From the Inside to the Outside
The main goal of any literary work is to show the readers the reality they are not aware of. One of the most suitable literary forms to achieve this goal is an autobiographical story because it helps to tell a story of a person, describe his/her inner world and its reaction to the challenges and problems he/she faces. This is the case with Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell and Fell in Love, or My Hormones Awakened by Judith Ortiz Cofer. At first, the two stories seem to have nothing similar: the time, the place, and the problems faced by the protagonists are of a completely different nature. However, after a detailed analysis, it becomes clear that the two pieces have much in common in terms of points of view and characters, and they both aim at clarifying similar problems and conveying similar ideas.
In I Fell in Love, or My Hormones Awakened, the main character is also a narrator. It is a poor Puerto Rican girl. The author is not providing the reader with the insight of her past, it is only known that she is new in her school and deeply in love with a boy. He is a rather typical character of this kind: Italian-born, attractive, and wealthy. He is popular among his peers, and this makes a gap between them even more serious. This affection makes the theme of the story. The protagonist’s family and the boy are the secondary characters. Overall, the girl’s mother seems to be a positive character, she is considerate and kind, and her father is a Navy Man, which influences the family’s lifestyle.
In fact, many writers of that time used to be sailors, diplomats, and served on distant shores. Orwell, too, once served as a police officer in the British colonies. Shooting an Elephant is presumed to be an autobiographic story, where Orwell is the protagonist. Surprisingly, this is one of the few stories where a white man is seeking the recognition of the natives. Secondary characters are there to create the background for the personality on the protagonist to be exposed. In the story, Orwell gives scarce notice of sub-inspector, who is the one to reach for the main character’s help in taming the elephant. The protagonist’s friend, Mahout, the owner of the animal, constables are also secondary characters. The crowd serves as a trigger for the contradicting actions, which the narrator is to take.
Points of view
In general, the points of view of the authors are retrospective: they are considering the events from their past, analyze the reasons of some of their actions and feelings from the point of view of their life experience and age. For instance, Cofer applies her knowledge to analyze why she did what she did. Orwell argues that his character was driven by the reaction of the Burmese crowd and the whole colonial system of the Empire.
Moreover, both stories have 1st person narration. This device may be used by the authors to make the reader more sympathetic about the information they perceive. For instance, The technique helps convey the point of view while depicting the Puerto Rican immigrants experience. To that extend, in Shooting the Elephant, the events are viewed from the perspective of the man who is also an outsider, and has to assert himself to be accepted by the community, where he is doomed to never avoid the role of an enemy and oppressor. The reason why both stories are a compelling read is that the authors provide their experiences and tell the plot from the first-person perspective, which creates the feeling of a conversation with the authors.
The range of themes discussed in both stories varies; however, social and personal ones are dominant. In her piece, using the example of the main character, Judith Ortiz Cofer tries to find the verge between love, which is accordingly a genuine attachment to someone, and the desire evoked by the hormones. In spite of the possible hasty conclusion, the essay also has a deeper social context because the Puerto Rican girl is failing to become a part of any group. She falls in love and has no hope for the mutual feeling because the border between her and her object of affection lies deep in social disparities. The theme of I Fell in Love, or My Hormones Awakened, has two sides: the contradictions of the girl’s inner world and the interpersonal clash by the reality (Cofer).
The main ideas of Shooting an Elephant are both of political and personal nature. The particular feature making Orwell’s works strong and compelling is a strikingly honest and relevant theme. He depicts imperialism through the lens of a single man, to show the scope of social implications. The author succeeds in giving vivid insights on the routine of Burma, its nation’s life, when one’s life is worth less than a life of an elephant. This is a convincing argument against the imperialistic policy of the author’s country.
Furthermore, in Shooting an Elephant Orwell discusses the actions and motives of the decision people make in the chaotic world. In Orwell’s story, the author aims to address major issues of human existence in terms of social injustice and pressures, and in the same time, raise some issues of political significance, like the topic of colonization and its perception by the natives. It is a story about how people sometimes depend on the opinions of others, the way they do what they do not want to in order not to be laughed at and be accepted by the society.
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Despite a different plot and story line, the theme is similar in the two stories. It is the concept of a personal battle of the main characters and the pressing challenges of the outside world. Therefore, each of them approaches the problem from different angles, and it seems that only Coffer’s protagonist marches out of this personal battle as a winner, overcoming her doubts and heartbreaks. On the other hand, Orwell’s character becomes a victim of a public opinion and its deteriorating influence on the personal characteristics of the man. Here, the conflict emerges in three dimensions: the main character’s inner collision with the policy and course of his country, the dispute of social nature, and the most important one is the fight between his consciousness and the necessity to assert his social status.
Another resemblance between these stories is the role of the society in an individual’s life. In Shooting an Elephant, the reader observes a true clash between the protagonist’s world and the call of the masses. In I Fell in Love, or My Hormones Awakened, this social conflict found its expression in the origins of the young Coffer’s character and the object of her passion.
The world of characters can be separated into the protagonist and secondary characters who influence the authors with their actions and opinions. This is true both for the figure of the mother in I Fell in Love, or My Hormones Awakened, and for the sub-Inspector and the crowd of townspeople. Orwell’s world of characters is more symbolic that Cofer’s, with mad elephant standing for agonizing British Empire and the coolie standing for all Burmese, who were under British oppression. Orwell has an amazing ability to reflect the very essence of human misery. To kill not to be a laughing stock. Who else is ready to do anything to earn the respect of others, even to become a murderer? In Orwell’s opinion, a man is able of that.
To conclude, both pieces have more inside them than on the surface. They deliver a convincing message about the position of an individual in the society and the artificial hurdles of prejudice and stereotypes, which the society creates for an individual to impose him/her the desire to succeed. The themes develop within the framework of characters, which enable the protagonist to reveal his/her character. The point of view chosen by both authors, which is the position of an average person in the society, allows describing serious social and personal themes.