The Man Who Wrote to Change the World

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Date Submitted: 04/25/2010 06:06 PM

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The Man Who Wrote To Change The World

In reading George Orwell’s personal essays I gained insight into the man behind the words. I was vaguely familiar with Orwell’s fictional writing and attempted to get through 1984 many years ago, to no avail. While immersing myself in his personal essays, I discovered who he was as a man and writer. He has strong beliefs and opinions, and the talent to eloquently string words together arguing persuasively; revealing the world he grew to understand. Now, a better judge of his writing, I understand his guilt, compassion, and desire to expose his readers to his views of imperialism, capital punishment, and totalitarianism.

I learned in “Shooting An Elephant” Orwell’s feelings for imperialism. His experience working for the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, a regime he didn’t approve of, lead him the realization that “imperialism is an evil thing.” He was in a job he couldn’t wait to get out of and attempted in “Shooting An Elephant” to disclose the awful side of imperialism:

In a job like that you see all the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of long term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos-all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt.

The guilt Orwell felt was a by-product of his conflicting beliefs. He was trapped between his feelings of hatred for the British Empire while at the same time he felt “rage against the evil-spirited little beasts” who worked hard to make his job impossible; “With on part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny…with another part I thought that the greatest joy would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts.”

Throughout the ordeal of shooting the elephant I saw the inner struggle Orwell had with conflict. He was a young man at the time and uneducated in the worldly sense. He...