Summary and Synthesis of “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell and “The Way to the Rainy Mountain” by N. Scott Momaday

Summary of “Shooting an Elephant”

“Shooting an elephant” was written by George Orwell. The story tells of the relationship that existed between the British Empire and the Burmese Empire. The writer indicates that the Burmese hated Europeans because they were colonizers. The Burma was the colony of Britain. The writer of the story was a police officer in the government of Burma. Orwell gives an example of how Burmese people hated the Europeans by explaining that the Burmese trimmed him up in a football pitch, and the referee of the match did not show any concern about it. In fact, even Buddhist priests jeered him on every street of the town whenever he passed there.

Orwell explains that hatred by the Burmese for Europeans as imperialism. Although the people of the Burma Empire hated European colonists, they were still oppressed by their own Burmese government. This leads Orwell to be in dilemma – whether to support the people who hated him, or the empire which oppressed its people. Orwell says, “All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.”

In the story, Orwell also explains that an elephant attacked a village in Burma. Burmese could not kill the elephant because they did not have sufficient weapons. The elephant had destroyed a lot of properties in the village, and the people wanted it to die. They depended upon the police to do it; but Orwell saw the elephant grazing in the fields and did not want to kill such a peaceful elephant. If he did not kill it, the people would hate him even more. The police inspector represented the British Empire according to the people, so if he hadn’t killed the elephant it would also mean that the British Empire was weak. Orwell says, “I did not even know that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it.”

Summary of “The Way to the Rainy Mountain”

“The Way to the Rainy Mountain” was written by N. Scott Momaday. She explains about the culture and life of his community – the Kiowas. The Kiowas lived in the plains of Oklahoma. In the plains there is a knoll referred to by the Kiowas as the Rainy Mountain. The writer explains about the plains and the rainy mountain when she visited the grave of her grandmother at the Rainy Mountain. The writer also explains how her grandmother used to view her community, and how she lived in her society.

The writer claims that the plains of Oklahoma experience the hardest weather, with blizzards during winter, hot tornadic winds during winter and prairies during summer. She says, “The grass turns brittle and brown, and it cracks beneath your feet.” P.1. When her grandmother was a child, the Kiowas were great people who controlled a wide range of land – from Canada to Arkansas and Cimarron. They ruled the southern plain. Their culture was characterized by wars, but later they were defeated and surrendered to the soldiers of Fort Hill. They were imprisoned and later became a colonist, rather than the colonizer that it used to be.

Telling the story of her grandmother, the writer says that the Kiowas originated from Western Montana. In terms of culture, they were considered as mountain people with a hunting culture. Their language has never been classified into any larger group. During their migration to the South and East, the Kiowas interacted with the Crows who gave them the culture and religion of the plains. They acquired the culture of the horsemen and the Tai-me, the Sacred Sun Dance which symbolized their worship of the sun as a divine god.

Explaining the landscape, the writer says that from the plains she could see Black Hills with a dark mist, and the Devil’s Tower lay on top of it. The Devil’s Tower was a sacred place with a legend story of the Kiowas. In the story, her grandmother says that seven sisters and her brother were out on play when the boy turned to be a bear and wanted to kill the girls, but a tree spoke to them and asked them to climb upon it and flew away with them. The Kiowas were prayerful. We can see from the story how the author’s grandma used to pray. The writer says, “I remember her most often at prayer” p.2. The author also describes the houses of the Kiowas as sentinels – made of woods with black and opaque windowpanes. The abandoned houses had bones and ghosts.

The author also describes the culture of the Kiowas as “summer people.” Celebrations and going out were common. People visited one another and held parties. In terms of clothing, the council of warlords of the Kiowas they wore lean and leather and were considered upright. They also wore great black hats and bright ample shirts. Their hair was covered with fat, and their braids were wound with strips of colored clothes. Prayer meetings and feasting were common.

Synthesis of the stories

These two articles connect in a number of ways. First, they are explained in the first person. They also explain the dominant and dominated cultures of people in a given society. In other words, they both have traditions. In “shooting an elephant”, the traditions in play are those of the British Empire and the Burmese Empire. The British or white traditions was a tradition that pursues strong control over others.

They do not want to play the role of being led or laughed at. They want to rule and do things their own way. This is the identity that the narrator maintains. He says, “And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was a long struggle not to be laughed at.” That is the reason why he shot the elephant although he considered it not right to do so at first – he gave in to the wishes of the people because he did not want to be seen as a loser or to be laughed at.

He proved his courage by shooting the elephant because according to him, “A white man mustn’t be afraid in front of natives.” Another tradition in the story of “Shooting the Elephant” is the tradition of value for animals. The Burmese people found nothing wrong with killing an animal, especially if it caused destruction to people and property. However, a white man values animals. They only kill them in self-defense in a mahout.

In “The Way to Rainy Mountain”, traditions of the dominant culture – the Kiowas, includes value for war. They also liked Tai-me Sun Dance, a tradition they inherited from the Crow. Furthermore, praying and feasting was part of their culture. Their dressing was unique and their houses were wooden. Their religion involved worship of the sun as a divine god.

The narrators of both stories also maintain their cultures. The narrator of “shooting an elephant” maintains his identity as a White man, while the narrator of “The Way to Rainy Mountain” maintains his identity as a Kiowas, the dominant culture in the story. The stories are also non-fiction memoirs which explain the experiences of the authors as they are. The stories also use symbolism. The elephant in “Shooting an Elephant” represents the animal kingdom. It represents all animals and their interactions with human beings. Spectators represent the natives who hate Europeans while the police officer represents the White people and British Empire. The rainy mountain in “The Way to the Rainy Mountain” represents the landscape and the environment where the Kiowas live. The grandma represents the Kiowas people and Momaday represents a Kiowa in diaspora – who does not know about the language and does not practice the traditions of Kiowa.


References list

Momaday, N.S. The way to the Rainy Mountain.

Orwell, G. Shooting an elephant.

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