Relationships in Burmese Days

What I found quite interesting about Burmese Days is that the novel seems rather fixated on relationships and marriages—it’s almost an Austen-esque storyline, except that it’s set in colonial Burma. Of course, in Burmese Days, women and relationships have much larger significances and symbolisms, instead of being more the ‘subject’ of the text. For me, the most ‘significant’ relationship is the one between Flory, Elizabeth and Ma Hla May. Reading the text, I felt this ‘triangle’ was one that was quite packed with underlying/deeper significances. Firstly, it’s sort of a metaphor for Flory being caught between Burma and England, with neither being a ‘good fit’, ending in his eventual suicide. Flory is sick of his life in Burma, but still, the experience has changed him so much that he wouldn’t be able to slip back into life back in England. Ultimately, this is the dilemma that defines him in the novel, and it is also what leads to his death.

Yet, his relationship with the two women is not as simple as just a love triangle—he doesn’t love Ma Hla May, and she doesn’t love him either, she just wants the status a relationship with him gives her. Somewhat similarly, Orwell portrays colonialism as  not always altruistic, but also highlights the native collaboration as something that enabled colonialism. Admittedly, this relationship is not exactly a perfect metaphor for the British colonial experience in Burma, but it does serve as a sort of distilled image of the more complicated colonialism that Orwell depicts in his novels.

One thought on “Relationships in Burmese Days

  1. I like your reading of Orwell as Austen-esque! In other words, focusing on social foibles in order to critique the larger social values of society. This is something you could explore for your final paper… sounds very interesting.