race, image and power

What really intrigued me when i read Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant, is the depiction of an inversed power struggle. So often we come across texts in the module that emphasize on the oppressive nature of colonization and the silenced position of the natives, but Orwell is able to present a different aspect of this power struggle by enabling a glimpse into the white man’s own dilemma. As the character in the story laments, “For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him…every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.”
Colonial enterprise and the civilising mission had been established on the grounds that the natives belonged to an inferior race and were in need of the laws, grace and values of the white men. Race was therefore associated with power and ability and this essential difference separating the colonizer and the colonized provided a justification for the imperialist ideology and colonial rule over the ‘weaker’ race. Therefore, in order to facilitate the colonial enterprise, the colonizer would naturally have to constantly project and assert control and power over the colonized subjects. Orwell’s character highlights this obsession with control and power that links the idea of race with power. Even the white man whose very own heart is against the cruelty and hypocripsy of the empire finds his own face growing to ‘fit’ the ‘mask’, his will subject to maintaining the image of superiority associated with his race, and he feels compelled to do so not just for the sake of asserting his position among the “natives”, but also among his own people.

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