The Elephant in the Distance
July 6, 2012 § 2 Comments
Brevity contributor Dylan Nice posts over at the Rumpus on his reaction as an undergraduate to first reading Orwell, and how the words, and Orwell’s honesty, altered the trajectory of his thinking:
Nothing changed for me immediately. I’d still vote for George W. Bush later that fall; still accuse democrats of being secret communists. But the subtlety of Orwell’s perception, his ability to recognize contradiction, irony, absurdity, had dug in somewhere deep and given me an intellectual inferiority complex. The writing was incisive, devastating without being pretentious or alienating. I trusted his telling of it, his voice. He says in the essay he knew the proper thing to do would be to approach the elephant and gauge its behavior. “But I also knew I would do no such thing,” he writes. “I was a poor shot with a rifle and the ground was soft mud into which one would stick at every step.” I was a hunter and familiar with being a poor shot. I could see the elephant in the distance, feel the crowd behind me, watch myself load the shell in the chamber, my hands shaking. I understood Orwell was a man who did not want to act rashly, who considered each party involved, knew there was no real urgency in killing the elephant, but killed it anyway because the inherent inadequacy of the individual in a world of larger, wealthier, more powerful forces.