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George Orwell's Novel Burmese Days

George Orwell expresses an entirely negative view of imperialism as he portrays it in his novel Burmese Days. The characters of U Po Kyin, Dr. Veraswami, and Ellis in differing ways demonstrate the damage done to individual lives and human relationships by the corrupting influences of British imperialism in Burma.

No character in this novel is immune from the destructive effects of imperialism. So negative is the portrayal by Orwell of imperialism, in fact, that it can be seen as a novel without hope in terms of altering the imperialistic structure of the British rule in Burma. No character---British or Burmese---appears to be capable of escaping the destructive trap of imperialism. Neither is any character truly sympathetic.

The ugliness of imperialism is so pervasive that it affects the soul of every individual who lives under its dehumanizing cloud. Although this study focuses on three male characters and will show their role in portraying the author's negative view of imperialism, it can be argued that the female characters are even more corrupted. The end of the book, for example, shows Elizabeth to be cold-blooded manipulator who believes that "Nature" has created her to rule over the inferior Burmese:

Her servants live in terror of her, though she speaks no Burmese. She has an exhaustive knowledge of the Civil List, gives charming little dinner-parties and knows how to put wives of subordinate officials in their places---in short, she fills with complete success the position for which Nature had designed her from the first, that of a burra memsahib (287).

This concluding paragraph includes most of the negative features of imperialism which dominate the characters of the imperialists themselves, from Orwell's point of view. The imperialist is shown to be arrogant, corrupt with the abuses of power, living according to a class-based hierarchy, and believes himself or herself to be granted with such superiority b...

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George Orwell's Novel Burmese Days. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:52, November 29, 2021, from