Shooting an Elephant Questions and Answers
- What was the attitude of the people in lower Burma towards the European?
Ans. The attitude of the lower Burmans towards the European, which Orwell records as Subdivisional Police Officer is not a charming one. No one had the courage to create a riot but the common people would spit beetle juice over European lady’s dress as she went through the bazaar. The author also was a target of fun to them. The local people insulted him but at a safe distance. The young Buddhist priest, standing on street corners jeered at all Europeans. These were the worst of all. The author could not tolerate this, yet it happened against his thought and expectation. In short, this attitude of the people was not humanistic at all.
- Why does Orwell say that imperialism is an evil thing?
Ans. The British Government strengthened their iron hand every where they ruled. In Burma also, it was seen badly. Realizing the truth, the author also felt sympathy for the Burmese and went against the British. Though he served the British Govt., he was in support of the native people. The condition of the prisoners made him cry. They were huddling in the stinking cages. Their faces were grey and cowed. Their buttocks were filled with wounds and they were caned ruthlessly. All these created a sense of guilt in Orwell’s mind and he thought that imperialism is obviously evil as it never worked for the development of the country but always wanted to suppress the common people with strong hand.
- What were the two extremes in Orwell?
Ans. Orwell’s love for the oppressed people and his loyalty towards the Govt. made him a prey to two extreme points. He hated the empire he served, for their ruthlessness and on the other hand he was angry with those people who tried to make his job impossible in the East. One part of his mind always thought that British Raj would never come to end and it would always go against the will of the native people with unbreakable tyranny. His other half always wanted to attack the young priest with a bayonet. Though Orwell was oscillating between these two points, these were the normal by-products of imperialism.
- What did the elephant do?
Ans. One day, when Orwell just got up from sleep, he was called on phone to come and control an elephant. On his way, he learned about the doings of the elephant from the common people. They told that it was a wild elephant but tamed one which had gone mad. It was chained up but breaking it, it escaped the previous night. It will take twelve hours for the mahout to come and manage it as he had gone in the wrong direction to search it. In the morning, the elephant suddenly appeared in the town but being weaponless, the people could do nothing to it. It had already destroyed a bamboo hut, killed a cow and raided some fruit shops and devoured the stock. Even it had upset a municipal rubbish van and the driver is inflicted with some wounds as the car was turned upon him.
- Why does Orwell say…….. “That is invariably the case in the East?”
Ans. Getting the information, Orwell and his force were coming to the town in search of the elephant. But there was no sign of that animal. Then they started questioning the people about the whereabouts of the elephant. But everybody failed to give any definite information. People were muttering at a distance but when they were asked they were silent. Some people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that it had gone just in the opposite direction, while some professed to have heard of no elephant at all. Orwell became sure that the whole story was a pack of lies. But a cry was heard in the distance and gradually Orwell was informed about the elephant.
- How did a black Dravidian coolie die?
Ans. When the author came near a hut, he saw a man’s dead body lying in the mud. He was a Dravidian coolie. He was naked and just dead. The people reported that the elephant suddenly appeared upon the man round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its foot on his back and grounded him into the earth. It being the rainy season, the soil was soft. The man was lying on his belly with arms crucified and his head twisted to one side. His face was marked with mud and eyes were wide open. His face gave an impression on agonizing death. The beast’s foot gripped the skin from the man’s back. The man was looking like evil. Truly speaking, the man died a horrible death.
- Describe the procession scene when Orwell was moving to kill the elephant?
Ans. When Orwell got the rifle in his hand, he moved forward and the whole population followed him. Seeing the rifle, the people were shouting in glee. They were not interested when the elephant ravaged their homes but now the point was changed as it was going to be shot. They needed its meat. By the by, Orwell got unnerved. But the author had no intention of killing the huge animal. With the rifle on his shoulder, he was moving like a fool. When the author reached at the fixed place followed by a large crowd of people, he saw that the elephant was tearing up bunches of grass and stuffed them into its mouth.
