Burmese Days
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"Burmese Days" Summary

By George Orwell

fiction | 354 pages | Published in 2023


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A disillusioned Englishman navigates the oppressive society of colonial Burma.


In "Burmese Days," George Orwell takes us on a political and social journey to the British colonial era in Burma. Published in 1934, this novel offers a powerful portrayal of imperialism, racism, and corruption. Orwell draws from his own experiences as a police officer in Burma, providing a deeply insightful and critical view of the British ruling class in Southeast Asia during the early 20th century. Through its gripping narrative and vivid characters, "Burmese Days" explores the complexities of power and the devastating consequences of colonialism.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview: The story unfolds in the fictional town of Kyauktada, a small settlement in Burma during the 1920s. The protagonist, John Flory, is a timber merchant and an outsider among the British expatriates living in the country. Flory feels detached from the community due to his disdain for the racism and bigotry prevalent among his peers. His only solace is his Burmese mistress, Ma Hla May.

Flory's life takes a turn when a newcomer named U Po Kyin, a corrupt Burmese magistrate, orchestrates a plot against him. U Po Kyin aims to ruin Flory's reputation to further his own political ambitions. Flory becomes entangled in a web of deceit and betrayal as he confronts the sinister forces at play. The narrative unravels with a mix of romantic tensions, political intrigue, and moral dilemmas, leading to a tragic ending.

Setting: The novel is set in the town of Kyauktada in Burma (now Myanmar) during the British colonial era. Orwell vividly describes the vibrant yet oppressive atmosphere of the small town, highlighting the stark contrast between the privileged British ruling class and the oppressed Burmese population. The setting becomes a character itself, symbolizing the clash of cultures and the inherent power dynamics in colonial society.

Main Events

Main Events
1. Flory's encounters with racism among the British expatriates
2. Introduction of the character U Po Kyin and his plot against Flory
3. Flory's conflicted relationship with his Burmese mistress, Ma Hla May
4. Ellis's arrival and the emergence of a romantic triangle
5. The judicial trial of Dr. Veraswami and the subsequent fallout
6. Flory's tragic end and the final realization of the destructive effects of imperialism

Main Characters

Main CharactersDescription
John FloryA British timber merchant who despises colonial attitudes and racism. He seeks connection and meaning in his life and becomes entangled in a web of deceit.
U Po KyinA Burmese magistrate who manipulates others for personal gain. He orchestrates a plot against Flory and symbolizes the corruption inherent in the colonial system.
Elizabeth LackersteenA young British woman who arrives in Kyauktada and becomes the center of a romantic triangle between Flory and Ellis.
Ma Hla MayFlory's Burmese mistress who deepens his connection to the local culture but is a constant source of tension and societal disapproval.
Dr. VeraswamiA Burmese doctor and a loyal friend of Flory. He faces discrimination and becomes the target of U Po Kyin's machinations.

Themes and Insights

1. Imperialism and Colonialism: Orwell vividly explores the dark underbelly of imperialism and its impact on both the oppressors and the oppressed. The novel exposes the inherent injustice and cruelty of colonial rule, shedding light on the exploitation of resources, racial discrimination, and the loss of cultural identity experienced by the Burmese people.

2. Racism and Discrimination: Through the lens of various characters, Orwell delves into the pervasive racism and bigotry prevalent among the British ruling class in Burma. The novel exposes the dehumanizing effects of racism, as well as the ways it perpetuates power imbalances and impacts personal relationships.

3. Individual Conscience and Moral Choices: "Burmese Days" explores the moral dilemmas faced by individuals living within a corrupt and oppressive system. The choices made by the characters reflect their levels of integrity, reflecting the varying degrees to which they are willing to compromise their principles for personal gain or social acceptance.

4. The Destructive Effects of Power: The novel highlights how power corrupts individuals and institutions alike. From U Po Kyin's relentless pursuit of power at any cost to the British establishment's reinforcement of oppressive systems, "Burmese Days" reveals the devastating consequences that result from unchecked authority.

Reader's Takeaway

"Burmese Days" serves as a powerful indictment of colonialism, racism, and the abuse of power. Orwell's acute observations, coupled with his ability to create complex and relatable characters, make this novel a thought-provoking and impactful reading experience. The book challenges readers to question their own roles in systems of oppression and consider the ethical implications of their choices.


"Burmese Days" is a gripping and insightful novel that delves into the brutal realities of British colonialism in Burma. Orwell's masterful storytelling and his ability to expose the complexities of power dynamics and racism make this book a timeless classic. Through vivid characters and a thought-provoking narrative, "Burmese Days" encourages readers to confront the darker side of human nature and reflect on the lasting impacts of imperialism.

Burmese Days FAQ

  1. What is the plot of the book 'Burmese Days'?

    The plot follows the experiences of John Flory, a British timber merchant in Burma during the waning days of British colonial rule, and explores themes of racism, imperialism, and loyalty.

  2. Who is the author of 'Burmese Days'?

    The book 'Burmese Days' was written by George Orwell.

  3. When was 'Burmese Days' first published?

    'Burmese Days' was first published in 1934.

  4. Is 'Burmese Days' a work of fiction or non-fiction?

    'Burmese Days' is a work of fiction.

  5. What are the main themes explored in 'Burmese Days'?

    The main themes explored in 'Burmese Days' include colonialism, racism, loyalty, corruption, and the clash of cultures.

  6. Is 'Burmese Days' set in Burma or elsewhere?

    Yes, the book is set in Burma (now Myanmar).

  7. Is 'Burmese Days' part of a series?

    No, 'Burmese Days' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  8. What kind of readers would enjoy 'Burmese Days'?

    Readers who are interested in historical novels, colonial literature, and exploring themes of racism and imperialism would enjoy 'Burmese Days'.

  9. Are there any film adaptations of 'Burmese Days'?

    No, there are no known film adaptations of 'Burmese Days'.

  10. Is 'Burmese Days' considered one of George Orwell's important works?

    Yes, 'Burmese Days' is considered one of George Orwell's important works, as it explores themes that are recurring in his other works.