There narratives are meant to represent something greater

There have been many instances in
literature, where narratives are meant to represent something greater than the
explicit context suggests.  As human
beings, our lives are centered on the thin lines that separate our
individuality with conformity. In “Shooting an Elephant” and “Paul’s Case” the
two protagonists in the stories are fighting a constant battle with being
pressured to “act accordingly” and behave themselves in a form that society
accepts while simultaneously struggling to hang on to their individuality, a
battle between doing what is expected of you based on the position you hold as
well as what others have already decided you need to be. In both texts, we see
the constant struggle with identity and who they are and who they are supposed
be in the eyes of society, a struggle that ultimately leads to a physical and
spiritual demise.

This can first be seen in the text
“Shooting an Elephant”, the main character Orwell reveals his struggle with his
duty to fulfill a role instead of following his own personal will.  In the same fashion, in “Paul’s Case” we see
expectations of what others around him have placed upon him and how those
expectations have led him to act in a way that does greater harm to him and those
around him. Moreover, in “Shooting an Elephant” the author’s purpose was to
shed light upon the injustices that were occurring during the time of the
British Empire ruling and how it was affecting not only those who were being
oppressed but also those who were inevitably doing the oppressing. While Orwell
held the role of a police officer he was then held to a higher standard, he was
a man of authority and power and had to fit a role. To himself, he might have
felt that he had essentially given up his personal will when he put on that
uniform however the elephant was no longer a threat instead his actions were a
result of an immense amount of pressure from those surrounding him. He states,
“The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the
East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.” (Orwell, 3)

Moreover, in the text, Paul’s Case, noble
working class people constantly surround Paul. However, Paul cannot relate to
them, he doesn’t want to associate himself with them because he doesn’t want to
be the type of people they are, average. He also doesn’t seem to fit in with
anyone, not at school, not at home, and not anywhere in his neighborhood.
However, where he does seem to feel at ease is in the theatre where he works as
an usher where people with actual talents and luxuries surround him. The author
depicts Paul as very out of the ordinary, one who stands out, one who he makes
himself seen. The red carnation he wears in his front pocket specifically
underscores this notion. Many may see Paul as a figure that is narcissistic,
who only thinks of himself and his own needs. However, what many fail to
realize is the lack of communication between the two sides. Many do not want to
take the time to understand Paul, which is why he is constantly misunderstood.  His own father knows his soon is different,
yet continues to talk him into living a normal life and getting married and
having children like one of their neighbors. However, Paul is not interested in
those things, perhaps he may not even be interested in women and even if this
was the case Paul should not sacrifice his own feeling and emotions for the
comfort of others.

There is a particular moment in the text
where the neighbors seem to express their disapproval of a color of a lemonade
pitch. ” On this last Sunday of November, Paul sat all the afternoon on the
lowest step of his “stoop,” staring into the street, while his
sisters, in their rockers, were talking to the minister’s daughters next door
about how many shirtwaists they had made in the last week, and how many waffles
someone had eaten at the last church supper. When the weather was warm, and his
father was in a particularly jovial frame of mind, the girls made lemonade,
which was always brought out in a red glass pitcher, ornamented with
forget-me-nots in blue enamel. This the girls thought very fine, and the
neighbors always joked about the suspicious color of the pitcher.” (Cather,3)

The color of the pitcher was far too
daring for the neighbor’s liking, it was too out of the ordinary, it was a
color that excretes passion and didn’t quite fit in with the bland colors
surrounding them, very parallel to how everyone around Paul feels when he is
around. Therefore, the significance of the carnation in his front pocket is a
symbol for Paul himself.

There were many instances in the text
where both characters struggled with their identity and trying their hardest to
not conform to the expectations and standards to those around him. This can be
seen by the protagonist in both texts who realized they were not allowed act upon
the actions they wanted to take. For example. In “Shooting an Elephant” the
moment Orwell shot the elephant, was the moment he died to himself. The
elephant’s slow and painful death was a parallel of Orwell as a human being,
being stripped of his own power as an individual along with everything else
that made him a moral and respected individual. Who has the ability to make
their own choices, to act responsibly, and stand firm to their decisions and
beliefs to not fall into the pressures of society. Because in that moment where
you give yourself away to please others and at the cost of your own happiness
and sanity, all your power as a human being is revoked and you will never able
to get it back. Orwell realizes this too in ” I perceived in this moment that
when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He
becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib.
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. He wears a mask, and his face grows to
fit it.” (Orwell, 3) In the same manner, this too can be seen in “Paul’s Case”
we can see something similar happen to him. ” It was only one splendid breath
they had, in spite of their brave mockery at the winter outside the glass, and
it was a losing game, in the end, it seemed, this revolt against the homilies
by which the world is run. Paul took one of the blossoms carefully from his
coat and scooped a little hole in the snow, where he covered it up.” (Cather,9)
In this moment, Paul too was dying to himself, to who he wanted to be but just
wasn’t allowed to be. He was constantly ridiculed and criticized he was never
allowed to live the true life he wanted, he knew he wasn’t accepted by those
around him so he ultimately buried the red carnation he wore on his chest as a
final goodbye to his dreams of ever getting away from the ordinary by ending
his own life.

In conclusion, Shooting an Elephant and
Paul’s Case are two texts who differ in many aspects but can both agree that
allowing others around you to influence your decisions and your way of life
ultimately lead to your spiritual or physical demise. By allowing the voice of
the masses to overpower your will to chose you and to differentiate good and
bad or wrong and right, you give up all the power you have as a person.  As Orwell is identity dissolves

 

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