Shooting An Elephant By George Orwell Versus The Guest By Albert Camus

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While reading a story one starts to deeply realize the meaning of the words and what the characters feel as well as their real intention into something. For example when I was reading the stories “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell and “The Guest” by Albert Camus I started to look in-depth with the stories message and how the main characters make certain decisions that make the reader want to think more deeply, this revealing more details about the protagonist’s conflicted relationships with other characters and other important points such as the setting of the story which in this case its the colonial system that both share. Even though both stories talk about different events there are still similarities between these such as its colonial setting and its message. On the other side, there are differences as well which makes each story unique such as freedom, the decisions that the characters choose in both stories.

To begin with, the story “Shooting an Elephant” occurs in Moulmein lower Burma where the author George Orwell was a sub-divisional police officer of the town in a colonialism system. Orwell starts off the story by talking about how he was hated by a lot of people in the town because of his job position, saying that this was the first time in his life where he was considered very important. He stated how he disliked his job and the British colonizers for putting him in that position: “I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters” (556). However, even though Orwell says that he doesn’t like his job because of the bad things that happen behind it all, he doesn’t like the Burmese either and describes them as “evil-spirited little beasts” he claims that he feels that way towards them because they made his job impossible, which by calling a community such strong words I personally got a feeling that Orwell is just as bad as the British empire. Then one day Orwell’s job became even more hard for him and was told that an elephant escaped from its owner and was wilding around destroying the town. Not knowing what to do he arrived at the place with his old .44 rifle which is not an appropriate gun to kill an elephant. After seeing that the elephant killed a man he then he realized that he was in a situation where he had to be responsible to respond to the death of the man because that’s what the people were expecting of him to do as a police officer of the town so he got a bigger riffle and went on the chase for the elephant while a whole crowd of people was following him every step. Justifying himself that his intentions weren’t to kill the elephant because of its big value: “I had no intention to shoot the elephant-I had merely sent the rifle to defend myself if necessary” (558). Orwell felt the pressure coming from the crowd because they seemed to be exciting to see the elephant get shot: “they were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick” (558). At this point, he realized that that’s what he had to do to keep his image clean because a colonizer can’t look scared in front of natives, this leading him into shooting the elephant shot after shot, the elephant is still alive but after he fires his last two remaining shots the elephant stopped breathing. Orwell didn’t have a good relationship with the Burmese people or either the colonial system that he had to serve to, this putting him in a position where he was technically forced into doing something he didn’t want to do, however he could make a different choice but he chose to not make himself look like a fool in front of people.

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Moving on the story “The Guest” by Albert Camus takes place in Algeria and the outset of the Algerian War. When one day the main character Camu who is a French school teacher sees two figures climbing up the mountains where he teaches and lives. It was a gender man (Balducci) riding on horseback while holding a rope that is tied up to an Arab prisoner accused of killing his cousin. When they make it to the top of the mountain Balducci informs Daru that he has to take the Arab to the police in Tinguit, however, Daru refuses to do so and says: “that’s not my job” (746). As the story progresses Balducci convinces Daru to do what he’s told to but is clear to the reader that Daru would not be bothered if the Arab scapes because then he wouldn’t have the responsibility into making a decision: “though the Arab might have fled and that he would be alone with no decision to make. But the prisoner was there” (748). He was surprised that the Arab didn’t run away so when it hit night Daru made dinner and ate with the Arab because even though he hates the fact that the Arab killed a man he still felt some sympathy towards the Arab. After a restless night, Daru shows some type of anger because he didn’t want to have this responsibility and choosing in between relating with the Arabs or the French. So then he gives the Arab food and money, walks him to a point between two directions one that leads to the police in Tinguit and the other leads to the nomads so he can scape. Giving him a choice Daru walks away and after moments he looks back and realizes that the Arab took the way that leads to the police headquarters. A little later Daru sees a message written on the school’s blackboard that reads: “You handed over our brother, You will pay for this” (752). Reading this message Daru feels alone and helpless because he is seen as something that he’s not.

After reading both stories there is a lot of similarities such as the colonial setting in both of the stories as well as the message. In the story “Shooting an Elephant” the main character Orwell is a British colonizer who serves for his nation as a sub-divisional police officer in Burma. Orwell has a bad relationship with the colonial system in general because first, they make him do things that he does not want to do he doesn’t have any freedom and has to go by the rules, on the other hand even though he did not like his people he didn’t like the Burmese people either, this because of the way that he was treated and how uncomfortable they made him feel in his time there as he tells some events that happened: “Young Buddhist priests were the worst of all…none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans” (556). The Burmese didn’t want to welcome Europeans they hated them and so they took any chance they could to express their hatred toward them. But just like the Burmese don’t have any respect for Orwell, Orwell doesn’t have respect for the Burmese either by the way that he describes them as ‘yellow faces’ like if they are all one instead of individuals who each look different and have feelings as well. Furthermore in “The Guest” Daru is put in a situation between being Arab and following the French colonial system, he hates the fact that the Arab killed a man: “Daru felt a sudden wrath against the man, against all men with their rotten spite, their tireless hates, their blood lust” (746). Even though Daru feels this way about the Arab he is not on the French side because they are making him do something he did not want to do. He is given a responsibility that he does not wish to solve this is why he hopes that the Arab scapes so he is not up to him to make a decision. Both characters in the story have a conflicted relationship with other characters and the colonial system, in general, this leading them into complicated situations.

The two stories have their differences as well that make each story unique such as freedom and the decisions that the character from both stories made. In the story “Shooting an Elephant” Orwell does not have any freedom however he did have the choice to not shoot the elephant and the solve the problem a different way but he decided that he should just shoot the elephant and go along with what others expected of him even though he knew it was not the right decision to make as he stated “in every crisis he has got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him” (559). Orwell didn’t choose to free and let others control him, so what does this tell the reader? that he is not in control of his own life and lets a colonial system which he claims he doesn’t like as well as the Burmese people to take over his own decisions. Contrary to the other story “The Guest” Daru does have the freedom and even though he did what the officer told him to do at first he did not let the fear get to him and chose to do what he thought was right: “No be quiet. Now I’m leaving you”(752). Daru gave the Arab option and didn’t leave the whole problem up to himself, leaving the Arab to make his own decision he went home and decided to not let nobody control him. The characters in both stories make different decisions Orwell making a following what others expect of him and Daru doing what he expects of him this leading them into freedom and/or not being a free person.

Leaving in an imperial government where one doesn’t have the choice to be free can affect people in a big way just like it affected Orwell and Daru where they were put in between making the right choice or the wrong choice. Were Orwell made the wrong choice and decide to go along by what he was told to do even though he knew it was not the right decision to make and Daru, where he is caught in between two cultures yet he leaves it up to the Arab to make his own decision. In conclusion, the analysis of both stories ‘Shooting an Elephant” and “The Guest” reveal that the power of colonialism can affect both the natives and the colonizers, leading them both into a conflicted relationship. 

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