55 pages 1 hour read

George Orwell

Burmese Days

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1934

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The primary theme of Burmese Days is that colonialism brings out the worst in everyone. Characters are aware of their role within their imperialist world. For example, when Flory and Veraswami discuss the British Empire as an elderly female patient of the doctor’s, Flory considers colonialism a despotic project that steals from the colonies for the benefit of England, while Veraswami argues that the empire has uplifted the natives both economically and culturally. Similarly, at the European club, opinions are split on how to address the complaint that the British Empire is on the verge of collapse and that they need to take a stronger hand, lamenting that natives are becoming less and less deferential to their “betters” and that they are using the law against colonial administrators. Ellis and Westfield argue that the natives need severe punishment, while Mrs. Lackersteen argues that leaving the natives to govern themselves would be punishment enough.

The personal corruption of colonialism and empire is evident in many of the characters. Being in Burma magnifies Flory’s loneliness since it is impossible for him to meet those who are similar to him. His presence there is corrupting because his life is by definition hypocritical: While he criticizes the empire, he has no desire for it to end because losing his place in the machine of colonialism would be financially ruinous.