February 7

“Shooting an Elephant” or “My Mother Never Worked”

For either “Shooting an Elephant or “My Mother Never Worked” (you choose) decide what the heart of the essay must be. The titles suggest a topic, yet the essays focus on topics much more in-depth. First, what is your chosen essay’s true subject? Second, what evidence supports your claim? Third, respond to the essay. Choose two or three images or ideas that remained with you after the reading. We will discuss both essays in class and you will have a sentence combining activity to complete. Come prepared to discuss both essays.

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Posted February 7, 2017 by tashak38 in category Uncategorized

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24 thoughts on ““Shooting an Elephant” or “My Mother Never Worked”

  1. Shabana Rahman

    I believe the heart of the essay ”My Mother Never Worked” is the lack of recognition that the author’s mother, a homemaker, gets. While the author only writes about her mother the subject is really relevant not only to our society but to the entire. Those women who are homemakers i.e. run a house do not get the credit they deserve. It seems as a society we are only fixated on giving credit to those who bring home the bacon and not those who actually make it worth eating. The behind the scenes work required to run a functioning house is not really that sexy. If the author’s mother had not learned “to set hens and raise chickens, feed pigs, milk cows, plant and harvest a garden, and can every fruit and vegetable she could scrounge” (124), bring water, manually do laundry, sow clothes and work a farm, who else would have attended to eight kids, ensured the family animals stayed alive, and ensure the well being of the entire house. After reading this essay I realized how relevant this topic is even today. Why are those who really run our households, the foundation of our society, not fairly recognized and compensated when the need arises? Perhaps we need to revisit laws such as those pertaining to social security.

  2. Omar Mehrzai

    George O. Illustration about “Shooting An Elephant” describes about a time when he was a young lad working as a imperial police in the British Imperial army, station in lower Burma in India, He shows his audience that he was against the force of ruling of his superiors. Even though at some points he could not do more to stand up against the abuse the native where subjugated to by imperialism. He didn’t refrain from accepting the hate that the people had towards him and his employers. Simply because he understood with an open heart what imperialism was wrong and there was nothing he could do about it. He secretly was tired of working for the imperial army and was hoping that his job would end or allowed him to leave, the sooner the better; since he thought that for sure imperialism was evil thing. He picked side with the Burmese; he felt utterly guilty about the treatment they get and also how the prisoners where subject to. Although it wasn’t his fault or his doing’s, he was sympathetic and felt he owed them an apology. Later in the the story Orwell talked about a tiny incident, where he got called by the subinspector at a police station of an elephant ravaging the bazaar. He took his old rifle as in hopes to scare his since he wasn’t a wild elephant but a tame one had gone “must” (was in a state of heat). when he got there natives were explaining how bad it was and inquired him to do something about it. The people wanted him to shoot the elephant because they wanted the meat he didnt.

  3. Victor M. Nunez

    “Shooting an Elephant” an essay by George Orwell, describes how the impact of the British Imperialism and the villagers had differently impact affects the led him to shoot down the elephant. Orwell, a police officer hated by the villagers because they assume he supports the Imperialism there country was going through and pressure by the Europeans to follow there laws. “But I did not want to shoot the elephant.”(137) This portrays that the author was intimidate by the crowd and force against his will to bring down the elephant to feed the hungry crowd with satisfaction. On top of that, he was satisfying his own cravings because he knew that if he shoot down the elephant the villagers would potray him as a hero and not disrespect him. A traumatized image the came to mind is the suffering and suffocation the elephant to endure during the process of dying.

  4. Adela Sanchez

    In “My Mother Never Worked” Bonnie Smith, opens up about her life with her mother and siblings on a farm. She describes how hard her mother’s home making tasks where at home doing everything manually for many years. She was shocked at the fact that the social security refuse to give benefits to her decease mother then. In order to buried her rightfully. Since she didn’t worked into her benefits the help desk representative and many others told her she can’t claim benefits that don’t exist. Bonnie states she refused to accept that her mother was a lazy home maker. She didn’t chose to be a homemaker she worked harder to even live in a farm, doing a work for free of 100 men! Society then didn’t like homemakers or viewed them as a part fitted in society since they dragged the income even lower to survive, with even children.Simply there wouldn’t be enough money left to even put in savings. If only one person worked married with kids. Society failed to understand homemakers had if not the worst job with no pay but for free. Sad. No sympathy their but a remainder that your dead mom had the hardest life and all for free..

