Symbols

The elephant is the most important symbol in the story “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell. Its symbolism can be interpreted in several ways. On the one hand, the elephant could be a symbol of the colonies dominated by British Empire. As the killing of the animal was unnecessary in the story, the animal’s death can symbolise the irrational way in which imperialism functions. For instance, the story shows how colonisers were ridiculed and mocked, while also being expected to protect the locals.

At the same time, the way the locals skin it might be symbolic of the Empire taking the resources of the colonies.

The narrator describes the killing of the elephant as “enlightening” , adding that it helped him understand the real reason why imperialists act the way they do .

On the other hand, the elepha...

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