ORWELL AND THE ROAD TO SERVITUDE by IAN DAVID SLATER B.A. , University of British Columbia,. 1972 M.A., University of British Columbia, 1973 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of P o l i t i c a l Science We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA June, 1977 in Ian David Slater, 1977 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of Brit ish Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of P o l i t i c a l Science The University of Brit ish Columbia 2075 Wesbrook Place Vancouver, Canada V6T 1W5 Date July 29, 1977 ABSTRACT This study arises from an interest in the relationship between the creative writer and the study of p o l i t i c s . It examines George Orwell's view of those conditions which could lead to a world dominated by super-states. In such a world the majority is subservient to a minority who rule by deception and terror. This is the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four. As well as focusing upon Orwell's novels the study draws heavily on his essays, journalism and semi-documentary writings. In addition to showing how a creative writer can offer an added perspective to the academic student of p o l i t i c s , the study aims to provide a better understanding of Orwell the man as well as the writer and p o l i t i c a l commentator. In examining Orwell's developing view of those conditions which may lead to servitude I have approached his works thematically rather than in order of publication dates, though for the most part these coincide. The major themes considered are: (1) imperialism at the local level, (2) unemployment, (3) the stultifying power of p o l i t i c a l orthodoxy, and (4) the ever increasing tendency of the state and society to smother the autonomous individual. These themes are dealt with in four corresponding sections: (1) Colonial Conditions - based on Orwell's experience in Burma, (2) Indigenous Conditions - based on Orwell's exper-ience in Britain and Paris, (3) Foreign Conditions - based on Orwell's experience in Spain, and (4) Global Conditions - dealing with Orwell's vision of totalitarianism based on a l l his earlier experiences. The conclusions of the thesis are that (1) Orwell was a better social critic-than p o l i t i c a l thinker, (2) Nineteen Eighty-Four as the culmination of a l l his major themes is more a warning against a state of mind than a prophecy of a p o l i t i c a l system, and (3) contrary to widely i i i . held opinion, Orwell, though pessimistic, continued to believe in the v i a b i l i t y of democratic socialism. TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ABSTRACT i i TABLE OF CONTENTS iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS v INTRODUCTION 1 SECTION I - COLONIAL CONDITIONS Chapter I - Background 6 Chapter II - Individual Alienation, the Club and Group Pressure 37 SECTION II - INDIGENOUS CONDITIONS: KYAUKTADA TO WIGAN - FROM ANTI-IMPERIALIST TO SOCIALIST Chapter I - Background 56 Chapter II - Poverty, Revolution and the Middle Classes 71 Chapter III - Orwell's Socialism - Ends and Means and Impediments 118 SECTION III - FOREIGN CONDITIONS: ORWELL'S SPANISH EXPERIENCE Chapter I - Background 174 Chapter II - Revolution and Equality in Practice 205 Chapter III - A War of Words 231 SECTION IV - GLOBAL CONDITIONS Chapter.I - Background 275 Chapter II - P o l i t i c a l Structure and Deception in Nineteen Eighty-Four 300 Chapter III - The Attack on Individuality in Literature, Science and Beyond 330 CONCLUSION 378 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 405 V. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to express my thanks to Professor A. Cairns for his helpful suggestions in the preparation of this dissertation. Thanks are also due to Professors R. Jackson and G. Feaver and, in the f i n a l stages, to Professors P. Marantz and R. Rowan. 1 am grateful for the financial assistance provided by The Canada Council and for the help given by the staff of the Orwell Archive at University College, London, England. Finally I would like to thank my wife, Marian, whose typing and grammatical s k i l l s have augmented her invaluable support to me in my work. 1. INTRODUCTION This study examines George Orwell's view of those conditions which could lead to a world dominated by totalitarian super-states. Herein most people are subservient to a minority who rule by deception and terror. Such i s the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four. I hope to show that a creative writer can offer an added perspective for the academic student of p o l i t i c s . Because Orwell's l i f e and work are intertwined, i t is also my hope that a better understanding of Orwell the man, as well as the writer and p o l i t i c a l commentator, w i l l emerge. I have not assumed that the reader i s especially familiar with Orwell's works or is aware that his writing so often reflects his f i r s t hand experiences as policeman, bookseller, tramp, c r i t i c , journalist and soldier. In his autobiographical piece, Why I Write (1946), Orwell stated that "In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my p o l i t i c a l l o y a l t i e s . " X But Orwell (1903-1950) did not li v e in a peaceful age. His books were unapologetic attacks upon what he saw as the major injustices of his time, mainly (1) imperialism, (2) unemployment, (3) the stultifying power of p o l i t i c a l orthodoxy, and (4) the ever-increasing tendency of the state and society to smother the autonomous individual. Orwell's experience of these "injustices," whether in Burma (1922-27), England (1927-36, 1937-50), or Spain (1936-37), suggests the following divisions for this study: (1) Colonial Conditions -dealing with imperialism at the local level as experienced by Orwell in Burma where he served for five years as an imperial policeman; (2) Indigenous Conditions - dealing largely with unemployment and class differences in Britain, based on his experiences in London (and Paris) ; (3.) Foreign Conditions - dealing with the betrayal, largely through Soviet intervention, of the aspirations of sections of the Spanish people i n the Spanish C i v i l War; and (4) Global Conditions - dealing with Orwell's vision of the 2 totalitarian state, which grew out of his "nightmare" experiences in Spain and his f i r s t hand knowledge of the victims of unemployment and the local administrators of imperialism in Burma. In examining Orwell's developing view of those conditions which may lead to servitude, I have approached this study thematically rather than in order of publication dates, even though for the most part the above divisions follow his l i f e chronologically. Accordingly, I have placed the published novels and the semi-documentaries Down and Out in Paris and London, Homage to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan Pier i n the following categories: (1) Colonial conditions -Burmese Days (1934); (2) Indigenous conditions - Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), A Clergyman's Daughter (1935), Keep the A s p i d i s t r a Flying (1936), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), 3 and Coming Up For Air (1939); (3) Foreign conditions - Homage to Catalonia (1938); and (4) Global conditions - Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). In pursuing this thematic treatment the attention given to the novels reflects my primary interest in the relationship between f i c t i o n and p o l i t i c s . One cannot afford to ignore, however, the richness of Orwell's varied and voluminous journalism and other non-fiction. Consequently I have also drawn on the four volumes of Orwell's Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters (edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus) and on material from the Orwell archive at University College, London. The quality.and quantity of this archival material, most of i t copies of Orwell's journalism not yet reprinted, seriously challenges Mrs. Orwell's claim that the "journalism" which she and Mr. Ian Angus "have not printed" in the four volumes of Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters " i s purely ephemeral." It is true, as she says, that Orwell often returned to favourite topics in his journalism but as she also notes "he tended to discuss the same argument from different aspects and in different ways." I believe that this study 4 w i l l show how these "different aspects" give us a fuller understanding of his work. While researching in London I became more aware of Orwell having had two different audiences. One of these knew of George Orwell the journalist who wrote book and film reviews in the late thirties and par-ticularly in the forties for periodicals such as 'the Adelphi, Horizon, Tribune, and the Observer for which he was also a war correspondent. The second audience is made up of those who nod their head knowingly and can readily recite the litany of "Big Brother," "Newspeak" and "Doublethink," so familiar do they seem with the novelist author of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Of course there is some overlapping of audiences, particularly now that four volumes of Orwell's Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters have been published; but basically I believe the two audiences remain separate. In this study Orwell the journalist and Orwell the novelist are brought closer together. Finally, the word "servitude" is used herein simply to denote forced-labour and subservience of the type envisaged in Nineteen Eighty-Four, that i s , compulsion under fear of death to accept completely the dictates and p o l i t i c a l orthodoxy of the more privileged and ruling class. In any event this study w i l l not concern i t s e l f with a word count of Orwell's proper or improper use of the word "servitude" but rather with 4. hi s d e s c r i p t i o n of those conditions which he believed would lead to the cr u e l , p o l i t i c a l l y and s o c i a l l y enforced slavery of Nineteen Eighty-Four. This would be a state which, despite i t s guarantee of subsistence, Orwell believed was a thoroughly e v i l arrangement. Herein the e l i t e , or "Inner Party," hammer down the mass, many of the l a t t e r acquiescing i n the abuse of power because they have come to accept that might i s r i g h t . I t i s Orwell's concern with the corrupting influence of power, expressed i n h i s b e l i e f that man cannot be at once powerful and m o r a l , w h i c h smolders beneath,the surface of his e a r l i e r novels and dominates h i s l a t e r w r i t i n g s . This pervasive theme culminates i n the slave state of Nineteen Eighty-Four where power i s God and i s o f f i c i a l l y pursued, not as a means of improving man's condition, but as an end i n i t s e l f . In such a state independent thought i s under continuous attack and the autonomous i n d i v i d u a l i s doomed to e x t i n c t i o n . 5. Notes to Introduction 1. George Orwell, Why I Write, i n The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, ed. by Sonia Orwell and I. Angus (hereinafter referred to as CEJL), Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books [in association with Seeker and Warburg], 1968), I, p. 26. 2. George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books [in association with Seeker and Warburg], 1966), p. 126. 3. As A Clergyman's Daughter, Keep' the A s p i d i s t r a Flying and Coming Up For Air are more or less fictionalized versions of the inequalities recorded in Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier, most emphasis w i l l be placed upon the latter two books. 4. Sonia Orwell, co-ed., in CEJL, I, pp. 15, 17. 5. Orwell, CEJL, III, p. 275. 6. SECTION I - COLONIAL CONDITIONS Chapter I - Background. E r i c B l a i r (Orwell's r e a l name) was born i n 1903 at Motihari i n India where h i s father, Richard B l a i r , worked i n the Opium Department of the Indian C i v i l Service. He was the second of three c h i l d r e n , one s i s t e r being f i v e years older than he and another s i s t e r f i v e years younger. At one time h i s maternal grandfather had been both a teak merchant and a r i c e grower i n Burma. In 1907, when he got leave, Richard B l a i r took h i s family back to England. When he returned to India some months l a t e r h i s wife, Ida, and the c h i l d r e n stayed on at Henley-on-Thames. Towards the end of 1911, the f i r s t year of George V's reign and the year of Richard B l a i r ' s f i n a l return to England, Mrs. B l a i r , on the advice of ex-Anglo-Indians, sent her son, now eight years o l d , to St. Cyprian's, a p r i v a t e school s i t u a t e d i n Sussex. One of the a t t r a c t i o n s of the school was that i t s "Old Boys" often ended up i n Eton, Harrow, or one of the other s o c i a l l y and academically p r e s t i g i o u s p u b l i c s c h o o l s . 