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A Big Fat Target

             In making a decision, we occasionally find ourselves in conflict between our own desire and pressure to please a group. The narrator in George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant" is faced with precisely this kind of situation. A young British police officer in early twentieth century colonial Burma feels forced to act irrationally. He must contend with an excited mob of over two thousand Burmese townspeople who wish him to shoot an escaped elephant, while taking into consideration the loss to the show elephant's owner along with his own distaste for shooting the great beast, " Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal," he remarks. Although today we are often led to abandon reason and behave in an irrational manner as a result of pressure from a group, this rarely occurs in adulthood or to the extent described in "Shooting an Elephant.".
             The British officer makes an irrational decision and shoots the escaped elephant against his will; he gives in to the pressure from the mob and pressure as a European officer to perform his duty without showing weakness. The young officer and his large entourage find the elephant that had earlier killed and trampled one man calmly grazing in a field. The elephant's rage has subsided. "I did not want to shoot the elephant," the narrator thinks; but as a white man in a colony, " it is the condition of his rule to impress the "natives"" (38). He is thus compelled to shoot the elephant, even after he has rationally decided that it would be wrong! Early on in the essay the narrator tells us that he was at the time "young and ill .
             Hennerez 2.
             educated" (35), which we find is usually the case among Westerners when such problems arise today.
             Young people often make irrational decisions when under the influence of a group (deliberate double-entente). However, unlike the mob of over two thousand Burmese in Orwell's account, today the groups are generally made up of peers and in much smaller numbers; nevertheless, the outcome is the same.

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