Notes and such for 12th November

In today’s class, the first presentation regarding Ireland and nationalism framed the subsequent presentations and discussions adequately. Michelle suggested in her presentation that Joyce’s work contrasted with the notion that nationalism is part of a natural progression following colonialism and decolonialisation. Joyce’s work instead presents nationalism as an assertion of individuality which is a culmination of various factors. The final slide of the 2nd presentation suggested a reading of Joyce as anti-modernist, if the term modernist is grounded in the philosophies of John Locke and David Hume (that took up some time). One of the points raised was how the history of modernity is longer than the time frame occupied by modernism, and it is necessary not to conflate modernism with modernity. Conflation came up again in the later discussions, this time concerning the figure of Daedalus and Stephen.


I proposed an explanation of the problematic quote based on the understanding that Hume and Locke are empiricists, a field of philosophy that suggests observations as the primary source of knowledge and hence the self, developed through knowledge, is constituted of observations.In Joyce however the observable cannot constitute the individual due to the indeterminacy of language that is used to record such observations. The example of the tundish was cited by Kin Yan(?). In that sense then, Joyce would be anti-modernist IF we defined the term according to the philosophies of the two philosophers.

I think conflation as a problem arose because of the nature of modernism and the text discussed today. One example used in class today was regarding the epiphany as used in Joyce’s work, part of Praseeda’s presentation. Stephen’s epiphanies contrast with Woolfian (Virginia) epiphanies, for example, in that instead of a unity of the self with the world around him, Stephen in fact becomes more distant. While observing the girl wading in the sea, he feels that she represents all women and acknowledges the sexual feelings that accompany his observation. At the same time he distances himself from the people who experience those feelings, privileging instead her association to Ireland. The distinction Stephen makes expresses a desire to move away from conflating perspectives, choosing instead to set himself apart as an artist exiled from the larger framework of society.

In another example, it was suggested that Stephen perhaps conflates the figure of Icarus and Daedalus, and tries to straddle the position of inventor – or the “brains”, and the user, – the “blonde”.

Links to other weeks and texts:

Conflation arises as a prominent issue in discussing modernism in other texts like Orwell’s “Shooting An Elephant”. In this text, it has been suggested in previous classes that there is a conflation of identities in the reluctant colonialist: on one hand he is required to perform his role as colonizer, but it conflicts with his individual beliefs and identity. The conflation of the two areas produces responses to colonialism that emphasise its complexities, rather than a valorization and exoticization of the colonial enterprise, or an outright disparaging of the process. To link this to modernist concerns, the problems with identity and nationalism point to the crisis of knowledge and representation.

Inscrutability of the colony

Leonard Woolf’s autobiographical account in Growing reminded me of Orwell’s ‘Shooting an Elephant’, in that they both highlight the white man’s increasing sense of alienation and unease in the colony. Woolf’s recounts his life in Ceylon as a civil servant stating that there “always retained for [him] a tinge of theatrical unreality”. This reminds me of the idea of performativity that we have discussed in Orwell’s narratives where colonial masters are required to act according to the code of the sahib. For Orwell, the expectation to act accordingly resulted in the loss of individual freedom for both the white man and the native. He then saw this as the oppression of the machinations of imperialism that he desired to extricate himself from. However in Growing, the “theatrical unreality” that Woolf describes seems to hint at his own sense of unfamiliarity with Ceylon (which is after all, geographically and culturally far removed from England), and the uncanny feeling that the colony produces in Woolf. In addition, Woolf also states that “the whole of [his] past life in London and Cambridge seemed suddenly to have vanished, to have faded away into unreality”. This alludes to his own displaced identity onto a foreign land, detached from his own history. His new environment was vastly different from what he was familiar with (even the pace of life and ease of accessibility in London and Ceylon are seen in contrast to each other), and this unfamiliarity made him uncomfortable within the colony, despite his privileged ruling position.

Woolf’s description of Jaffna country also reminds me of the inability to understand the essence of the colony due to the inscrutability of India in A Passage to India. The “long distances and difficulties of transport” and the immensity and vastness of Jaffna allude to the difficulty of accessing the place both literally and metaphorically:

Here again is one of those featureless plains the beauty of which is only revealed fully to you after you have lived with it long enough to become absorbed into its melancholy solitude and immensity.