  5. Michelle Harker-Davis

    When I read the essay “my mother never worked” it grabbed my attention. My after thoughts are this woman worked extremely hard to provide for her family financially,putting food on the table, making clothes for her children, sewing blankets for her family and others. she was also looking out for the well being of not only her family, but friends and loved ones.
    She started farming in 1921 when times were extremely hard, through the depression, wars, and even older age. Her mother did back breaking manual labor of love for forty years, imagine that!
    So when the author heard the gentleman on the phone say that her mother never worked, it ired her enough to write an essay showing all the hard work her mother did from dawn to dusk all those years. Even when she was wheel chair bound, she was still productive.
    The authors thought for her mother is she deserved to get the social security death benefit of $255 which wasn’t much compensation for all the hard work she’s done. Writing this essay and getting it published in Ms magazine was the beginning of a long and healthy debate about a woman’s worth who chooses to be a home maker.

  6. Amy W

    In Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”, the true subject is imperialism- specifically, the effects and societal dynamics created by it. The essay recalls a memory of, as the title states, shooting in elephant- but the depth of the essay comes from the context of the situation. He writes, “Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd- seemingly the leader of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys,” (Orwell, 136). Orwell was a staunch opponent to imperialism, and here, he illustrates the destructive negativity that an imperialist country creates. He does not want to kill the elephant- it is living, intelligent, expensive, and useful- and yet the irrational need to maintain an image for the sake of surviving in a system that he does not even condone makes him do it. More than that, he hardly knows how. Nonetheless, Britain had created an image of a powerful, resolute, superior man in this country- Burma- and as an officer, as someone occupying a space created by deceit; he feels the need to continue it. The people despise him as a person, and he in turn, hates them; and that is precisely why he goes so far to maintain his status. Imperialism is illustrated, thus, as absurd.

    I think of this piece as a powerful and complex insight into a political structure. The painful death of the elephant, which was seemingly peaceful towards its end, accentuated the gravity of what Orwell had done for the sake of his place and his country. Reading about the normal reaction of a people in an extraordinary situation lets the reader know that this dynamic is not only a byproduct, but the machine that keeps an imperialistic system intact. While reading this, I was made to question what I would have really done, and what I would have found important in that situation. Another thing that struck me was the aftermath. It is ironic that some of his fellow Europeans, the ones that were more his age and thus in his same situation, thought of it as a “damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie” (Orwell, 139). This is ironic due to the fact that is those “damn Coringhees” that had exerted their pressure on him, making him pull the trigger. Again, hatred for a group created a need to maintain power over them, leading to a conflicting and nonsensical outcome.

  7. Lorena Padilla

    The essay “My Mother Never Worked” by Bonnie Smith-Yackel begins with a conversation that Yackel had with someone from the social security office after her mother had deceased. In this conversation Yackel is told that “her mother never worked” which then lead her to write this essay, describing in detail everything that her mother did for both their farm and her children. The main focus on this essay is to prove that Yackel’s mother didn’t only just work but she worked very hard and for many years however, in the eyes of the government she had never worked. Yackel says “Every morning and every evening she milked cows, fed pigs, and calves, cared for chickens, picked eggs, cooked meals…and loved her children.” (125) This shows that she was a not only a hard working woman but a caring mother as well, and she did anything and everything that she could in order to stay busy and take good care of her children. Overall, I did enjoy reading this essay, I liked how descriptive it was and the emotions you as the reader can relate to. I feel like Yackel gave us a good understanding of how she praised her mother and all the hard work she did for her and her siblings. I do believe that this essay is a great eye opener because a lot of the times we (myself included) tend to forget all that our mothers do for us, such as: cooking, cleaning, caring, etc. One of the images that stood out to me was in the beginning when I read the background information about Yackel meeting with the social security worker where she gets up and tells him that he’s wrong about accusing her mother of never working, I can get a clear picture of her storming off after giving him her response. Another image that stood out was when Yackel’s mother had been going her physical therapy classes and the therapist told her that her mother had done fifteen push-ups! I can picture a strong elderly woman that is tired however instead of giving up she continues to push herself to do more push-ups.

  8. jiaheng fang

    The true subject of the essay “Shooting an elephant” was to illustrate the responsibility of a tyrant leader as he lost his freedom, and lived up to the exception of his people. In the essay, Orwell wanted to examine the elephant with no intention of killing it, but as a crown of thousands of people followed him with excitement, he couldn’t resist pressures from the surrounded crowd, as he stated “Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib.” As Orwell expresses being a tyrant leader have to stripe away it’s own freedom, and wear a mask to fulfill people what people want.

