Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shooting an Elephant” as Want to Read:
Shooting an Elephant
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Shooting an Elephant

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  7,427 ratings  ·  302 reviews
"Shooting an Elephant" is Orwell's searing and painfully honest account of his experience as a police officer in imperial Burma; killing an escaped elephant in front of a crowd 'solely to avoid looking a fool'. The other masterly essays in this collection include classics such as "My Country Right or Left", "How the Poor Die" and "Such, Such were the Joys", his memoir of ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 5th 2003 by Penguin (first published 1936)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shooting an Elephant, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Sarah The British owned the Indian Empire and therefore controlled the Burmese. The Burmese disliked that imperialism and the British. How would you feel if…moreThe British owned the Indian Empire and therefore controlled the Burmese. The Burmese disliked that imperialism and the British. How would you feel if your country was under the iron fist of an enormous country who pranced around feeling superior (though not all British people were like this, this was how the Burmese saw the British government).(less)
Ellen Absolutely, it's a fascinating look into a diverse range of subjects including colonialism, literature analysis, industrial Britain, poverty, and many…moreAbsolutely, it's a fascinating look into a diverse range of subjects including colonialism, literature analysis, industrial Britain, poverty, and many more. Reading this book provides a context to more famous works like "Animal Farm" and "1984", while also giving an overview of the themes of his other works like "Burmese Days" and "Down and Out in Paris and London."(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,427 ratings  ·  302 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Shooting an Elephant
Petra-X
The end of the Empire came when those who had previously given up their arms and all their wealth to he-who-wears-a-pith-helmet and burns-in-the-sun realised that Jack was not only as good as his master, but his master was a total dickhead anyway. And it was past due time he went home to colder climes and the fat queen who wore a golden crown studded with jewels stolen from their lands.

This story is about one of the sunburned crew realising that yeah, he is a dickhead and reflecting on the
...more
Rowena
This was my introduction to George Orwell's non-fiction. Supposedly during his lifetime, Orwell was known foremost as an essayist; this was quite surprising to me as it was only a couple of years ago that I'd ever even heard mention of Orwell writing non-fiction.

This collection of essays really impressed me.Firstly, the subject matter was very varied, discussing Orwell's observations during his time in Burma, his stay in a French hospital (very horrific), and also his views on books, literary
...more
Ian
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read most (maybe all) of this collection as a young man, in my late teens or early twenties. The essay I remembered most was A Hanging, which along with the title piece was one of two taken from Orwells time as a police Superintendent in colonial Burma. It retains its impact even on a second read. In one section, Orwell describes the condemned man walking to the gallows, and stepping aside to avoid a puddle in his path:

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to
...more
Mohsin Maqbool
description
An old Penguin edition of "Shooting an Elephant".

"Shooting an Elephant" is an essay by George Orwell, first published in the literary magazine New Writing in the autumn of 1936.

description
The hunter caught in the hunted's eye.

The essay describes the experience of the English narrator, possibly Orwell himself, called upon to shoot an aggressive elephant while working as a police officer in Burma (now Myanmar). Even the elephants mahout has gone looking for it but he somehow seems to be on a wild-goose
...more
Stephen P
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Surely, a vivid account of the oppression and futility of British colonialism in the East, or anywhere colonialism sets up its tent. Further it shows how the oppressor also becomes the oppressed by having to wear a mask to fit the role of oppressor, then the mask becomes their face.

It is also a fine study, I believe, of our interior lives and its workings. A ringing metaphor for the roles we find ourselves playing to subscribe to the mores and culture of our land. How who and what we are can be
...more
Steven Godin
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This outstanding collection again shows Orwell was a major essayist. I think it was his strongest asset. His fiction never really won me over. Along with longer pieces there are a fine selection of shorter essays - including "Shooting an Elephant", "My Country Right or Left", "Decline of an English Murder" and "A Hanging". With great originality and wisdom Orwell unfolds his views on subjects ranging from a revaluation of Charles Dickens to a spirited defence of English cooking. Displaying an ...more
Kim
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle

Why has it taken me so long to discover George Orwell's non-fiction? Ever since reading 1984 when I was a teenager I've known Orwell was an excellent writer, but I didn't know just how extensive a range he had. Fiction, journalism, literary criticism, political and social commentary, memoir; there appears to be nothing Orwell couldn't turn his hand to. This volume includes a range of Orwell's essays from the 1930s and 1940s, with subjects including Orwell's time as a policeman in Burma, the
...more
Daren
OK, close enough to the end of 2017 for me to determine my favourite reads. Shooting an Elephant is my 2017 BEST EBOOK/DIGITAL READ.

