In the following pages, we take at look at the language in the story “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell.

Generally speaking, the choice of words reveal many interesting aspects of the story. The story is written in the past tense and contains very little direct speech, making it feel as the narrator's recollection of past events. The inclusion of Hindi phrases help establish the setting, while the inclusion of Latin phrases and general preference for negative language gives a more complete view of the narrator.

Furthermore, the story contains a number of creative metaphors and similes which give the readers a more vivid and powerful impression of the story that unfolds.

Finally, it is important to consider the symbolism in the story as this is crucial to interpreting both its message and its main themes. The most important symbol is the elephant itself, but there are also other symbols at play.

Choice of words

Most of the story “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell is written in the past tense to suggest the events have already happened, and the story represents the narrator's recollection of them. On occasion, the narrator uses present tense to convey his thoughts: “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…” . In this case, the narrator also uses the present tense to convey what he believes is a universal rule.

Direct speech is not used at all; the plot is conveyed as the narrator’s account of past events. However, there is one instance of free indirect speech: “Would I please come and do something about it?” . The narrator presents the conversation he had on the phone with a sub-inspector from the other part of the town. The effect of the language device is that it creates humour because the narrator does not really know what to do about the elephant situation.

The choice of words reflects the setting, including some Hindu words such as “mahout” or “sahib” to give the narration local colour and make it sound more authentic.

In contrast to that, the story also includes some Latin...

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