By reevaluating a unique situation from a different perspective, one may find that there is a better understanding of the situation as a whole. While British colonialism may often be evaluated through the perspective of the colonized, E.M. Forster and George Orwell illustrate the unique perspective of the colonizer. Both use this point of view to shed light on the negative effects of British colonialism. Forster, in his novel A Passage to India, creates distinct, complex characters in order to depict a multi-faceted view of the corrosive institution of imperialism. While Orwell uses the characterization of a British official in “Shooting an Elephant” order to depict the corrupting effects of British imperialism.
The tones of both works are sympathetic to those struggling with the oppression of imperialism. In “Shooting the Elephant”, the tone is sympathetic towards the indecisive narrator who struggles with his decision of whether or not to kill the elephant. The narrator is in a foreign country, working for a system that he despises, all the while surrounded by natives who do not respect him. It is clear that the narrator doesn’t want to kill the elephant, yet feels pressured by the Indians expectations’ of him and his duty as an officer t. In A Passage to India, sympathy is expressed for Miss. Quested who grapples between her conscience and the expectations of her fellow Englishmen. If she lies, an innocent man will go to jail; yet if she is honest, she is a traitor to her people. When she does decide to tell the truth, she becomes an outcast. “Shooting an Elephant” approaches imperialism with hostility; Orwell makes it clear that the narrator detests imperialistic system that he works for. Forster remains essentially objective in order to create a platform for the varying perspectives. Orwell and Forster are dissimilar in their characterizations.
Orwell chooses to make the British official the protagonist of his story. The plight of the protagonist is also told from the first person perspective in order to provide a deeper insight into the British oppression. Most of the sympathy is expressed towards the servants of British imperialism. On the other hand, Forster chooses to make the Indian the protagonist of his story, while making the British official the antagonist. Sympathy is most shown towards the victim of British imperialism.
Both works reveal anti-imperialist sentiment. Neither is in favor of colonialism; both depict imperialism as a corruptive and destructive force. In A Passage to India, this theme is illustrated by the tragic friendship of Mr. Fielding and Aziz . While it initially thrives in the imperialistic world, by the end of the novel, it has come to a tragic end: “Why can’t we be friends now?” While the bond between Dr. Aziz and Mr. Fielding is strong, Mr. Fielding is an Englishmen, and Dr. Aziz in an Indian; their friendship cannot exist as long as the forces of imperialism pull them apart. Thus, their relationship will only be able exist when British imperialism is conquered. This theme is also reflected in the transformation of Ronnie. While the changes Ronnie’s mentality makes aren’t witnessed, they are revealed through Miss Quested’s perspective: “India had developed sides of his character that she had never admired. His self-complacent, his censoriousness, his lack of subtely, all grew vivid beneath a tropic sky.” Thus, it clear that the imperialistic forces in India have changed Ronnie’s mentality and have intensified his faults. Although he is depicted as a cruel, unsympathetic character, he hasn’t always been this way. The internal changes he faces as a result of the imperialistic influences cause him to clash with, and ultimately lose his mother. His mother’s support of Dr. Aziz defies his imperialist sentiment and leads him to send her back to England, where ,en route, she dies.
In “Shooting an Elephant”, this corruptive and destructive force portrayed in the narrator’s decision to kill the elephant. As English official it is his duty to take control, yet ironically it is the pressure of the crowd’s expectations pushes him to the kill the harmless elephant. Conversely, the imperialistic influences tell him that this murder of the elephant is not justified: “ It was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie.” This rationale depicts the backwards logic he has adopted as a result of the imperialistic forces. It depicts the lack of value held for Indian lives. While Orwell offers a unique first –person insight into the effects of British colonialism, Forster is more effective in expressing the topic. Forster provides a more holistic view of British imperialism by expressing the viewpoints of both the colonizer, the colonized, and the sympathizer. Forster presents the reader with Dr. Aziz’s opposing outlooks towards the British. In the beginning, Dr. Aziz is receptive and, in fact, eager to befriend the British. Conversely, he detests the system of imperialism and by the end, he becomes disillusioned with British people.
Through Ronny, Forster depicts the mindset of the colonizer: “We’re not pleasant in India, and we don’t intend to be pleasant. We’ve got something more important to do” (Forster 50). Although Ronny is the heartless antagonist, Forster concedes that Ronny has been made this way the institution of imperialism. Conversely, Mrs. Moore, the epitome of sympathy and kindness, does not adopt the typical snobbery of the English in India. Instead, she ignores the racial distinctions which keep the British from viewing the Indians as equal, and befriends Dr .Aziz. Yet, in the end all suffer due to this system. This system provides a barrier for which the friendship between Dr. Aziz and Mr. Fielding’s friendship cannot exist. It creates a negative attitude towards the friendship of Dr. Aziz and Mrs. Moore, a friendship which causes a rift between Mrs. Moore and Ronney, a mother and son. Therefore, this system is corrosive to all.
In Orwell’s work, his antagonist is tragically doomed to comply with backwards logic of the imperialist system to which he adheres. In Forster’s work, his characters suffer in the end. Mr. Fielding and Dr. Aziz lose a friendship. Ronny is corrupted by the system. Miss Quested is shunned by the compatriots after retracting her accusation against an Indian. Therefore, by assuming unique stances, Forster and Orwell are able to express the overall weakening and corrosive insitutaiton of British imperialism.