This is a great short essay by Orwell, autobiographical.

A tame elephant in 'must' is running amok in the town and it is left to the sahib to deal with. Not wanting to kill what is in effect an 'expensive piece of machinery', the sub-divisional police officer is given little choice - the Burmese are not permitted weapons, the elephant has killed a man and caused
...more
Lynne King
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just wonderful essays and to be revisited many times...
Duane
Published first in 1936, it is not known if this short story by Orwell is fiction or non-fiction. This is a snapshot of British Imperialism on the individuals level, and it's perception from both sides (politically) of the human experience. A local British official in Colonial Burma is ask to deal with a working elephant run amok in the village. The official, possibly Orwell himself, is torn between shooting the elephant and waiting for his handler to return. He really doesn't want to shoot the ...more
Josh
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A teacher my second term of college said I should drop out because of how much I liked Shooting an Elephant. In retrospect, I realize exactly how much of a commentary on her that is. Moral of the story, don't go to community college.
Daniel Gonçalves
As seen in /my link text

Although a writer, Orwell was primarily a journalist. As a result, the sheer necessity to extricate himself from the depiction of something he his witnessing first-hand is quite evident along his works.

What differentiates him from his other novelist-journalists of his epoch such as Steinbeck or Hemmingway is the ability to drop a considerable amount of humanity into his accounts. The essay A Hanging in which Orwell describes how it was to witness a public execution of
...more
Shalini Sinha
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, essay
"Shooting an Elephant" was an eye-opener for me. I read this story for the first time in my lecture "Masculinities in Literature and Popular Culture", that is, in the context of masculinity of a white, imperialist British officer in contrast to the colonized Indians and Burmese. It was my second book by Orwell - the first being Animal Farm, followed by 1984 and the legendary writer and thinker had already become a fav.

This book offers an insight into the minds of some British officers, through
...more
Peter Tillman
I started reading the title essay, which is free online, and almost immediately stalled at the hostility of the locals. Do I really need to read about The White Man's Burden? I think not.

Instead, you may prefer the estimable Petra's remarks:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
-- which are largely peripheral to Orwell (tho she does like his work, as do I), plus you get stuff like
"Britain's cold and grey and poor, and we are sunny and warm and not too badly off. We can come to the mother
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
He does not want to kill the elephant but he is a British police officer in his country's colony Burma and two thousand (he must be exaggerating) yellow-faced Burmese are watching, expecting him to kill the beast who had gone on a rampage, killing a cow, destroying crops and houses and causing the death of a native. Yet it is now calm, peacefully eating grass, and its owner may soon arrive and bring him home.

The rulers, however, have masks to wear and a reputation to protect. They cannot afford
...more
Pink
Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a brilliant collection of essays. Orwell is still relevant today and always worth reading.
Apratim Mukherjee
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of Orwell's essays which have been written on a wide range of topics like his days in Myanmar(previously known as Burma), his school days in Sussex , Charles Dickens ,Mahatma Gandhi, English literature to boy's magazines etc.Few like 'Charles Dickens' are too long and boring,some are amusing like 'The Spike' but none of them lose their 'Orwellian flavour'.Orwell's works in general were way ahead of his time.The book is an example of the fact Orwell was a great visionary as ...more
Lily
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like to consider concepts that aren't normally discussed
This book was probably one of the most interesting novels I have ever read. It is not a traditional book, which is one thing I liked a lot about it. It is actually a collection of essays by George Orwell.
I have read Animal Farm, by George Orwell as well, and that was one of the most amazing books I have ever read (on an analytical level). One of my favorite essays was about Gandhi, whom is obviously a very convtroversal man. His ideals are widely debated all around the world.
One of the most
...more
Peycho Kanev
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Arguably the greatest essayist writing in English.

