In the short story, “Shooting An Elephant” by George Orwell, the main character is a European police officer in Burma. This police officer is sympathetic to the Burmese people and their trouble, but because of his position must act in the best interests of the imperial power. All of the residents of the town constantly make fun of the police officer, and the narrator is torn between hating the British Empire that he describes as an “unbreakable tyrrany, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of the prostrate peoples”, and hating the Burmese citizens that terrorize him.
One day, the police officer receives a call about an elephant that has come into musth, and is on a rampage in the town. Upon his initial investigation, the officer believes the call to be a mere prank, since he gets different accounts of the story when he arrives at the bazaar. This thought quickly fades when the officer sees the body of an Indian, obviously killed by the elephant’s rampage. The officer takes a rifle for his own protection and sets off in search of the elephant.
When the officer finds the elephant, the animal has calmed down and is no longer threatening. However, the officer knows that the townspeople expect him to kill the animal for the destruction it has caused, and to avoid looking foolish he begins firing at the elephant. The officer says that, “I sent back for my small rifle and poured shot after shot into his heart and down his throat… The tortured gasps continued as steadily as the ticking of a clock”.
After emptying his rifle into the elephant, the officer leaves, and it takes the animal another thirty minutes of suffering to finally die. After the elephant dies, the townspeople strip the animal of its meat. Overall this experience makes the officer feel even more disappointed in himself, because he only killed the elephant to avoid looking foolish in front of the people who constantly make fun of him.