Burmese Days

Sit back, pour yourself a cup of good English gin, add a flavour of strong Indian curry, a dash of metaphor is what he is well known for, with a bit if socialist ideology and a personality of “E.M Forster and Jane Austen,” this is the perfect combination of the thoroughly enjoyable Burmese Days written by George Orwell. The theme is set in upper Burma, a 1930 depiction of Kyauktada. This is portrayed as perhaps the most undesirable place to be posted to then in the service of the British Empire. The Empire then sends an order to Burma instructing the European Club to elect a Native as a member of the Club, a club which was previously meant only for the whites. This instruction set off a chain of events which depicts the cruel depth of human conspiracy and conniving nature. This is especially true in a closed society with the Natives in particular having to unite in choosing who their single representative in the European Club is going to be. Digging deep into his own Anglo-Indian experiences, George Orwell was able to bring to the fore the triviality that is prevalent in the colonial society: “Mr. MacGregor told his anecdote about Prome, which could be produced in almost any context. And then the conversation veered back to the old, never-palling subject–the insolence of the natives, the supineness of the Government, the dear dead days when the British Raj was the Raj and please give the bearer fifteen lashes. The topic was never let alone for long, partly because of Ellis’s obsession. Besides, you could forgive the Europeans a great deal of their bitterness. Living and working among Orientals would try the temper of a saint.”

James Flory is the Protagonist in this novel. He is a timber tycoon and a member of the European Club. He has a facial mark which portrays his physical and fundamental ideological difference from his colleagues. He is characterized by his admiration of the Burmese people and culture, shares a bond with the natives and shows disgust for the racism portrayed by his contemporaries. Flory in this novel however, doesn’t possess the energy or strength of character to always stand against his colleagues in the club. James high-ranking native friend, Dr. Veraswami seemed like the “one” to claim the coveted European Club spot before the scheming U Po Kyin, who is the Magistrate of this community caused a scandal to damage Veraswamis reputation which eventually led to the loss of lives.

Orwell infused midst this politicking and struggle a touch of romance. This is the beautiful blonde Elizabeth Lackersteen which helped portrayed James Flory as an unfortunate suitor who is unlucky in love. George’s ability to describe as articulately the romance between James and Elizabeth, human behavior and various schemes as he would the political and societal issues-he was well-known for-really stood out in this novel. This perhaps is one of the factors which makes this novel a timeless piece.

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‘This desert inaccessible
Under the shade of melancholy boughs’— As you like it.