I have been thinking about what we have been discussing in class – mainly, the concept of the reluctant colonist. What exactly is a reluctant colonist was the question that filled my mind. I had a feeling that the concept – reluctant colonist explores the humanistic attitude of a man that conflicts with the need of white man to keep the natives where they are – marginalised and inferior in order to continue their capitalistic enterprise. In other words, isn’t a reluctant colonist inherently a contradiction? Is it ever possible to be both a colonist and a humanist? I think the character of Flory as a reluctant colonist, as discussed commonly in class, is a good site of discussion.
As discussed in class, I find that it is most certainly that the idea of identity should not be confused with a person’s action. In other words, a person’s action does not always express who a person really is. This is why I feel that in Burmese Days, the added dimension of Flory’s thoughts provide readers with an valuable insight to the situation in a colony. As a result of the added dimension, I find it difficult to accept Flory as a reluctant colonist, a term that many have tied him with in class, even if they do not like him much. At the most, I would see him as a sentimental colonist. He might not like what some of the other white men are doing – especially Ellis who openly expresses his condescension towards the natives. However, Flory only expresses it in secrecy towards Dr V. He could have easily assumed a different hiererachy in his own household, instead, his household is like any other colonist household where the servant looks up to the master. Furthermore, he has done many things that he is guilty of racism – like his reluctant signing of the notice just because he “lacked the courage that was needed to refuse” (63). Also, he was given the chance to return to his homeland of which he decided to return halfway because he saw the opportunity to prosper economically.
What I am pointing at are the opportunities for Flory to put his thinking into action even when it is within his means. He could have left Burma when he had the chance but decidedly came back. His lack of action may not correspond with his feeling/thinking but the total lack of it in many occasions got me reluctant to see him as a reluctant colonist.