1 2 His "one close f r i e n d " at St. Cyprian's, C y r i l Connolly, who would l a t e r r e f e r to the shy young B l a i r as "one of those boys who seem 3 born o l d , " describes St. Cyprian's. The school was t y p i c a l of England before the l a s t war; i t was worldly and worshipped success, p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l ; though Spartan, the death-rate was low, for i t was w e l l run and based on that s t o i c i s m which characterized the English governing cl a s s and which has since been underestimated. "Character, character, character," was the message which emerged when we r a t t l e d the radiators or the fence round the playing f i e l d s and i t reverberated from the r i f l e s i n the armoury, the b u l l e t s on the miniature range, the saw i n the carpenter's shop and the hoofs of the ponies on t h e i r t r o t to the Downs. Not once or tioioe in our rough island's story> The path of duty was the way to glory. was the lesson we had to learn and there were other sacred messages from the poets of the p r i v a t e schools: K i p l i n g or Newbolt. Muscle-bound with character the alumni of St. Wulfric's [St. 7. Cyprian's] would pass on to the best public schools, cleaning up a l l houses with a doubtful tone, reporting their best friends for homosexuality and seeing them expelled, winning athletic distinctions - for the house rather than themselves, for the school rather than the house, and prizes and scholarships and shooting competitions as well - and then find their vocation in India, Burma, Nigeria and the Sudan, administering with Roman justice those natives for whom the f i n a l profligate overflow of Wulfrican character was a l l the time predestined.4 Though c r i t i c a l of the school,Connolly concludes that St. Cyprian's was "a well-run and vigorous example which did me a world of good." Orwell, with good reason, remained convinced to the end of his l i f e that the school did him l i t t l e but harm."' He would recall how he had been beaten and humiliated as an eight-year old for the "disgusting crime" of bed wetting, and how capricious cruelty was an integral part of the learning process of the "poorer" boys who, l i k e himself, belonged to the lowest of the school's "castes" and were often further humiliated over clothes and petty possessions.^ Unlike Connolly and the other well-to-do boys, Blair had come from a relatively poor Anglo-Indian middle class family. They could not afford to pay the f u l l fees and i t was arranged that young Blair would be accepted as a reduced fee student. To make up for this i t was hoped that he would work hard and bring honour to St. Cyprian's by winning a scholarship to one of the renowned public schools. The "secret" of his reduced fee status was frequently thrown at him by the headmaster who, proclaiming that "You are livi n g on my bounty," joined the headmistress in never letting young Blair forget that as "one of the poor but 'clever' boys" he was there under sufferance. The effect of a l l this on Blair was to produce in him a resentful but fearful submissiveness: Whenever one had the chance to suck up, one did suck up...I accepted the codes that I found in being. Once, towards the end of my time, I even sneaked to Brown [deputy headmaster] about a suspected case of homosexuality. I did not know very well what homosexuality was, but I knew.that i t happened and was bad, and that this was one of the contexts i n which i t was proper to sneak. Brown told me I was "a good fellow", which made me feel horribly ashamed. Before Flip [headmistress] one seemed as helpless as a snake before the snake-charmer. She had a hardly-varying vocabulary of praise and abuse, a whole series of set phrases, each of which promptly called forth the appropriate response. There was "Buck up, old chap!", which inspired one to paroxysms of energy; there was "don't be such a fool!" (or, "It's pathetic, isn't i t ? " ) , which made one feel a born idiot; and there was "It isn't very straight of you, i s i t ? " , which always brought one to the brink of tears. And yet a l l the while, at the middle of one's heart, there seemed to stand an incorruptible inner self who knew that whatever one did - whether one laughed or snivelled or went into frenzies of gratitude for small favours -one's only true feeling was hatred.' The result was that Blair seldom i f ever rebelled. His burning resentment of the pressure to conform would last a l l his adult l i f e . It would infuse his memories of his early school days with an extraordinary and intense bitterness, and would help shape his major work. Made to feel different as a way of forcing him to work especially hard i n the scholarship class, he became convinced that according to the "armies of unalterable law"...The schoolmasters with their canes, the millionaires with their Scottish castles, the athletes with their curly hair...I was damned. I had no money, I was weak, I was unpopular, I had a chronic cough, I was cowardly, I smelt. This picture, I should add, was not altogether fanciful. I was an unattractive boy. St. Cyprian's soon made me so, even i f I had not been so before. But a child's belief i n i t s own shortcomings i s not much influenced by facts. I believed, for example, that I "smelt", but this was based simply on general probability. It was notorious that disagreeable people smelt, and therefore presumably I did so too. Again, un t i l after I had l e f t school for good I con-tinued to believe that I was preternaturally ugly. It was what my schoolfellows had told me, and I had no other authority to refer to. The conviction that i t was not possible for me to be a success went deep enough to influence my actions t i l l far into adult l i f e . Until I was about thirty I always planned my l i f e on the assumption not only that any major undertaking was bound to f a i l , but that I could only expect to live a few years longer.^ Despite his hatred of the school, indeed largely through his fear of i t , Eric Blair at thirteen followed the traditional expectation of l i s Edwardian school and, pending a vacancy, won a scholarship to Eton in 1916 as England, with enthusiasm s t i l l high, entered the second year of the f i r s t world war. He took up residence i n Eton i n 1917 a f t e r vacancies became a v a i l a b l e because of the increasing enlistment of 9 Etonians i n the Army. Whatever his f e e l i n g about hi s e a r l i e r school, i t s fervent p a t r i o t i s m during the war years had rubbed o f f on B l a i r and would stay . with him. As a p u p i l of St. Cyprian's, h i s f i r s t published work i n October, 1914, "Awake! Young Men of England," was an unabashed c a l l to arms. Two years l a t e r at Eton, despite h i s remark to h i s f r i e n d that "Of course, you r e a l i z e , Connolly, that, whoever wins t h i s war, we s h a l l emerge a second-rate nation" and h i s r e j e c t i o n of "the war, the Empire, K i p l i n g , Sussex, and character,""^ he wrote another equally exuberant and p a t r i o t i c poem, "Kitchener." The poems were an e a r l y sign of a strong sense of p a t r i o t i s m , of being an Englishman no matter what. This p a t r i o t i s m would repeatedly surface through B l a i r ' s , and l a t e r Orwell's more p e s s i m i s t i c , and at times Hobbesian, view of a world wherein men's motives were s o l e l y motivated by the l u s t f o r power. The d a i l y experience of witnessing p a t r i o t i s m , the reading of honour r o l l s i n Eton's chapel and the l i k e , l e f t B l a i r and the others too young to f i g h t with a f e e l i n g of g u i l t . He would t e l l h i s f r i e n d Richard Rees that "his generation must be marked forever by the h u m i l i a t i o n of not having taken part" i n the war. This g u i l t about no n - p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the war helps, explain what Stansky c o r r e c t l y c a l l s "one of the curious aspects of Orwell's St. Cyprian's memoir, namely "that he made no s p e c i f i c references to h i s having been there during the f i r s t two years of the war. Despite the p u b l i c a t i o n of "Kitchener" B l a i r did hot d i s t i n g u i s h himself academically at Eton, beginning a slacking o f f period which he had promised himself a f t e r the enforced rigours of St. Cyprian's scholarship 10. class. But i t was here that he became a voracious reader, memorizing Shaw, Chesterton, and A.E. Housman among others. He did gain some notoriety, however, as a leader i n the "anarchic, questioning, and anti-authoritarian" atmosphere that was part of the mixed emotional climate of the immediate post-war period. Recalling this time of disillusionment, during which he had joined fellow Etonians on November 11, 1918 in demanding the resignation of the Commander of the Officer Training Corps, Orwell would later refer to himself as "an odious l i t t l e snob." Though he was probably not much different in his snobbery than other Etonians there is ample evidence that he was t e l l i n g the truth, from "running down his own father and mother" to the mean and flashy cynicism which he displayed upon being instructed, apparently without objection, in the Anglican Catechism 12 before being confirmed in the Church of England. But Blair's cynicism belonged more to the head than the heart, more to his polemical streak than to the patriotic. Later he would write, those years, during and just after the war; were a queer time^_. to be at school.... For several years i t was a l l the fashion to be a "Bolshie," as people then called i t . England was f u l l of half-baked antinomian opinions....And of course the revolutionary mood extended to those who had been too young to fight, even to public schoolboys. At that time we a l l thought of ourselves as enlightened creatures of a new age, casting off the orthodoxy that had been forced upon us by those detested "old men".13 Significantly, however, despite their "enlightened" opinions, Orwell adds that although " i t seemed natural to us to be 'agin the Government'....We retained, basically, the snobbish outlook of our class, we took i t for granted that we could continue to draw our dividends [though Orwell had none] or tumble into soft jobs." X^ The tameness of the schoolboy's revolutionary stance in Blair's case is revealed in his decision in 1922, at age eighteen, to join the Indian Imperial Police. It was an unusual choice for Etonians who, i f 11. they sought a career i n the overseas Empire, usually chose the more prestigious Indian C i v i l Service. It i s true that Blair's family could not have afforded to send him to university without scholarships, even i f he had wanted to go, but his decision to be a policeman stemmed largely from his being tired of school. He told fellow Etonian Runciman that he wanted to go out into the world. By this he meant the non-academic world, wherein some of his contemporaries of the exceptional 1916 Election, like Runciman and Connolly, would remain before distinguishing themselves i n the world of arts and letters. George Orwell, the "late developer," would not enter, or more accurately would not become known in, this world for another ten years. The impression he l e f t among his contemporaries at Eton was that of a youth who though friendly and active enough i n the school's activities was never intimate, was never "close" to anyone. His reticence about his private l i f e and thoughts placed him more towards the periphery of camaraderie than at i t s center 7 without, rather than within. 1 In 1922 Blair l e f t England as Probationary Assistant Superintendent of Police for Burma which although i t was considered the poorest province in the Indian service was the region where his family had so many roots. If he had been unable to fight for England i n the war perhaps some of the humiliation could be worked off i n the service of Empire. Although he had declared himself against Empire and Kipling he greatly admired Kipling as a writer,, particularly favouring Kim. This recalls Malcolm Muggeridge's comment that there was "a Kiplingesque side to his characters which made him romanticize the Raj and i t s mystique.""^ One should be careful not to make too much of a young man, then nineteen, who joined an organization which he had recently c r i t i c i z e d , for i t i s a common enough hypocrisy. Nevertheless one cannot ignore i t in a man whose reputation was to rest 12. so heavily on the claim that his intellectual preferences and actions meshed more closely than most or who, i n T r i l l i n g ' s phrase, was one of 18 those "who are what they write." If nothing else, the inconsistency of Blair should alert us to some tel l i n g and not always flattering inconsistencies in Orwell on some of those occasions when he moves "from 19 the abstract and general to the concrete and personal." In October, 1922, Blair, l i k e so many young administrators of Empire before and after him, began "the voyage out." In his case the destination, different from most, was Rangoon but his passage out was remarkably similar to that of Leonard Woolf who had gone out to Ceylon 20 fifteen years before. Indeed Blair's entry into Empire was l i t t l e different from the entry of a l l those who, in the words of E.M. Forster, would go forth into a world that is not entirely composed of public school men or even Anglo-Saxons, but of men who are as various as the sands of the sea; into a world of whose richness and subtlety they have no conception. They go forth with well-developed bodies, f a i r l y developed minds, and undeveloped hearts. And i t is the undeveloped heart that is largely responsible for the Englishman abroad. An undeveloped heart -not a cold one....For i t i s not that the Englishman can't feel - i t i s that he i s afraid to feel.21 22 In Burma, however, "the t a l l , thin, and gangling" Blair could not help but feel for the Burmese who, he believed, were being shamefully exploited. But set against the expression of such feeling he also f e l t a pressure to conform, a guilt-ridden solidarity which he believed stemmed from the imperialist's efforts to hide the knowledge that i t is clearly "wrong to 23 go and lord i t in a foreign country where you are not wanted." As the pressure to conform and i t s attendant mysteries.at St. Cyprian's were to find release in Such Such Were the Joys, the Burmese experience for Orwell would result i n an outpouring of