Analyzing the rhetorical strategies of „Shooting an Elephant” “Shooting an Elephant” was written by George Orwell, and it describes an incident he experienced during the time he spent in a small town in India, as a police officer serving the British Empire. I found the writing interesting because of Orwell’s use of rhetorical strategies that slowly build up to the conclusion of the story, along with the peak of the action. The story ends in a detailed description of an anecdote Orwell thought of while shooting the elephant that was terrorizing the town he was positioned in.Throughout the writing, we can find different rhetorical strategies that indicate Orwell’s very careful choice of different images to get his message through. In the beginning of the writing (first and second paragraph) he introduces his audience to what it is like to be a British police officer in India, and shows the reader his own common human nature, encouraging him to sympathize with Orwell. In the first paragraph, he describes being a British police officer in India as a very uncomfortable, unpopular position to be in, because of the hatred of Hindi people towards the conquering British Empire.He also states that he sees imperialism as a definitely negative thing and he is not proud to be in the position he is in, but still mentions the reflective hostile attitude he feels towards locals, even makes a brutal joke about how much he would enjoy stabbing a Buddhist monk who makes fun of the English.
This picture of mixed feelings is something most people can relate to and encourages the reader to sympathize with Orwell. From the third paragraph, Orwell slowly begins the story by telling the reader, this was the day of his “enlightenment”, making the reader have high expectations towards the story.In the beginning, he even hits a quite funny tone by using silly ways to describe the damages caused by the elephant. He fails to succeed in finding the tracks of the animal, until he hears a group of children being yelled at by an old lady. The children were not supposed to see the dead body of a local who had been stepped on by the elephant, and lies in the mud with his body deformed.
Orwell describes this as a very unpleasant sight, saying the body looks devilish. Here the reader realizes that the elephant is capable of killing people very easily, and trying to stop it has a very high risk of getting hurt.This is something Orwell brings back later, when he has to face the elephant, he thinks to himself that he does not want to end up like this man, being stomped into the mud. When Orwell sends for an elephant hunting rifle, the population of the village starts following him in the hope of seeing him shoot the elephant. He explains that the people of the village would find this event not only entertaining, but very useful too, since the meat of the elephant can be looted. This is the first time we can feel the pressure being put on him by the locals’ expectations.
Orwell realizes he has no intentions to shoot the elephant as soon as he sees the creature peacefully eating grass. He thinks murdering such a huge creature is not a right thing to do, saying it’s like destroying a piece of complex machinery. He describes this well, so the reader knows that he doesn’t go out there because of his own will. He is under pressure, from his authorities and the locals. As soon as Orwell looks back at the crowd following him, all his doubts are gone, he must shoot the elephant.At this point, he introduces the reader, who has already been exposed to the atmosphere of the event, to the anecdote itself. Seemingly he is “the leading actor of the piece”, but he is just an “absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind”. He is standing in the front of the crowd that hates him, but still expects him to shoot the elephant, which he has no intentions to do so, but he still feels like he has to because he needs to do what is expected of him in order not to be made fun of.
He also has to be careful, because if the elephant kills him, just like it did to the man he saw stomped into the mud; he will be made fun of. Orwell perceives this as an anecdote of imperialism, where the empire is not the one ruling at all, it is just white men with guns doing what is expected of them in order to keep their childish pride. The rest of the essay explains what a struggle it is to kill such a huge animal, ending with him still wondering if anyone has ever thought that he killed the elephant to avoid being laughed at. In my opinion he succeeds at making a very clear point.Imperialism was a time of competition between empires for status, by conquering land and taking over other countries. A man feeling forced to shoot an elephant by the crowd behind him is a very good anecdote of imperialism, the western man symbolizing the imperialist empire, the locals representing the people being ruled by the empire and the elephant representing a deed that is expected by the people to be done.
This well written anecdote is something that makes one think things through, because it builds up from simple thoughts to a complex but clear idea.