Shooting An Elephant, By Joseph Conrad

1107 Words 5 Pages
Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford psychology professor, conducted an experiment which examined life in confinement from the perspective of both the prisoner and the prison guard. As the study progressed, he observed that the prison guards began to display peremptory attitudes towards the imprisoned, developing sadistic and apathetic tendencies. Similar to the tyrannical behaviour of the colonizers during their relentless pursuit of superiority through imperialism, the prison guards became thoroughly indifferent of their iniquitous actions. The presence of this callous apathy that the colonizers direct towards the colonized is a theme often depicted in post-colonial literature. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the Europeans regard the Africans …show more content…
The callous effect that imperialism has on the mentality of the colonizers is evident in the beating of the encaged prisoners. The narrator states, “The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been bogged with bamboos,” (Orwell, 276). This horrid, inhumane treatment of the colonized is a theme frequently explored in post-colonial literature which contributes to the portrayal of colonizers as callous and indifferent. In addition to these vile turpitudes, the Europeans also consider the Burmese to be an inferior race. The sub-divisional police officer muses, “I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes,” (Orwell 278). This is a clear expression of the belief that the race and culture of the Burmese are of less merit in comparison to that of the Europeans. Furthermore, the colonizers regard the colonized as worthless. The conversation amongst the police officers distinctly indicates this idea with the younger men saying, “it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than a damn Coringhee coolie.” (Orwell 281). The officers corroborate the theme that colonizers in post-colonial literature are often portrayed as apathetic due to …show more content…
This apathy of the Europeans is expressed in their implementation of a foreign government and establishment of an obtrusive judicial system. Okonkwo believes, “They had built a court where the District Commissioner judged cases in ignorance.” (Achebe 174). This intrusive authoritarian structure imposing upon the preceding judicial system of the tribe disrupts the nature and harmony of the clan. Furthermore, the Ibo people endure instances of immoral treatment from the Europeans whilst in prison. Obierika states, “The other people were released, but even now they have not found the mouth with which to tell of their suffering.” (Achebe 177). This passage irrefutably alludes to the callous and apathetically inhumane abuse the colonizers inflict upon the colonized. In addition to this depraved, physical conduct, the Europeans disregard the Africans through their thoughts as well. The District Commissioner muses, “The story of this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading… He had already chosen the title of the book…The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the lower Niger.” (Achebe 208-209). Okonkwo’s suicide is a deeply unnerving event to the clansmen of Umuofia, yet this colonizer reacts indifferently to the situation. This instance of complete apathy further establishes

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