Burmese Days  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

'Well, doctor,' said Flory--the doctor had meanwhile thrust him into a long chair, pulled out the leg-rests so that he could lie down, and put cigarettes and beer within reach. 'Well, doctor, and how are things? How's the British Empire? Sick of the palsy as usual?'

'Aha, Mr Flory, she iss very low, very low! Grave complications setting in. Septicaemia, peritonitis and paralysis of the ganglia. We shall have to call in the specialists, I fear. Aha!'

It was a joke between the two men to pretend that the British Empire was an aged female patient of the doctor's. The doctor had enjoyed this joke for two years without growing tired of it.

'Ah, doctor,' said Flory, supine in the long chair, 'what a joy to be here after that bloody Club. When I come to your house I feel like a Nonconformist minister dodging up to town and going home with a tart. Such a glorious holiday from THEM'--he motioned with one heel in the direction of the Club--'from my beloved fellow Empire-builders. British prestige, the white man's burden, the pukka sahib sans peur et sans reproche--you know. Such a relief to be out of the stink of it for a little while.'

'My friend, my friend, now come, come, please! That iss outrageous. You must not say such things of honourable English gentlemen!'

'You don't have to listen to the honourable gentlemen talking, doctor. I stood it as long as I could this morning. Ellis with his "dirty nigger", Westfield with his jokes, Macgregor with his Latin tags and please give the bearer fifteen lashes. But when they got on to that story about the old havildar--you know, the dear old havildar who said that if the British left India there wouldn't be a rupee or a virgin between--you know; well, I couldn't stand it any longer. It's time that old havildar was put on the retired list. He's been saying the same thing ever since the Jubilee in 'eighty-seven.'

The doctor grew agitated, as he always did when Flory criticized the Club members. He was standing with his plump white-clad behind balanced against the veranda rail, and sometimes gesticulating. When searching for a word he would nip his black thumb and forefinger together, as though to capture an idea floating in the air.

'But truly, truly, Mr Flory, you must not speak so! Why iss it that always you are abusing the pukka sahibs, ass you call them? They are the salt of the earth. Consider the great things they have done--consider the great administrators who have made British India what it iss. Consider Clive, Warren Hastings, Dalhousie, Curzon. They were such men--I quote your immortal Shakespeare-- ass, take them for all in all, we shall not look upon their like again!'

'Well, do you want to look upon their like again? I don't.'

'And consider how noble a type iss the English gentleman! Their glorious loyalty to one another! The public school spirit! Even those of them whose manner iss unfortunate--some Englishmen are arrogant, I concede--have the great, sterling qualities that we Orientals lack. Beneath their rough exterior, their hearts are of gold.'

'Of gilt, shall we say? There's a kind of spurious good-fellowship between the English and this country. It's a tradition to booze together and swap meals and pretend to be friends, though we all hate each other like poison. Hanging together, we call it. It's a political necessity. Of course drink is what keeps the machine going. We should all go mad and kill one another in a week if it weren't for that. There's a subject for one of your uplift essayists, doctor. Booze as the cement of empire.'

The doctor shook his head. 'Really, Mr Flory, I know not what it iss that hass made you so cynical. It iss so most unsuitable! You--an English gentleman of high gifts and character--to be uttering seditious opinions that are worthy of the Burmese Patriot!'

'Seditious?' Flory said. 'I'M not seditious. I don't want the Burmans to drive us out of this country. God forbid! I'm here to make money, like everyone else. All I object to is the slimy white man's burden humbug. The pukka sahib pose. It's so boring. Even those bloody fools at the Club might be better company if we weren't all of us living a lie the whole time.'

'But, my dear friend, what lie are you living?'

'Why, of course, the lie that we're here to uplift our poor black brothers instead of to rob them. I suppose it's a natural enough lie. But it corrupts us, it corrupts us in ways you can't imagine. There's an everlasting sense of being a sneak and a liar that torments us and drives us to justify ourselves night and day. It's at the bottom of half our beastliness to the natives. We Anglo- Indians could be almost bearable if we'd only admit that we're thieves and go on thieving without any humbug.'