  9. Brian Shinn

    In the essay “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell, the essay’s true subject is that imperialism pressures one’s true identity in society.
    Orwell had a tyrannic role as a sub-divisional police officer in Moulmein, Lower Burma. In order to stop the stampeding elephant, he had to shoot it. Orwell personally did not want to shoot the elephant even though it was eating the grass in the open field. He had an identity of hating his job as a police officer and opposing imperialism. He took on pressure from the Burmese because he had to take on the role as an imperialist officer. There were 2,000 people watching his back while he approached the elephant. He mentioned that if he didn’t shoot the elephant, he wouldn’t fill his role as the police officer and people would make fun of him. Imperialism also made the people hungry for the elephant’s meat and the price of its tusks. Burma was a less-developed country colonized country in which many people lived in huts and rural farmland. They brought dahs and baskets to remove the meat and tusks from the bones of the elephant.
    I’m very surprised George Orwell wrote “Shooting an Elephant” because I thought he was born in the 1970s. I couldn’t imagine him in an imperialistic setting in Burma. He didn’t make a right or wrong choice to shoot the elephant. He was under pressure from 2,000 people and he had to retain his identity in the society he was in. The elephant did make the mistake of running down a bamboo hut and killing a man. Harambe was killed because he dragged a 3 year old boy in the zoo across the ground’s friction. If Orwell did not kill the elephant, he would be the hero to the Burmese. As a police officer, he could have not put on the mask as a tyrant to the people as a white man but as an equal person to them regardless of imperialism.

    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      Excellent job, Brian. Your question about the time of the publication intrigues me. I think it merits further exploration. Do you think this could have been written today?

      1. Brian S

        I think this could’ve been written today even though more countries are starting to become developed. Countries like Russia supports the back of the Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the fall of the Ukrainian government. The people undergo spheres of influence under the Russian government. We can relate the soldiers of Russia to George Orwell. Some of the soliders don’t want to oppress Ukrainian and Syrian people.

  10. Khang Pham

    The true subject in “Shooting An Elephant” is about the the way a white soldier and or man must be portrayed as to what he actually is during the age of imperialism. During the essay, it was clear on several occasion that the officer have no ill intention of shooting the elephants, but that mindset would slowly change as he start to feel the physiological pressure, the fear of being view as a weakling despite being the “superior” one. “A white man mustn’t be frightened in front of “natives”; and so, in general, he isn’t frightened”.
    “Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind”. This quote indicates the perfect example of the position the occupying soldier is in to that of a Burmese but still he (the soldier) felt the opposite of what a occupying soldier should have over an unarmed person, which is control.
    What caught my attention while reading this is when the author was talking about the elephants ravaging homes, and that the local didn’t shown much interest rather than when they heard it was going to get shot, he compares that the English would be be similar in that it would be a “bit of fun”.
    Something I found disturbingly and low key funny is when he said the greatest joy in the world is to gut a Buddhist priest guts, and afterward sarcastically said its a normal imperial feeling.

  11. Rosaleen J

    George Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant” is about much more than actually killing the animal. As a white police officer in Burma during a time of imperialism, the author faced many hardships regarding his position, culture and duties. He was caught in between two things he hated – the system he worked for and the people who hated him that he had to serve. In this essay he talks about an elephant that has gone wild, or “must”, and has escaped from his owner, causing damage in the town and to its people. The author comes across a man that the elephant has killed but it doesn’t phase him much. Without any previous intent to kill the animal, the author ends up shooting it simply because a crowd had gathered and his pride and ego were at stake. He did not want to risk looking foolish in front of all the impoverished Burman people who had crowded around the scene. The reasoning behind this decision is what the essay is really about – had he been able to put his ego aside, he likely would not have killed the elephant that day. The author states that, “The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh.” That was his concern, over the fact that he’d just seen a Burman man dead in the mud.

    One image from the essay that really stayed with me is after the elephant had been shot, how it momentarily stood so tall before collapsing and then it took a long time to die. It painted such a vivid picture of how powerful these animals are and how much pain we as humans can inflict upon them. It made me upset because the author’s reason for causing this injury against the elephant was so irresponsible.

    Stemming from that though, was another image that stayed with me – the image of the author desperately trying to take the elephant out of its misery. He kept shooting the elephant but it simply would not die and it’s haggard breathing left an impression on the author. It made me hope that after the event the author was able to confront his poor reasoning and reign in his ego a bit.

    1. Amy W

      I really like the image of the elephant’s death that you picked out as well. I thought of something similar, and wondered if the pressure from the villagers or the death of the elephant was more powerful to Orwell.

