Good “In Order To Hate Imperialism, You'VE Got To Be Part Of It.” –george Orwell Essay Example
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: Colonization, George Orwell, Orwell, Colonialism, War, Imperialism, England, Literature
(Student’s Full Name)
How does Burmese Days show the challenges to Empire Posed by Imperial and Colonial Critics, as well as the Upheaval and Doubt Created in the Wake of World War I?
“The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.” –George Orwell
The above quotations indicate the strong feelings that George Orwell had as it relates to war and imperialism. Orwell, through his various writings, used every opportunity to critique the concepts of war, colonialism, and imperialism. It should be noted that the writer relates these concepts to the social hierarchy, and how these help to maintain the status quo of a ruling nation. The novel, Burmese Days, is able to detect the reasoning of the author as it pertains to war, colonialism, and imperialism. It can be argued that although the novel does have positive ideas which appear to support colonialism and imperialism, George Orwell in Burmese Days appears to support challenges posed by imperial and colonial critics, and critiques the occurrence of the first World War because the narration is used by the author to critique the occurrence of the first World War, which seemingly benefitted the English rather than the Burmese, and Orwell also uses the characterization of John Flory and Dr. Veraswami to critique colonialism and imperialism.
The character of John Flory (who is mainly referred to as Flory in the text) is an English man, who is used by the author (in an ironic manner) to show imperialism and colonialism in a negative light. This is evidenced by the statement made by Flory to Dr. Veraswami: “Why, of course, the lie that we’re here to uplift our poor black brothers instead of to rob them” (Orwell par. 21). This statement was made by Flory after he was asked by Dr. Veraswami what type of lie he was living. It is ironic that Flory is making this remark especially in light of the fact that he is an Englishman who supports the Burmese. He shows this support by befriending Dr. Veraswami. It can be assumed that the author is suggesting that Flory’s friendship with Dr. Veraswami is superficial. Orwell appears to imply that beneath the façade of friendship Flory knows (as an Englishman) that he is not to befriend the colonized, but he is supposed to plunder them. Therefore, one of the challenges posed by the critics of imperialism and colonialism is that one of the intentions of colonizers and imperialists is to steal from the indigenous people of the country that they have colonized.
Another important statement made by Flory was the following: “We can’t help [modernizing Burma]. In fact, before we’ve finished we’ll have wrecked the whole Burmese national culture” (Orwell par. 31). Flory also added the following: “But we’re not civilizing them, we’re only rubbing our dirt” (Orwell par. 31). Flory, at first, agreed with Dr. Veraswami that England was colonizing Burma, however, he believed that the English were not, in fact, modernizing the country. Flory mentioned previously to Dr. Veraswami that the schools in Burma were “factories for cheap clerks” and the English (or the colonizers and imperialists) “never taught a single useful manual trade to the Indians” (Orwell par. 26). Flory explained that the English was frightened of the competition and, as a result, “crushed various industries” (Orwell par. 26). Hence, this is in alignment with the criticism of opponents of colonialism and imperialism that states that imperialists and colonizers do not, in fact, develop the countries that they colonize but they manipulate the commerce, education, and other aspects of society so that the colonizing country can benefit, rather than the colonized. Furthermore, in manipulating the various aspects of society, the colonizers also attempt to destroy the culture of the colonized that the culture of the colonizers is not only the dominant one in the country, but it is the only one.
Dr. Veraswami, who is a supporter of England's colonization of Burma, is ironically a victim of colonization and imperialism, which he passionately defends. Dr. Veraswami defends England’s attempt at colonization by stating the following: “You say you are here to trade? Of course you are. Could the Burmese trade for themselves?They are helpless without you” (Orwell par. 25). It is ironic that Dr. Veraswami defends England for conducting trade in Burma. This is because he fails to recognize that the English conducts trade in Burma at the expense of the colonized in Burma. The Burmese are expected to depend on the trading activities of the English in their country. They are not instructed trade themselves because that would allow them to become independent of the England’s control rather than dependent of it. Consequently, this point aligns itself with one of the criticisms of colonialism and imperialism which states that imperialism and colonialism prevent the colonized from using its own resources and ingenuity to develop itself, and forces them to be dependent on the colonizing power to help them.