Plainly speaking, the colony was inaccessible to the imperialist because it seems to be limitless (the sands “stretch far away” under the “enormous sky”) and existing outside the scales of comprehension. Thereby creating the sense of “theatrical unreality” that Woolf feels in his participation in the colonial enterprise.

Binaries, Power and Imperialism

In Stoler’s discussion of the ways in which power is manifested and created in Empire, she identifies how the assertion of dominance is linked to ideas of gender binaries and sex. She identifies for us the different “roles” and images of figures in the colonial discourse; namely, the white colonial ruler bursting with “good health, virility and the ability to rule” (65), the white European woman who is either a symbol of purity with “delicate sensibilities” (55) or the European woman who is considered “immoral” for “provoking [native] desires” (60). In existence is also the figure of the impotent or reluctant colonizer, the male colonized who is rendered impotent by colonization, and the native woman who fulfills the roles of housekeeper, (expendable) companion and sexualized subject.

These binaries are posited by Stoler as a (sexualized) way in which inequality is created, made “sense” of, and perpetuated in Empire. Women exist as “ideals”, or a means to “keep men physically and psychologically fit for work” (50), yet what stands out most clearly is that the role of women (both native and white) is defined for them long before they participate in imperial interaction. In Orwell’s text, the character of Ma Hla May is portrayed as one prone to female jealousy (“Who is this woman?” 87), entirely dependent on his affection/support/money for existence, a pawn in “male” games, and in the eyes of Elizabeth, a kind of “barbaric” (128) mutation of sexuality.

However, I especially like the way that Orwell has constructed the character of Elizabeth to counter that of Stoler’s identification of binaries. She is not motherly or nuturing (despite her claim to “adore gardening”), hardly the figure of purity and solace that Flory sees, and her disgust of the “savages” (129) of Burma certainly places her well away from the figure of the European woman who is “too familiar with [her] servants” (Stoler 60). In fact, she is predatory in the way that she has come to Burma to land herself a husband, and even though she is toyed with by Verrall, she is very much the power opposite of Ma Hla May, which makes her almost masculine in this discourse. One could even say that Elizabeth is more of a white colonizer than Flory, who is not merely reluctant, but UNABLE to fulfill his role as powerful white colonizer (it is interesting to wonder if he would have shot the elephant).

Therefore, one could argue that Orwell’s construction of a character like Elizabeth is a version of “taking back” the power of the female, yet putting her in the discourse and fitting her into the role of the white male colonizer is problematic. We cannot ignore the fact that she is arguably the most vile character in the text (more so than U Po Kyin who is portrayed as the typical moustache-stroking, cat-holding villain in the text), and this exposes Stoler’s argument of the sexual subjection of women as a little bit inadequate, because a character like Elizabeth is able to harness the colonial discourse of power-making to her advantage. Of course, we can say that she has to enter into the realm of colonial “male-ness” to gain this power (thereby highlighting the helpless position of being a “female” woman), but constrasted against a character like Flory (in the most obvious way, he actually kills himself), she is successful in bringing power back.

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.

Notes on Burmese Days (Week 9, Part I)


In their presentation, Jingxuan and Frederick focused on the discourses of Power in Orwell’s Burmese Days and how these discourses reinforce each other insecuring the dominant ideology of the Imperial hegemony.

1. Jingxuan, in the first half of the presentation, explored the theoretical framework of power in Burmese Days by borrowing Michel Foucault’s definition, asserting that for our reading of the text, it is not useful to see power as a universal and all-encompassing force, but rather should be seen as something that only exists when put into action;  i.e.: when “certain actions modify others” (The Subject and Power).

Power, hence, becomes a dialectic in the text that exists in a kind of liminal space between the Coloniser and the colonised. Colonial power needs to beactivated by the colonised through actions that modify (hence reinforce) the actions of the Colonist (see Examples 1-3).

2. As power is understood as being born out of symbiosis, power loses agency when it is not constantly volleying back and forth within the hierarchy. Hence it can be activated and de-activated, and cannot by definition remain static (see Examples 4-5).

3. Foucault goes on to state that power comes from the prescribing of an identity on the individual who then has to behave within the boundaries of this identity in order to be accepted in society. If this identity is rejected by the individual, the power illicited from the reverence of others is lost.