The doctor, very pleased, nipped his thumb and forefinger together. 'The weakness of your argument, my dear friend,' he said, beaming at his own irony, 'the weakness appears to be, that you are NOT thieves.'

'Now, my dear doctor--'

Flory sat up in the long chair, partly because his prickly heat had just stabbed him in the back like a thousand needles, partly because his favourite argument with the doctor was about to begin. This argument, vaguely political in nature, took place as often as the two men met. It was a topsy-turvy affair, for the Englishman was bitterly anti-English and the Indian fanatically loyal. Dr Veraswami had a passionate admiration for the English, which a thousand snubs from Englishmen had not shaken. He would maintain with positive eagerness that he, as an Indian, belonged to an inferior and degenerate race. His faith in British justice was so great that even when, at the jail, he had to superintend a flogging or a hanging, and would come home with his black face faded grey and dose himself with whisky, his zeal did not falter. Flory's seditious opinions shocked him, but they also gave him a certain shuddering pleasure, such as a pious believer will take in hearing the Lord's Prayer repeated backwards.

'My dear doctor,' said Flory, 'how can you make out that we are in this country for any purpose except to steal? It's so simple. The official holds the Burman down while the businessman goes through his pockets. Do you suppose my firm, for instance, could get its timber contracts if the country weren't in the hands of the British? Or the other timber firms, or the oil companies, or the miners and planters and traders? How could the Rice Ring go on skinning the unfortunate peasant if it hadn't the Government behind it? The British Empire is simply a device for giving trade monopolies to the English--or rather to gangs of Jews and Scotchmen.'

'My friend, it iss pathetic to me to hear you talk so. It iss truly pathetic. You say you are here to trade? Of course you are. Could the Burmese trade for themselves? Can they make machinery, ships, railways, roads? They are helpless without you. What would happen to the Burmese forests if the English were not here? They would be sold immediately to the Japanese, who would gut them and ruin them. Instead of which, in your hands, actually they are improved. And while your businessmen develop the resources of our country, your officials are civilizing us, elevating us to their level, from pure public spirit. It is a magnificent record of self-sacrifice.'

'Bosh, my dear doctor. We teach the young men to drink whisky and play football, I admit, but precious little else. Look at our schools--factories for cheap clerks. We've never taught a single useful manual trade to the Indians. We daren't; frightened of the competition in industry. We've even crushed various industries. Where are the Indian muslins now? Back in the forties or thereabouts they were building sea-going ships in India, and manning them as well. Now you couldn't build a seaworthy fishing boat there. In the eighteenth century the Indians cast guns that were at any rate up to the European standard. Now, after we've been in India a hundred and fifty years, you can't make so much as a brass cartridge-case in the whole continent. The only Eastern races that have developed at all quickly are the independent ones. I won't instance Japan, but take the case of Siam--'

The doctor waved his hand excitedly. He always interrupted the argument at this point (for as a rule it followed the same course, almost word for word), finding that the case of Siam hampered him.

'My friend, my friend, you are forgetting the Oriental character. How iss it possible to have developed us, with our apathy and superstition? At least you have brought to us law and order. The unswerving British Justice and the Pax Britannica.'

'Pox Britannica, doctor, Pox Britannica is its proper name. And in any case, whom is it pax for? The money-lender and the lawyer. Of course we keep the peace in India, in our own interest, but what does all this law and order business boil down to? More banks and more prisons--that's all it means.'

'What monstrous misrepresentations!' cried the doctor. 'Are not prissons necessary? And have you brought us nothing but prissons? Consider Burma in the days of Thibaw, with dirt and torture and ignorance, and then look around you. Look merely out of this veranda--look at that hospital, and over to the right at that school and that police station. Look at the whole uprush of modern progress!'

