55 pages 1 hour read

George Orwell

Burmese Days

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1934

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Chapters 1-5Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1

U Po Kyin, the sub-divisional magistrate of Kyauktada in Upper Burma, sits on his veranda on an April evening. In his mid-50s and grotesquely fat, he recalls watching the British troops march in Mandalay when he was a child. Terrified of their power, his overarching ambition in life became to join their side and “to become a parasite upon them” (1). He later blackmailed his way into a clerkship where he used his position to steal from the government. When U Po Kyin learned that the Imperial government was looking to promote some of the clerks, he denounced his colleagues and had them sent to jail. Since then, he has continued to rise in the colonial administration and believes he will be promoted to Deputy Commissioner soon, which would make the Englishmen “his equals and even his subordinates” (2).

As a magistrate, U Po Kyin takes bribes from both sides, giving him a reputation for impartiality, and levies private taxes on villages under his jurisdiction. Kyin’s crimes are well known to everyone except the English, as “no British officer will ever believe anything against his own men” (2). Kyin keeps his supporters loyal by cutting them in for a share of the loot.