feeling i n his f i r s t novel, Burmese Days. Despite enjoyable periods such as the Kipling-inspired romance of his tours of Mandalay where he underwent early training, Blair was clearly unsuited for the imperialist's l i f e in Burma. He had acquired the repu-tation of not being "'a good mixer'...'cared l i t t l e for games, and seemed to be bored with the social and Club l i f e ' " that was so much a part of the imperialist's l i f e . Blair was unhappier in the outposts of Empire than he was in Mandalay. In the f i e l d he was to come face to face with the r e a l i t i e s of police work, of implementing British rules on Burmese subjects despite the o f f i c i a l ideal of minimum interference with local 24 custom. Of this time Orwell would write, I had begun to have an indescribable loathing of the whole machinery of so-called justice.... The Burmese themselves never really recognized our jurisdiction. The thief whom we put in prison did not think of himself as a criminal justly punished, he thought of himself as the victim of a foreign conqueror. The thing that was done to him was merely a wanton meaningless cruelty. His face, behind the stout teak bars of the lock-up and the iron bars of the j a i l , said so clearly. And unfortunately I had not trained myself to be indifferent to the expression of the human face.25 Blair never did get used to what he believed was the "monstrous intrusion" of the British and though he did not speak of his sympathy for the Burmese, his sympathy no doubt made i t hard for him, unlike his colleagues, to f i t into the imperialist structure. In the face of what he f e l t was the white 26 man's code of silence in the East his sense of "shame" found release in ineffectual rebellions in his off-duty hours. From the more c i v i l i z e d society of Mandalay to the mosquito-ridden isolation of Myaungmya in the Irrawaddy Delta, to Twante in the Hanthawaddy di s t r i c t where as Sub-Divisional Police Officer his duties would include anything from murder investigation to ensuring routine surveillance of known criminals, Blair was considered "somewhat eccentric." It became known, for example, that he attended the religious services of Christian converted Karens and spent his spare time talking with Buddhist priests. 14. He was, in the words of one of his fellow officers, "obviously odd man out with other Police Officers, but longing, I think, to be able to f i t 27 i n . " His eccentricity stayed with him even when he moved out of the Delta i n 1925 to the much more agreeable climate of Insein near Rangoon where he had the opportunity of enjoying a more normal and c i v i l i z e d existence only ten miles from Rangoon. Indeed in public he seemed the typical imperialist policeman, making "his obligatory appearance" in the Club each evening, but i n private he continued to indulge his empathy with those over whom he had power. Between 1926 and 1927 Blair was stationed at the port of Moulmein with a relatively large white population, and f i n a l l y at Katha, a small town in Upper Burma. It was Katha which, despite i t s much better climate, became the model for Kyauktada, the sweltering outpost town of Burmese Days. Falling i l l in Katha he asked for leave six months early, and l e f t Burma for England, arriving home in August, 1927. When I came home on leave in 1927 I was already half determined to throw up my job, and one sniff of English air decided me. I was not going back to be a part of that e v i l despotism. But I wanted much more than merely to escape from my job. For five years I had been part of an oppressive system, and i t had l e f t me with a bad conscience. Innumerable remembered faces - faces of prisoners i n the dock, of men waiting in the condemned ce l l s , of subordinates I had bullied and aged peasants I had snubbed, of servants and coolies I had hit with my f i s t in moments of rage (nearly everyone does these things in the East, at any rate occasionally: Orientals can be very provoking) - haunted me intolerably.28 In the early years of his long pilgrimage of expiation and as part of his latent desire to become a writer Blair wrote the novel Burmese Days i n the summer of 1932 while on holiday from a teaching post at a private 29 school for boys.• The book was published in 1934 after he had begun using 30 31 the name Orwell in 1933, i t s e l f an attempt to break free of the past. Though by temperament he was in the tradition of the nineteenth century 15. liberal-radical writers like Hazlitt, Cobbett, Dickens and Gissing i n attacking what he saw as the injustices of the established social and p o l i t i c a l order, in this case the imperialist exploitation of the Burmese, Orwell at this point was in the early stages of his long search for the right form. This i s important for our purposes not for the literary interest but because i t reflects the increasing social and p o l i t i c a l tensions which had been growing i n England during Blair's absence i n the twenties. Orwell would be propelled into this world through his bitterness and disillusionment over Burma. He would later l i s t as the "four great motives for writing": 1. Sheer egoism...2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of Beauty i n the external world,...3. Historical impulse. . Desire to see things as they are,...4. P o l i t i c a l purpose...Desire to push the world i n a certain direction, to alter other people's idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.33 Orwell goes on to acknowledge how these "impulses must war against each other and how they must fluctuate from time to time" and concedes that his natural inclination was to follow the dictates of egoism and aestheticism, claiming that "in a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books." He notes that when he was younger I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, f u l l of detailed descriptions and arresting sentences, and also f u l l of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their sound. And i n fact my f i r s t complete novel, Burmese Days, which I wrote when I was thirty, but projected much earlier, is rather that kind of book.34 But Orwell did not l i v e in a peaceful age and even the "purple," or aesthetically inspired passages of Burmese Days.-were to be countered by a new impulse among writers in the crisis-marked th i r t i e s . The impulse was that of " p o l i t i c a l purpose," to attack the mounting problems of the day with a new and dynamic realism. To be silent was to collaborate with 16. those of the old reactionary order who were held responsible for many of 35 the problems. Orwell's p o l i t i c a l purpose in his f i r s t novel was born out of the desire to convince the reader that imperialism is morally wrong. This purpose intrudes to the point of dominating the Lawrencean descriptions of the Burmese countryside which "so appalled me...that I was obliged to 36 write a novel about them to get r i d of them." The presence of Orwell's aesthetic impulse, though overshadowed by his p o l i t i c a l purpose, demonstrates what has aptly been called the "unformulated quarrel between the orthodoxy of Symbolism [coming out of the aesthetic movement] and the surviving 37 elements of an empirical u t i l i t a r i a n tradition." Although the symbolist movement of the nineteen twenties, with i t s 38 "contempt for the external world," was reaching a climax in the nineteen thir t i e s , when the unknown Orwell began to write i t was being challenged 1 head on. Soon i t became apparent that the beliefs behind i t , behind the old aesthetic revolt begun by William Pater in the 1870s against the moralizing of the high Victorian age, were in serious decline. In continuing the aloofness of the "arts for art's sake approach to l i f e " exemplified i n writers such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce the symbolist movement had risen to prominence while Blair was a policeman in the jungles of Burma. Blair was no stranger to the aesthetic tendency and indeed i t would remain in his writing. "I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine art i c l e i f i t were not also an aesthetic experience." Even so, two years after Burmese Days was published Orwell's growing disdain for the aesthetics' intent to divorce themselves from the p o l i t i c a l realm was expressed by him in a review of Philip Henderson's The Novel Toddy': On the last occasion when Punch produced a genuinely funny joke, which was only six or seven years ago, i t was a picture of an intolerable youth t e l l i n g his aunt that when he came down from the 17. University he intended to "write." "And what are you going to write about, dear?" his aunt enquires. "My dear aunt," the youth replies crushingly, "one doesn't write about anything, one just writes." -Orwell adds: This was a perfectly j u s t i f i e d criticism of current literary cant. ; At that time, [the end of the twenties] even more than now, art for art's sake was going strong..."art has nothing to do with morality" was the favourite slogan....To admit that you liked or disliked a book because of i t s moral or religious tendency, even to admit noticing that i t had a tendency, was too vulgar for words.39 Out of the oscillating battle between realism and aestheticism, impulses often evident in the same writer, as in Joyce, the Thirties in England emerged as the decade of commitment to social and p o l i t i c a l causes. Changes in the form and content of literature were not due to the whims of accidental aesthetic fashion or to r a c i a l , national or geographic t r a i t s , but were determined by the economic structure of society. Literature was a form of social consciousness, a reflection of social reality, and a revolutionary agent for the transformation of that reality.4° Such commitment, noticeable particularly among the young, was not confined to writers. Despite the pessimism born out of the i n a b i l i t y of the National Government to do much about the ravages of an economic depression begun in the twenties and the feeling that there was an increasing "paralysis 41 of foreign policy," there was generally a hopeful i f angry introspection. In the Evening Standard's celebrated cartoons by David Low the mood was not apathetic but caustic. Neither the dictators, representing the c r i s i s from without, Ramsay MacDonald's vacillation reflecting the criisis of economic depression within, nor Colonel Blimp was spared a slashing satire. While force seemed to be overwhelming reason, as the League of Nations' principle of collective security floundered in the face of Mussolini's and Hitler's arrogant aggression, there was on the literary scene a movement of young poets, including Auden, Spender, Lewis and MacNeice, towards Marxist or near Marxist positions. John Strachey's widely influential book The' Coming Struggle for Power (1932) warned that in the face of Fascism, Communism was the only alternative and that to shrink from i t s birth 42 pangs was to choose "the agony of death." By 1934 the Left Rev%ew, formed in response to the central committee of the International Union of Revolutionary Writers in Moscow, issued i t s c a l l "for militant Communism 43 and against individualism and metaphysics in the arts." The growing interest in the Russian experiment gained new respectability with the publication ih 1935 of the Webbs' two volume Soviet Communism: A New . . . . 44 Cxvil%zat%on? Whatever positions writers and social commentators were taking, be they sympathetic to the Marxist stance like Auden and Spender or to the Catholic side like novelists Greene and Waugh, the significant fact was that they were taking positions. Like many of Auden's poems they were saying that society had to be changed and the a r t i s t should do as much as possible to effect that change. Accordingly Day Lewis addressed himself to the modern condition, proclaiming that Drug nor isolation w i l l cure this cancer. It i s now or never, the hour of the knife, ^ The break with the past, the major operation. While Orwell, recently back from Burma, would breathe the same a i r , 46 he was not to belong to what has been called the "Auden Group" or any 47 other group. He belonged to himself. As in Burma, he would become the 48 odd man out for although like other writers he believed in greater freedom as part of society's general improvement he also believed that freedom for a writer meant "the freedom to c r i t i c i z e and oppose," not just the opposing 49 side but your own. Sympathetic to the new mood of commitment he was not sympathetic to the power of orthodoxy, either social or p o l i t i c a l , which 19. through appeals for unity against Fascism, for example, could so easily corrupt the truth and s t i f l e the dissenting opinion. This theme of the individual versus the group being central to this study I turn now to Burmese Days for a consideration of his views on the orthodoxy of Imperialism in an outpost of Empire. Burmese Days i s set in Kyauktada, a small and " f a i r l y typical Upper Burma town," that had not changed greatly between the days of Marco Polo and 1910, and might have slept in the Middle Ages for a century more i f i t had not proved a convenient spot for a railway terminus. In 1910 the Government made i t the headquarters of a d i s t r i c t and seat of Progress -interpretable as a block of law courts...a hospital, a school and one of those huge, durable j a i l s which the English have built everywhere between Gibraltar and Hong Kong.50 The protagonist of the novel i s John Flory who, i t should be remembered, was called George Orwell in one of Orwell's early drafts of the