'Of course I don't deny,' Flory said, 'that we modernize this country in certain ways. We can't help doing so. In fact, before we've finished we'll have wrecked the whole Burmese national culture. But we're not civilizing them, we're only rubbing our dirt on to them. Where's it going to lead, this uprush of modern progress, as you call it? Just to our own dear old swinery of gramophones and billycock hats. Sometimes I think that in two hundred years all this--' he waved a foot towards the horizon--'all this will be gone--forests, villages, monasteries, pagodas all vanished. And instead, pink villas fifty yards apart; all over those hills, as far as you can see, villa after villa, with all the gramophones playing the same tune. And all the forests shaved flat--chewed into wood-pulp for the News of the World, or sawn up into gramophone cases. But the trees avenge themselves, as the old chap says in The Wild Duck. You've read Ibsen, of course?'

'Ah, no, Mr Flory, alas! That mighty master-mind, your inspired Bernard Shaw hass called him. It iss a pleasure to come. But, my friend, what you do not see iss that your civilization at its very worst iss for us an advance. Gramophones, billycock hats, the News of the World--all iss better than the horrible sloth of the Oriental. I see the British, even the least inspired of them, ass--ass--' the doctor searched for a phrase, and found one that probably came from Stevenson--'ass torchbearers upon the path of progress.'

'I don't. I see them as a kind of up-to-date, hygienic, self- satisfied louse. Creeping round the world building prisons. They build a prison and call it progress,' he added rather regretfully-- for the doctor would not recognize the allusion.

'My friend, positively you are harping upon the subject of prissons! Consider that there are also other achievements of your countrymen. They construct roads, they irrigate deserts, they conquer famines, they build schools, they set up hospitals, they combat plague, cholera, leprosy, smallpox, venereal disease--'

'Having brought it themselves,' put in Flory.

'No, sir!' returned the doctor, eager to claim this distinction for his own countrymen. 'No, sir, it wass the Indians who introduced venereal disease into this country. The Indians introduce diseases, and the English cure them. THERE iss the answer to all your pessimism and seditiousness.'

'Well, doctor, we shall never agree. The fact is that you like all this modern progress business, whereas I'd rather see things a little bit septic. Burma in the days of Thibaw would have suited me better, I think. And as I said before, if we are a civilizing influence, it's only to grab on a larger scale. We should chuck it quickly enough if it didn't pay.'

'My friend, you do not think that. If truly you disapprove of the British Empire, you would not be talking of it privately here. You would be proclaiming from the house-tops. I know your character, Mr Flory, better than you know it yourself.'

'Sorry, doctor; I don't go in for proclaiming from the housetops. I haven't the guts. I "counsel ignoble ease", like old Belial in Paradise Lost. It's safer. You've got to be a pukka sahib or die, in this country. In fifteen years I've never talked honestly to anyone except you. My talks here are a safety-valve; a little Black Mass on the sly, if you understand me.'

--Burmese Days (1934) by George Orwell

Related e

Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Shop


Featured:

Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Enlarge
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Burmese Days is the first novel by English writer George Orwell, published in 1934. Set in British Burma during the waning days of Empire, when Burma was ruled from Delhi as part of British India, it is "a portrait of the dark side of the British Raj." At the centre of the novel is John Flory, "the lone and lacking individual trapped within a bigger system that is undermining the better side of human nature." The novel describes "corruption and imperial bigotry" in a society where, "after all, natives were natives—interesting, no doubt, but finally...an inferior people".

Burmese Days was first published "further afield," in the United States, because of concerns that it might be potentially libelous; that the real provincial town of Katha had been described too realistically; and that some of its fictional characters were based too closely on identifiable people. A British edition, with altered names, appeared a year later. Nonetheless, Orwell's harsh portrayal of colonial society was felt by "some old Burma hands" to have "rather let the side down". In a letter from 1946, Orwell wrote, "I dare say it's unfair in some ways and inaccurate in some details, but much of it is simply reporting what I have seen".

