George Orwell, the narrator, describes his experience when he was called upon by the public to shoot an elephant that was very aggressive. During this time, he was young and had little experience. He was working in Burma as a police officer where he was stationed in order to protect the interests of the queen. His conscience and personal feelings were strongly against shooting the elephant, but the expectations of the locals pressurize him and eventually he does against his better mental orientation. Orwell’s anguish haunts him when he views the painful and slow death of the elephant. The story is a representation of British imperialism, and it is brought out as a metaphor to express how a white man destroys his freedom whenever he turns tyrant.
According to Orwell, the Burmese people had an anti-European feeling. They did anything in a disorganized way like rioting and revolting so as to show their hatred. They also did petty things like spitting juice on the dresses of European women but at a safe distance. They also had hatred on Orwell because, as a police officer, he was an agent of the autocrats. If a Burmese player did obscene against him, the referee ignored, and the spectators were so happy.
Orwell exposes the reality of the culture of imperialism. He kills the elephant because of the pressure from the Burmese crowd that is staring at him. It ironical that he does not want to kill the elephant even when he is handling the rifle lawfully, yet he still bends to the will of the crowd even with a lot of contradiction from his feelings. By killing the elephant, he is protected by the law and it assisted in maintaining and restoring order and provided meat for the population that was starving. Orwell represents the British while the elephant in this case is a victim of imperialism.
By killing a unique creature, Orwell does what he has to do by the standards of his empire. He may be possibly representing Burma and other countries that were shrunken by imperialism. Orwell is very allegorical in the sense that he keeps shooting the elephant in order to facilitate a quick death, but it makes it worse. This is similar to how Britain thought it was helping these other countries but causing destruction to them in reality.
Orwell brings out the picture of the elephant eating the grass peacefully. At this time, he feels that the elephant was harmless as it seemed to be settled. At this time, he saw it necessary not to shoot it contrary to the expectations of the crowd. The people from the east who were not natives thought that it was wise to act resolutely without any fear because the Europeans were resolute. Contrary to their thoughts, the British became driven by the will of the native people and acted as a puppet. He acted according to the mood of the crowd because if he left the elephant, the Burmese people would feel he was overwhelmed by fear and thus frightened. At this point, he would become a laughing stock and that is why he went forward and pulled the trigger.
In conclusion, Orwell regards imperialism as wicked. As a soldier, he had seen the oppression of the British Empire practically. Orwell developed a mental conflict, and he had personal reasons to hate the Burmese. The elephant exposed the hollowness of the British Empire and showed them that they were powerless.