book. Flory i s a timber merchant of about thirty-five whose youth has been sapped by the t r i a l s of livi n g i n Kyauktada. The only other Europeans in the population of four thousand-odd are the heavy-set, middle-aged Macgregor, Deputy Commissioner of Kyauktada d i s t r i c t ; Mr. Lackersteen, a middle-aged, alcoholic manager of a timber firm; his wife, whose complaints against the natives are as frequent as Macgregor's anecdotes; Westfield, the soldierly D i s t r i c t Superintendent of Police; Maxwell, the young Forest Ranger with a blood lust; and E l l i s , another timber merchant whose dialogue i s nearly, always offensive to someone and whose vehemence against the natives i s never ending. Later in the novel the Lackersteens' niece, Elizabeth, and Verral, an arrogant young cavalry officer, appear. The plot revolves about the attempt of a corrupt native magistrate, U Po Kyin, to gain favour in the eyes of his British superiors and thereby to make himself eligible for membership in the hitherto all-white Kyauktada 20. Club. To do this, however, U Po Kyin must f i r s t r id himself of an unwitting competitor, Dr. Veraswami, an Indian doctor and.good friend of John Flory. U Po Kyin's scheming is often inspired by a clumsy kind of inventiveness such as using an ex-mistress of Flory's to publicly disgrace him before the eyes of Elizabeth Lackersteen whom Flory had fallen in love with and planned to marry. Flory's plans of a reinvigorated l i f e with Elizabeth, however, are dashed, as are Dr. Veraswami's hopes of joining the Club* by U Po Kyin's intrigue. More important to the story than. U Po Kyin's attempt to gain prestige, however, are Flory's thwarted attempts to preserve a sense of right and wrong i n an outpost of empire where questions of morality are often buried beneath concerns about 52 "hanging together" in the face of a much larger, i f subservient, population. The success of U Po Kyin's scheming, Flory's love-hate feelings about Burma in general and his special hatred of imperialism and what i t does to ruler and ruled alike combine to cause the sensitive Flory to give up the battle between his conscience and the pressures of the small white community. In the f i n a l and consummate alienation from his original environment he commits suicide. The novel i s atypical of the main body of Orwell's work. Revealing his impulse for the aesthetic as well as his commitment to attacking an "oppressive system," the novel relies heavily on the "naturalistic" rather than "mechanistic" metaphor which is so often present i n his later works such as The Road to Wigan Pier and Nineteen Eighty-Four where the imagery of the machine is savagely and depressingly dominant. The book is typical, however, i n (1) i t s fundamentally moralist stance, (2) i t s treatment of individuals as embodiments of different world, views, and (3) the way in 21. which i t p a r a d o x i c a l l y concentrates on the most deviant i n d i v i d u a l of a group i n order to draw a p i c t u r e of the conformist. I n Burmese Days, the conformist i s the stereotype i m p e r i a l i s t who j u s t i f i e s e x p l o i t a t i o n of the n a t i v e s through a f i r m c o n v i c t i o n that he i s s u p e r i o r i n a l l respects. The novel i s at times c l e a r l y d i d a c t i c and Orwell's h o s t i l i t y towards i m p e r i a l i s m i s as evident as h i s f a m i l i a r i t y w i t h i t s grass roots m a n i f e s t a t i o n s . His w r i t i n g c l e a r l y shows that he "hated the i m p e r i a l i s m 53 I was s e r v i n g w i t h a b i t t e r n e s s I probably cannot make c l e a r " even though the more vehement a n t i - i m p e r i a l i s t passages are o c c a s i o n a l l y tempered by a tone of commiseration as when he w r i t e s , about the E n g l i s h of the East, a f t e r a l l , the poor d e v i l s are no worse than anybody e l s e . They lea d unenviable l i v e s ; i t i s a poor bargain/to spend t h i r t y y e a r s , i l l - p a i d , i n an a l i e n country, and then come home w i t h a wrecked l i v e r and a pine-apple backside from s i t t i n g i n cane c h a i r s , to s e t t l e down as the bore of some second-rate Club.54 L i k e Orwell who b e l i e v e s that "no man, i n h i s heart of hearts,. b e l i e v e s t h a t . i t i s r i g h t to invade a f o r e i g n country and hold the p o p u l a t i o n down by f o r c e , F l o r y b e l i e v e s that i m p e r i a l i s m i s at root an e v i l system. In h i s b a t t l e to r e t a i n h i s i n t e g r i t y w i t h i n t h i s system he f i n d s solace only i n h i s f r i e n d s h i p w i t h Veraswami. But even i n t h i s he i s p a i n f u l l y aware of the d i s t a n c e between men, even between f r i e n d s . I f i t i s the "hideous birthmark" on h i s face which i s the d a i l y symbol of h i s a l i e n a t i o n from h i s f e l l o w Europeans, h i s disagreements w i t h Veraswami are marked by a fundamental d i f f e r e n c e i n outlook. Whereas Veraswami i s an Indian who looks down on the Burmese and p a s s i v e l y accepts the B r i t i s h presence as 56 an "advance," F l o r y sees i t as an outrage a g a i n s t the Burmese. Yet when Veraswami i s nominated f o r membership i n the white man's c l u b , i n a begrudging response to a Rangoon d i r e c t i v e , F l o r y buckles under the pressure 22. of his fellow Englishmen and f a i l s to stand up for his friend. The fact that he does support Veraswami's nomination later, while i t te s t i f i e s to his integrity also reveals the see-sawing nature of the tensions within him. While he desperately wants to stand up for the principle of. equality between whites and natives he just as desperately feels the need to belong to his own kind. No matter how much he might ridicule the conventions of his fellow Englishmen he knows that within those conventions there is the comradeship and sense of security which are essential i f one is to survive in a foreign clime. But each time he approaches the Club, which is the focal point of events for the white community in Kyauktada, Flory recognizes that there i s a price to be paid for such survival and the currency i s hypocrisy. To him the most scurrilous hypocrisy of a l l i s the way i n which the whites justify their blatant exploitation of the natives by claiming that they are so backward that the white man has a moral obligation to "help them develop their resources, as part of a larger obligation to bring progress to ungodly peoples. When Elizabeth Lackersteen, a young, strongly willed woman of the lower middle class, arrives in Kyauktada, Flory immediately sees hope of salvaging his self respect in a lasting friendship, i f not romance, based on the kind of mutual honest respect which he cannot find in the entrenched hypocrisy of the Club. But Elizabeth i s a natural survivor, as responsive to fashion as a reed to wind, and she opts for the majority view of most things, including the view of the natives as inferiors. She behaves accordingly, relishing the prospect of being the upper class for a change. She shuts Flory out of her l i f e upon the discovery, engineered by U P o Kyin, that he has had a native mistress, Ma Hla May. Elizabeth then sets her sights on Verral, the self-opinionated cavalry officer. Verral's arrogance 23. attracts Elizabeth, for not only does i t exhibit a brash confidence absent in Flory but i t reflects Verral's firm commitment to the English class system, however modified i t may be in Burma. After an uninterested Verral leaves, Elizabeth f i n a l l y accepts the proposal of Mr. Macgregor, the Deputy Commissioner. She ends up like her auntie, Mrs. Lackersteen, a domineering memsahib who orders the natives about, completely untroubled by questions of equality. Mr. Lackersteen, unlike Verral, i s quite willing to treat the natives as equals and does so when his wife is not around. But lik e his wife he is not troubled by the inequality of imperialism and when i t comes to keeping the natives in their place he finds i t as easy to vote against Veraswami as to fraternize with the natives. If Flory i s the moral man and Lackersteen the amoral man, Macgregor, the Deputy Commissioner, is the well meaning imperialist. Unlike the Lackersteens and other members of the white man's Club, he really believes in the "white man's burden." The picture drawn of him recalls Orwell's essay on Kipling: The imperialism of the 'eighties and 'nineties was sentimental, ignorant and dangerous, but i t was not entirely despicable. The picture then called up by the word "empire" was a picture of over-worked o f f i c i a l s and frontier skirmishes, not of Lord Beaverbrook and Australian butter. It was s t i l l possible to be an imperialist and a gentleman, and of Kipling's .personal decency there can be no doubt.^7 . But though he tries to be f a i r , unlike E l l i s whose outbursts of rapacious capitalism and racism are as straightforward as they are reprehensible, Macgregor is ultimately as exploitative as a l l the rest, including Flory who can no longer withstand either his guilt or his subsequent isolation. The story of Burmese Days unfolds amid the oppressive tropical climate of the Burmese jungle. Indeed the jungle becomes the central metaphor for the seemingly uncontrollable forces which encroach upon one's 24. sense of individuality. Whether or not one agrees with Orwell's choice 58 of imagery, the constancy of the naturalistic metaphor is an early demonstration of the care with which Orwell selected the imagery which he thought would most accurately reflect his conception of a p o l i t i c a l regime. It was this concern which would spearhead his later attacks upon pretentious writing, particularly p o l i t i c a l writing, and establish him as one of the English language's best c r i t i c s . From the very beginning of the book Orwell uses naturalistic metaphors and imagery to create the atmosphere of evolutionary growth -of struggle. By the roadside, just before you got to the j a i l , the fragments of a stone pagoda were litte r e d , cracked and overthrown by the strong roots of a peepul tree. The angry carved faces of demons looked up from the grass where they had fallen. Nearby another peepul tree • had twined i t s e l f round a palm, uprooting i t and bending i t backwards in a wrestle that had lasted a decade.59 And we are constantly made aware that climate and vegetation play an important part not only i n ageing a man more rapidly than in England but in forming his p o l i t i c a l beliefs and behaviour. As Flory walked down to the Club the heat throbbed down on one's head with a steady, rhythmic thumping like blows from an enormous bolster..... In the borders beside the path swaths of English flowers - phlox and larkspur, hollyhock and petunia - not yet slain by the sun, rioted in vast size and richness. The petunias were huge, like trees almost. There was no lawn, but . instead a shrubbery of native trees and bushes - gold mohur trees like vast umbrellas of blood-red bloom, frangipanis with creamy, stalkless flowers, purple bougainvillea, scarlet hibiscus and the pink Chinese rose, bilious-green crotons, feathery fronds of tamarind. The clash of colours hurt one's eyes in the glare.60 Amid this luxuriant growth, this undisciplined r i o t of colour, this disorder, which reflects nature's over-indulgence, there occurs a concomitant sapping of a man's w i l l . There i s a lack of discipline evident in Flory's increasing degeneracy, his gin-swilling before breakfast, his refusal to shave and the gradual erosion of his integrity, measured in part by his growing reluctance to speak "seriously on any subject w h a t e v e r . H i s behaviour constitutes a personal revolt against order, an order so often mirrored in the a r t i f i c i a l l y created and highly ordered polity about him. It is a revolt which can find no other way of expressing i t s e l f beneath the omnipresent stare of the fellow imperialists than by a studied slovenliness. On the one hand this vulgarly asserts the remnants of his individualism and on the other i t asserts his desire to be at one with the immediate environment of an unrestrained jungle. The naturalistic image of the jungle continues to be dominant throughout the story, even in the f i n a l moments before Flory's suicide when he desperately asks Elizabeth, "Do try and understand. Haven't I told you something of the l i f e we l i v e here? The sort of horrible death-6 2 i n - l i f e ! The deeay, the loneliness, the self-pity?" (My i t a l i c s . ) Only rarely does Orwell use a mechanistic metaphor and refer to imperialism as represented by the British Empire as "the machine" or as 63 a "device." If his imagery for imperialism momentarily changes, however, his conviction that imperialism is moved by greed does not. More specifically, Orwell saw imperialism as largely a parasitic venture of the upper classes undertaken to create jobs for their sons as well as to maintain and increase their power at home. Accordingly, Flory describes the imperialists as constituting "a kind of up-to-date, hygienic, self-^ satisfied louse." And, presaging his sustained and spirited attack upon one of the most pervasive metaphors of his time, Orwell decried what he believed to be the guise of the "slimy white man's burden humbug." (My i t a l i c s . ) This, he says, perpetuates "the l i e that we're here to u p l i f t our poor black brothers instead of to rob them" and "corrupts us In ways 26. y o u c a n ' t i m a g i n e . " T h i s , he a r g u e s , l e a d s t o " a n e v e r l a s t i n g s e n s e o f b e i n g a s n e a k and a