From where I have stopped in the novel, I managed to make an observation. I am referring to the similarity in the position of native women like Ma Kin, the wife of U Po Kyin, with the state of the native’s religion – Buddhism.
For Ma Kin, her position in the household reflects the belief of Buddhism that women are lower than man – “the same level as a rat or a frog – or at worst as some dignified beast such as an elephant” (8). However, my issue is with the portrayal of Ma Kin as the more morally upright and charitable figure. This seems to shed light on the shortcoming of Buddhism in its unflattering claims of women as part of the lower form of life. The irony is, the most dedicated person to Buddhism, is one of the most subdued figure in the novel. Furthermore, Ma Kin’s portrayal is contrastive with her husband’s selfish and self-serving use of the religion to better his afterlife – “My pagodas will atone for everything” (15). In this case, religion as a moral guide in dictating one’s way of life seems to be in question. Does this suggest that Buddhism as a religion is no longer applicable/relevant after the changes in relationship brought about by the entrance of western colonialism? After all, we can identify the impoverished state of the native’s religion just by looking at the starving monks whose devotion to the religion is ‘rewarded’ with hunger.