4. Distribution of power in Burmese Days is not strictly based on racial discrimination as power is a by-product of a symbiotic process. Hence, individuals can gain power by adhering to the code of conduct established by the hegemony (see Example 6)

5. Frederick decided to narrow down the group’s discussion of power to the role of women in the text, using Urmila Seshagiri’s “Misogyny and Anti-Imperialism in George Orwell’s Burmese Days”.  He looks at the power that comes from sexual aggression in the form of the literal rape carried out by U PoKyin and the various sexual encounters throughout the text.

6. Sexual power is also seen as symbiotically formed, established by the aggression of the male and the bartering of sex by women (see Example 7).

7. Ma Hla May is the embodiment of Burma, just as Elizabeth Lackersteen is the embodiment of England. This framework already highlights the politics ofpower between the colony and the empire (see Example 8).


1. U Po Kyin embodies the inherent power in the figure of the Colonised in his ability to penetrate the European psyche: “No European cares anything about proofs. When a man has a black face, suspicion is proof. A few anonymous letters will work wonders. It is only aquestion of persisting; accuse, accuse, go on accusing – that is the way with Europeans” (Burmese Days 12).

He uses his understanding of difference to assert his power in manipulating the system he knows so well (albeit within the Imperial ideology), which in turnreinforces the status quo. The adage “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” applies to the way in which U Po Kyin functions within the text. His ability to read and analyse people is what gives him the power to destroy his enemies internally.

2. Dr. Veraswami is aware of the underhanded threat U Po Kyin poses on his prestige (the be-all and end-all of the colonial subject’s identity): “My friend, in these matters prestige iss everything. It iss not that U Po Kyin will attack me openly; he will libel me and backbite me. And whether he issbelieved or not depends entirely upon my standing with Europeans”. The signifier “prestige” holds great value as it is a linguistic and physical manifestation of power in the Colonial framework and the knowledge of its power is what gives the various characters the feeling of having the upper-hand [another form of power].

3. Both U Po Kyin and Dr. Veraswami see gaining club membership would up their prestige in society, which in itself is their willing subscription into the Colonial framework of power, which in turn gains its power [prestige] from the reverence of the colonial subjects who regard a place in the club as a highly coveted honour.

4. Flory is able to deactivate his power as a Colonist by refusing to subscribe to the behavioral codes supporting the Colonial ideology (by not behaving asother white men in colonies do).  However, to what extent is he successful in separating himself from the hierarchy of the hegemony if he is permanently marked by his whiteness, which codes him almost unforgivingly and permanently in the text (vis-a-vis Ma Hla May).

5. Flory rejects his identity as Colonist and is in turn rejected by the Colonists for his “Bolshie” ideas (34).  This puts Flory in the position of the reluctant colonist as he struggles against the identity he is inextricably linked to (that of a non-native).

It is this inextricable tie Flory has to his identity as a European man that ultimately leads to his failure to struggle against the Colonial power structure, as he behaves like a Colonist in the end: his convictions in defending Dr. Veraswami are only secondary to his feelings of solidarity and fraternity towards the Englishmen.  Secondly, his love for Elizabeth Lackersteen is what kills him in the end, as his choosing of the white woman over his Burmese mistress highlights a kind of implicit acknowledgmentof the English code of conduct.

6. Although skin color is a marker for power in the colonial context, race becomes a performative element more than anything, as the native “finds himselfrewarded for performing according to the codes of the dominant power, whereas an Englishman who attempts ‘going native’ even incompletely finds himself ostracized and disoriented” (Waterman 95).

This implies the power gained by U Po Kyin is one that reinforces the Colonial power structure as it involves him acting within his boundaries, understanding the European psyche while remaining outside the European demarcation.  His whiteness becomes a promise of power to Ma Hla May who reacts to him because of this physical marker, which supplies the power he deactivated by conscious choice.

7.  As Seshagiri writes, “rape becomes an unquestioned privilege and by-products of masculine colonial ambivalence,” U Po Kyin’s rape of young girls being akey example of this literal form of sexual aggression (57).  Tom Lackersteen’s penchant for Burmese prostitutes, Maxwell and his Eurasian mistress, and of course, Flory and his prominent affair with Ma Hla May, all act as examples of a kind soft-rape, sexual aggression directed at women co-opted into the system by having to serve the role of companion-consort without the legitimate ideological marker of “wife”.

