Art Imitates Life


When art is said to imitate life it means that most of the pieces of art actually give a true representation of the characteristics of the owner of the piece of art. Essays are pieces of art and they provide a good example of art imitate life. A good example is the essay “shooting an elephant” by George Orwell. The essay gives a descriptive chronological account of an event that happened in a certain situation, which the author experienced. However, the way this essay has been written by the author is influenced by his characters. This is because if it were written by another author the same story would have been written differently. Therefore, a comparison can be made between the author and the essay.


Eric Blair was born in 1903 in Bengal, India but he grew up in England. After finishing his education, he chose to become a colonial police officer. He was posted and stationed at Burma, India but after some few years, he resigned due to the hatred he acquired in relation to what he had experienced as an imperial police officer. After resigning, he became an author and he changed his name to George Orwell (Widmann, 2011). This name was used in the publication of his many books and essays. One of his essays, which could be used as a work of art to imitate life, was the essay, “shooting an elephant.” In the essay, there are different instances, which were influenced by the author characteristics. They can be used to compare and contrast how the life and characteristics of the author has influenced the essay.

            The first comparison, which can be seen, is the way the author developed hatred in with British colonial rule. The author was not happy with the hatred, which was going on between the natives and the British (Allegretti 1994). He remembers a certain event when they were playing football with the natives and as they were playing, he was fouled by a native. The native referee, who was officiating the match, looked the other way as the native fans laughed. This kind of hatred was the one that made him quit being an imperial guard. He has reflected this in the essay by writing it but if it were another author, it would have been different. Therefore, the hatred the author contains is the same hatred as compared to the essay.

The essay has shown that there is poverty. The author talks of how he went to a village to kill an elephant and he was shocked with what he saw. He saw unplanned palm leaf thatch huts scattered on a hillside (Bloom, 2007). In the essays, the author was trying to show the poverty side of the natives who were living their. This made the author to have feelings of sympathy with the natives who were living on that land. You can compare this feeling with what the character traits of the author. In the lifetime of the author, he was known to be a person who does not condone any injustices, which are being performed on the others. The author has always considered taking the side, which is being oppressed, and it is weak. He has shown that he has a lot of sympathy to those people who are weak. Therefore, it can be said that the author has written this book in accordance with what he feels and thinks.

In the essay, it portrays the author as a very humble man who hates violence. This is evident in the essay by the way he is unable to kill the elephant but because of the crowd he has to kill it (Gallagher 234). Additionally, he did not kill the elephant because of pleasure; he killed the elephant because it had become violent and killed a man. This was thought to be the right thing to do because if he did not, the elephant could have continued to kill people. The behavior can also be compared to his real life activities. The author since he joined the imperial guard in the colonial era, there is no point where the author is indicated to have fought in combat or participated in combat. The author even opted to change from being an imperial guard in the colonial era to become an author. Therefore, it can be clearly seen that the behavior of the author has greatly influenced the essay.

The author was unable to attend school because his family had started to become poor despite the riches his grandfather had. This means that the author’s family was very poor. At some point in his life, he did not have any place to live. He had to do casual labor so that he could be able to survive. This can be compared with his essay where the author eyes were caught by the poverty nature of the village (Gallagher 235). This shows that the author was familiarizing with the villagers and he clearly understood what they were going through. Additionally, he is writing this in his essay to speak out his heart of how he felt when he saw the village. Therefore, both the behavior of the author in real life and in the essay can be said to appear to be almost the same.

The author also appears to be somebody who is not afraid to speak up his mind no matter what the consequences. Most of the events that happened when he was an imperial guard in Burma, India made him to quite and shift to become an author. He started writing books and essays. The essay, “shooting an elephant” clearly is portraying what the author thought about both the British and the natives. He is trying to show that there was a lot of hatred, which was going on between the natives and the British, and that he did not want to be associated. These are the events, which can be compared with the author to show that it is because of them that he had to write the essay. If it was to happen differently, most probably, the author would have not written this story or he would have written the story differently. Therefore, we can say that the events that happened at that time when the author was an imperial guard are the ones that affected the behavior of the author in towards writing this essay.

The essay can be said to be very political. The essay is only about an event, which happened in Burma. It involved the killing of an elephant but the way the story has been told by the author it is more like a political than an incident where an elephant is being killed. This is because the author is showing the amount of hatred between the parties, that is, the natives and the British. Additionally, the way the author is showing that one side is oppressed and the living condition of that side are very poor. He shows that the natives are living in that poor condition. This can be compared to the real life of the author and it can be seen that the author was very political in the way he used to think and his or her activities including books were very political in nature.

Lastly, it can be seen that the essay has been made to imitate the behaviors of the author as a piece of art. The characters traits of the author are evidently seen in the essay. One of the character traits that are being portrayed in the essay is that the author is very observant to details. The author is able to observe what has been happening around him in the event of killing the elephant. He noticed that there was a massive crowd, which was following him. Moreover, he has been able to describe the man who was killed by noticing some key details like the mud (Keskinen, 1966). If we look at the real behavior of the author as compared to the essay, the author was a very observant man and he used to notice several details while writing his books. He noticed how the people were being oppressed and yet he was a white man. Therefore, we can say that the character of the author and in the book is very similar.


From the essay above, we can conclude that art imitates life. The way the author has described and given the chronological account of events of what has been happening in his story, is almost similar to his characteristics. However, the art of expressing oneself in form of a story is often affected by the character traits of the author. Additionally, as compared to all the arts, the art of telling a story in an essay is affected by the feelings of the author same as the other kind of arts.


Works Cited

Allegretti, Joseph. Shooting Elephants, Serving Clients: An Essay on George Orwell and the Lawyer-Client Relationship. HeinOnline. 1994. Web. May 5, 2011. Retrieved from:

Gallagher, EJ. “Shooting an Elephant.” Annals of Emergency Medicine. 43.2 (2004): 233-7. Print.

Keskinen, Kenneth. “Shooting an Elephant – an Essay to Teach.” English Journal. 55.6 (1966). Print.

Bloom, H., (2007). The penguin new wruting. New York, NY: InfoBase Publishing

Widmann, A., Richard. “George Orwell.” Thought crimes Archives. May 4, 2011. Web. May 4, 2011. Retrieved from:


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