The Will of the Crowd Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Shooting an Elephant," deconstructs many different notions about the concept of free will. Actually, free will concept is at the crux of this essay, which is about a young police officer (Orwell) in British occupied India who is called to stop an elephant which has gotten loose. The author expressly states in a number of different places that he does not want to have to shoot the elephant; moreover, when he comes upon the elephant the animal is acting peacefully. However, a large crowd of people has gathered about him, which largely compels him to murder the elephant. A thorough analysis of this essay indicates that the primary conflict is between that of the will of the officer and that of the will of the crowd. A prolonged examination into the factors that lead the officer to shoot the elephant unequivocally indicate that he did not have free will in slaying the beast, and that he was acting in accordance with the will of the crowd.

The principal reason that Orwell is not exercising free will when he shoots the elephant is because his own volition is effectively overridden by that of the crowd. Although there are numerous instances in the text that indicate this fact, a look at the definition of free will and its requirements in Stace's text "Is Determinism Inconsistent with Free Will" most convincingly proves that Orwell does not have free will when he shoots the elephant. Stace's text (1999) states, "If a man's actions were wholly determined by chains of causes stretching back into the remote past, so that they could be predicted beforehand by a mind which knew all the causes, it could be assumed that he could not in that case be free" (710). This definition indicates that if one's actions are determined by causes in the distant past so that they are predictable, then one is not exercising free will. Such a definition applies to Orwell and his decision to shoot the elephant, which is fueled by the imperialist tendencies of the British -- which he represents to a large, Indian crowd. That is why Orwell writes that, "As I stood there with the rifle in my hands ... I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East" (Orwell). That "futility" is based on the fact that the imperialist must always act like the authoritative imperialist in front of the colonized people, which is ultimately why Orwell shoots the elephant. He does so because of the imperialist chain of events he is propagating and not because of his own free will, according to the definition offered by Stace.

Additionally, an examination…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Orwell, George. "Shooting an Elephant." www.online-literature.org . 1939. Web. http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/887/

Stale, Walter T. "Is Determinism Inconsistent with Free Will?" Current Issues and Enduring Questions. Ed. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. New York: St. Martin's. 1999. Print.

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