Burmese Days: An Example of Imperialism
Nineteenth century industrialization brought new riches and power to Western Europe, driving the expansion of opportunities and the building of empires in undeveloped territories. Although the developed countries brought many modern technologies to under-developed nations, they also brought fierce racism and European arrogance. Burmese Days by George Orwell was written in 1834 as a satirical view of English imperial life in Burma. Orwell provides a realistic observation of the arrogance the English demonstrated towards the natives and how they justified their actions.
Europeans brought many new technologies to the countries that they imperialized. They built railroads and other types of infrastructure, and they brought new technology in weaponry and manufacturing. However, it seems that their extreme arrogance had the most impact on the native people. Cecil Rhoads epitomizes the attitude of all Europeans when he says “I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is” (Hunt et al 802). Although Orwell’s characters in Burmese Days are English, the attitude was not exclusive to the English. Hunt et al discusses how King Leopold of Belgium claimed the Congo region of central Africa “inflicting on local Africans unparalleled acts of cruelty” (801). The fact that the Europeans thought themselves superior to all other races seems to give them permission to treat the native people in any manner they choose. Ellis is an example of an extreme racist in Orwell’s work. Ellis is a member of the European Club, a manager at the timber company, and is the most outspoken and obviously racist character in the novel. He spews forth a diatribe of foul language and name calling directed towards the Burmese people at every opportunity. No one can reason with him or change his attitude, as he is completely blind to any endearing qualities of the native people. He...
Cited: Hunt, Lynn et al. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. Boston. Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2007.
Orwell, George. Burmese Days. New York. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1950.
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