Burmese Days


  • John (in some editions, James) Flory: referred to as just "Flory" throughout the novel. He is the central character, a timber merchant in his mid-thirties. He has a long, dark blue birthmark that stretches from his eye to the side of his mouth on his left cheek, and he tries to avoid showing people the left side of his face as he thinks the birthmark is hideous. Whenever he is ashamed or looks down upon himself he remembers his birthmark, a symbol of his weakness. He is very friendly with the Indian Dr Veraswami, and appreciates Burmese culture. This brings him into conflict with members of the club, who dislike his slightly radical views. Because of his drawn-back and rather shy personality and the fact that he dislikes quarrels, he is an easy target in arguments, especially with Ellis. This discourages him from fully advocating for the Burmese. He suffers a great deal emotionally because he is infatuated with Elizabeth. All he can think about is Elizabeth but they have conflicting interests and she does not reciprocate the love. Flory supports the Burmese where as Elizabeth regards them as beasts. Flory wants Elizabeth to appreciate him, especially with his hindering birthmark, yet he wants to support the Burmese. Due to his indecisive personality he is caught in between supporting the Burmese and the English. After Elizabeth leaves Flory the second time, he commits suicide.
  • Elizabeth Lackersteen: An unmarried English girl who has lost both her parents and comes to stay with her remaining relatives, the Lackersteens, in Burma. Before her flighty mother died, they had lived together in Paris. Her mother fancied herself an artist, and Elizabeth grew to hate the bohemian lifestyle and cultural connections. Elizabeth is 22, 'tallish for a girl, slender', with fashionably short hair and wears tortoise shell glasses. Throughout the novel, she seeks to marry a man because her aunt keeps pressuring her and she idolises wealth and social class, neither of which she could achieve without a husband during this time period. When she first meets Flory, he falls in love because he values white women over Burmese women. After leaving Flory for the first time, she courts Verrall, who leaves abruptly without saying goodbye. The second time she leaves Flory (and following his suicide), she marries the Deputy Commissioner, MacGregor.
  • Mr. Lackersteen: Elizabeth's uncle and Mrs. Lackersteen's husband. Mr. Lackersteen is the manager of a timber firm. He is a heavy drinker whose main object in life is to have a "good time". However his activities are curtailed by his wife who is ever watching "like a cat over a bloody mousehole" because ever since she returned after leaving him alone one day to find him surrounded by three naked Burmese girls, she does not trust him alone. Mr. Lackersteen's lechery extends to making sexual advances towards his niece Elizabeth.
  • Mrs. Lackersteen: Elizabeth's aunt and Mr. Lackersteen's wife. Mrs. Lackersteen is "a woman of about thirty-five, handsome in a contourless, elongated way, like a fashion plate." She is a classic memsahib, the title used for wives of officials in the Raj. Both she and her niece have not taken to the alien country or its culture. (In Burmese Days Orwell defines the memsahib as "yellow and thin, scandal mongering over cocktails – living twenty years in the country without learning a word of the language.") And because of this, she strongly believes that Elizabeth should get married to an upper class man who can provide her with a home and accompanying riches. She pesters Elizabeth into finding a husband: first she wants her to wed Verrall, then after he leaves, Flory.
  • Dr. Veraswami: An Indian doctor and a friend of Flory's. He has nothing but respect for the British colonists and often refers to his own kind as being lesser humans than the English, even though many of the British, including Ellis, don’t respect him. Veraswami and Flory often discuss various topics, with Veraswami presenting the British point of view and Flory taking the side of the Burmese. Dr. Veraswami is targeted by U Po Kyin in pursuit of membership of the European club. Dr. Veraswami wants to become a member of the club so that it will give him ‘prestige’ which will protect him from U Po Kyin’s attempts to exile him from the district. Because he respects Flory he does not pester him to get him admitted into the club. Eventually U Po Kyin’s plan to exile Dr. Veraswami comes through. He is sent away to work in another run-down hospital elsewhere.
