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Context[ edit ] Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years —during which three Anglo-Burmese wars took place, and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. It was administered as a province of India untilwhen it became a separate, self-governing colony, attaining its independence on January 4, With a strong interest in the lives of the working class, Orwell—born in India to a middle-class family, but brought up in Britain—held the post of assistant superintendent in the British Indian Imperial Police in Burma from to The Kipling -inspired romance of the Raj had been worn thin by the daily realities of his job in which, As a member of the ruling power, he is cornered into doing what the "natives" expect of him: In Moulmein, the narrator—Orwell, writing in the first person—is a police officer during a period of intense anti-European sentiment.
Although his intellectual sympathies lie with the Burmese, his official role makes him a symbol of the oppressive imperial power. As such, he is subjected to constant baiting and jeering by the local people. Entering one of the poorest quarters, he receives conflicting reports and contemplates leaving, thinking the incident is a hoax.
The narrator then sees a village woman chasing away children who are looking at the corpse of an Indian whom the elephant has trampled and killed. He sends an order to bring an elephant rifle and, followed by a group of roughly a few thousand people, heads toward the paddy field where the elephant has rested in its tracks.
Although he does not want to kill the elephant now that it seems peaceful, the narrator feels pressured by the demand of the crowd for the act to be carried out.
After inquiring as to the elephant's behavior and delaying for some time, he shoots the elephant several times, wounding it but unable to kill it. The narrator then leaves the beast, unable to be in its presence as it continues to suffer. He later learns that it was stripped, nearly to the bone, within hours.
His elderly colleagues agree that killing the elephant was the best thing to do, but the younger ones believe that it was worth more than the Indian it killed. The narrator then wonders if they will ever understand that he did it "solely to avoid looking a fool.
I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As ruler, he notes that it is his duty to appear resolute, with his word being final. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.
He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib.
For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him.Defining a Narrative Essay.
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