Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell: A Book Review

orwellI have read some autobiographical essays, just the like of my favorite ones by Richard Rodriguez, considered as one of America’s best essayists. But this one by George Orwell , is, for me, more remarkable in comparison . I was impressed. I liked it : simple but transparent, plainspoken, and persuasively natural. I would say that this is the kind of writing styles I would like to imitate.

George Orwell wrote about his anecdotal experience as a military policeman in Burma ( Myanmar now ) under the British government. He stated his difficult adjustment in a country where the atmosphere was emotionally suppressing because of the atrocious social classification at that time. His mettle was tested when he was expected to shoot an elephant considered by some at that time as a pain in the neck. So he would be in bind whether he had to kill or save the elephant.

Despite that it is considered to be an autobiographical essay, reading it is like  a short story; it is absorbing. I liked the fact the narrator, probably Orwell himself, describes his experiences in simply artistic structures of the sentences ; consequently, I got absorbed in a tell-tale. As a matter of fact, I was carried out by the sequences. When the story ended, I felt like one of the spectators watched him kill the elephant and was relieved. But the truth I could be part of Orwell’s other side of self: leaving the scene in agony.

Behind its anecdotal façade, there is something metaphorical about the essay. It has something to do with Britain’s imperialism and its effect in Burma. In fact, in this essay, Orwell clearly states his displeasure with colonial Britain.

I have not read other Orwell’s novels yet, except The Animal Farm ( 3 stars ). This is my first time to have read one of his essays.

I have learned a lot from Orwell’s writing styles. First, I liked the way he writes. I have tried to imitate other writers’ writing styles, but reading this one gave me the epiphany that I do not need to sound intellectual: I can write a simple essay but naturally moving. Second, writing is an instrument for making a big difference to social issues. Besides, we do not need to wish that we were genius. I believe we can learn how to write skillfully. It is a matter of practice and effort at will.

Rating: 4/  5 stars

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