Book Report on "Burmese Days" by George Orwell

Topics: George Orwell, Burma, Burmese Days Pages: 13 (5669 words) Published: May 30, 2005
About the book:

The book "Burmese Days" was written by George Orwell and published first in 1934. Orwell took the inspiration for this first novel of his from the experiences he gained during his service as an imperial police officer in Burma in the late 1920s. There he was confronted with extreme forms of imperialism, causing racism and also chauvinism. These are also the main topics of the novel and although they are wrapped up in the story of a single man's fate, John Flory's, these topics caused some problems with the publishing of the book. For that reason the book was first published in America, the English version wasn't published until some changes – mainly name changes – were made which was nearly a year later. "Burmese Days" is set in 1920s Burma under British colonialism. It focuses on the imperialism of the British and its effects on the relationships between the British, the British and Indians, and between the Indians themselves. So negative is the portrayal by Orwell of imperialism that it can be seen as a novel without hope in terms of altering the imperialistic structure of the British rule in Burma. No character- British or Burmese- appears to be capable of escaping the destructive trap of imperialism. Orwell points out clearly his negative attitude on European politics at his times, for in his youth he was very much in favour of the Marxist ideology and so is the protagonist of the novel "Burmese Days", John Flory. The novel concentrates on the town of Kyauktada in Upper Burma. Kyauktada is described as hot and sultry. It is a small town of about four thousand people. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are Burmese, but there are also a hundred Indians, two Eurasians, sixty Chinese, and Seven Europeans. Nevertheless, as in all imperialistic societies the small group of Europeans suppresses the great majority of the native people, who seem to accept perfectly the superiority of the white people. Orwell criticizes this feeling of inferiority the Europeans give the Burmans and especially the Eurasians, because for their existence the Europeans are even responsible. Although he seems very much in favour of the so-called inferior people, the novel gives a certain impression of the Asian character to the reader, which is not very likeable. The Asian people are described – and not only by the characters of the book that are meant to be in favour of the British imperialistic government in Burma – as false, two-faced and spineless. Prestige is all for them and they would do everything to get it. Maybe Orwell's real impression of the Burmese wasn't as positive as one could think while reading the passages about the behaviour of the English, sometimes he even seems to loathe the Burmese, but then again his Marxist ideas force him to write in favour of the socially disgraced. Orwell points out this conflict very consciously, as his own comment on his service in Burma proofs: "I was in the Indian Police for five years, and by the end of that time I hated the imperialism I was serving with a bitterness which I probably cannot make clear. [...] I had reduced everything to the simple theory that the oppressed are always right and the oppressors are always wrong: a mistaken theory, but the natural result of being one of the oppressors yourself. I felt I had got to escape not merely from imperialism but from every form of man's dominion over man." (George Orwell) In the novel George Orwell also gives a very detailed description of the Burmese landscape and its flora. It is typical for the author to draw parallels between the mental state of the main characters and their environment and so he does in the book. He describes the exotic plant life in Burma clearly and links it up to John Flory's feeling of being a stranger in a strange country. The changes of weather and vegetation during the seasons in Burma can be compared to the changes of Flory's emotions. At the beginning of the story, when John Flory is...
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