Background

Orwell spent five years from 1922 to 1927 as a police officer in the Indian Imperial Police force in Burma (now Myanmar). The British had colonized Burma in stages, and it was not until 1885, when they captured the royal capital of Mandalay, that Burma as a whole could be declared part of the British Empire. Migrant workers from India and China supplemented the native Burmese population. Although Burma was the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia under British rule, as a colony it was seen very much as a backwater. The image which the English people were meant to uphold in these communities was a huge burden and the majority of them carried expectations all the way from Britain with the intention of maintaining their customs and rule. Among its exports, the country produced 75 per cent of the world's teak from up-country forests. When Orwell came to the Irrawaddy Delta in January 1924 to begin his career as an imperial policeman, the delta was Burma's leading exporting region, providing three million tons of rice annually, half the world's supply. Orwell served in a number of locations in Burma. After a year of training in Mandalay and Maymyo, his postings included Myaungmya, Twante, Syriam, Moulmein, and Kathar. It also included Insein, situated north of Rangoon, the site of the colony's most secure prison, and now Burma's most notorious jail.

Burmese Days was several years in the writing. Orwell drafted it in Paris from 1928 to 1929. He revised it in 1932 at Southwold while doing up the family home during the summer holidays. By December 1933 he had typed the final version, and in 1934 delivered it to his agent, Leonard Moore, who submitted it to Victor Gollancz, the publisher of Orwell's previous book. Gollancz, already fearing prosecution from having published another author's work, turned it down because he was worried about charges of libel. Heinemann and Cape turned it down for the same reason. After demanding alterations, Harpers was prepared to publish it in the United States, where it appeared in 1934. In the spring of 1935, Gollancz declared that he was prepared to publish a British edition provided Orwell could demonstrate he had not named real people. To that end, extensive checks were made in colonial lists before Gollancz brought out the English version on 24 June 1935. Nonetheless, many of the main European names appearing in the novel have since been identified in the Rangoon Gazette as belonging to real people, with the name "U Po Kyin" in particular belonging to a Burmese officer who was at the Police Training School in Mandalay with Orwell.

Plot summary

Burmese Days is set in 1920s imperial Burma, in the fictional district of Kyauktada, based on Kathar (formerly spelled Katha), a town where Orwell served. Like the fictional town, it is the head of a branch railway line above Mandalay on the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River. As the story opens, U Po Kyin, a corrupt Burmese magistrate, is planning to destroy the reputation of the Indian, Dr Veraswami. The doctor hopes for help from his friend John Flory who, as a pukka sahib (European white man), has higher prestige. Dr Veraswami also desires election to the town's European Club, of which Flory is a member, expecting that good standing among the Europeans will protect him from U Po Kyin's intrigues. U Po Kyin begins a campaign to persuade the Europeans that the doctor holds anti-British opinions in the belief that anonymous letters with false stories about the doctor "will work wonders". He even sends a threatening letter to Flory.

John Flory, a jaded 35-year-old teak merchant with a birthmark on his face in the shape of a ragged crescent, spends three weeks of every month acquiring jungle timber. Friendless among his fellow Europeans and unmarried, but with a Burmese mistress, he has become disillusioned with life in an expatriate community centred round the local European Club in a remote provincial town. At the same time, he has become so embedded in Burma that it is impossible for him to leave and return to England. Flory has one good friend, the Indian, Dr Veraswami, whom he often visits for what the Doctor delightedly calls "cultured conversation". But when Flory dismisses the British as mere moneymakers, living a lie, "the lie that we're here to uplift our poor black brothers instead of to rob them," he provokes consternation in the doctor, who defends the British as the efficient administrators of an unrivalled empire. Toward his mistress, Flory is emotionally ambivalent: "On the one hand, Flory loves Burma and craves a partner who will share his passion, which the other local Europeans find incomprehensible; on the other hand, for essentially racist reasons, Flory feels that only a European woman is acceptable as a partner".