  12. Jenella Jiang

    By reading the “Shooting an Elephant”, by George Orwell, the true subject behind the title is about how social influences and social pressure can easily shape people’s mind and belief. George Orwell described his own experiences of shooting an elephant in Burma, which he worked as a British police officer, and this elephant has been terrorizing a bazaar and also killed a coolie ” I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. ” By proving himself to the public others, Orwell has to make the choice to shoot the elephant, or he will lose face and be humiliated if he does not shoot it. Which under majority groups of people, Orwell felt pressured by them, and almost overwhelmed by their power over him through the social pressure.
    Orwell does not want to shoot the elephant, but the crowd is clamoring for him to do so, which makes me questioning their humanity, if Orwell does not impress the “natives”, he will be ridiculed and reviled by them. So by going back and forth between his conscience and public pressure, Orwell ignores his conscience and shoots the elephant, which makes him feel shame about himself based on the death of that elephant and his own self evil pride.

  13. Zak C.

    In the essay “My Mother Never Worked”, I believe the true subject of the piece was that although her mother did not poses a paying “job”, she did in fact live a life of very hard work. Day in and day out she had a large number of responsibilities she had to tend to as well as her many children and their needs.
    “From her wheelchair she canned pickles, baked bread, ironed clothes, wrote dozens of letters weekly to her friends and her “half dozen or more kids,” and made three patchwork housecoats and one quilt. She made balls and balls of carpet rags – enough for five rugs.”
    We see here that in her old age, after a crippling vehicle collision left her wheel chair bound, she still works hard and takes care of business. She may not have possessed a paying job as far as social security was concerned, but she did in fact work, and she worked hard.
    I think this is a powerful essay showing the real meaning of work. So many people are quick to judge someone for not having a job, not understanding the different life and culture that that person comes from. Hard work doesn’t always come with pay and there is a high level of respect someone like the mother in this essay deserve. You can quit a job, and the job will still go on. You can’t quit a farm or a family. This is a great and positive message. When finishing the reading i get the sense that the author, after the worker on the phone says her mom didn’t work, maybe laughed, hung up the phone, and thought to herself, “Ha! What do they know about my mother.”

    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      I love your organization and internalized reaction, Zak. You move the premise from the personal to society in general, and then you imagine into the future. Well done.

  14. Huiming Yan

    The true subject of the essay “Shooting an Elephant” by George Onwell is about the people’s opinion about life both human and animal. The paragraph “the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie.” shows that at the time, certain people’s life worth less than an elephant. Yet anyone seems expecting to shot elegant just for an excitement. I think the writer wasn’t sure to shot the elephant but still did so because the pressure, his findings on legal evidence to support the shooting tells he felt guilt in his heart.

    The fact of that owner of elephant is also a coolie makes the social status tragedy circle completed, the good thing is the essay was published in 1936.

    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      Thanks for your analysis, Huiming! Your response makes me wonder if you think this essay could have been written today? Anywhere in the world? What do you think?

  15. Abraham Barroso

    In the essay of “Shooting an Elephant” the subject was a based on foreshadowing of the life when the author was in war, before becoming an officer in the Burmese village, when George was explaining that was going to take his rifle; an old .44 Winchester, to scare off the elephant from causing too much damage in the village, it indicated that he was in the war before. “Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.” The quote is simply telling us that after George witness a dead body from the elephant’s rampage he didn’t seem to be squeamish at the sight, he witness too much death in his life in the war. As I read the rest of the short essay, it made me feel that although he had the rough time in the war, he still had the responsibility to protect the villagers it didn’t matter how much he was hated or mistreated he only cared about the villager’s safety. Even though he killed the elephant, the villagers were still angry at him for killing an animal.

  16. Edwin Chand

    In the essay “Shooting an Elephant” the title suggest a topic but it focus more on the topics much more in-depth. The true subject of this essay is about how an officer is most hated in his town because of his job and one day he’s assigned to shoot an elephant because of the damage it had already caused. “Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it.” The interpretation of this quote is that throughout the story George had been pressured into killing the elephant even though he didn’t want to he chose to do it to keep his image and also the reason that he was influenced to go against his will to do it. Images that remained with me after the reading was how thousands of people were waiting for him to kill the elephant while he tried to escape the situation but had no choose but to shoot. Other images that came across me was how long it took for the elephant to die and how everyone had discussions based on this accident with different opinions saying that some people were happy because it was the right thing to do while others thought it was a “shame.”


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