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Comparative Textual Analysis


Literature often acts as а deep mirror that reflects the complex weave of the human experience, giving us important insights into the complexities of life and death. “To an Athlete Dying Young” by A. Е. Hausman and “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell are great examples of this literary analysis. These writing gemstones all deal with life and death, but from different points of view and in different settings. In addition, “To an Athlete Dying Young” is an emotionally charged poem on the untimely death of а famous athlete. This creative work, written by A. Е. Housman reflects on the transient nature of fame and the fleeting brightness of youth. Housman digs into the deep effect of death on one’s permanent legacy via vivid imagery and mellifluous language. Counter to this, “Shooting an Elephant” is an autobiographical essay precisely produced by George Orwell at the height of British colonialism. Orwell’s gripping story recalls his firsthand experience as а police officer stationed in Burma, revealing the moral problem he faces when forced to end the life of an elephant.

The treatment of “life” and “death” in these works is diverse. “To An Athlete Dying Young” delves into the fleeting nature of life’s achievements and the fleeting nature of fame. Housman’s lyrical ability invites readers to reflect on the unavoidable passage of time and the eventual futility of worldly efforts. Contrary to this, “Shooting an Elephant” addresses the moral quandaries surrounding life and death. Orwell’s novel dives into the repressive nature of imperialism and its influence on the oppressed and the oppressor, showing the ethical quandaries faced by those caught up in power structures (Orwell). In addition, the importance of analyzing the handling of “life” or “death” in the context of the Modern period lies in the era’s distinguishing features. The Modern period, which lasted from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, saw dramatic changes in culture, global dynamics and technology. It was a period of rapid urbanization, industrialization, and a challenge to traditional values. In addition, these cultural shifts resulted in fresh ideas on life, death, and the human condition. We obtain deeper insights into the Modern period’s preoccupations, concerns, and evolving paradigms by considering how these texts treat the themes of “life” or “death” within the framework of the Modern era.

Through an exploration of “To An Athlete Dying Young” by А. E. Housman and “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell, this essay will compare and contrast the treatment of “life” and “death” in the two texts, analyzing their reflections on the Modern era’s perspectives on mortality, fame, power, and ethical dilemmas. By delving into these works, we gain а deeper understanding of how literature engages with the complexities of life and death within а specific historical and cultural context.

Comparison/Contrast of the Treatment of  “Life”.

In “To An Athlete Dying Young,” by A. E. Housman, he talks about life and how it is always changing. The poem is about how a famous athlete died too soon. It thinks about fleeting success and how death changes a person’s legacy. Housman uses vivid images and beautiful language in the poem to show what life is all about. In addition, the theme of life in “To An Athlete Dying Young” is linked to the ideas of youth and short-lived fame. Housman praises the athlete’s success during his prime, focusing on how much the people of the town love and respect him (“Poetry Foundation”). The poem shows that youth is short-lived and worldly success is temporary. Housman’s imagery, such as “shoulder-high we bring you home”, gives a sense of power and celebration, capturing the energy and joy of life. However, Significant shifts in perspective on life’s value occurred in the Modern period. Rapid social transformations brought on by industrialization and urbanization have tested traditional values and highlighted the transience of life. Housman’s poem, written at the turn of the last century, captures this evolution of worldview (“Poetry Foundation”). The portrayal of life as a fleeting moment of triumph is consistent with the Modern era’s preoccupation with eternity and the fragility of the human condition. The poem expresses the desire for enduring recognition in a world where everything is always shifting.

In “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell’s paper talks about how empire and the use of power make life complicated. The story is about Orwell’s time as a police officer in Burma, where he has to decide whether or not to shoot an elephant because of his morals. Orwell shows the battles and confusing feelings that come with life through vivid images and reflective thoughts. “To An Athlete Dying Young” and Orwell’s content show two different ways of looking at life. In “Shooting an Elephant,” the weight of power and social standards is shown to make life hard. Orwell struggles with his role as a tool of imperial power. He is torn between his morals and his push to act as his job requires. The accounts of the elephant’s life, its pain, and the moral repercussions of Orwell’s actions show how life, power, and duty all work together in complicated ways (Orwell). In addition, the presentation of life in the Modern period was affected by rising dissatisfaction with conventional institutions and the questioning of existing power structures. Orwell’s article reflects this evolving viewpoint by questioning conventional concepts of authority and the repercussions of power. The picture of life in “Shooting an Elephant” corresponds to the Modern era’s obsession with the ethical difficulties of human existence and the moral quandaries individuals encounter when confronted with systems of power.

Moreover, “To An Athlete Dying Young” and “Shooting an Elephant” reflect on modern living from opposite perspectives. Despite their diversity, these works have similarities in how they depict life. Both emphasize the transient aspect of existence and the influence of external circumstances on individual lives. In “To An Athlete Dying Young,” the athlete’s accomplishment and subsequent death demonstrate the fleeting nature of worldly achievements. Similarly, in “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell’s tale delves into the complexity of existence in the setting of imperial authority, highlighting the challenges of individuals entangled in repressive institutions. However, the two texts have opposing ideas on life. “To An Athlete Dying Young” highlights the joy of life’s accomplishments and the desire for long-term recognition. However, “Shooting an Elephant” digs into the difficulties and moral quandaries that often accompany life, particularly when power is exercised. The former is concerned with the individual’s transient moments of glory, whereas the latter is concerned with the larger societal repercussions and conflicts between personal ethics and societal standards.