8.  Ma Hla May, like Burma, is servile and engages Flory in the Master/Slave dialect that parallels the Colonial ideology.  She is left in the end as Burma is in the wake of imperialism: “Look how he has ruined me! Look at these rags I am wearing!” (273).  Yet her predicament post-Flory seems almost intuitive of a post-colonial Burma: “her good looks are all but gone, and her clients pay her only four annas, and sometimes kick her and beat her… she regrets the good time when Flory was alive” (285).

9.  Similarly, Elizabeth Lackersteen embodies the mercenary attitude of the Colonial mission in her potential unions.  The figure of the burra memsahib fits her well as she rules with fear over those she does not (want to) understand, and has the greatest disdain for.


This presentation gave a fresh perspective to the politics of Colonial power.  In previous weeks, we had looked at the Colonial framework as a bureaucratic hierarchy that focused on the marginalisation of and subjugation of the native figure.  Orwell’s text read within Foucault’s theory allows us to see how the constantly shifting nature of power makes it possible for even the natives to have agency and a kind of voice (albeit weak) in the Colonial mission.  Our discussion regarding narratives and the mute or oppressed voice of the subaltern are re-evaluated with the ideas thrown up in this presentation.

In the colonies, the minority had control over the majority as power was almost literally grabbed out of the hands of the natives.  However, the fact remains that although the Colonial discourse was set by the British, it only succeeded and reached the extent it did because of he aid of natives, the emphasis being on the two-way power (Master/Slave) dialectic.  With the natives imbibing the Western formulation of power, the notion of heirarchy and white superiority is enforced without active pursual.  U Po Kyin’ success and Flory’s death suggests that natives are complicit in reinforcing power hierarchy, being dependent on the Colonist for this power.

English Club and performation of the ‘white’ identity

Throughout the novel, Orwell frequently uses the symbol of the English Club as a locus of actions where the perfomation of identity as a pukka sahib is most ostensible and the English men and women in Burma constantly reinforce each other’s ‘whiteness’ and superiority over the Burmese. It is important to note that in spite of the violent mob carried out by the natives in their anger over Ellis’ abuse of the school boys, the English Club emerges from the crisis shaken, but with all its essential principles and racism intact. There continues to be objections to electing a native representative to the club and the desperation to preserve the club as an all-white domain remains strong. In addition, not only did the English men not blame Ellis for the outbreak of the upheaval, they fault the natives for the disorder throughout the entire process. The English club is not only a recognized institution of power by the white men, but by the locals as well. Dr. Veraswami associates the membership with eternal protection and superiority, satisfied to be an ‘adjunct’ to the white man. U Po Kyin also recognises this and plans to grab this privilege for himself by eliminating Dr. Veraswami altogether.
The English Club is perhaps, also a center of survelliance whereby the Anglo-indians must confront each other and ensure that their superiority as the white race would not be compromised by any unbecoming beahviour by any of the members. For instance, Flory is constantly being rebuked for his ties with Veraswami and in front of the members, he hardly dares to speak up for his true beliefs and express the disdain for the imperial ideology, and is constantly torn between his private and social identity.

No Exit in ‘Burmese Days’

While Stoler’s article was an interesting read, I’ll like to put it aside for this post and comment on something I found rather striking in Orwell’s Burmese Days. In my opinion, Flory’s suicide at the end echoes Konstantin’s one in Chekhov’s play The Seagull. I don’t know if Orwell had Chekhov in mind when writing this novel but the similarities are there: unrequited love/ ‘love’, the banality of existence etc. More importantly, however, I found that like the characters in Chekhov’s plays, the characters in Burmese Days were incapable of  change. Except for Flory (and maybe Ma Kin), nobody else seems to be conscious or critical of the colonial condition. There are no Joyceian epiphanies either. This becomes especially apparent in the last chapter, which works something like those ‘what-happens-to-every-character-after-this’ thing before the credits rolls. We know that everyone continues with the same moral and behavioral pattern. The protagonist’s death becomes just a statistic, a non-event. Somethings, and nothing, happened.

For me, that was perhaps the most shocking aspect of the book- not the violent hunts, not the evil machinations of U Po Kyin, nor the rampant corruption within the system. I wonder if that is why Orwell plants the notion of Buddhist reincarnation within the novel. According to Buddhism, the worst of the hell realms is the one of endless suffering and if I’m not wrong, reincarnation is endless as well (unless one reaches nirvana). For Orwell, the colony is a a kind of breeding ground that only accentuates this sort of utter helplessness and ennui of the modern condition. I think that Orwell was actually already writing about a kind of (colonial) dystopia in Burmese Days because in 1984, Winston and Julia gets converted by Big Brother in the end and nothing has changed for Oceania.