l i a r t h a t t o r m e n t s us and d r i v e s us t o j u s t i f y o u r s e l v e s n i g h t a n d d a y ; " He c o n c l u d e s t h a t t h e i m p e r i a l i s t s ' a w a r e n e s s o f t h i s c o n d i t i o n i s " a t t h e b o t t o m o f h a l f o u r b e a s t l i n e s s t o t h e n a t i v e s . O r w e l l g i v e s us e x a m p l e s o f how t h e m o r a l h y p o c r i s y o f i m p e r i a l i s m c o r r u p t s F l o r y , h a v i n g h i m s i g n t h e n o t i c e a t t h e C l u b p o s t p o n i n g d i s c u s s i o n o f e l e c t i n g h i s f r i e n d , V e r a s w a m i , t o t h e C l u b . F l o r y , t h o u g h ashamed o f t h e l a t t e r a c t i o n , g i v e s i n t o t h e " k i n d o f s p u r i o u s good f e l l o w s h i p b e t w e e n t h e E n g l i s h and t h i s c o u n t r y . . . h a n g i n g t o g e t h e r , we c a l l i t . I t ' s a p o l i t i c a l n e c e s s i t y . " And l a t e r when V e r a s w a m i s a y s t o F l o r y , " I f t r u l y y o u d i s a p -p r o v e o f t h e B r i t i s h E m p i r e , y o u w o u l d n o t be t a l k i n g o f i t p r i v a t e l y h e r e . Y o u w o u l d be p r o c l a i m i n g f r o m t h e h o u s e t o p s , " F l o r y a n s w e r s , " S o r r y , d o c t o r . . . I h a v e n ' t t h e g u t s . I ' c o u n s e l i g n o b l e e a s e ' . . . . I t ' s s a f e r . Y o u ' v e g o t t o be a p u k k a s a h i b o r d i e , i n t h i s c o u n t r y . I n f i f t e e n y e a r s I ' v e n e v e r t a l k e d h o n e s t l y t o a n y o n e e x c e p t y o u . My t a l k s h e r e a r e a 66 s a f e t y - v a l v e , a l i t t l e B l a c k Mass o n t h e s l y . " F l o r y ' s t a l k s w i t h V e r a s w a m i a r e n o t s a f e t y - v a l v e e n o u g h , h o w e v e r . And i t i s F l o r y ' s a c u t e a w a r e n e s s o f h i s own g u i l t a n d t h e h y p o c r i s y o f t h e w h i t e community i n g e n e r a l a s e x p r e s s e d i n t h e i r c h o i c e o f s e l f - j u s t i f y i n g i m a g e r y w h i c h l e a d h i m t o s p e n d as much t i m e among t h e n a t i v e s as h e c a n and t o c o n f e s s t o E l i z a b e t h d u r i n g t h e i r v i s i t t o t h e b a z a a r t h a t " I t r y - j u s t 67 s o m e t i m e s , when I h a v e t h e p l u c k - not t o be a p u k k a s a h i b . " Remembering t h a t F l o r y was c a l l e d O r w e l l i n a n e a r l y d r a f t o f Burmese Days i t i s i n t e r e s t i n g t o n o t e a p a r t i c u l a r l y r e v e a l i n g p a s s a g e i n S t a n s k y a n d A b r a h a m s , The Unknown Orwell. Of O r w e l l ' s s e r v i c e i n Burma t h e y w r i t e , B u t i f i n p u b l i c he c o n f o r m e d t o what was e x p e c t e d o f h i m a t Headquarters and the Club, in private he could indulge his eccen-t r i c i t i e s . Beadon, who came out tb see him one day when he was livin g at Insein, found his house a shambles, with "goats, geese, ducks and a l l sorts of things floating about downstairs." Beadon, who prided himself on his own neat house, was "rather shattered," and suggested to Blair that perhaps he might bear down on his houseman. The suggestion was shrugged aside: he quite liked the'house as i t was. Beadon changed the subject - was i t true, as he had heard, that Blair was attending services in the native churches? Yes, i t was true; i t had nothing to do with "religion," of course, but he enjoyed conversing with the priests in "very high-flown Burmese" (Beadon's phrase); and he added i n his sardonic (or leg pulling) way that he found their conversation more interesting than that he was forced to l i s t e n to at the Club. Whereupon he took Beadon off for a farewell drink - at the Club! - before he set off for Rangoon.^ (My i t a l i c s . ) In his quest to expiate his guilt Flory attacks not only the traditional, often missionary-inspired, idioms and metaphors which had often been used to jus t i f y imperialism as a moral responsibility of the white man. He also ridicules those images which were almost entirely derived from an amoral and non-religious belief i n the white man's a l l -round superiority in the natural order of things. Examples of this belief abound throughout the novel as when Mrs.. Lackersteen i r r i t a b l y proclaims, Really I think the laziness of these servants i s getting too shocking. We seem to have no authority over the natives nowadays, with a l l these dreadful Reforms, and the insolence they learn from the newspapers. In some ways they are getting almost as bad as the lower classes at home,69 or when E l l i s vehemently asserts, "The only possible policy is to treat 'em like the dirt they are....We are the masters." Elizabeth displays her sense of superiority when Flory points out to her that s t a t i s t i c a l l y i t is really more natural to have a brown skin than a white one. She . concludes, "You do have some funny i d e a s . J u s t as Flory dismisses the idea that European skulls are supposedly more sensitive to sunstroke than those of the natives Orwell would later write: But why should the British in India have built up this superstition 28. about sunstroke? Because an endless emphasis on the differences between the "natives" and yourself is one of the necessary props of imperialism. You can only rule over a subject race, especially when you are in a small minority, i f you honestly believe yourself to be racially superior, and i t helps towards this i f you can believe that the subject race i s biologically different. There were quite a .number of ways in which Europeans in India used to believe, without any evidence, that Asiatic bodies differed from their own. Even quite considerable anatomical differences were supposed to exist. But this nonsense about Europeans being subject to sunstroke, and Orientals not, was the most cherished superstition of a l l . The thin skull was the mark of racial superiority, and the pith topi was a sort of emblem of imperialism.71 In any event i t is important to note that Orwell was one of the f i r s t to warn p o l i t i c a l writers at large that "once you. have the habit" (my i t a l i c s ) of using phrases invented by someone else, such as "white man's burden," without examining the appropriateness of the image then " i f thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought" because "a bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better." And when you think of something abstract [such as imperialism] you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent i t , the existing dialect w i l l come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning.72 At this point i t should be noted that Orwell's tendency to think of imperialism as a "self satisfied louse," as being more or less synonymous with exploitation, and of i t always turning a profit rather than (as others have claimed) being an economic burden on the home country, involves sweeping assumptions, to say the least, and invites a scrutiny which is beyond the scope and intentions of this study. In constantly reflecting the belief that economic imperialism was 73 synonymous with imperialism Orwell no doubt succumbed in part at least to that "habit" which he warned us about, one which "makes us think the 7 4 likeness obvious." The likeness in this instance between economic imperialism and imperialism tended to exclude the possibility of sincerity amongst those who espoused what was claimed to be the moral obligation of the white man's burden.^ Orwell, knew better, as his essay on Kipling shows, but beyond Macgregor he chose not to suggest that any of those in Kyauktada may have been moved by the sincere belief that they were spreading c i v i l i z a t i o n . Furthermore, his parents' finances, i f nothing else, should have provided him with ample evidence that not a l l imperialists were out for rapacious gain, and alerted him to the fact that even with servants, "British o f f i c i a l s i n Burma," as John Atkins points out, were often "as much victims of circumstances in their way as the Burmese themselves. These deficiencies are best realized when one compares Burmese Days, Orwell's f i r s t novel, with E.M. Forster's last novel, A Passage to India."^^ Forster's character, Dr. Aziz, like Flory recognizes the tendency among the British to become the imperialist stereotype. "They [the British] a l l become exactly the same, not worse, not better. I give any Englishman two 78 years....And I give, any Englishwoman six months." There is also contempt for the natives - "Why, the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let 79 him die," - and talk of bribes taken by the English. But along with this 80 and the defensive cliches of "the rest of the herd" (club members) there is a recognition by Forster of honourable intent. The schoolteacher, Field-ing, has come to India because he believes passionately in education, not in profit. "He did not mind whom he taught: public schoolboys, mental defectives, and policemen, had a l l come his way, and he had no objection to adding Indians." Though not religious, like the v i s i t i n g Mrs. Moore who believes that "God has put us on earth to love our neighbours and to show i t , and He is omnipresent, even in India," Fielding unpiously believes in 30. the duty to c i v i l i z e those less fortunate than himself. "He had no racial feeling" and though "neither a missionary nor a student, he was happiest in the give and take of private conversation. The world, he believed, is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by 81 the help of good w i l l plus culture and intelligence." The importance, however, of reporting Flory's perhaps rather simplistic assumptions about the nature of imperialism in this study i s that they reflect both the frustrations and confusion of a sensitive individual when confronted by the orthodoxy of the pukka sahib's code i n an outpost of empire. And while Orwell ignores the possibility of the benevolent imperialist in his novel, the fact that nowadays such phrases and images as "the white man's burden" can no longer be used to camouflage the profit motive, however small or large a part i t played, is due very much to those like Orwell who were prepared to attack what they saw as the habitual invocation of the metaphor. His attack upon the language used to rationalize the exploitation of a foreign country also showed that Orwell was already well aware of the dangers of li v i n g with the l i e s of unconscious propaganda, in this case, the slogans of imperialism. Flory warns of a 82 time to come when " a l l the gramophones, would be playing the same tune." And i t was against this possibility that Flory fought and lost. 31. Notes to Section I - Chapter I 1. Peter Stansky and William Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972), pp. 26, 24-28. In my thesis much of the biographical information about Orwell's time at school and i n Burma is taken from Stansky and Abrahams' book because, as the t i t l e suggests, i t i s the only work so far which has shed any real light on this early period of Eric Blair's l i f e . 2. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, p. 28. 3. Laurence Brander, George Orwell (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1954), p. 4. 4. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, pp. 31-32. 5. Ibid., p. 35. 6. Orwell, CEJL, IV, pp. 388-89. Orwell was to describe his family as "lower-upper-middle." See George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (hereinafter referred to as Wigan P i e r ) , (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books [in association with Seeker and Warburg], 1962), p. 106. For a discussion surrounding this see Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, pp. 3-12. 7. Orwell, CEJL, IV, pp. 392, 385, 401-02. 8. Ibid. , IV, pp. 412-13. 9. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, p. 84. 10. Ibid., p. 76. 1.1. Ibid., pp. 87-88, 71. 12. Ibid., pp. 120-21, 101, 85, 105. 13. Orwell, Wigan Pier, pp. 120^21. Stansky and Abrahams properly note that "a peculiarity of Orwell's analysis of the mood of early postwar England is that i t is based almost entirely upon Blair's experience of i t at Eton - that was a l l that he knew at first-hand, for from 1922 to 1927 he was out of England..." (The Unknown Orwell, v. 124). 14. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 121. 15. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, pp. 151, 112, 148. Orwell, as we shall see, had his f i r s t professional piece published in 1928 but i t was not u n t i l the thirties that his writing, especially the novels, was published with any regularity. 16. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, p. 96. 17. Brander, George Orwell, p. 28. 32. 18. Raymond Williams, ed., George Orwell: A C o l l e c t i o n of C r i t i c a l Essays (hereinafter referred to as C r i t i c a l Essays), (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1974), p. 65. 19. George Woodcock, The Crystal S p i r i t (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 51. Woodcock talks here of Orwell's "inconsis-tency...on a given subject over a relatively brief period." I hope to show that the inconsistency, sometimes stretched over longer periods of time. 20. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, v. 156. The Voyage Out i s the t i t l e of Virginia Woolf's novel written i n 1915 and based on a voyage which some of her friends took to Jamaica in 1907. Leonard ..Woolf describes imperialist days (as a magistrate) in the f i r s t volume of his autobiography. 