Wednesday, October 17, 2007

VIII. George Orwell [His Existence in Burmese Environment]


3.His Existence in Burmese Environment
When Orwell arrived in Burma, he was 19 years old. Orwell, who was just graduated from Eton, famous public school in England, left the motherland on October 27th,1922 as a police sergeant for colonial job when his friends were enjoying at Oxford or Cambridge. At November 29th of the same year, he arrived in Mandalay, central city of Burma. In Mandalay he had attended provincial police training. After that, he performed the duties in the cities of Irrawaddy delta region; Myaungmya, Katha, Twente, Moulmein.

By the time Orwell arrived in Burma, there were violent strikes against English government. In former days of Kipling’s poem “Mandalay”, Burmese people were simple and naïve, though in those days of Burmese people were different when colonial administration was suppressing. They were confrontation against to English and English government became more and more severe. When Orwell reached Mandalay, most of temples were quiet and the situation was so hard in the town. Many riots happened one month before, for example, priests fought with knifes against English and cut the nose of English and cut the nose of English police sergeant.

During over hundred years under English colonization, the period of fighting against English called Dark Ages began three years before Orwell’s arrival. Such strike was caused by rejection of mending Burmese rules and regulations as a result of the Government of India Act, 1919. In 1920, the strike ignited by Rangoon University students spread all over the country against to English colonialism. Besides, the boycott against using English products led by monks became much stronger. During such period, the graduate of Eton, Orwell arrived in colonial area as a police sergeant.

When his arrival in Burma, nineteen years old Orwell accepted himself as a socialist and a pessimist on imperialism and colonialism of English government. He might think he would be better on Burmese people rather than other police.

He had had such like this happen; In one evening of November 1924, at Pagoda Road station in Rangoon, one of the Burmese University student who was playful with his friends slipped and bumped into a thin English police. The police fall down from ladder, lost his temper and intended to hit the boy’s head with his stick. However, he was in short hesitation and hit across the back instead of student’s head. After observing this incident, nearby University students gathered round him to protest against his treatment of schoolboy.

Four and a half years of his stay in Burma, Orwell had no closed friend in white people society. As described in Orwell’s Literary Work, vol.4 he could make friends with many people in short time and keep friendship with them till death. However, why could he not make friend with even one of English people in his four and a half years in Burma? It could be accepted that he could not make friend with Burmese people because Burmese people accepted him as just enemy police, even if he had no bad temper to native people, as a result of bad relationship between English and Burmese in history.

Roger Beadon, who was one of his colleagues in training school, said “ Orwell was a good boy. In his free time, he always read books in his room. Although we used to go playing golf or dance, he seemed to be no interest. We had never seen him together with a woman during this period”.

Although English themselves could be able to make closed friendship easily when it was impossible to make friend with Burmese people who looked English police as their enemy. He could not make even a friend. The reason for his failure to make friend with his native people might be that he, himself, stayed aloof from English society because there might be a conflict between oppressor and suppressor in his mind. Although he thought there was no reliable person to tell his feeling in surrounding, an English man was present.
“I remember a night I spent on the train with a man in the
Educational Service, a stranger to myself whose name I
never discovered. It was too hot to sleep and we spent the
night in talking. Half an hour’s cautious questioning
decided each of us that the other was ‘safe’; and then for
hours, while the train jolted slowly through the pitch-
black night, sitting up in our bunks with bottles of Beer
handy, we damned the British Empire-damned it from the
inside, intelligently and intimately. It did us both good.
But we had been speaking forbidden things, and in the
haggard morning light when the train crawled into
Mandalay, we parted as guiltily as any adulterous
couple.” The Road to Wiger Pier ,135.

In addition, there was embarrassment to him by bullying superior during his service period. “De Vine introducing Blair as ‘a highly educated sort of chap, ha, yes; Blair was eaten and bought up, ha, ha, sorry, brought up at Eton.’”. George Orwell: A Life, Bernard Crick, 156. From this tiny scrap of information, “ De Vine”, saying that he was “a difficult and probably bullying superior, one who sneered at him for having been to Eton”.

Orwell also described about characters of Burmese people reacting to him in the surrounding. He began Shooting an Elephant,1950 with this declaration:
“In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large
numbers of people… the only time in my life that I have
been important enough for this to happen to me. I was
sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an
aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was
very bitter”. Collected Essays, 15.

Moreover, there were also events of Orwell reacted as an English governor to Burmese people disturbing him. He wrote in The Road to Wiger Pier, that he responded to the old Burmese man.

Nevertheless, whenever he did such suppression on native people, he hated himself and felt lonely more and more. Additionally, he also hated his native men who never care what they did wrongly.

But as typical custom of other English people, but except for the common soldiers, and wealthy family, Orwell did have a servant.

In December 1926, he was transferred to Katha, the city north to Mandalay. He could take long leave as he would get five years service in next November. After transfer to Katha, he was ill severely and took leave. On July 1st, he got permission and took leave five months and twenty days long from July12nd. Orwell recovered after arrival of his native town. At the end of November, he made his parents surprise by showing his resignation letter. He got permission for resignation on 1st January, 1928. At that time, he was twenty four years old.

Metta,
Bakaung

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