I have chosen George Orwell’s rendition of “Shooting an Elephant” to fulfill both of those criteria. Today was my first reading, and by the end I had to take a deep breath and sit back for a second. I found it interesting and baffling at the same, as it begins fairly innocuously reading as a simple, refined journal entry.
As the reader, I did not expect something in this format or immediate tone to pull on so many heartstrings or to have such stunning description. Looking back, I believe part of this is due to the big picture he incorporates, giving me a hint of what I will be looking after a couple paragraphs: “It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism – the real motives for which despotic governments act.” From the creation of this big picture image, he zooms in on the streets of lower Burma where a nameless man lays trampled carelessly in the mud. From there he endures a march side by side with the reader, accompanied by a level of description that allowed me to almost physically feel the breath of the angsty crowd on the back of my neck.
At first, the most striking is the eloquent, heart-wrenching description of the elephant’s laborious death. Then the reader is left with a slowly dawning, terrifying realization regarding the power of the masses. Behind every act of power is an even greater pressure to perform, to impress the weaponless mass breathing down your back.
Orwell was able to literarily stimulated me, grab an interested in plot development, and leave me pondering the greater life lessons woven between the lines, and that is why I am so taken with it.