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Power of the Oppressed in George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant

Power of the Oppressed Exposed in Shooting an Elephant

In Burma, the Indian Imperial Police consisted of British officers who, in theory, supported the extension of power and dominion of a nation, which is the basis of imperialism. George Orwell decided to follow family tradition when he went to Burma to work for the Indian Imperial Police, yet “when he realized how much against their will the Burmese were ruled by the British, he felt increasingly ashamed of his role as an alien police officer” (Britannica). In his narrative, “Shooting An Elephant”, George Orwell realizes that throughout his entire rule in Burma he is actually the victim of the Burmese, and it is their expectations of what he should do with his power that force him to do what they want.

Looking back upon his experience as an officer of the imperialistic regime, Orwell recalls a crucial morning when he is asked to deal with an elephant that has escaped from its “mahout” or caretaker, and “has gone must” (310). On this day Orwell realizes that he is unable to make choices according to his own beliefs but must act according to the demands of the “natives” who have been deprived of their own country. Orwell acknowledges that “imperialism [is] an evil thing and the sooner [he] chucked up [his] job and got out of it the better” (310). He is constantly reminded of the abuse inflicted upon the native people as he observes at first hand the “wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the gray, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, and the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos” (310). Very prevalent is the anti-European sentiment among the “natives” of Burma; this prejudice nearly makes his job impossible. T…

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…”natives” feel obliged to test the imperialists’ authority (or lack thereof) as a means of keeping some control over their country. The imperialists believe that they are keeping control by acting resolutely, but as Orwell shows in “Shooting An Elephant”, they put on this act to satisfy and appease the wishes of the “natives.” In imperialism, the oppressed indirectly hold the actual power and control over those that falsely believe to be the oppressors.

Works Cited

Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays. New York: Harcourt, Brace

Yeats’ Second Coming and Cummings’ what if a much of a which of a wind

The End of the World in Yeats’ Second Coming and Cummings’ what if a much of a which of a wind

Hellfire and brimstone, a massive environmental disaster, a third World War; how will the world end? This issue can stop conversations, or start hour long arguments; it can start a religion, or cause people to renounce their faith. The answer to the ubiquitous question of how the world will eventually end is a paradox; to know the answer means that the final hour has come. Both E.E. Cummings and William Butler Yeats express their premonitions about when and why this awesome event may occur. Both prophetize about the horrific destruction of the world in their poems, “what if a much of a which of a wind” and “The Second Coming”; however, Cummings and Yeats disagree on the final cause of this destruction. While both utilize graphic imagery, stark contrast, and unique syntax to warn their readers about the evils of mankind, Cummings predicts society’s irresponsible use of technology will engender the world’s end, while Yeats believes that men themselves, the “worst full of passionate intensity,” will ultimately cause the downfall of civilization.

Cummings’ use of intense and somewhat disturbing imagery in his poem “what if a much of a which of a wind” urges readers to realize the extent of the devastation caused by catastrophic, preventable, destruction. The first stanza of the poem, describing images such as the sun “bloodying the leaves”, evokes terror in the reader. The thought of the sun, usually associated with warmth and love, destroying something that it has helped to develop, directly parallels technology’s current role in society. Technology, usually thought of as beneficial to mankind, slowly destroys the society that it …

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…thinkers since the beginning of time. E.E. Cummings and William Butler Yeats felt compelled to express their thoughts as to the imminent destruction of mankind. However, what they were unaware of at the the time that they wrote their prophetic poems, was how frighteningly true their predictions almost came. Yeats commentary regarding the leaders of the world and their “passionate intensity” prophetized the Holocaust of World War II and the autocracies created by Hitler and Stalin, while the masses “lacking all conviction” sat and watched with passive indifference. E.E. Cummings’ description of man’s misuse of technology, was exemplified by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These poets sounded an alarm that was ignored; hopefully we are now prepared to heed their warnings so that their dire predictions will not prove to be ultimately true.

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