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Erin Donlon
Prof. Dzielawa
Comp 101
3 March 2014
To Wear A Mask
In Junot Diazs story No Face, he tells the story of the day-to-day life of a child from
the Dominican Republic who, in a terrible accident, had his face partially eaten by a pig, causing
him to have to wear a mask. George Orwell wrote about his experiences dealing with a rampant
elephant during his time as a military presence in Burma in Shooting an Elephant. What do
these stories have in common? At first glance, nothing really, but when the reader delves deeper
into the separate aspects and meanings behind both of the stories the similarities become clear.
Whether it has to do with the fiscal states of the settings, the physical and mental harm subjected
to each of the protagonists, or the masks, whether physical or symbolical, that both of the main
characters wear.
The fiscal state of the setting of the story No Face is quite evident from the beginning.
The little boys family cannot afford to send him to a doctor to have surgery to fix his face and
he also sleeps in a smokehouse. When he wakes up he goes to search for change on the road just
to afford breakfast. The author infers that for most operations citizens of the village are
eventually sent to Canada, as they do not have the equipment or money to perform the
operations themselves. The households also do not have internal plumbing, as Ysraels family
has an outhouse and they bathe themselves outside under a faucet in their yard. While in No
Face the characters themselves are poor, in Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell is stationed
in Burma where most of the denizens were in poverty and Orwell himself was not directly
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affected by it. The Burmese lived in bamboo huts and could not afford weapons to defend
themselves from imperialistic Great Britain. Most children were running around naked and the
roads were not paved. In fact, the roads were so muddy that when a Burmese man was stepped
on by the elephant his face had scored a trench a foot deep and a couple of yards long. The
mob of Burmese that eventually followed Orwell to the rice paddy that the elephant had rested at
were there for the entertainment that the event provided, but that was not all they were there for.
They also followed so that, in the off chance that he did have to kill the elephant, they would be
able to strip the meat of the carcass because food was scarce. After Orwell left he learned what
happened next, Burmans were bringing dash and baskets even before I left, and I was told they
had stripped his body almost to the bones by the afternoon.
While in both stories the people around the main characters generally reacted badly to
their presence, the reactions could be extremely different in nature. In No Face, the people
around him were hostile and not very sympathetic in nature. Most people tried to ignore him, but
those that didnt were quite antagonistic and aggressive in their assaults. While some people
would just heckle him in the streets, there were some boys who would actually try to harm him.
While just walking in the streets some boys came and assaulted him. Were going to make you
a girl, threatened one of the boys attackers. Thankfully some people did try to defend him, but
not all were listened to, as in the case of the beauty shop owner who was disregarded because her
husband left her. Even the boys own father didnt want to see him, as his mother warned him to
leave during the day before your father comes out. In Shooting an Elephant, however, most
of the negative reactions to Orwell were mental and emotional in nature. The Burmese were not
happy about being taken over by the English, so they would take out their rage on anyone who
was English living in their society. Orwell was generally hated by the people, and was mistreated
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by all the Burmese, even the monks. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There
were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do
except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans, stated Orwell about the abuse he was
receiving. He very rarely felt physically threated, for the Burmese had no weapons, but the
instance with the elephant was one of the exceptions. The sole thought in my mind was that if
anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on
and reduced to a grinning corpse, was one of Orwells fears from the day. The big difference
between Ysrael and Orwell was, though, that Orwell could actually be of use to the Burmese,
while Ysrael had no redeeming value to his oppressors. The Burmese may not have liked Orwell,
but he did provide them with entertainment and food when he shot the elephant.
One of the most relevant comparisons one could make between one story and the other is
that both main characters wear masks. In Diazs story it is easy to show where the character has a
mask because it is quite literally on Ysraels face, but I also believe that he had another type of
mask as well. Ysreal spends most of his days running around trying to avoid being accosted by
people in his village, all the while pretending to be a superhero. He does this in order to feel
strong and in charge of his life, which has been ripped away from him. He also pretends to have
superpowers, He watches for opportunities from corners, away from people. He has his power
of INVISIBILITY and no one can touch him. Orwell, on the other hand, did not have a
physical mask, but his mask was purely to hide his true feelings. Orwell spent most of his time as
an officer in Burma disliking his job to the point of wanting to quit. He had to put on a mask of
someone who was supportive of British imperialism every time he came into contact with a
denizen of Burma. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil
thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically and
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secretly, of course I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British, he
stated about his opinion of imperialism and his role in it. He had to wear a mask to protect his
true feelings of his job and his country.
While these two stories may occur at different times and in different parts of the world,
they have quite a few similarities. From the squalor in which the main characters live, to the
general bad demeanor that the people surrounding them had for them, Ysrael and Orwell were
more alike than one would see at a first glance. The most prevalent similarity, though, would be
their want to cover up and hide parts of their personality or their lives from others in order to
protect themselves.





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