While defending the English attempts at colonizing Burma, Dr. Veraswami ironically made the following statement: “At least you [that is, the English] have brought to us law and order” (Orwell par. 28). This is an ironic statement because Dr. Veraswami is the target of U Po Kyin attempts to ruin him by saying that he holds “disloyal, anti-British opinions” (Orwell par. 37). U Po Kyin, a magistrate, symbolizes the corruption caused by colonizing forces. The narrator describes U Po Kyin mind as being “quite barbaric” and apparently understands the mind of the Europeans who do not have any faith in a man with a “black face” (Orwell pars. 7, 34). Therefore, this illustrates the fact that colonialism and imperialism does not, in fact, bring about true law and order. This is the case because law and order is designed by the colonizer to protect and benefit the colonizing powers. This is yet another challenge posed by the critics of imperialism and colonialism who state that the colonized is unable to obtain true justice and, by extension, any semblance of law and order. This is so because law and order can be tainted to favour the persons representing the colonizing power. Hence, racism and classism could play an important factor in creating biases in a justice system, influenced by colonizers. This is the case since race and class are most often used as distinguishing factors to identify those who represent the colonizing power.
The war in the novel is portrayed as a tool for maintaining the status quo created by the colonizing powers. The narrator explains that Flory could have “dodged military service” since remaining in one’s job was the “truest patriotism” (Orwell par. 19). Mr. Lackersteen, who is the manager of a timber farm, also had managed to “avoid service” and made a “great deal of money” in the process (Orwell par. 4). However, U Po Kyin, Kyauktada’s town magistrate, recruited his “illegitimate sons” during the war, according to what Flory had heard from a Burman (Orwell par. 55). Dr. Veraswami admitted that this could have very well have been the case because of his “villainy” despite being not “old enough” (Orwell par. 56). It can be argued that the illegitimate sons of U Po Kyin, who may have most likely been of a lower class, had to be coerced by their own father to enlist in the military service. However, those who represent the colonizing powers, such as Flory and Mr. Lackersteen, had the option of not enlisting in the military service. The poor and the colonized are expected to serve the colonizing powers by engaging in warfare and, in the process, sacrifice their lives while doing so. However, those who represent the colonizing powers who are not obligated to engage in war, as suggested by the novel’s narrative. Orwell appears to be implying that the War enables those who represent the colonizing forces to maintain their social status and lifestyle at the expense of the colonized. In light of World War I, one would have been made aware of the fact that the First World War was essentially about maintaining the powers of colonizing nations, such as Great Britain but it was often done at the expense of the colonized. For instance, many of those who were expected to join the army, based on their age and other requirements, in Great Britain had refused to do so because of conditions at their work or home. However, in the British colony of India, over a million troops participated in the First World War, and over 600,000 of that number were killed. This large number suggests that the recruitment efforts in India were more aggressive than those employed in Great Britain. This appears to support the criticism of critics of imperialism and colonialism who suggest that the lives and the well being of those who represent the colonizing powers are preserved at the expense of the colonized, whose lives and well being are not respected.
In conclusion, the novel Burmese Days is used by Orwell to illustrate the challenges and arguments of the critics of colonialism and imperialism. The writer does this primarily through the characterization of Flory and Dr. Veraswami. These characters show the imperialism and colonialism places the colonized at a disadvantage and the colonizing and imperialistic forces at an advantage. In addition, the novel reveals that the War was used to benefit the Europeans, in that, it helped to maintain the status quo while the colonized (or the Burmese) were forced to sacrifice their lives so that the Europeans could maintain their lifestyle. In other words, the War allowed the Europeans to maintain their lifestyle and social status at the expense of the lives of the Burmese.
Orwell, George. “Burmese Days.” Adelaide.edu. The University of Adelaide Library. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.