Laughter as the Best Anti-Colonial Medicine

Orwell is very aware of the ambivalence of colonial discourse and the contradiction of Whiteness, especially with regard to aggression.  He expresses his own ambivalence as a unit in the colonial machine, reaffirming the imperial ideology, while thinking that “imperialism was an evil thing”.  When Orwell implies Whiteness, he speaks of it as a technicality, a system or ideology in ordering the world, similar to the systems inherent in pre-colonial states (India).

“A white man musn’t be frightened in front of ‘natives'”, and the worst that he fears is being mocked and laughed at.  Laughter here becomes the only weapon at the natives’ disposal, yet it is so subversive that the entire machine of colonialism can be threatened by this act of derisiveness.   After all, “every white man’s life in the East was one long struggle not to be laughed at”(153).  Power that propagates and fuels the system is not servility or obedience if it is understood and prefigured to be temporary.  The power of the imperial mission seems to be predetermined as one that is inherently unstable by any ethical and rational code, unless explained away by the dismissal of the Asian subject as intrinsically flawed and incapable of self-rule [the mark of civility].  Laughter from derision and pity becomes something that is couched with subversive power to destabilitize and overthrow an established rationale behind a sketchy justification.

This reminded me of Cixous and her theory of laughter being something that inhabits a liminal space between the transgressive and subversive. In this context, it serves to stabilize the hierarchy between different social groups, but it is also transgressive since it discloses aggressive desires (anti-colonialism). I feel that the honesty of Orwell’s narrator-persona here allows for us to see how laughter ties to male pride, colonizer pride and even concepts of national pride. Laughter’s subversive quality and its role in the text highlights the modernist’s concern with the power of the mute and marked bodies of the colonized non-white masses that has the potential to far surpass the function of language (that is inherently empty and desperate for signification and meaning-making).

Rule of colonial difference backfires!

In Chatterjee’s article, we are introduced to the concept of the “rule of colonial difference-of representing the “other” as inferior and radically different, and hence incorrigibly inferior” (33). In the article, we understand this concept via its application by the colonizer to the colonized. In other words, the Englishman employs the rhetoric of colonial difference to benefit himself.

However, in Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”, we see how the rhetoric of the rule of colonial difference has backfired on the colonizer. In “Shooting”, we see how the narrator is pressured to act against his own will only because he tries to avoid looking the fool in front of natives. He sees himself as different from the natives because he possesses arms and perhaps superior rationalizing skills, therefore able to take control of the situation. However, his possession of the rifle and supposedly higher intellect are the very things that pressure him into acting against his will. The narrator sees how the natives were all expecting him to shoot the elephant because he called for the rifle. The possession of rationality, higher morality and legal knowledge pressures the narrator to resolve the issue ‘properly’. Therefore, he was relieved that the Indian coolie had died, justifying his killing of the elephant – be it in moral or legal terms.

Thus, claiming the rule of colonial difference may not often be beneficial, even if you are differentiated to be the ‘superior’ race!

Shooting An Elephant: Chaos, Order & Violence

I think Shooting An Elephant very nicely illustrates the theme of Chaos, Order and Violence. Chaos wreaked by the “mad elephant” requires the police officer to “do something about it”, so as to restore order and prevent the elephant from causing anymore havoc to property and man.  However, it is ironic that the only way to subdue the chaos and instill order requires the employment of violence, which is then another kind of chaos or dis-order.

Colonialism therefore functions to tame, civilize and order the natives with institutions that function precisely on this basis of violence, whether it is the threat (causing mental chaos to instill order) or its actual implementation; a perfect example as the police force. This compels me to recall Fanon’s assertion that “Colonialism is not a machine capable of thinking, a body endowed with reason. It is naked violence and only gives in when confronted with great violence.” (23) Violence thus appears to be ultimately inevitable.