- Why did the author think of the killing of the elephant as a serious matter?
Ans. When the author first saw the elephant, instantly he decided not to kill it. To him, killing such an elephant was really a serious matter. It was a working elephant first and it was comparable to a huge and costly loss of machinery. Moreover the animal was now looking like a cow having grandmotherly outlook. Being middle aged, the author was in no mood to kill the animal. He never did this or wanted to do that. Again, the owner of the animal was to be considered. Alive, the elephant was worth of hundred pounds but when it is dead its value will be five pounds and the tusks. People also told that it would cause no harm then. Considering all these matters, the author took it to be serious to kill the animal.
- How was the author made a puppet in front of the native people?
Ans. The author was being followed by the native people as a creature was going to be shot. They blocked the road from one side to another side. They were watching him as Orwell would perform a trick like a magician. People were excited because they were going to see a novel scene. The author became will-less. He was pressed forward by the will of the thousands of people. He was with his gun but if he didn’t shoot the elephant, it would be matter of shame. This is the problem of a white man in the East. It was a matter of his prestige. How could he lower down himself in the eyes of those men, the majority of which insulted him? So, unwillingly, he was guided to and fro by the will of the yellow faces. So, though Orwell had no original intention of killing the elephant, he was determined to do it as it was a matter of dignity in front of lower class people.
- What brought the author to the final decision of killing the elephant?
Ans. Being followed by the yellow faced people, the author reached within 25 yards of the elephant and began to test its behaviour. He thought that he would shoot if he was attacked. Otherwise he would wait until the mahout came back. The ground was very soft and one would sink at every step. If elephant charged and the author missed it, then he would be like a toad under a steam roller. He was not afraid at least in front of the native people. He was always thinking that if anything went wrong, those 2000 Burmans would see him perused, caught, trampled on and changed to corpse like the Indian coolie. He was not in any mood to be an object of fun to others. So, there was no other alternative. Placing the cartridges into the magazine, he concentrated for a better aim.
- What was the effect of pulling the trigger?
Ans. When the author pulled the trigger, he didn’t hear the bang but heard the devilish roar from the crowd instantly. A mysterious and terrible change came over the elephant. It neither stirred nor fell but every line of its body had altered. It looked stricken, shrunken and immensely old. After five seconds, it sagged loosely to its knees. A great weariness grasped the elephant. When the second round was shot, it didn’t collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to its feet and head drooping. When Orwell fired for 3rd time, the whole body of the elephant was jerked and it was falling but fought greatly to rise. Then it collapsed on the ground like a huge rock, with its trunk spreading towards the sky like a tree. It trumpeted for the first and last time. Then it fell on the ground with its belly towards the author.
- Describe the elephant when it was struggling with death.
Ans. After three shots, the elephant fell on the ground. It was breathing rhythmically with long rattling gasps. Its great mound of a side was rising and falling painfully. Its mouth was wide open and one could see its pinkish throat. Orwell waited for a long time to see its death but it did not die. So the author fired the remaining two shots towards its heart. The thick blood sprang out like red velvet but it was alive. It was dying very slowly with tortured breathing. The author thought that now the elephant would reach such a world, where no bullet could damage him further. At last, the author left the place as the scene was intolerable to him after firing a few shots from his small rifle. But the animal continued to breathe like the ticking of a clock. At last, it died in the afternoon.
- What was the after effect of killing the elephant?
Ans. There were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner of the animal was furious but being an Indian he could do nothing. Besides the author did a legal work because a mad elephant had to be killed like a mad dog if its owner failed to control it. Opinion was divided among the Europeans also. The older men said that he was right but the younger section called it a shameful act to shoot an elephant, for killing an elephant is more valuable than that of a coolie. Latter Orwell became glad when he heard that a coolie had been killed. He at least was able to forgive himself with sufficient pretext. He wondered whether anybody understood that he had killed the elephant just to keep his prestige and not to look like a fool.