Irony & Orientalism in George Orwell's
"Shooting an Elephant"
The Modern era followed the Victorian era fraught with war, disillusionment, and anti-colonialist sentiments that spread through many parts of the once thriving British Empire. Art was no longer there to tell a story or to aid in life lessons, but was simply “art for art's sake.” The Modern era was filled with many new voices from D.H. Lawrence to Virginia Woolf to T.S. Eliot, all giving insights into new struggles, that came to light during this era, from sexuality to PTSD to the questioning of one's place in society. Among this new breed of writers, one of the most prominent was George Orwell. While Orwell's most famous works are likely Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, his essay, “Shooting an Elephant” outlines this anti-colonialist viewpoint of the time.
Orientalism is defined in A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms as, “A term used to describe Western scholarship's dealing with the Orient. In its second sense, it refers to Western perceptions of Eastern cultures and social practices”(Quinn). In “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell directly addresses the problems with colonialism and uses Orientalism, in an ironic sense, to show how those in British society viewed “natives” of the countries they ruled, he does this through the sentiments of the narrator, the setting of the story, and his portrayal of the people of Burma . . .
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