21. Christopher G i l l i e , Movements in English L i t e r a t u r e : 1900-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 112. 22. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, p. 161. 23. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 126. 24. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, pp. 177-203, 165, 172-73. There i s an extensive literature on this problem and an exhaustive literature on a l l the related subjects of Imperialist administration. I w i l l return to this problem of B r i t i s h justice versus Burmese tradition later i n the study but for those interested i n reading further on the topic I recommend the following. On the subject of misunderstandings which can arise and have .arisen because of Western codes of justice being imposed on non-Western cultures, three articles are particularly interesting: (1) James C. Scott, "The Analysis of Corruption i n Developing Nations," Comparative Studies in Society and History, II (June, 1969); (2) James C. Scott, "Patron-Client P o l i t i c s and P o l i t i c a l Change in Southeast Asia," American P o l i t i c a l Science Review (March, 1972); (3) J.S. Nye, "Corruption and P o l i t i c a l Development: A Cost-Benefit Analysis," American P o l i t i c a l Science Review, LXI (June, 1967). Of more general interest are (1) Philip Woodruff, The Men Who Ruled India: The Guardians (London: Jonathan. .Cape, 1963), II; (2) Ralph Braibanti, ed., Asian Bureaucratic Systems Emergent from the B r i t i s h Imperial Tradition (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1966), p. 23. Of particular interest i n this book i s Hugh Tinker's chapter on "Structure of the British Imperial Heritage" and James F. Guyot's "Bureaucratic Transformation i n Burma"; (3) H. Alan C. Cairns, The Clash of Cultures (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965); (4) Richard Koebner .and Helmut D. Schmidt, The Story and S i g n i f i c a n c e of a P o l i t i c a l Word 1840-1960 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1964); (5) Gunnar Myrdal, "The Soft State," i n Asian Drama, Vol. II (New York: Random House, 1968); (6) Cl i f f o r d Geertz, The Social History of an Indonesian Town (Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Press, 1965); (7) 0. Mannoni, Prospero and Caliban, trans, by P. Powesland (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1956); (8) J.A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (3rd revised ed., 5th impression, London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1954); (9) J.S. Furnivall, Colonial Policy and Practice (New York: New York University Press, 1956); (10) R.V. Kubicek, The Administration of Imperialism: Joseph Chamberlain at the Colonial Office (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1969). . 25. Orwell, Wigan Pier, pp. 128-29. 26. Ibid., pp. 126, 128-29. 27. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, pp. 176,.183. 28. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 129. 29. See Orwell, CEJL, I, p. 597. Before writing Burmese Days (Harmonds-worth, England: Penguin Books [in association with Seeker and Warburg], 1967) Orwell had written the semi-documentary Down and Out in Paris and London (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books [in association with Seeker and Warburg]) which was originally published in January, 1933. This w i l l be dealt with in Section II - Indigenous Conditions. 30. Raymond Williams, Orwell (London: William Collins and Co. Ltd., 1971), p. 11. 31. T.R. Fyvel, quoted in Keith A l l d r i t t , The -Making of George Orwell (London: Edward Arnold, 1969), p. 55. 32. Woodcock, The Crystal Spirit, p. 51. 33. Orwell, CEJL, I, pp. 25-26. 34. Ibid., pp. 26, 25. 35. See Victor Brombert quoted in Jeffrey Meyers, A Reader's Guide to George Orwell (London: Thames and Hudson, 1975), pp. 64-65. 36. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 97. 37. A l l d r i t t , The Making of George Orwell, p. 17. 38. Ibid. , pp. 8-9. 39. Orwell, CEJL, I, pp. 28, 288-89. 40. Stuart Samuels, "English Intellectuals and Poli t i c s in the 1930s" (hereinafter referred to as "English Intellectuals"), in On Intellectuals, edited by Philip Rieff (New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday and Company Inc., 1970), p. 247. The dichotomies between aesthetic impulse and p o l i t i c a l purpose, symbolism and utilitarianism, and aestheticism and realism are not exactly the same of course. However, they do reflect the common tension between the belief that involvement in social and p o l i t i c a l affairs was vulgar and the belief that the proper function of the artist was to celebrate beauty and that "realism" was synonymous with the seamier side of l i f e . 41. Charles L.M. Mowat, B r i t a i n Between the Wars: . 1918-1940 (hereinafter 34. referred to as B r i t a i n : 1918-1940), (London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1966), p. 419. 42. Julian Symons, The Thirties (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1973), p. 45. -43. Samuels, English I n t e l l e c t u a l s , p. 238. 44. Mowat, Britain: 1918^-1940, p. 526. Significantly, as a measure of the growing infatuation of the Left with Russia, the.second edition t i t l e of the Webbs' book in 1937 did not have the question mark in i t . 45. Symons, The Thirties, pp. 17, 11. 46. This is usually taken to include literary figures such as Christopher Isherwood, MacNeice, C. Day Lewis and Stephen Spender. Orwell referred to them as "Auden, Spender and Co." (CEJL, I, p. 561). For an objection to the term "Auden Group" in literary circles see Julian Symons, The Thirties,-p. 16. 47. See Mowat, B r i t a i n : 1918-1940, p. 531, who writes of Orwell's Homage to Catalonia (written in 1937-1938) that ".it belonged only to himself [Orwell] and not to any school." 48. See Julian Symons, The Thirties, p. 31 for how "freedom" was seen as "the absolute good" at the beginning of the t h i r t i e s . 49. Orwell, CEJL, IV, p. 81. 50. George Orwell, Burmese Days (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books [in association with Seeker and Warburg], 1967), p. 17. 51. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, p. 195. 52. Orwell, Burmese Days, p. 37. 53. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 126. 54. Orwell, Burmese Days, p. 65. 55. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 126. 56. Orwell, Burmese Days, pp. 16, 40. 57. Richard Cook, "Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell," Modern F i c t i o n Studies, VII (Summer, 1961), p. 128. 58. It should be noted, however, that at times Orwell's use of metaphor in drawing analogies, say between the jungle and imperialism, is so persistent i n Burmese Days that what Landau calls the "as i f " proposition does indeed seem to have become the ' " i t i s ' statement of supposed fact." See Martin Landau, P o l i t i c a l Theory and Political. Science: Studies in the. Methodology of P o l i t i c a l Inquiry (hereinafter referred to as P o l i t i c a l Theory), (New York: Macmillan Company, 1972), p. 228. In short, such metaphors often appear to be actual explanations of the individual imperialist's behaviour rather than merely models for conceptualizing such behaviour.. 59. Orwell, Burmese Days, p. 119. 60. Ibid. , P- 66. 61. Ibid. 62. Ibid. , P- 262. 63. Ibid., pp. 37, 38. 64. Ibid., pp. 37, 40. 65. Ibid., P- 37. 66. Ibid., pp. 37, 41. 67.- Ibid., P- 118. 68. Stansky and Abrahams, The. Unknown Orwell, pp. 193-94. 69. Orwell, Burmese Days, pp. 27-28. 70. Ibid., p. 113. 71. Orwell, CEJL, III, p. 301. For the natives' acceptance of such myths as those expressed by Elizabeth see E.M. Forster, A Passage to India (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1936), p. 137, where Dr. Aziz, the native doctor, shouts to the two white women, "'Put on your topis at once, the early sun i s highly dangerous for heads....Not for my thick head,' he laughed." 72. George Orwell, Inside the Whale and Other Essays (hereinafter referred to as Other Essays), (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books [in association with Seeker and Warburg], 1962), pp. 150, 154, 156. 73. Although i t seems that traditionally we have tended to associate the word "imperialism" with economic exploitation of non-whites, Richard Koebner and Helmut Dan Schmidt i n their book, Imperialism: The Story and S i g n i f i c a n c e of a P o l i t i c a l Word: 1840-1960 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1964), pp. 248-49, note how i t was ironically the Boer War, a clash between whites, which "made the word [imperialism] an international slogan in Europe" giving "rise to the world-wide misinterpretation of the Boer War as a capitalist plot," an interpretation which "became the basis of a l l subsequent theories of imperialism." 74. Landau, P o l i t i c a l Theory, p. 81. 75. H. Alan C. Cairns, in The Clash of Cultures (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965), p. 198, points out how some colonizers i n fact believed that trade (though not necessarily exploitative trade) was very much a necessary tool of Christian progress, and how to Livingstone, for example, trade seemed to be "an ethical rather than an economic concept." 76. John Atkins, George Orwell (London: John Calder, 1954), p. 76. 77. This excludes Maurice which i s usually thought of as essentially an autobiography. Lawrence Brander in his study of Orwell, p. 78 (before the days of Woodruff) declares that "Astonishingly l i t t l e English writing of any excellence has come out of India," and points out.that apart from Kim and A Passage to India, the next best,, though "not nearly so good," is Burmese Days. 78. Forster, A Passage to India, p. 13. 79. Ibid.., p. 28. 80. Ibid., p. 62. See also pp. 26-27. 81. Ibid., pp. 61-62, 51, 62. 82. Orwell, Bernese Days, p. 40. 37. Chapter II - Individual Alienation, the Club and Group Pressure. Flory's alienation from the imperialist system stems in part from an i n a b i l i t y to l i v e outside the comforting, security-assuring customs of a more industrialized society (i.e., Britain). At home in a pub one could seek private consolation among friends for the improprieties of one's public behaviour. But for Flory, confronted by the nagging insecurity and tension brought about by never really knowing whether one is doing the right thing in a foreign country, there is no such consolation. At one point he wants to help his friend Veraswami who i s under insidious attack from U Po Kyin but he does not offer assistance "for he knew the uselessness of interfering in Oriental quarrels. No European ever gets to the bottom of these quarrels; there i s always something impervious to the European mind, a conspiracy behind a conspiracy, a plot within the p l o t . " 1 And even i f one does act, to Orwell there i s no easy way of discussing the right or wrong of the situation because "one of the Ten Precepts of the pukka sahib" is "to keep out of 'native' quarrels." The observance of this precept, the lack of opportunity to speak one's mind, even to simply "admit that we're thieves and go on thieving without any 2 humbug," not only stems from but reinforces what Orwell calls the "pukka sahib's" code. The code, designed to ensure solidarity among the whites, i s particularly strong i n a small outpost of empire where the white minority does not have the benefit of a large garrison. This was particularly true at the time of Orwell's stay i n Burma in remote locations where violence prevailed and during a time when the British in the "backward tracts" were making a desperate stand against any rumours of aspirations for freedom which might have come from Rangoon through educated Indian missionaries and British reformers.3 38. For a l l the moral outrage occasioned by his seeing a subject people consciously exploited by his own race, Flory i s no stranger to the quest f o r s o l i d a r i t y . Well, before the native attack upon the Club, F l o r y , i n counselling "ignoble ease," expresses to his f r i e n d Veraswami h i s fear of being alienated from his fellows. I t i s a fear which Orwell believes permeates a l l the white men's l i v e s and r e s u l t s i n t h e i r submission to f i v e chief beatitudes of the pukka sahib's code even i f , l i k e F l o r y , they do not believe i n i t . The f i v e chief beatitudes are: Keeping up our prestige, The firm hand (without the velvet glove), We white-men must hang together, Give them an inch and t h e y ' l l take an e l l , and Esprit.de Corps.