How White women aggravated the inter-racial divide

In Burmese Days, Orwell foregrounds how white women perform the roles of ‘segregators’ and reinforce the inter-racial divide between the whites and natives. Mrs. Lackersteem is constantly enforcing some sort of surveillance upon her husband, never letting him ‘out of her sight for more than one or two hours’, after having caught him drunk with naked Burmese women (p.21). Elizabeth’s entry into Burma also forces Flory to repent on his ‘UnEnglishness’ and cast off his ties with Ma Hla May. The only two white women in Burma parallel each other in terms of their racial prejudices and treatment of the natives. As contemplated by Elizabeth, “After all, the natives were natives –interesting, no doubt, but finally only a ‘subject’ people, an inferior people with black faces” (p. 118).

As revealed by Ann Stoler, the import of white women into colonial outposts did serve a crucial, ideological purpose as the women became agents of the Empire, performing and propagating the racial divide intended by colonial authorities. Their presence denied the white men from establishing physical contacts with the native women and reinforced in them the importance of upholding the image as the white, imperial figure. Inter-racial relations and sexual communions were thus prevented, preserving the ‘whiteness’ and the unblemished superiority of the white race.

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