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The Main Idea and Rhetorical Analysis of Shooting an Elephant

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In the essay, ?Shooting An Elephant?, author George Orwell, once a sub-divisional English police officer for Burma during the Englishs? tyrannical hold on India, narrates a true, tall-tale like experience of a ravaging elephant and the siren-like influences of the community. The story illustrates the effects of social peer pressure through anecdote, imagery, and selection to detail in order to grasp the daunting authority of society influence and personal image.

First, Orwell uses a personal anecdote of shooting an elephant, which is normally a taboo or an offense to people, in order to engage the audience to find his reasoning for shooting an elephant and support his main idea. He tells of the background of the story, that the Burmans would send insults ?hooted after? him with ?sneering? faces. This shows the audience that as a white man, Orwell was not well liked or respected. As the story goes on, Orwell is called to ?do something? about the elephant. He says that he went with his ?old. 44 Winchester? but that it was much too small to kill an elephant. In adding this explanation to the old gun, the audience may be hopeful for the elephants safety and make them interested in what will happen. Playing with the audiences emotions seems to be common in this story for the reason that in the last part of the story, Orwell disparages our hope by promptly shooting the elephant at the end. Orwell justifies and even blames the killing on the Burmese people saying that the people ?expected it? of him. In doing this, he asserts his reason for this tragedy and exposes the culprit as the forceful pressing of willpower from the community.

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Another factor that shapes Orwells story is imagery. He produces a field of color, and the descriptions of the people and surrounding areas brings the audience back in time with him, engaging the readers to fully understand the social life and status of a white man in a sea of ?yellow? faced natives. As Orwell describes the hatred that reeked off the Burmese people, he says the worst were the Buddhist priests that had nothing to do but ?jeer at Europeans?. The audience is able to picture a community of yellow faces and hear the quips of the priests. As the author goes down to investigate the elephant, the descriptions of the paddy fields and ravaged bamboo huts in the waking path of the elephant are easily pictured even though most have never seen a bamboo hut or a paddy field. Orwell bring attention to these simple objects but it takes the reader on a journey through which to better understand that because of the location and era, Orwell had big shoes to fill in order to satisfy the community

In addition to imagery, Orwell pays a great attention to selection of detail that evokes a strong image of the story and makes it come to life. While describing the man that the elephant had crushed, Orwell uses the words ?bared and grinning? to describe the corpses face and decides that the faces of the dead look evil and not peaceful. The author does this to show the audience just what the elephant has done during its ?must? and that this is one of the reasons it had to be killed. Orwell then describes the elephant as having ?grandmotherly air? around it and that it had also looked ?shrunken, old, and sank flabbily to its knees?. This adds to the grandmotherly like air around the beast but brings into question of why Orwell chose to shoot this creature. It makes the audience think about their own morals when in the end, Orwell says he had done it ?solely? to avoid looking like a fool.

Overall, Orwells explains that when the faces of society are bearing down on you, there is no turning point and definitely no turning back. Their wills are forced over upon your own and it has actually led to many individuals, past and present, to give conformity to the one-minded behemoth that is society.

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