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Pride Vs. Responsibility Essay, Research Paper

Pride vs. Responsibility

“Shooting an Elephant” and “Such, Such Were the Joys” by George Orwell both were autobiographical stories that show different parts of his life. In “Shooting an Elephant” Orwell is a sub-divisional police officer that has to make a choice that will effect his pride and the well being of the people he is protecting. In “Such, Such Were the Joys” Orwell is a boy going to a very expensive school were he is faced with the problem of losing his pride or dealing with the teachers and getting scholarships to very prestigious colleges. In both of his stories Orwell is called upon to make a decision that could affect the people around him, he has to make the right choice for himself and the people around him. “Orwell, wrote Brander, ‘was an individualist who confronted contemporary social and political problems, as a man who has done all his thinking for himself’”(Ryan, 296). Although Orwell doesn’t make the choices obvious in his stories he ends up choosing between keeping his pride or dealing with the responsibilities given to him.

Orwell feels pride in himself in both “Shooting an Elephant” and “Such, Such Were the Joys.” His pride in “Shooting an Elephant” came from the fact that he didn’t want to shoot the elephant because he didn’t see it as being right. “I had no intention of shooting the elephant. I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary?”(754). Orwell had seen the damage the elephant had made, killing a person, raiding a fruit vender, and wrecking a bamboo hut (753). But once he saw the elephant in the grass he was almost sure that he was over his “must” so he didn’t think he would have to shoot it and didn’t want to. He knew that the elephant was worth more alive than it was dead because it is used for working, like a tool. The pride Orwell had in “Such, Such Were the Joys” was all due to the fact that he was going to an expensive school, Crossgate, with rich snobbish boys and he didn’t want to have to ask to be equal to them. He wanted to be accepted without having to ask for the acceptance. For example every year on a boys birthday he would be given a birthday cake at tea time and that boys parents would pay for, but in Orwell’s case the teachers at the school didn’t think his parents could afford the cake so he never got one. Orwell’s pride was made up of the fact that he never asked for the cake, he just waited for that day when he would get one. “Year, after Year, never daring to ask, I would miserably hope that this year cake would appear”(760).

In both stories Orwell is expected to keep the responsibilities required by the people that are around him at that time in his life. In “Shooting an Elephant” Orwell realizes that he might have to take action and kill this elephant when he sees the whole town following him down to where they can see the elephant. He has the responsibility of taking the leadership role because that is what is expected of him, he is British. That means he has to do something about this animal, even if it’s “must” has passed he has to continue the action that he started when he asked for the gun. If he doesn’t do something this town of natives won’t take him seriously again. “And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant? Here was I the white man with his gun? seemingly the leading actor of the piece”(755). As a boy in ” Such, Such Were the Joys” Orwell faced huge responsibilities at school. There were two ways of getting into this school, one was to be rich and the other was to be a boy who would possibly get scholarships to prestigious schools.

“‘In a world where the prime necessities were money, titled relatives, athleticism, tailor-made clothes, neatly-brushed hair, a charming smile, I was no good,’ Orwell wrote. “‘[I knew] that the future was dark. Failure, Failure, Failure-failure behind me, failure ahead of me?’”(Ryan, 297).

Orwell wasn’t rich so he was expected to do very well in school and get the scholarships to the prestigious schools or else he was threatened, beaten or made fun of. “But he was sometimes willing to sacrifice financial profit to scholastic prestige?It was on these terms I was at Crossgates myself?”(757). If Orwell doesn’t keep his responsibilities then he will have to face the consequences. In “Shooting an Elephant” Orwell’s consequences were not only that he had to worry about making the white man look like less of a leader but he also had to look after the people of the village. Orwell had a job to do in his Indian village and that was to keep peace but also show the leadership the Englishmen had pushed upon the Indian people. If he didn’t finish his action when he asked for the gun by killing the elephant then he could be showing doubt and fear, and that would make the Englishmen look weak. “A white man mustn’t be frightened in front of ‘natives”(755). Orwell also had to look after the people of the village, he did this by knowing that almost all the elephant would be eaten by the natives. India is a third world country and people are always hungry so by killing the animal he gave the town food to eat. “?they wanted the meat”(754). The consequences Orwell faced in Crossgate were mental as well as physical. If he didn’t work hard enough and get good enough grades the teachers would hit him and or make fun of him. “‘I was in a world where it was not possible for me to be good,’ he wrote of the school’s capricious discipline”(Ryan, 297). There was one instance were Sim told Orwell he would make nothing of his life if he didn’t get a scholarship to one of the colleges, Sim would tell Orwell the same thing every time he would slack. “‘I think he’s given up that idea. He wants to be a little office-boy at forty pounds a year’”(761).

Although the school he went to sent him to a good college and the natives of India were just looking for food, the ideas and principles those people left would stay with him the rest of his life. No matter if they were good or bad he would look back on them whenever he needed to make a choice. “?the school seems to have been a pretty despicable place,” Crick declared,” was an agony that he never forgot, but he put it to good use?”(InfoTrac).

Throughout each story Orwell had the chance to give up his responsibilities and maybe live a better life. It is hard to say what would have happened if Orwell hadn’t shot the elephant or hadn’t worked to his potential at Crossgate, he may not have written about these events if he did give up. But even though he had it tough, and it may have been a little confusing at times Orwell came out of these experiences with a different kind of pride. A pride that is made up of hard work and being sure of the decision he had made in the past. In both of the stories Orwell had to choose between keeping his pride or dealing with the responsibilities given to him. He dealt with the responsibilities and in the end came out ahead, getting a good scholarship to further his education and having the feeling that the decisions he made were the right ones at the time.


Draper, James. World Literature Criticism. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. 1992. 2576.

InfoTrac. Eric Blair. Online. World Wide Web. 31 Oct. 2000. Available: http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/716/288/14654875w3/purl=rc6_CA&dyn=1!vdb_CA?sw_aep=mlin_w_hopacad

Ryan, Bryan. Major 20th Century Writers. New York: Gale Research Inc. 1991. 296-97.

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