The two works’ opposing viewpoints on life reflect the wider issues and concerns of the Modern age. The era was defined by despair and questioning established norms and beliefs. The description of life in “To An Athlete Dying Young” resonates with the Modern era’s obsession with transience, expressing the fragility and impermanence of human existence. On the other side, “Shooting an Elephant” highlights the era’s investigation of power relations and the challenges of negotiating moral choices in repressive regimes. In addition, how these similarities and differences affect the Modern age is very important. Both authors give information about the existential fears and moral problems people had during this time of change. By looking at these literary works, we can learn more about the changes in culture, society, and philosophy that changed the way people thought about life and death in the Modern age.

Comparison/Contrast of the Treatment of  “Death”

To An Athlete Dying Young” by A. E. Housman looks at death and mortality through the viewpoint of an athlete who dies too soon. The poem talks about how short-lived life’s successes are and how death changes a person’s memory. Housman uses different themes and ideas about death to make people think and feel like time is passing. In addition, In the poem, Housman looks at the idea that death is a way to keep the glory of youth. The athlete’s early death is shown to ensure that the people of his town will always remember him at the peak of his success. The theme of death gets mixed up with ideas about fame and keeping up a good image in the face of death. The way Housman uses ideas in the poem adds to how it shows death. For example, lines like “And silence sounds no worse than cheers” and “And early though the laurel grows” (“Housman stanza 3”) make you think of the athlete’s endless rest and the lack of applause that used to come with his victories. The illustrations show how the poet thought about how life changes and how death can change things. Moreover, the poem’s views on death align with how people think about death in the modern age. During the Modern age, people became less happy with traditional ideals, and death became a subject of serious thought. The way death is shown in “To an Athlete Dying Young” shows how the modern world is fascinated by how short life is and how people want to leave a lasting mark on the world even though they will die.

On the other hand, in “Shooting an Elephant,” by George Orwell, death is dealt with а differently. The essay examines what happened because of the narrator’s actions and what it morally means to be а part of а system that hurts people. In the text, death is shown as а result of how power works and how destructive an empire is. Besides, Orwell gives а detailed account of how an elephant is killed, which leads to its death. The way the elephant’s death is shown is а metaphor for how brutal and dehumanizing it is to be in power. The essay discusses the narrator’s mixed feelings and stresses the weight of duty and the results of his choices. The way “Shooting an Elephant” talks about death shows how people in the modern era think about the effects of repressive systems and the moral choices people have to make in them (Orwell). Orwell’s thoughts on death align with the larger worries of the time about the abuse of power and how it affects people.

In comparing the treatment of death in “To An Athlete Dying Young” and “Shooting an Elephant,” certain similarities and differences emerge. Both works talk about how death is a part of life and how it affects people. They show how temporary life’s successes are and how vulnerable people are in the face of death. In “To An Athlete Dying Young,” the author thinks about how death can be a changing force that keeps the athlete’s glory, while in “Shooting an Elephant,” he thinks about how power dynamics and unjust systems can lead to death. However, these works’ viewpoints on death differ. “To An Athlete Dying Young” considers death as a way to immortalize glory and preserve the athlete’s youth. In contrast, “Shooting an Elephant” sees mortality as a result of power’s destructive nature, bringing attention to the ethical ramifications of engaging in repressive institutions (Orwell).

The effects of these similarities and differences are important in the modern age. During the Modern age, people think a lot about themselves and question long-held ideas and processes. The way death is talked about in both works shows how much this time was focused on death and the complexity of the human situation. Moreover, the depiction of death in “To An Athlete Dying Young” corresponds to the Modern era’s obsession with the transience of life and the yearning for long-term recognition. It reflects the existential fears of a society in transition when established norms and certainties are being questioned. The poem’s reflection on death as a method of maintaining youth and power connects with the Modern era’s examination of identity and the quest for immortality in the face of impermanence.

On the other hand, “Shooting an Elephant” shows how people in the modern era are becoming less happy with repressive systems and the results of being a part of them (Orwell). The way death is talked about in the essay shows how destructive power can be and how people stuck in oррressive systems face moral problems. It asks readers to think about the moral consequences of actions that cause death and how that affects both the person who did the action and the person who died. Moreover, the differences and similarities in how these two texts talk about death show how different people in the Modern era think about death. They show how the people of the time were interested in change, identity, power relations, and moral responsibilities.


The comparison and contrast of “life” and “death” treatment in “To An Athlete Dying Young” and “Shooting an Elephant” give unique insights into the Modern era’s thoughts on mortality, the human condition, and larger cultural and philosophical shifts of the period. These works remind us of the fleeting nature of life’s accomplishments, the ethical complexity inherent in power interactions, and the ongoing problems of identity and legacy. “To An Athlete Dying Young” and “Shooting an Elephant” are two independent but related depictions of death in the Modern age. Housman’s poetry considers death as a method of preserving glory and addressing the transience of life; Orwell’s article investigates death as a result of power relations and the moral quandaries that individuals face inside repressive institutions. By studying these two texts, we acquire a better grasp of the Modern era’s contemplation of mortality, questioning of established ideas, and examining the ethical difficulties inherent in the human experience.

Work cited.

Housman, A. E. “To an athlete dying young.” A Shropshire lad (1896): 24-25.

Poetry Foundation. “To an Athlete Dying Young.” Poetry Foundation, 2019,

Orwell, George. “The Orwell Foundation.” The Orwell Prize, 1936,


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