The somewhat disturbing thing about Shooting An Elephant however, is the way in which it illustrates how everyone, both colonist and colonized, are complicit in this violence. The Burman crowd is described as “watch[ing] a conjurer about to perform a trick”, giving a “deep, low, happy sigh, as of people who see the theatre curtain go up at last… They were going to have their bit of fun after all”. After the elephant is dead, their opportunistic reaction is to “strip [the elephant’s] body almost to the bones”, embodying a kind of violence too. As for the narrator, despite his assertion that “imperialism was an evil thing” and his rationalizations for killing the elephant, it does not lessen the fact that he still committed a violent act after all, what more for the sake of his (white) reputation/identity. It seems to suggest that without the chaos caused by the elephant, it would not have warranted a reason for its death either. This, we can draw a parallel to the West’s justification of the use of violence to quell chaos and instill order in the native land.

Perhaps what Shooting An Elephant is trying to underscore then, is that although it does not deny the use of violence nor the complicity of both colonist and colonized in the cycle of violence, it highlights instead how neither colonist nor colonized are spared in the oppressive cycle of guilt that accompanies colonialism and violence.

The Reluctant Imperialist?

What struck me in my reading of short story was the reluctance of the narrator in carrying out his role as the white imperialist. He waffles between being “theoretically […] for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British” and being a stoic white imperialist, one that the natives will never laugh at. In fact, the narrator even pokes fun at what he calls the “real nature of imperialism—the real motives for which despotic governments act”, revealing the artificiality and hypocrisy of imperialism. However, the issue I have is that ultimately, the narrator is still shown to carry out his duties as an imperialist. For all his comments about the pretence of imperialism, he still aligns himself with white imperialism, one that is entrenched in capitalism—the dilemma of whether to capture the elephant alive, so that it would be worth “at least a hundred pounds”, or to just kill it and get five pounds for its tusks—and self-justified by Christian principles—the reference to the “crucified” Indian. Furthermore, the narrator invokes the law and the military—institutions that function to maintain imperial rule—in justifying his actions. The fact that the coolie was killed placed him “legally in the right” to kill the elephant while the possession of the rifle clearly indicated his military might. Hence, for all his reluctance, the narrator still performs the role of the white imperialist, and if we consider how this notion of performance and the theatrical is played out via references to being the “lead actor”, “an absurd puppet”, etc, then perhaps we wonder: Is the reluctance of the narrator ultimately also a performance?

race, image and power

What really intrigued me when i read Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant, is the depiction of an inversed power struggle. So often we come across texts in the module that emphasize on the oppressive nature of colonization and the silenced position of the natives, but Orwell is able to present a different aspect of this power struggle by enabling a glimpse into the white man’s own dilemma. As the character in the story laments, “For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him…every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.”
Colonial enterprise and the civilising mission had been established on the grounds that the natives belonged to an inferior race and were in need of the laws, grace and values of the white men. Race was therefore associated with power and ability and this essential difference separating the colonizer and the colonized provided a justification for the imperialist ideology and colonial rule over the ‘weaker’ race. Therefore, in order to facilitate the colonial enterprise, the colonizer would naturally have to constantly project and assert control and power over the colonized subjects. Orwell’s character highlights this obsession with control and power that links the idea of race with power. Even the white man whose very own heart is against the cruelty and hypocripsy of the empire finds his own face growing to ‘fit’ the ‘mask’, his will subject to maintaining the image of superiority associated with his race, and he feels compelled to do so not just for the sake of asserting his position among the “natives”, but also among his own people.

The demands of carrying a gun

Whilst I was reading the article by Chatterjee,  what struck me most was that Smith said that the natives “crave for a government by a person to whom they can render royal homage”.  Reflecting upon it, it seems almost as though the Indians, with their rigid caste system and rules which were thought to be not based on any “common code of morality” or “rational system of law”, would have been used to being ruled in a fashion much akin to colonial rule which greatly privileged the ruling classes to the disadvantage of others. There are some striking resemblances between the rule of colonial difference, in which race is a marker of superiority whilst in the caste system where one is simply born into a social class as one is born white or black.

Linking this to Shooting the elephant, it made me think of how when one wields power, just as the speaker wields a gun, often one would feel as though he is expected to use it simply because he has it.  Just as the Indians might expect the white Raj to behave a certain way due to their own experiences with their native Raj, the Burmese also compel the white officer to shoot the elephant. If the elephant is to be read as a symbol for the native, then perhaps the natives have a part to play in their oppression due to their expectations of one who wields the gun. Perhaps if the Indians were not so used to the injustices of the caste system, things would have been different?