Burmese Days

The Waning Days of British Imperialism in "A Passage to India" and "Burmese Days"

In the preface to The English Novel in the Twentieth Century [The Doom of Empire], Martin Green claims that “One could read all the works of the Great Tradition, and never know that England had an empire”. While this argument could be applied to the bourgeois, largely domestic nature of the nineteenth-century literary canon, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1924) and George Orwell’s Burmese Days (1934) mark the development of a post-war, politically engaged consciousness, largely triggered by the brutal Amritsar massacre of 1919. Both novels - influenced by the writers’ own experiences in the East – launch a fiercely satirical attack on the conduct of the British Raj overseas and the moral bankruptcy of the English country club. A particularly noticeable aspect of Orwell’s and Forster’s critiques is the complicity of English women in encouraging and reinforcing masculine ideals of belligerence and jingoism in the East, thus exacerbating the strained relations between natives and their British rulers. However, although both texts exhibit a shared disdain for the overbearing, Kiplingesque pomposity of the British ruling classes in the East, Forster’s liberal pragmatism and humanist approach contrasts to the more radical and...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1461 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 10413 literature essays, 2634 sample college application essays, 532 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in