Against what he thought was the right thing to do; against his better judgment, he goes ahead and lies on his belly and shoots the elephant several times. He ends the essay by saying I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. (Orwell) I think that even if the villager was not killed by the elephant, George would still have given into the peer pressure from the people and killed the elephant anyways. He is only using the death of the villager as an excuse and a safety net to not get in legal trouble for unnecessarily killing the elephant.
The fact that a person was killed was not the motivation for shooting the elephant, which is the only thing that bothers me personally. As the reader of the essay, put yourself in Georges situation. Would you have made the same choices George made? The essay takes us through Georges thought process. How would your thought process differ from Georges? In the beginning, personally, I mostly understood Georges way of thinking and why he did what he did. He was already trying as hard as he could to fit in and not be ridiculed for being a foreign authority. George says in the essay ¦in every crisis he has got to do what the natives expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.
(Orwell) I think he was trying to convince the Burmans that he was on their side, and he was afraid if he did not do what the Burmans thought was the right thing to do, then he would give them the idea that he was not on their side. Although I do understand where George is coming from and why he made the decision to kill the elephant, after taking everything into consideration, it still was not the right thing to do and I believe I would have not made the same decision. It is harder said than done to do the right thing when you are pressured to do the wrong thing, but if I were in Georges situation I would have chose not to shoot the elephant.
He did it to please the Burmans, but why continuously try to please people when they are already ridiculing you and most likely will not stop? I think that although George made a decision that the Burmans were happy about, they will continue to ridicule him and make his job and life difficult so what really is the point of trying to please these people? At the end of the day everyone is faced with peer pressure and you never know how you would actually react unless you are in that situation yourself because doing something is much easier said than done.
Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1950. Gale Cengage Learning Litfinder. Web. 28 June 2012. Reid, Stephen. The Prentice Hall Guide for
College Writing. 9th edition. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson, 2011. Print.