Today in class we read George Orwell’s essay, “Shooting an Elephant.” It’s a very good essay. It depicts the British Empire as it’s reaching its end, and shows the outcomes of colonization. If you’ve never read the essay and want to, click HERE. (I highly recommend it. It’s not very long.)
Every other year we’ve discussed the essay in class. Most classes got a little discussion in today, but not to the extent I wanted to discuss it. Your homework, student, is to discuss the essay with a parent, adult that you live with, or someone over 18. You don’t have to take more than 10-15 minutes discussing it, but you can discuss it in greater detail if you want.
First, summarize the story. Tell the person you’re discussing it with what happened. Parents/adults, feel free to ask questions if you don’t understand something about the story.
Once the summary is done, discuss some of the following questions. You can choose the amount you want to answer, but I would suggest answering at least two questions.
1. The British had made Burma (Myanmar), India, and the rest of the “British Raj” part of the British Empire. What does this mean?
2. Why did Orwell feel conflicted about his job?
3. Can you give any examples of ethnocentrism found in the essay? Can you find an example from the other side?
4. Orwell says, “When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.” What does he mean?
5. Have you ever been faced with a situation where you felt pressured into doing something you knew was wrong? How did that make you feel? Explain your answer if you feel comfortable.
6. Compare what happened to the Burmese in the essay to what happened to the Banananovians.
7. How do you think the elephant’s owner felt? Why couldn’t he do anything about the situation? What does that say about the rights of certain groups of people in the empire?
8. Did Orwell REALLY have to shoot the elephant? And what makes you come to that conclusion?
9. Did the elephant symbolize/represent something more? If so, what? (Symbolism reminds us of something else.) ***If you’re having trouble with this one, compare what happened to the elephant to what happened to the Burmese people. Compare who shot the elephant to the British Empire.
In order to get credit for the homework, on a scrap piece of paper, write down the numbers of the questions you answered, along with a brief (one or two sentence) response to each. Then have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper. (Make sure the name of the student is on it as well.)