Flory's wish seems to be answered with the arrival of Elizabeth Lackersteen, the orphaned niece of Mr Lackersteen, manager of the local timber firm. Flory rescues her when she believes she is about to be attacked by a small water buffalo. He is immediately taken with her and they spend some time together, culminating in a highly successful shooting expedition. Flory shoots a leopard, promising the skin to Elizabeth as a trophy. Lost in romantic fantasy, Flory imagines Elizabeth to be the sensitive object of his desire, the European woman who will "understand him and give him the companionship he needed". He turns Ma Hla May, his pretty, scheming Burmese mistress, out of his house. However, whereas Flory extols the virtues of the rich culture of the Burmese, the latter frighten and repel Elizabeth, who regards them as "beastly." Worse still is Flory's interest in high art and literature, which reminds Elizabeth of her pretentious mother who died in disgrace in Paris of ptomaine poisoning as a result of living in squalid conditions while masquerading as a Bohemian artist. Despite these reservations, of which Flory is entirely unaware, she is willing to marry him to escape poverty, spinsterhood, and the unwelcome advances of her perpetually inebriated uncle.

Flory is about to ask her to marry him, but they are interrupted first by her aunt and secondly by an earthquake. Mrs Lackersteen's interruption is deliberate because she has discovered that a military police lieutenant named Verrall is arriving in Kyauktada. As he comes from an extremely good family, she sees him as a better prospect as a husband for Elizabeth. Mrs Lackersteen tells Elizabeth that Flory is keeping a Burmese mistress as a deliberate ploy to send her to Verrall. Indeed, Flory had been keeping a mistress, but had dismissed her almost the moment Elizabeth had arrived. Elizabeth is appalled and falls at the first opportunity for Verrall, who is arrogant and ill-mannered to all but her. Flory is devastated and after a period of exile attempts to make amends by delivering to her the leopard skin. A bungled curing process has left the skin mangy and stinking and the gesture merely compounds his status as a poor suitor. When Flory delivers it to Elizabeth she accepts it regardless of the fact that it stinks and he talks of their relationship, telling her he still loves her. She responds by telling him that unfortunately the feelings aren't mutual and leaves the house to go horse riding with Verrall. When Flory and Elizabeth part ways, Mrs Lackersteen orders the servants to burn the reeking leopard skin, representing the deterioration of Flory and Elizabeth's relationship.

U Po Kyin's campaign against Dr Veraswami turns out to be intended simply to further his aim of becoming a member of the European Club in Kyauktada. The club has been put under pressure to elect a native member and Dr Veraswami is the most likely candidate. U Po Kyin arranges the escape of a prisoner and plans a rebellion for which he intends that Dr Veraswami should get the blame. The rebellion begins and is quickly put down, but a native rebel is killed by acting Divisional Forest Officer, Maxwell. Uncharacteristically courageous, Flory speaks up for Dr Veraswami and proposes him as a member of the club. At this moment the body of Maxwell, cut almost to pieces with dahs by two relatives of the man he had shot, is brought back to the town. This creates tension between the Burmese and the Europeans which is exacerbated by a vicious attack on native children by the spiteful arch-racist timber merchant, Ellis. A large but ineffectual anti-British riot begins and Flory becomes the hero for bringing it under control with some support by Dr Veraswami. U Po Kyin tries to claim credit but is disbelieved and Dr Veraswami's prestige is restored.

Verrall leaves Kyauktada without saying goodbye to Elizabeth and she falls for Flory again. Flory is happy and plans to marry Elizabeth. However, U Po Kyin has not given up. He hires Flory's former Burmese mistress to create a scene in front of Elizabeth during the sermon at church. Flory is disgraced and Elizabeth refuses to have anything more to do with him. Overcome by the loss and seeing no future for himself, Flory kills first his dog, and then himself.

Dr Veraswami is demoted and sent to a different district and U Po Kyin is elected to the club. U Po Kyin's plans have succeeded and he plans to redeem his life and cleanse his sins by financing the construction of pagodas. He dies of apoplexy before he can start building the first pagoda and his wife envisages him returning to life as a frog or rat. Elizabeth eventually marries Macgregor, the deputy commissioner, and lives happily in contempt of the natives, who in turn live in fear of her, fulfilling her destiny of becoming a "burra memsahib", a respectful term given to white European women.

