British imperial rhetoric: pukka sahibs, memsahibs and orientals in burmese days by George Orwell
AuthorTöngür, Nejat Abdullah
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CitationTöngür, A. N. (2016). British imperial rhetoric: pukka sahibs, memsahibs and orientals in burmese days by George Orwell. Hacettepe Üniveristesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Dergisi. 33(2), s. 207-213.
George Orwell’s Burmese Days is set in the colonial town of Kyauktada in Burma in the 1920s when demands for self-rule and independence were articulated vigorously in the sub-continent and Burmese people started to show slight hints of dissent towards the British colonial authority. This study aims at exploring the reflections of the British imperial discourse in the existing cultural, economic, social and psychological barriers between the colonized and the colonial or between the “pukka sahibs” and “memsahibs” and the “orientals” in Burmese Days. After a brief historical insight into the era and ‘British imperial rhetoric’, the second section analyzes how British imperialist discourse undermines their perceptions, ideas, and relationships of all the colonials, male and female, with the colonized and nourishes their ignorance, prejudice and hostility towards the local people. In contrast to the commonly-held perception that “pukka sahibs” and “memsahibs” are fair, honest, decent, impartial, aloof, and incorruptible in their deeds, the male and female British characters populating the novel are afflicted with their contempt, disdain and dislike of the local people whom they are afraid to mix with. The main concern in the third section is to dwell on Flory, who, unlike the other British men and women, does not believe that the colonial regime has a civilizing or educating mission. Instead, he believes that the British colonials are obsessed with uplifting their values, principles and ideals in a colonial station in Burma where they have apparently crouched upon economically, linguistically, socially and culturally. The fourth and the last section probes into the pejorative impact of the dictations and impositions of the dominant discourse upon two local people of power who have internalized the perception that they are inferior, corrupt, and degenerate in comparison to superior, civilized and educated “pukka sahibs” and “memsahibs”. Although the “orientals” desperately and vainly to aspire for and therefore struggle, imitate and adapt to the British people’s life styles, habits, codes, and culture, the picture Orwell draws about the colonial society is alarming as the colonials are comprised of immoral, indecent, unfair, drunk, racist womanizers or husband-hunters in stark contrast to the imperial indoctrination.
SourceHacettepe Üniveristesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Dergisi
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