Themes and message

Imperialism

Imperialism refers to the extension of a country’s power and authority over other countries or lands, which then become colonies. The story “Shooting an Elephant” explores this topic through the setting and action. Firstly, the story is set during the British Rule in Burma, which had become a British colony and later was annexed to the British Raj .

Imperialism is depicted in the story through the perspective of the narrator who describes the British Empire as “evil” . The reflections of the narrator continue to describe the violent ways in which the empire rules Burma by mentioning “wretched prisoners” and the poverty in which the locals live. Their children are naked, their homes are huts, and they are powerless even in front of an elephant destroying their bazaar and need to wait for the British police officer to take action.

However, the narrator’s view is that imperialism is not only damaging for the locals but also for the colonisers. This is why he mentions 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,’…

Turning a region into a colo...

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