Characters

  • John (in some editions, James) Flory: referred to as just "Flory" throughout the novel. He is the central character, a timber merchant in his mid-thirties. He has a long, dark blue birthmark that stretches from his eye to the side of his mouth on his left cheek, and he tries to avoid showing people the left side of his face as he thinks the birthmark is hideous. Whenever he is ashamed or looks down upon himself he remembers his birthmark, a symbol of his weakness. He is very friendly with the Indian Dr Veraswami, and appreciates Burmese culture. This brings him into conflict with members of the club, who dislike his slightly radical views. Because of his rather shy personality and the fact that he dislikes quarrels, he is an easy target in arguments, especially with Ellis. This discourages him from fully advocating for the Burmese. He suffers a great deal emotionally because he is infatuated with Elizabeth. All he can think about is Elizabeth but they have conflicting interests and she does not reciprocate the love. Flory supports the Burmese where as Elizabeth regards them as beasts. Flory wants Elizabeth to appreciate him, especially with his hindering birthmark, yet he wants to support the Burmese. Due to his indecisive personality he is caught between supporting the Burmese and the English. After Elizabeth leaves Flory the second time, he commits suicide.
  • Elizabeth Lackersteen: An unmarried English girl who has lost both her parents and comes to stay with her remaining relatives, the Lackersteens, in Burma. Before her flighty mother died, they had lived together in Paris. Her mother fancied herself an artist, and Elizabeth grew to hate the Bohemian lifestyle and cultural connections. Elizabeth is 22, 'tallish for a girl, slender", with fashionably short hair and wears tortoise shell glasses. Throughout the novel, she seeks to marry a man because her aunt keeps pressuring her and she idolises wealth and social class, neither of which she could achieve without a husband during this time period. When she first meets Flory, he falls in love because he values white women over Burmese women. After leaving Flory for the first time, she courts Verrall, who leaves her abruptly without saying goodbye. The second time she leaves Flory (and following his suicide), she marries Deputy Commissioner MacGregor.
  • Mr Lackersteen: Elizabeth's uncle and Mrs Lackersteen's husband. Lackersteen is the manager of a timber firm. He is a heavy drinker whose main object in life is to have a "good time". However his activities are curtailed by his wife who is ever watching "like a cat over a bloody mousehole" because ever since she returned after leaving him alone one day to find him surrounded by three naked Burmese girls, she does not trust him alone. Lackersteen's lechery extends to making sexual advances towards his niece, Elizabeth.
  • Mrs Lackersteen: Elizabeth's aunt and Mr Lackersteen's wife. Mrs Lackersteen is "a woman of about thirty-five, handsome in a contourless, elongated way, like a fashion plate". She is a classic memsahib, the title used for wives of officials in the Raj. Both she and her niece have not taken to the alien country or its culture. (In Burmese Days Orwell defines the memsahib as "yellow and thin, scandal mongering over cocktails—living twenty years in the country without learning a word of the language."). And because of this, she strongly believes that Elizabeth should marry an upper-class man who can provide her with a home and accompanying riches. She pesters Elizabeth into finding a husband: first she wants her to wed Verrall, then after he leaves, Flory.
  • Dr Veraswami: An Indian doctor and a friend of Flory's. He has nothing but respect for the British colonists and often refers to his own kind as being lesser humans than the English, even though many of the British, including Ellis, don't respect him. Veraswami and Flory often discuss various topics, with Veraswami presenting the British point of view and Flory taking the side of the Burmese. Dr Veraswami is targeted by U Po Kyin in pursuit of membership of the European club. Dr Veraswami wants to become a member of the club so that it will give him prestige which will protect him from U Po Kyin's attempts to exile him from the district. Because he respects Flory, he does not pester him to get him admitted into the club. Eventually U Po Kyin's plan to exile Dr Veraswami comes through. He is sent away to work in another run-down hospital elsewhere.
