Ambivalence Of Dr. Veraswami Of Thesis

Length: 15 pages Sources: 8 Subject: History - Asian Type: Thesis Paper: #36695107 Related Topics: British Empire, Southeast Asia, Animal Farm, George Orwell
Excerpt from Thesis :

In this regard, Meyers concludes that, "As for Flory, environment has been too much for him, for he is not really alcoholic or crapulous by nature, and he regrets it when a girl from England arrives to stay at Kyauktada; she is a poverty-stricken little snob on the look-out for a husband, but he has not seen a spinster for a decade, and he succumbs on the spot whereupon his discarded Burmese mistress makes a scene in front of her and every one else, and he ends by committing suicide" (Meyers 52). While it may seem that Flory simply got what he deserved given his wishy-washy nature and lack of fortitude when it came to standing up for his friend, Dr. Veraswami when put to the test, but the suicide of the protagonist provides a useful literary vehicle whereby Orwell advances the plot and highlights just how shallow the friendship between Dr. Veraswami and Flory was in the first place. In fact, it is this defining event that serves as the basis for much of what precedes and follows it and provides the framework in which Orwell develops the characters involved, particularly as it relates to both Flory and Dr. Veraswami. For instance, according to Brunsdale (2000), "A scheming, corrupt Burmese magistrate, U Po Kyin, wants to be the token native in the Kyauktada European Club. He engineers a concerted campaign of slander against Dr. Veraswami, a decent and humble Indian physician whom the Europeans tolerate, to keep him from being chosen instead" (55).

Not all of the British residents even go so far as to tolerate Dr. Veraswami, referring to him time and again is disparaging and racist terms, and Flory's friendship with him sets him apart from the rest of the Europeans as well. According to Brunsdale, "Veraswami is the friend of John Flory, Orwell's protagonist, a thirty-five-year-old English timber merchant. Flory, who has a bruise-colored birthmark stretching halfway down his left cheek, is scorned as a 'bolshie' (Bolshevik) by the hate-filled Ellis and the other five whisky-swilling Europeans in Kyauktada because of that friendship and because Flory is sympathetic to the Burmese and other nonwhites" (55). Demonstrating the Flory was in fact a fair-weather friend only, following U. Po Kyin's successful efforts to disgrace Dr. Veraswami, he is snubbed by the entire cadre of Europeans residents -- Flory -- who Brunsdale suggests ". . . gives in to social pressure and his own cowardice" (55).

The reality of how the elitist British residents in Kyauktada feel about the native Burmese is made clear early on in the novel. According to Patai (1984), "There is a scene early in Burmese Days, Orwell first novel, in which five Englishmen have their prebreakfast drinks at the European Club, their sole bastion against the four thousand Burmese among whom they live" (21). While the "n" word references to the Burmese natives abounds, this was not particularly unusual and the use of the word was common in colonial India as well as is clearly demonstrated in George MacDonald Fraser's colorful "Flashman papers" series; nevertheless, to modern ears the references to the Burmese in general and Dr. Veraswami in particular are particularly offensive and are intended by Orwell to establish just what the prevailing British mindset is concerning the native Burmese. For instance, Patai reports that, "The Englishmen fall into argument over the order they have received to accept an Oriental as a member of the club. Degrees of racism divide these men. At one extreme is the rabidly racist and vulgar Ellis, a company manager; at the other is the novel's protagonist, the 'Bolshie' Flory, who has spent fifteen years working for a timber firm in Burma and is notorious for his friendship with an Indian physician, Dr. Veraswami" (21). Likewise, Patai emphasizes that, "Something of the sexual and racial hierarchy at work in the novel is indicated in a chapter in which most of the major plot lines are brought together within the space of eight pages. First, Flory is berated at the club for his friendship with Dr. Veraswami, called 'Very-slimy' by the racist Ellis. Ellis also labels Flory a 'nigger's Nancy Boy,' thus indicating that Flory has placed himself outside the white man's definition of manliness (white, heterosexual, racist) by his friendship with an Indian" (31).

