Shooting An Elephant

Let’s start by considering tension. Think of a time when you had (or have to!) make a difficult decision. Consider the stakeholders in your decision: who stood to lose? Who stood to gain? What were the motives of each of these stakeholders? Remember you are a stakeholder in you own decision.

Write about this decision in a narrative format.

Now look back at your stakeholders. How are going to characterise them? Positively? Negatively? Humorously? Seriously? Look at how Orwell characterised the vagrants in “The Spike”.

Now try rewriting your entire piece as if the decision was as significant as whether you chose a Mars or a Snickers bar at the Stonepay market this afternoon. You may need to adapt your characterisation as you do this. The point is to play with the writing. This is of course adjusting the tone of the piece.

Once you are done, publish your works, (one or both or more!) to the blog.

Back to tension

So what does that activity have to do with “Shooting an Elephant” (as an aside, notice here I use inverted commas for the title of shorter works rather than italics for the titles of whole texts)? As you are reading, notice the tensions the protagonist negotiates as he comes to make his decision.

Task: Identify the stakeholders present as the protagonist makes his decision. Including him, who gains and who loses? Does this change over the work?

At this point it might be useful to do a little wider reading. Review these three texts:

  1. Define imperialism
  2. Review the biographical work we did (or read the wikipedia article on Policing in Burma.
  3. Katie Silbereis’ article on “Shooting an Elephant” (read this a little more thoroughly)
Task: Identify connections between these three texts (and of course, the essay itself). Find examples of the following quotes from the Silbereis article:
  • the negative psychological and spiritual effects of imperialism on the ordinary citizens called upon to assert the oppressor’s will.
  •  the futility and ambiguity of the imperialistic movement’s mission
  • making a political point in clear direct language
  • presents his narrative in language that manages to be both straightforward and emotionally charged

Once you are done, have a go at annotating this section of the text. We’ll do it together.

TASK: Now take one of these points and write at least two paragraphs asserting the statement. Use the examples you have found as your evidence. 

Task: Add 5 annotations to the extract from “Shooting an Elephant”.

Image: ‘O Elefante

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