  • U Po Kyin: A corrupt and cunning magistrate who is hideously overweight but groomed perfectly and can afford anything. He is 56 and the “U” in his name is his title, which is honorific in the Burmese society. He feels he can commit whatever wicked acts he wants – cheat people of their money, jail the innocent, abuse young girls – because although, " According to Buddhist belief those who have done evil in their lives will spend the next incarnation in the shape of a rat , frog or some other low animal", he intends to provide against these sins by devoting the rest of his life to good works such as financing the building of pagodas, "and balance the scales of karmic justice."[13] He continues his plans to attack Dr. Veraswami, instigating a rebellion as part of the exercise, to make Dr. Veraswami look bad and eliminate him as a potential candidate of the club, so he can secure the membership for himself. He believes his status as a member of the club will cease the intrigues that are directed against him. He loses pre-eminence when Flory and Vereswami suppress the riot. After Flory dies, Kyin becomes a member of the European Club. Shortly after his admission into the club he dies, unredeemed, before the building of the pagodas. "U Po has advanced himself by thievery, bribery, blackmail and betrayal, and his corrupt career is a serious criticism of both the English rule that permits his success and his English superiors who so disastrously misjudge his character."
  • Ma Hla May: Flory's Burmese mistress who has been with him for two years before he meets Elizabeth. Ma Hla May believes herself to be Flory's unofficial wife and takes advantage of the privileges that come along with being associated with a white man in Burma. Flory has been paying her expenses throughout their time together. However, after he becomes enchanted with Elizabeth, he informs her that he no longer wants anything to do with her. Ma Hla May is distraught and repeatedly blackmails him. Once thrown out of Flory's house, the other villagers dissociate themselves from her and she cannot find herself a husband to support her. Encouraged by U Po Kyin, who has an alternate agenda to ruin Flory's reputation within the Club, she approaches Flory in front of the Europeans and creates a dramatic scene so everyone knows of his intimacy with her. This outburst taints Elizabeth's perception of Flory for good. Eventually she goes to work in a brothel elsewhere.
  • Ko S'la: Flory's devoted servant since the day he arrived in Burma. They are close to the same age and Ko S’la has since taken care of Flory. Though he serves Flory well, he does not approve of many of his activities, especially his relationship with Ma Hla May and his drinking habits. He believes that Flory should get married. Flory has remained in the same reckless state that he was in upon arriving in Burma. In Ko S’la's eyes, Flory is still a boy. Ko S’la, on the other hand, has moved on with his life as he has taken wives and fathered five children. He pities Flory due to his childish behaviour and his birthmark.
  • Lieutenant Verrall: A military policeman who has a temporary posting in the town. He is everything that Flory is not—young, handsome, privileged. He is the youngest son of a peer and looks down on everyone, making no concessions to civility and good manners. His only concern while in town is playing polo. He has no care of a person's race; everyone is beneath him. Verrall is smug and self-centered. Encouraged by her aunt, Elizabeth pursues Verrall as a suitor. However, he only uses her for temporary entertainment. In the end, he vanishes from town without another word to Elizabeth.
  • Mr MacGregor: Deputy Commissioner and Secretary of the Club. He is upright and well -meaning, although also pompous and self-important. U Po Kyin contacts Mr. Macgregor through anonymous letters as he continues his attacks on Dr. Veraswami to gain a position in the Club. As one of the only single men left in the town, he marries Elizabeth.
  • Ellis: A violently racist Englishman who manages a timber company in Upper Burma. He is a vulgar and spiteful member of the Club who likes stirring up scandals. He believes in the British rule of Burma and that the Burmese people are completely incapable of ruling the country themselves. His hatred of the Burmese culture causes some clashes with Flory due to his friendliness with the Burmese, especially Dr. Veraswami. Ellis is in support of U Po Kyin's plan to ruin the reputation of Dr. Veraswami and needs no evidence whatsoever of Dr. Veraswami's guilt.

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