55 pages 1 hour read

George Orwell

Burmese Days

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1934

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Important Quotes

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“No European cares anything about proofs. When a man has a black face, suspicion IS proof. A few anonymous letters will work wonders. It is only a question of persisting; accuse, accuse, go on accusing — that is the way with Europeans.”

(Chapter 1, Page 7)

U Po Kyin’s plan to discredit Dr. Veraswami, which relies on the fact that Europeans are quick to believe the worst of the natives they’ve colonized, forms much of the plot of the novel. U Po Kyin weaponizes the racism deeply ingrained in colonial society to destroy Veraswami, since he knows all he has to do is keep on accusing him of crimes until the Europeans start to believe the accusations.

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“In his pile of merit was a kind of bank deposit, everlastingly growing.”

(Chapter 1, Page 11)

U Po Kyin’s spiritual beliefs motivate his plan to build pagodas in order to redeem his karma after destroying Veraswami. Though he is ostensibly a Buddhist, colonialism has corrupted his understanding of this faith. He views karma in a capitalistic and market-oriented sense as a bank account that can be either added to or taken away from. 

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“He was an intelligent man and an able servant of his firm, but he was one of those Englishmen—common, unfortunately—who should never be allowed to set foot in the East.”

(Chapter 2, Page 17)

This succinctly sums up the character of Ellis, a man endemic to colonial society. He is intelligent and capable, but such an unredeemed racist that no amount of time spent with those of different races could render him capable of doing his job effectively.