In "Shooting an Elephant", why does the police officer shoot the elephant? The elephant could have been shot because the police officer felt the animal was uncontrollable and would cause more harm; or he could have killed the elephant because he caved to peer pressure.
The actual killing of the elephant takes place near the end of George Orwell's short story, "Shooting an Elephant," when the police officer shoots at the elephant. The officer kills the elephant because of peer pressure. As one member of the class stated, "By looking at the story, it can be seen that the officer's decisions were molded by his peers throughout the story." When the officer first encounters the elephant, he states, "I ought not to shoot him." This statement indicates the officer's initial intent. The officer feels peer pressure when he states, "I looked at the sea of yellow faces" and "The people expect it of me and I had got to do it." With two statements, the police officer focused on what people expect of him more than of what he feels he should do. The officer rationalizes the peer pressure when he says, "I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle" and white men mustn't be frightened in front of the "natives"." Finally, the officer gives into peer pressure when he says, "There was only one alternative. I shoved the cartridges into the magazine .".
In conclusion, peer pressure caused the shooting of the elephant. Looking at the progression of the story, the police officer began with no intention to kill the elephant, yet after looking at the crowd and the situation, he is forced to rationalize the killing. The police officer finally yields to the pressure; loads his gun, and fires.