Flory’s birthmark

October 14, 2009 by leewenting · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

It was put forth that Flory would have been the man Orwell would have become if he had chosen to stay on in Burma. Flory, very much modeled after the figure of Forster’s Fielding but undoubtedly a shadow of Orwell himself; is not afraid to joke with his close doctor confidante that ‘the British Empire was an aged female patient of the doctor’s’, speak surreptitiously about the true nature of imperialism in various analogies, as the ‘official holds the Burman down while the business man goes through his pockets’, and half-detest and admire his fellow Europeans for not possessing the same clairvoyance as he does, yet Flory is much too cowardly and incapable of standing up for his native doctor friend to arrest the self-pitying situation which he is contend to thrive in.

The same Flory is similarly capable of exploiting his own patriarchal position vis-à-vis Empire against native women, keeping mistresses for his own lust and pleasure and dismissing them guiltily when he is done with them (Orwell’s ambiguous attitude towards the exploitation of women arises in part from his own experiences). From Flory’s long ranting monologue, the reader gains an insight to the multiple plagues of his life – the ills of alien empire depriving the colonist from the capacity to think and articulate his thoughts, to the dire performativity of the self as dictated by the ‘pukka sahib’s code’, his tacit admission that his roots had grown too deep into Burmese soil, his love-hate relationship with Burma, Empire, and himself, it is not hard to see why Flory is finally driven to suicide. The blue birthmark on Flory’s side of the face, the part of himself which he constantly seeks to suppress in silence and bitterness, surfacing time and again in the novel as a fragmentary reminder that he really  is no different from the others, simply will not go away.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • adelinekoh

    good… how detached do you think Orwell is from Flory (in comparison to Marlow-Conrad)?

  • leewenting

    In Flory Orwell paints a caricatured figure of the reluctant colonizer with more conviction that Forster’s Fielding, simply because the former possesses a penetrative vision of the ills of imperialism but is ultimately unable to sum up moral courage to extricate himself from it. As Peiyi mentioned, Flory represents the ghost of Blair which Orwell seeks to bury through his writings (thus finally committing the character to suicide?)

    The act of distancing then, apart from Orwell’s use of irony, may be seen through the use of an omniscient third person which juxtaposes against previous Conrad’s novels where the voice of a subjective first person narrator is blurred – along with other narrative voices and the oral traditions? Which leads me to think why we are so concern with the issue of guilt and complicity in Conrad’s texts while we are less preoccupied with Orwell – perhaps because Orwell admits upfront that they are inherent in the reluctant colonizer?

    Just some remnant afterthoughts from class (like scraps of tidbits one does not finish haha), cheers