^ Such a code creates a sense of group safety, and has the e f f e c t of b u f f e r i n g the " c u l t u r a l shock" f o r newcomers from rEngland l i k e E l i z a b e t h Lackersteen. The observance of such a code i n the Club a-lso o f f e r s a refuge f o r those i m p e r i a l i s t s l i k e Flory who f e e l alienated from the world at large. whatever i t s f a i l i n g s , including i t s hypocrisy, the Club i s at lea s t a place to meet, to read newspapers from home, to reminisce. Here even Flory, who i s p a i n f u l l y conscious of h i s f a c i a l birthmark - the stark p h y s i c a l symbol of h i s a l i e n a t i o n - can seek r e l i e f i n the gin and tonic r i t u a l s of apparent normalcy. The danger, however, i s that l i k e the occasional drink that turns to habit, what was once a temporary refuge can become a way of l i f e . In his temporary e f f o r t to avoid censure from the rest of the white community the once occasional v i s i t o r becomes a permanent captive of the Club's hypocrisy. It i s a s t i f l i n g , s t u l t i f y i n g world i n which to l i v e . I t i s a world i n which every word and every thought i s censored....You are free to be a drunkard, an i d l e r , a coward, a backbiter, a f o r n i c a t o r , but you are not free to think for yourself. Your opinion on every subject of any conceivable importance i s dictated for you by the pukka sahibs' 39. code. In the end the secrecy of your revolt poisons you lik e a secret disease. Your whole l i f e i s a l i f e of l i e s . Year after year you s i t in Kipling-haunted l i t t l e Clubs, whiskey to right of you, Pink'un to l e f t of you, listening and eagerly agreeing while Colonel Bodger develops his theory that these bloody Nationalists should be boiled in o i l . You hear your Oriental friends called "greasy l i t t l e babus," and you admit, dutifully, that they are greasy l i t t l e babus. You see louts fresh from school kicking grey-haired servants. The time comes when you burn with hatred of your own countrymen, when you long for a native rising to drown their Empire in blood. And in this there is nothing honourable, hardly even any sincerity. For, au fond, what do you care i f the Indian Empire is a despotism, i f Indians are bullied and exploited? You only care because the right of speech is denied you. You are a creature of the despotism, a pukka sahib, tied tighter than a monk or a savage by an unbreakable system of tabus. The result, particularly in a small community like Kyauktada, is that the whites, through fear of being ostracized, become the stereotypes of imperialism, daily reinforcing and so perpetuating prejudices. The alternative to this l i f e where acceptance is sometimes bought at the price of self respect is to opt out, which Flory f i n a l l y does by committing suicide after having failed to console himself in a "secret" world of 6 books and unuttered thoughts. But Flory i s the exception and the stereotypes survive. They go on moving like puppets in time to an unchanging tune for what Orwell shows us is that the strength of imperialism, at least at the local level, l i e s not in a readiness to change but in an unchanging allegiance to the pukka sahib's code. And because of every man's need to be accepted by his fellows, because, in Flory's words, " i t would be better to be the thickest-skulled pukka sahib who ever hiccuped over 'Forty years on,' than to live silent, alone, consoling oneself i n secret, sterile worlds," Orwell feared that the world wherein "every word and thought is censored" would grow unimpeded and through force culminate in the massive, all-embracing spectre of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Here, through the proliferation of the "gramaphone 40. mind,"'.of Club-like Inner Party existence, group pressure would be continually mobilized to force the individual into adhering to the o f f i c i a l line. Among his descriptions of the stereotypes in Burmese Bays Orwell's portrait of Mrs. Lackersteen has special significance i n that i t draws attention to how pressure i s aggressively exerted not only by the men. It illustrates U Po Kyin's recognition of the "power of European women" in the imperialist structure. Mrs. Lackersteen's authority and influence over much of Mr. Lackersteen's action is exerted through her "burra memsahib" expectations. These almost solely condition her husband's behaviour, so much so that his dialogue always seems a slightly drunken echo of norms which his wife shares with the other members of the Club. His wife's expectations in turn are based upon the p r o h i b i t i o n s and expectations which she has inherited from others like "our burra sahib at Mandalay" who warned of the natives' "insults and ingratitude," proclaiming "that in the end we shall simply leave India....We shall just go. When the natives come to us begging us to stay, we shall say, 'No, you have had your chance, you wouldn't take i t . Very well, we shall 8 leave you to govern yourselves." 1 The Interesting point is that Mrs. Lackersteen did not nag her husband with such prejudices. She simply made i t known that she held certain unalterable beliefs about the natives and expected her husband to support these views at a l l times. In this context Mr. Lackersteen is representative of a l l those imperialists who really did not care about po l i t i c s at a l l but who perpetuated some of imperialism's evils for no other reason than they were afraid of their wives. Though he cavorts with natives as easily as with whites and is as unprejudiced as Flory, 4 1 . Lackersteen, in front of his wife, enthusiastically announces to the Club members that they can "count on me to blackball the lot of 'em [the natives]." "He [Lackersteen] knew that his wife would guess that he had been drinking, and he f e l t that a display of sound sentiment would excuse him." Lackersteen could always be replied [sic] upon for sound sentiments in a case like this. In his heart he did not care and never had cared a damn for the British Raj, and he was as happy drinking with an Oriental as with a white man; but he was ready with a loud "Hear, hear!" when anyone suggested the bamboo for disrespectful servants or boiling o i l for Nationalists. He prided himself that though he might booze a bit and a l l that, dammit he Was loyal. It was his form of responsibility.9 In the presentation of such characters Orwell has made a contribu-tion to our understanding of how imperialism, in his time, produced social as well as p o l i t i c a l stereotypes. It is the restraint placed upon the Mr. Lackersteens by their kind of wives and. by a l l the Clubs in the Empire which, because i t did not question traditional norms, helped guarantee the s t a b i l i t y of Empire at the grass roots. Flory i s only too conscious of the possibility, never far away in the outposts of Empire, of f a l l i n g victim through loneliness to an "inner secret, l i f e . " But he i s just as aware of how marriage may not improve matters. On the contrary,life may be worse beneath the debilitating power of someone like Mrs. Lackersteen, "some damned memsahib, yellow and thin, scandalmongering over cocktails, making k i t - k i t with the servants, living twenty years in the country without learning a word of the language." Such i s the woman who, through silent coercion, prevents her husband from even uttering, let alone practising, his capacity for tolerance. Instead, through the medium of the e v i l eye, she cajoles him into supporting her supremacist philosophy. Indeed i t is the f i n a l despair of the book that rather than Elizabeth Lackersteen becoming someone who would help Flory "to 42. live with nothing hidden, nothing unexpressed" she ends up as yet another dull stereotype of imperialism: Her servants li v e in terror of her, though she speaks no Burmese. She has an exhaustive knowledge of the C i v i l L i s t , gives charming l i t t l e dinner-parties and knows how to put the wives of subordinate o f f i c i a l s in their places - in short, she f i l l s with complete success the position for which Nature had designed her from the f i r s t , that of a burra memsahib.10 This, together with the pressure applied on the individual by the Club, calls to mind Woodcock's observation that the ruling e l i t e of Burmese Days differs from that of Nineteen Eighty-Four "in one important respect," namely that " i t maintains i t s solidarity not by physical power, but solely by the strength of an amazingly inflexible public opinion." 1 1 Apart from the social prohibitions that were in force at the local level Orwell argued that the reluctance of officials to discuss imperial policy stemmed from the fact that every Anglo-Indian was haunted by a sense of guilt which he usually concealed because merely to be overheard making a seditious remark may damage his career. A l l over India there are Englishmen who secretly loathe the system of which they are part, and just occasionally, when they are quite certain of being in the right company, their hidden bitterness overflows.'' (My i t a l i c s . ) He goes on to re c a l l a night in Burma aboard a train when he met a stranger, a white educational officer, and how, after each had decided "that the other was 'safe,'" they talked .for hours in the darkness, damning the Empire. But, adds Orwell, "in the haggard morning light when the train 12 crawled into Mandalay, we parted as guilty as any adulterous couple." It has been charged that Orwell's conclusion that Anglo-Indians were afraid to c r i t i c i z e the empire is exaggerated. Even allowing for the fact that during Orwell's time in Burma the white communities in outlying dis t r i c t s tended to band together more than usual in the face of increasing p o l i t i c a l unrest i t does seem that Orwell's own reticence to speak freely about the administration in Burma, not uncommon among young subalterns, 1 3 led him to believe that a l l o f f i c i a l s acted as he did. Whether or not they a l l did behave in the same way, Flory's tragedy is undoubtedly caused by the absence of "right company" even though Dr. Veraswami affords temporary r e l i e f to an overburdened conscience. Whether or not i t is overdrawn, Flory's reluctance to c r i t i c i z e imperialism amongst fellow whites i s revealing in that i t alerts us to one of the main themes running through Burmese Days, namely that despite the division of the whites into two main parts: (1) the c i v i l servants like Macgregor, Westfield the Police Officer, and Maxwell the Divisional Forest Officer, and (2) the entrepreneurs like E l l i s , Lackersteen and Flory, a l l of them behave as i f they had the same occupation, that of a bureaucrat. This Is especially evident when, in response to Rangoon's directive that "in those Clubs where there are no native members, one at least shall be co-opted, E l l i s , though not a bureaucrat, complains bi t t e r l y , "They've 14 ' [Rangoon] no right to dictate to us when we're off duty." And the fact that Rangoon sent such a directive pertaining to Clubs shows how even the central authorities of the imperialist structure considered the Club an appendage of the administration. X~* Even Flory, who i r r i t a t e s the others 16 by saying "some Bolshie things sometimes," unhesitatingly acts in unison with his fellow Club members when the Club is besieged by natives who quite rightly demand retribution for E l l i s ' having struck and blinded a native youth. In this, the climactic irony of the book, i t i s E l l i s , the man who most opposes Flory, who provides Flory with the chance to win the white community's friendship and admiration. Flory saves the Club from being overrun by f i r s t swimming down the river and then quietly organizing a small police detachment to thwart the angry mob. The irony of E l l i s having indirectly created such an opportunity for Flory to win the respect of his fellow whites i s compounded by the fact that Flory's heroic action stems not from supporting the exploited natives, with whom he normally sympathizes, but results instead from him instinctively succumbing to the inviolable rule of the pukka sahib's code, that the white men must stick together. Conditioned by their everyday existence in Kyauktada "none of them [the whites] thought to blame E l l i s , the sole cause of this a f f a i r " and "their common p e r i l seemed, indeed, to draw them closer together for awhile."^'' Consequently, i f most of the characters in Burmese Days appear to be stereotypes of imperialists, this is not so much a reflection of Orwell's h o s t i l i t y towards imperialism or of a lack of imagination. Rather i t is a reflection of his view of imperialism as an experience which, at the local level, forces people to conform to a rig i d code of behaviour through the need for collective security. The hotly debated issue of Veraswami's nomination for Club membership is a case i n point. When.an enraged E l l i s makes the unusual demand for the black and white voting balls i t i s a measure of the serious-ness with which members regard any deviation from the group's informal but set code of values. In this instance the potential deviation i s a possible violation of the feelings of race prejudice which the Club, as focal point of the community, has solidifed into a highly resilient policy faithful to the "Ten Precepts of the pukka sahib." "No, no, no!" cried E l l i s , dancing about in his rage. "Don't give in to him! Put i t to the vote. And i f that son of a bitch [Flory] doesn't put in a black b a l l like the rest of us, we'll f i r s t turf him out of the Club himself, and then..."18 As noted earlier, even the carefree and generally irresponsible 4 5 . Mr. Lackersteen, who has no real sympathy with the British Rajj feels compelled to support the group's values and solidarity: "'Hear^ hear!' said Mr. Lackersteen gruffly. 