Burmese Days

In this study guide, you can get help analyzing the novel excerpt from George Orwell's Burmese Days. In addition to the analysis help, you can find a summary of the text as well as ideas for interpretation and perspectives.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Burmese Days” (1934)
Author: George Orwell
Genre: Short story

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), best known by the pen name George Orwell, was an English writer. He is best known for his political works and dystopian tales of totalitarian societies - including novels such as Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

In his youth, Orwell worked as a policeman in Burma (now Myanmar), then one of the British colonies in India. Orwell's novel Burmese Days is inspired by his experiences in Burma.


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Racism and oppression

Both Mr Flory and Dr Veraswami hold racist views, pointing to widespread racism in the social setting. Mr Flory’s racism is revealed when he mentions that it is “gangs of Jews and Scotchmen” (p. 273, ll. 16-17) which benefit from the British Empire. In Dr Veraswami’s case, the racism is internalized, as he believes that Indians are “an inferior and degenerate race” (p. 273, l. 1). He also believes that Easterners are inferior, as shown by the following remark: “ ‘My friend, my friend, you are forgetting the Oriental character. How iss it possible to have developed us, with our apathy and superstition?’ ” (pp. 273-274, ll. 44-1)

Another form of oppression was the exploitation of native resources. Mr Flory mentions the disadvantages brought by the British to the Burmese populations: " 'The official holds the Burman down while the businessman goes through his pockets' " (p. 273, ll. 9-11).  Also, the Burmese were given lower job qualifications than the British. This points to how the British take advantage of the local populations.  It also points to the many ways the British benefit from the colonies - such as having complete control of the trade system.  

The harsh consequences of the British occupation in Burma are briefly touched upon at the mention of floggings and hangings, which Dr Veraswami needs whisky to get over (p. 273, ll. 1-4).

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Burmese Days

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