  • U Po Kyin: A corrupt and cunning magistrate who is hideously overweight, but perfectly groomed and wealthy. He is 56 and the "U" in his name is his title, which is an honorific in Burmese society. He feels he can commit whatever wicked acts he wants—cheat people of their money, jail the innocent, abuse young girls—because although, "According to Buddhist belief those who have done evil in their lives will spend the next incarnation in the shape of a rat, frog, or some other low animal", he intends to provide against these sins by devoting the rest of his life to good works such as financing the building of pagodas, "and balance the scales of karmic justice". He continues his plans to attack Dr Veraswami, instigating a rebellion as part of the exercise, to make Dr Veraswami look bad and eliminate him as a potential candidate of the club, so he can secure the membership for himself. He believes his status as a member of the club will cease the intrigues that are directed against him. He loses pre-eminence when Flory and Vereswami suppress the riot. After Flory dies, Kyin becomes a member of the European Club. Shortly after his admission into the club he dies, unredeemed, before the building of the pagodas. "U Po has advanced himself by thievery, bribery, blackmail and betrayal, and his corrupt career is a serious criticism of both the English rule that permits his success and his English superiors who so disastrously misjudge his character".
  • Ma Hla May: Flory's Burmese mistress who has been with him for two years before he meets Elizabeth. Ma Hla May believes herself to be Flory's unofficial wife and takes advantage of the privileges that come along with being associated with a white man in Burma. Flory has been paying her expenses throughout their time together. However, after he becomes enchanted with Elizabeth, he informs her that he no longer wants anything to do with her. Ma Hla May is distraught and repeatedly blackmails him. Once thrown out of Flory's house, the other villagers dissociate themselves from her and she cannot find herself a husband to support her. Encouraged by U Po Kyin, who has an alternate agenda to ruin Flory's reputation within the club, she approaches Flory in front of the Europeans and creates a dramatic scene so everyone knows of his intimacy with her. This outburst taints Elizabeth's perception of Flory for good. Eventually she goes to work in a brothel elsewhere.
  • Ko S'la: Flory's devoted servant since the day he arrived in Burma. They are close to the same age and Ko S’la has since taken care of Flory. Though he serves Flory well, he does not approve of many of his activities, especially his relationship with Ma Hla May and his drinking habits. He believes that Flory should get married. Flory has remained in the same reckless state that he was in upon arriving in Burma. In Ko S’la's eyes, Flory is still a boy. Ko S’la, on the other hand, has moved on with his life as he has taken wives and fathered five children. He pities Flory due to his childish behaviour and his birthmark.
  • Lieutenant Verrall: A military policeman who has a temporary posting in the town. He is everything that Flory is not—young, handsome, privileged. He is the youngest son of a peer and looks down on everyone, making no concessions to civility and good manners. His only concern while in town is playing polo. He takes no notice of a person's race, everyone is beneath him. Verrall is smug and self-centered. Encouraged by her aunt, Elizabeth pursues Verrall as a suitor, but he uses her only for temporary entertainment. In the end, he vanishes from town without a word to Elizabeth.
  • Mr Macgregor: Deputy Commissioner and secretary of the club. He is upright and well-meaning, although also pompous and self-important. U Po Kyin contacts Mr Macgregor through anonymous letters as he continues his attacks on Dr Veraswami to gain a position in the club. As one of the only single men left in the town, he marries Elizabeth.
  • Ellis: A violently racist Englishman who manages a timber company in upper Burma. He is a vulgar and spiteful member of the club who likes to stir up scandals. He believes in the British rule of Burma and that the Burmese people are completely incapable of ruling the country themselves. His hatred of the Burmese culture causes some clashes with Flory due to Flory's friendliness with the Burmese, especially Dr Veraswami. Ellis is in support of U Po Kyin's plan to ruin the reputation of Dr Veraswami and needs no evidence whatsoever of Dr Veraswami's guilt.
  • Francis and Samuel: Francis is a Eurasian clerk to an Indian money lender, whilst Samuel is a clerk to some of the pleaders. Both are sons of Christian missionaries, the book explores attitudes towards their mixed heritage.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Burmese Days" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools