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Shooting an Elephant Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 83 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Shooting an Elephant.
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Themes

Conscience

The narrator's mental division points to conscience as one of the underlying themes of "Shooting an Elephant." The narrator must do his duty as a colonial policeman. He despises the native Burmese for loathing and tormenting him as their foreign oppressor; yet he also perfectly well understands their loathing and tormenting; he even takes their side privately. His official position, rather than his moral disposition, compels the narrator to act in the way that he does, so as to uphold his office precisely

by keeping the native Burmese in their subordinate and dependent place. As a colonial official, the narrator must not let himself become a spectacle before the native crowds. Not shooting the elephant would make him seem like a coward, so he shoots the elephant. The narrator's moral conscience appears in the moment when the corpse of the Burmese crushed by the elephant comes to his...

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This section contains 881 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Shooting an Elephant Study Guide
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Shooting an Elephant from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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