55 pages 1 hour read

George Orwell

Burmese Days

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1934

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Symbols & Motifs

Flory’s Birthmark

The most visible symbol in the novel is Flory’s birthmark—a large, ragged-edged, dark-blue crescent that runs across the entire left side of his face. The birthmark symbolizes how Flory’s beliefs about art, colonialism, and native culture make him an outsider to the others. At the same time, Flory’s birthmark is a symbol of all of his internal weaknesses. In moments of cowardice, Flory feels his birthmark’s coloring becoming more intense and more visible to those around him. In contrast, during his moments of courage, Flory forgets that his birthmark exists at all.

The birthmark also acts as a barometer for Flory’s relationship with Elizabeth. During good moments in their relationship, Elizabeth barely notices the birthmark, but when she dislikes him, the birthmark becomes so revolting to her that she becomes almost physically ill.

The final symbolic significance of the birthmark becomes clear after Flory’s suicide, when it fades away to almost nothing. In death, Flory loses his marker of difference and weakness. Orwell uses this to connect Flory to the thousands of other men who committed suicide in colonial Burma and were quickly forgotten.