Orwell and Joyce

George Orwell and James Joyce have similar themes in “Araby” and “Shooting an Elephant.” The stories share some common themes even though they were written several years apart. In both stories, we see someone the narrator is trying to please or impress. In “Araby” the narrator is trying to impress the girl, and in “Shooting an Elephant” he is trying to please the people. These stories show the desire to be a part of British Imperialism, but ultimately realizing that it is not all it seemed to be. In “Araby” the boy’s realization comes upon arriving at the bazaar late and attempting to find something for the girl. This is the moment when he no longer is driven completely by lust for the girl, and he realizes what it is really like. This is Joyce’s way of portraying British Imperialism, and what it is like trying to appease those in control. In “Shooting an Elephant” Orwell details his feelings on the matter in a slightly different way. Orwell’s perspective was unique as he was a member of the police in India. Orwell wrote about his experiences, using “Shooting an Elephant” to show the pressure Imperialism puts on him. He says, “The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly.” Both Orwell and Joyce also expressed emotions of regret at the end of their stories. This conveys the point that both are disappointed in what Imperialism had brought them and that they both thought it would be better. Joyce said, “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.” and Orwell said, “In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away.”

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One thought on “Orwell and Joyce

  1. I like your point about both characters ultimately being excluded and disappointed by British Imperialism. However, I believe that a reason for their disillusionment is the concept of power. In “Araby”, the girl’s “image accompanied” him where ever he went (pg. 2219), and in “Shooting an Elephant” Georgia Orwell was at the will of what “the people expected..of [him]” (pg. 2569). Both of these characters have very little control of their actions due to who they want to please. For one, it is the symbolic Ireland, and for the other, it is the “natives” (pg. 2570). Both characters’ happiness are no longer within their control. In the end, they have the final say in the actions they choose to take, but their ultimate goals rely on self perceived concepts of what acceptance and happiness is, which requires them to put their value on something outside of themselves. Then at the end in “Araby”, after meeting disappointment at the Bazaar, the boy sees himself “as a creature driven and derided by vanity”(pg. 2222). He is no longer blinded by his affection for the girl, and he sees plainly what Ireland has become. In the end for “Shooting an Elephant” the character is sickened by what he did to “solely avoid looking a fool” (pg. 2571). The characters fall victim to their lack of control within their own psyche. Both of these characters emphasize the emotional and psychological drain that the British Empire puts on the indigenous peoples and on British citizens. The Empire has all the power, taken from the people it entraps.

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