George Orwells famous six rules for writing, taken from Politics and the English Language:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday
...more
Lila Kims
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
First Orwell story I've read, and it was excellent. 👌
Matthew
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Lovely -- I can't believe I let this sit on my shelf for 3 years before getting round to it. I have not read Orwell before, save for Animal Farm as a teenager, and didn't realise what a sharp essayist he is; I certainly intend to read more. Certainly I'm no Orwell expert, but here are a few things I do notice from this collection:

1. How much he is a proletariat voice, despite his middle class family background and relatively elite education (admittedly on scholarship) -- witness his criticism of
...more
Laura
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Orwell made this account very interesting. I really liked the writing. It is about Orwell's job as a police officer in Burma, a job which he hated. The British were still in control of the Indian subcontinent. Shooting an Elephant is a confession about how George Orwell felt. He hated imperialism and he was secretly in favor of the Burmese. He narrates the events that take place while searching for an escaped elephant, and he is in a very difficult position. Orwell has a gun but he does not want ...more
Eve Kay
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Reading Orwell is like reading my own thoughts. Having him write them out for me is almost like spiritual experience. For lack of a better word. No, he'd hate the words spiritual experience.
It's like mindblow. That's what it is. He wouldn't have known what that is. Unless he'd already thought of that back when.
Like he did so many other things.
It's almost creapy.

Here are some of the best essays, articles, letters of the volume I read:

Why I Write
Kind of like having a person you greatly admire
...more
Joey
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
I have read some autobiographical essays, just the like of my favorite ones by Richard Rodriguez, considered as one of Americas 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
...more
Smiley
Aug 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-story, essays
I always find reading George Orwell's essays pleasurable, therefore, it's my joy to come across this paperback a few years ago in a bookstore in BKK. I read each voraciously and wondered why he wrote so well, so superbly that he should deserve to be honored as a writer with fantastic writing style. I'm sorry I don't have this book nearby (it's been lent to my student to read during her summer holidays since last week), however, these are my favorites: 1) Why I Write, 2) Bookshop Memories, 3) ...more
Madhulika Liddle
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I will admit I began reading this book not just because it was by George Orwellan author for whom I have the greatest respectbut also because the title essay was one I remembered as having had to study years ago, in school. Shooting an Elephant, like the essay that immediately follows itA Hangingis a memoir from Orwells days as a British civil servant in Burma. On its surface, a straightforward account of a dramatic (in greater or lesser degree, depending upon which of these two essays youre ...more
Numidica
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
George Orwell, at his best, is hard to beat. I read 1984 and Animal House in high school, and thought I knew Orwell, and frankly I was not very impressed. Then, years later I saw Homage to Catalonia recommended in a list of "Best War Books", and decided to give it a try since I was mildly interested in the Spanish Civil War; from it I learned an entirely new Orwell - the one who wrote about his own experiences, either autobiographically or in novel form (e.g., Burmese Days). After reading ...more
Polytimi
Sep 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
"When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.He becomes a sort of hollow,posing dummy,the conventional figure of a sahib.For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives",and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him.He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it."

The man who becomes a tyrant has already signed and agreed with the terms of the condemnation of his freedom,at least in a spiritual,
...more
Jenni
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenni by: Allen Hackworth
Shelves: true-stories
My dad, who is in China, shared a picture he took of an elephant... grand creatures which are ugly in a beautiful sort of way. Along with the photo, Dad suggested reading Orwell's Shooting an Elephant "to further our education."

It is a short essay written about a personal experience by Orwell. He is a police officer in Burma caught in the middle of a triangle of contempt: against the natives who resent the oppressive reign of the British and thus mock Orwell, against the British for their
...more
Michael
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
i love george orwell. one of the most intelligent authors ever, he also has a profound insight into human nature. i would recommend anything he has written. this is a particularly short read but definitely worthwhile.

this was based on something that happened to him early on and likely is what jaded him to people. or maybe i am projecting and this is what jaded me to people. what i took from this is, society is full of a-holes.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Haunted House
  • Good Country People
  • The Thing in the Forest
  • Daughters of the Vicar
  • Everything That Rises Must Converge
  • Hills Like White Elephants
  • A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
  • The Luncheon
  • The Turkish Embassy Letters
  • Araby
  • The Garden Party
  • The New Dress
  • A Rose for Emily
  • A Modest Proposal
  • Happy Endings
  • The Company of Wolves
  • Three Questions
  • Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
See similar books…
31,828 followers
Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial
...more

Related Articles

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman's new memoir, Sounds Like Titanic, may be the quirkiest nonfiction book of the spring. It chronicles her time "fak...
32 likes · 5 comments
“He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.” 334 likes
“When the white man turns tyrant, it is his own freedom that he destroys.” 41 likes
More quotes…