George Orwell's Essay on his Life in Burma: "Shooting An Elephant"

Eric A. Blair, better known by his pen name, George Orwell, is today best known for his last two novels, the anti-totalitarian works Animal Farm and 1984. He was also an accomplished and experienced essayist, writing on topics as diverse as anti-Semitism in England, Rudyard Kipling, Salvador Dali, and nationalism. Among his most powerful essays is the 1931 autobiographical essay "Shooting an Elephant," which Orwell based on his experience as a police officer in colonial Burma.

This lesson plan is designed to help students read Orwell's essay both as a work of literature and as a window into the historical context about which it was written. This lesson plan may be used in both the History and Social Studies classroom and the Literature and Language Arts classroom.

Guiding Questions

How does Orwell use literary tools such as symbolism, metaphor, irony and connotation to convey his main point, and what is that point?

What is Orwell's argument or message, and what persuasive tools does he use to make it?

Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson students will be able to: Situate Orwell's essay within its appropriate cultural and historical context,

Distill and articulate the main points of this essay,

Discuss Orwell's use persuasive tools such as symbolism, metaphor and irony in this essay, and explain how he uses each of these tools to convey his argument or message.