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Shooting an Elephant By George Orwell

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale

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Shooting an Elephant Lesson Plans


”Shooting An Elephant” by George Orwell is a seemingly biographical account of Orwell (real name Eric Blair) and his experience as a Burmese police officer in the British Indian colony. While there have been debates as to whether or not Orwell was actually the officer depicted in the story, or if it was a colleague, the focus of the story is on the narrator’s internal struggle to complete his duty as an officer of the British Empire in order to avoid looking like a fool in front of the Burmese people. While the narrator knows that he needs to carry out certain duties because of his position, he does not necessarily feel that the British oppression of the Burmese people is the right thing. However, the Burmese people do not make his job easy because they resent his position as an oppressor, and this creates an ugly cycle of escalating ill-treatment on both sides. Thus, British Imperialism as a whole comes under fire in the narrative, a common theme of Orwell’s writings. In this short story, Orwell explores important themes such as the evils of imperialism, the crisis of conscience, and the struggle with pride.

Student Activities for Shooting an Elephant Include:



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East India Company and British Colonialism

The East India Company was established in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I to share in the spice trade. Eventually, the company became a foothold for the British Empire’s spread into the Indian subcontinent. The British Empire, at its height, became the largest empire in the world; however, its exploitation of native peoples in its territories led to disastrous consequences. In India, famine became a regular occurrence, and the economic policies of Britain led to severe poverty. Students can read more about impact of the East India Company and the British Raj at the following sites:


The Telegraph has great photos for students to view of life in the British Raj. The obvious class differences between the British and native Indians is startling.


Essential Questions for “Shooting An Elephant”

  1. Why is imperialism damaging to the native people of a country?
  2. Why is following one’s conscience important?
  3. How can pride get in the way of making good decisions?
  4. What kinds of resentments can build up between an occupied people and their despotic government?
  5. What is a dilemma?
  6. How do dilemmas reveal important characteristics and personality traits?


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•   (English) Shooting an Elephant   •   (Español) Disparar un Elefante   •   (Français) Tirer un Éléphant   •   (Deutsch) Schießen Eines Elefanten   •   (Italiana) Uccisione Dell'elefante   •   (Nederlands) Schieten een Olifant   •   (Português) Fotografando um Elefante   •   (עברית) בפיל"   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) اطلاق النار على فيل   •   (हिन्दी) एक हाथी शूटिंग करना   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Съемка Слона   •   (Dansk) Jeg Skyder en Elefant   •   (Svenska) Shooting an Elephant   •   (Suomi) Ammunta Elephant   •   (Norsk) Skyte en Elefant   •   (Türkçe) Fil Çekimi   •   (Polski) Fotografowanie Słonia   •   (Româna) Impusca un Elefant   •   (Ceština) Fotografování Slona   •   (Slovenský) Fotografovanie Slona   •   (Magyar) Lövés egy Elefánt   •   (Hrvatski) Snimanje Slona   •   (български) Снимане на Слон   •   (Lietuvos) Fotografavimo Dramblys   •   (Slovenščina) Streljanje Slon   •   (Latvijas) Šaušanas Zilonis   •   (eesti) Laskmine Elephant