It may be that Flory was willing to drink whiskey with Dr. Veraswami and shoot the breeze when it was convenient and pleasurable for him, and it was just a gut reaction to the hypocrisy that he was forced to endure at the Europeans' club that finally drove him to propose the ultimate violation of the club's membership rules....


For instance, Patai notes that, "Westfield then reminds Flory of the five beatitudes of the pukka sahib, and Flory is so disgusted that he announces his intention to propose Dr. Veraswami's name for club membership at the next general meeting" (31). Perhaps the shock value of such a proposal was Flory's true intent and the events that follow would appear to bear this proposition out. Indeed, Flory has much more in common with his fellow club members than he does with Dr. Veraswami and it would be foolhardy to suggest that Flory would risk everything for the sake of a native, no matter how esteemed he might be regarded otherwise. As Patai emphasizes, "Although the issue of race divides these Englishmen, they are united by their privileged status not only as white Britishers but, especially, as white males" (21).

The descriptions of the characters and events that unfold in Burmese Days appear to be tangential to the real problems that were taking place in this part of the world at the time. In this regard, Patai notes that, "Rather than deal with the actual problems of rising Burmese nationalism in the post-World War I period, Orwell focuses on this more limited drama, as U. Po Kyin schemes to improve his standing by attacking and discrediting various other people -- beginning with Flory's Indian friend, Dr. Veraswami, and ending with Flory himself" (23). In addition, it is apparent that Orwell was fed up with the whole imperialism approach to doing business and wanted no further part of it. As Patai emphasizes, "Orwell's state of mind at the time he wrote this novel becomes clear when we consider that there is hardly a single positive character in the entire novel. Both Burmese and English are depicted in extraordinarily negative terms, all pursuing their egocentric ends" (23). Slightly less negative and therefore more positive by comparison, Dr. Veraswami is nevertheless still subjected to the same type of stereotypical references that characterize the Burmese nationals throughout the novel. For instance, Patai notes that, "Dr. Veraswami appears in a slightly comical light by the narrative's focus on his language" (45).

Moreover, Orwell highlights Flory's lack of fortitude in the face of the varying degrees of harsh objections he receives at the proposal to have Dr. Veraswami join the elitist club. In this regard, Paxton notes that, "Goaded by the ugly racism of the colonial bureaucrats at the Kyauktada Club, [Flory] proposes that his Indian friend Dr. Veraswami be admitted to the all-white British club. Unlike Cyril Fielding, however, Flory does not even have the 'small spark of courage' he needs to persist when others oppose Veraswami's membership, and he soon betrays his friend as well as his own principles" (259). In an attempt to make this change of heart plain, Orwell provides one of the only segments in the book that communicate a psychological viewpoint concerning Flory's inconsistent behavior: "Flory has received a 'third rate' imperial education. As a result, he becomes a 'good liar and a good footballer, the two things absolutely necessary for success in school'" (quoted in Paxton at 259).

In the end, though, the most important result of Flory's suicide was that Dr. Veraswami was ruined, "even as he had foreseen. The glory of being a white man's friend -- the one thing that had saved him before -- had vanished" (268 quoted in Patai at 48). According to Horton and Baumeister (1996), "Without the support of his white friend, Veraswami is undermined by the magistrate and U. Po Kyin achieves his objective of membership of the club and indeed all his ambitions. This is a story without heroes, a story of mendacity, treachery and hypocrisy, of racial and social repression and hatred" (220). These issues are all the more poignant given the author's personal experiences and first-hand observations of how imperialism played out in the real world. For instance, Patai notes that, "Orwell's own critique of imperial domination is conveyed by many subtle details within the novel: the servants' zealous regard for their masters' status as typical Englishmen; the self-alienating effort to identify oneself with the oppressor (evident in nearly all the native characters); the painful interiorization of the label of inferior (the rejection…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Aung-Thwin, Maitrii. 2003, "Brave Men of the Hills: Resistance and Rebellion in Burma, 1824-

1932." Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 34(2): 376-377.

Brunsdale, Mitzi M. Student Companion to George Orwell. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,


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