Orwell’s Attitude Towards Imperialism

Orwell’s Attitude Towards Imperialism

Question: What is imperialism? Discuss Orwell’s attitude towards imperialism.


Imperialism is the process of expanding power and influence by a strong nation over a weaker nation. The word imperialism originated from the Latin word ‘imperium’ which means supreme power. So, imperialism is the practice of supreme power for extending colonies or territorial acquisition.

The realistic experience about imperialism

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950) who was better known by his pen name George Orwell was a novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic of the Modern and Post-Modern period. In his prose writing, Orwell advocates for social justice. “Shooting an Elephant” is one of such writings by Orwell in which he has presented his attitude towards imperialism through his real experience gained at Moulmein, a city of present Myanmar.

Click Here: For All Notes Of Essay

Antipathy to imperialism

Orwell shows his antipathy to imperialism from the very beginning of the essay. According to him, imperialism is the robber. At the very outset of the story, it is noticed that the writer has to face and tolerate the different types of bitter feelings. A common picture of the market was that when a European lady went through Bazar, the natives threw betel juice over her dress that was very disgusting but real in lower Burma. Another ironic incident of the football field gives the readers a transparent example of the loathsome feeling of the natives towards the imperialists. The writer was tripped in while playing but the referee called the foul against him and the natives laughed hideously.

“When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (the other Burman) look at different way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter”.

Besides the young Buddhist priests were the worst among the natives. They teased Orwell when they saw him at a safe distance because they did not have the brave to rise a movement but they did the unnecessary teasing only at the British. No European at Moulmein could move freely and comfortably. Thus, imperialism had been the robber of freedom for both of the parties.

Pride and oppression

Imperialism was nothing but a vein practice of pride and oppression. As the narrator was the sub-divisional police officer, he got the opportunity of observing the untold tyranny of imperialism from a very close distance. In the lock-up, the so-called criminals were kept in a narrow case and tortured cruelly which was really inhuman. The helpless natives were to tolerate bamboo torture and wait for a long time for justice that was also ironic. It is in the narrator’s tongue:

“British Raj was an unbreakable tyranny in saecula saecularum,

upon the will of the prostrate peoples”;

Symbol of evil

According to Orwell, imperialism is the symbol of evil and it had only the purpose to dominate the natives and to the last colony as can as possible. Through the simple incident of shooting an elephant, Orwell has made it clear before us. Here the elephant bears the two-fold symbolic meaning in accordance with the critics. At the outset of the incident, the elephant is the symbol of tyranny and by the end of the incident, he is the symbol of helplessness that means the natives. Based on the narration, it is known that the gigantic beast killed Dravidian coolie and destroyed the Bazar and some properties. But when the elephant was found out after a long misguide, he was looking gentle and harmless. There was no reason to kill such a valuable and gigantic beast but the narrator had to shoot only to avoid insult because a British Colonizer was really a puppet at the hand of the natives.

“I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind”


Thus, Orwell provides the message that if any authority behaves like the Imperialists, they have to be busy only to protect them not the people.


Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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