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Home » » What is the concept of Sahib in Shooting an Elephant?

Sahib is a respectful title used by an Indian in addressing an Englishman or other European. It is affixed as a title equivalent to ‘Mr’ to the name of a European. In the essay “Shooting an Elephant” the word ‘sahib’ carries a dual meaning. For the white rulers who are addressed as sahib, it suggests their superiority over the native people. They consider them superior to the natives and act accordingly. 

But the native people use the title in a mocking tone. They use the title to make the ruling class believe that they are in control over the natives. But to the author, the use of the title sahib need not have any real subservience attached to it. He articulates this disparity between respectful title and actual subservience by saying, “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". By taking on the role of the tyrant, the white man is compelled to keep up this position. 

He must never be seen in an inferior light to the natives. The author does not want to kill the elephant but the wills of the native people force him to kill the animal and fulfil the desires of the natives. It shows that he is forced to kill the elephant to save his face, to avoid mockery of the natives. He also fears that if he does not fulfil the desires of the natives, they may not obey the commands of the ruling class. So, he has got to act that befits a sahib. Thus, in the essay the word ‘sahib’ is not used in deference to the superior white man, but in a mocking sense.


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