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Shooting an Elephant

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In what may well be the greatest of his essays, Shooting an Elephant, Orwell specifically addressing the evils of Imperialism, capturing, perhaps better than anyone else ever has, the real moral damage that men do to themselves when they seek to exercise this kind of power over others. One day, while serving as a minor official in Burma, Orwell was called upon to shoot a rogue elephant.

I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought

not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant--it is comparable to destroying a

huge and costly piece of machinery--and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be

avoided. And at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow.

I thought then and I think now that his attack of "must" was already passing off; in which case he

would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him. Moreover, I

did not in the least want to shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make

sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home.

But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd,

two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on

either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited

over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as

they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical

rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to

shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their

two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there

with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's

dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed

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