'Keep the black swabs, out of i t . Esprit .de corps and. all that.'" Orwell explains how common experiences of the whites reinforce such a stance: "Living and working among Orientals would try the temper of a sain t . . . a l l of them, the o f f i c i a l s particularly, knew what i t was to be baited and insulted" by "yellow faces...full of 19 that maddening contempt." Thus Orwell argues that the l i f e of an imperialist moulds you, whether you like i t or not, into a straight-jacket of conformity. In his view, no matter how independently you start out, the pressures and needs of mutual^dependence as a way of guaranteeing a modicum of security and simple companionship make escape from the resulting " s t i f l i n g , stultifying world" a l l but impossible. Indeed, the idea of escape seems so hopeless that when Flory can no longer stand the tension between the dictates of conscience and the inclination to live according to the Club's 20 code, "with the stream of l i f e , not against i t " he. shoots himself. In considering Flory as ah example of a man torn between the individual need to act morally and the group pressure to conform, i t i s appropriate to consider a later essay of Orwell's, Shooting an Elephant,. which was' prompted by his experience as a Police Officer in Moulmein, Lower Burma. The conclusion of the essay in which Orwell describes how he was called upon to execute an old elephant who had temporarily gone berserk and destroyed some native property i s an excellent example of how even outside the Club group pressure was at work, how the secret world of the individual and the requirements of institutional imperialism continued to clash. Orwell writes: 46. A l l I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited l i t t l e beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the w i l l of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts. Orwell adds that "feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism, ask any Anglo-Indian o f f i c i a l , i f you can catch him off duty." 2 1 Going to find the by now passive elephant, Orwell is followed by an ever-growing crowd. Although he i n i t i a l l y decides not to destroy the elephant who is now "peacefully eating...looking no more dangerous than a cow," upon looking around at the "immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute," he suddenly realizes that I should have to shoot the elephant after a l l . The people expected i t of me and I had got to do it...and i t was at this moment, as I stood there with the r i f l e in my hands, that I f i r s t grasped the hollowness, the f u t i l i t y of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd - seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the w i l l of those yellow faces behind. Orwell thus argues that "when the white man turns tyrant i t is his own freedom that he destroys" and that "in every c r i s i s he has got to do 22 what the 'natives' expect of him." (My i t a l i c s . ) He shows how the acts of those in authority can not only be modified by subjects' expectation but can actually be changed into a gesture of partial subjection rather than of dominance. The pressure exerted by a subject's expectation over the personal characteristics of the imperialist o f f i c i a l on such occasions meant that i t didn't matter whether the assistant d i s t r i c t officer was Eric Blair or John Smith - both would react in pretty much the same way. Summary of Chapter II Finally, i t i s this very predictability of the whites' master-slave behaviour towards the natives which more than anything else characterizes the stereotypes drawn from Orwell's imperialist experience i n Burma and offers an early indication of his later rich-versus-poor view of the world. In this view, the stereotypes' victory over Flory would be repeated again and again and i t is the novel's pessimistic though no doubt exaggerated pronouncement that, despite individual exceptions, the imperialist-totalitarian mentality would triumph over a l l who dared challenge i t . As Woodcock notes, "the white society of Upper Burma, as Orwell portrays i t , i s the earliest prototype of the ruling e l i t e of Oceania which he 23 described fourteen years later in Nineteen Eighty-Four Similarly, another writer has observed that Orwell shows how there can be "no compromise with imperialism." In particular Burmese Days shows us that the "secret world" of conscience is not sufficient to counteract an individual's guilt of w i l l f u l hypocrisy in the outside world. It also shows how the unavailability of alternatives to the stereotyped imperialist code of behaviour sometimes led to personal tragedy. Such tragedy failed to make any difference to the administration of imperialism because imperialism's code was pervaded by the sense that no one was irreplaceable and by the belief that in front of the natives, whether shooting an elephant or confronting an angry mob on a Club veranda, the same code of behaviour must be followed in the same way. Any deviation might encourage the ruled to question the i n f a l l i b i l i t y of the rulers, and thus cause the rulers to question their own i n f a l l i b i l i t y . The assumption of replaceability, together with the mandatory esprit de corps, often created, in even a slightly deviant individual, an. overwhelming feeling of being totally submerged by a changeless conformity. This conformity was so oppressive that i t l e f t such an individual with only two alternatives - either to capitulate totally to the system or to totally withdraw. Partial withdrawal, especially in a small outpost like Kyauktada, was impossible. In this situation Orwell sees the larger problem of the autonomous individual doomed to an anxiety-ridden existence, torn between what his conscience t e l l s him is right and the expediency which i s nurtured by the need for brotherhood. It is a theme which he would never leave. It is this sense of hopelessness in such circumstances which gave birth to Orwell's haunting fear of, and later obsession with totalitarianism. Here we would see the ultimate triumph, not of minorities, as amongst the white population of Kyauktada, but of the mass, the petty imperialists of self-interest. For them as well as the white minority in Kyauktada the sense of security i s guaranteed by the growth of order and predictability but threatened by the deyiant individual who dares mirror their own fears and doubts about the justice of the system they serve. In Flory's case Orwell shows, us how an individual psyche struggled against c o l l e c t i v i s t norms and in so doing Orwell attacked some of the most deceptive metaphors of imperialism.. Flory lost the battle against the collective norm. In his case i t was mainly a battle against "living the lie...that we're here to u p l i f t our poor black brothers instead of to rob them." But i n showing how this l i e , the basis of imperialism as he saw i t , "corrupts us in ways 25 you can't imagine" his experience became the seed from which one of his most arresting and pervasive ideas would grow; namely that to.be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to li v e in a totalitarian country. The mere prevalence of certain ideas can spread a kind of poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary [and ultimately other] purposes.^ 0 Orwell explains how the pressures to conform are so powerful that quite apart from forcing exploited and exploiter alike to conform to a bureau-cratically imposed set of norms, the imperialist experience permeates not only the nine-to-five l i f e of a colonial bureaucrat but the twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week existence of a l l those who come in contact with i t . One of those norms, as we have seen, is the attitude, not only of male o f f i c i a l s but of their wives, towards the natives. When Mrs. Lackersteen says of them that "In some ways they are getting almost as 27 bad as the lower classes at home," she invokes the widespread analogy between "natives" and the English "working class." This, together with' the whites' frequent comparison of natives to children, seriously influenced many imperialist perceptions of non-white communities throughout 28 the British colonies. It was his recognition of the pervasiveness of this native-working class analogy which later led Orwell to make some of his best contributions on the nature and role of class differences. These contributions came after and grew out of his simplistic conclusion that "the English working class...were the symbolic victims of injustice, 29 playing the same part in England as the Burmese played in Burma." His contributions on the nature and role of class differences w i l l be considered in the next section. However, before leaving Burmese Days which has provided a focus for my discussion on Orwell's views of imperialism I would like to discuss what his f i r s t novel t e l l s us about Orwell as p o l i t i c a l and social commentator. The f i r s t thing that becomes apparent from his criticism is that the young Orwell i s potentially a better journalist and essayist than novelist. He has the polemicist's thrust, guided by a journalistic penchant for the exaggerated lead paragraph which grabs the reader's attention: "In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers 30 of people." More interested in situations than in characters he uses the latter, like chess men, as representatives and victims of group attitudes. It is an approach which can quickly classify opposing forces in the short space of journalism but which dulls the sense of nuance so v i t a l to the more literary device of the novel. Sociological categories 31 "characteristics rather than characters" as A l l d r i t t points out, are what we see and of course these are easier to deal with with didactic purpose in mind. Beyond the portrayal of Flory as victim there is a blind eye in Burmese Days to the exception among the "oppressors," an unwillingness to look beyond category to an individual of honourable intent, to the Fielding-like character in Forster's novel, for example. Instead, from Flory's view we get the impression that a l l imperialists are bad. As Jeffrey Meyers notes, "there are no redemptive characters...only 'dull 32 boozing witless porkers.'" By contrast, in A Passage to India Fieldin looking back on his steadfast defence of his Indian friend, Dr. Aziz, notes without reproach how in later years he had thrown in his lot with, the Anglo-Indians by marrying a countrywoman, and he was acquiring some of i t s limitations, and already f e l t surprise at his own past heroism. Would he to-day defy a l l his own people for the sake of a stray Indian? Aziz was a memento, a trophy, they were proud of each other, yet they must inevitably part.33 It is an act of self-acceptance which Flory's r i g i d self-rrighteousness would never have allowed so that whereas Flory commits suicide beneath the crush of orthodoxy Fielding does not. Though as much an outcast as 51. Flory, having made the unpopular choice of siding with the arrested native Dr. Aziz who is accused of molesting a white woman, Fielding is not driven into the same kind of "either-or" despair which overwhelms Flory. He survives because-while he is confronted with the same kind of group pressure - "the man who doesn't toe the line is lost" - he refuses, unlike Flory, to become the victim. This refusal is possible (and this i s why Forster's novel i s far superior to Orwell's) because Fielding clearly believes in Mrs. Moore's philosophy that while "everyone fails...there 34 are so many kinds of failure." In Flory's view of the world you are either a failure or not a failure, you are either in or out; there is no middle ground. Fielding accepts what Orwell's protagonist never could, that there are acceptable and reasonable degrees of behaviour, that i t is possible for the moral man to win contentment by working for improvement within an imperfect system. It is a position which Orwell himself could not accept in his own role of imperial policeman and which predisposed him to the simplistic master-slave, rich-poor world view of his early writings. Unfortunately because Blair, the "odd man out," ignored the middle position,Orwell's subsequent pronouncements on imperialism ignore the possibility of the guilt-free happy imperialists as evidenced by the statement of one of his former colleagues that "I loved Burma and the Burman and have no regrets that I spent the best years of my l i f e i n the 35 Burma police." . The disregard by Flory for the middle ground, the sweeping master-slave generalizations, stem from Orwell's habit of assuming that his 36 experience was typical, in this case that his experience in the outposts would have been duplicated in the headquarters of empire. As a result there is l i t t l e or no attempt to suggest that Flory's criticisms of imperialism, so forthrightly stated that they gain the force of a condemnation of a l l imperialists, are really only applicable to imperialism at the local level and not to imperialism as a whole. Though Orwell mentions the local whites' outrage at British M.P.s' criticism of the massacre by Dyer at Amritsar (where i t i s clear that higher-ups could be as malevolent as any E l l i s ) there is no sense that the higher imperialist o f f i c i a l s could act 37 differently, with their native subjects' best interests at heart. By contrast, in A Passage to India we read of a local imperialist o f f i c i a l "fatigued" by the knowledge that the accused Dr. Aziz is not guilty u n t i l proven by law, and aware that "not only would the Nawab Bahadur and others be angry, but the [British] Government of India i t s e l f also watches.""^ Devoid of such qualification, the master-slave view not only of imperialism but of the world would travel back to England with Eric Blair in August, 1927. ' , • 53. Notes to Section I - Chapter II 1. Orwell, Burmese Days, p. 44. 2. Ibid., p. 44, 44, 37. 3. A.W. Stevens, "George. Orwell and Southeast Asia," Yearbook of Comparative and General L i t e r a t u r e , XI (1962), p. 133. 4. Orwell, Burmese Days, pp. 137, 181. 5. Ibid. , p. 66. 6. Ibid., p. 67. 7. Ibid. , pp. 67, 158. 8. Ibid., pp. 130, 31. 9. Ibid., pp. 274, 29, 222. 10. Ibid., pp. 69, 69, 272. 11. Woodcock, The. Crystal S p i r i t , p. 76. 12. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 127. 13. Christopher Hollis, A Study of George Orwell (London: Hollis and Carter, 1956), p. 38. In The Unknown Orwell, p. 170, the authors write: "If Blair had arrived in Burma a few years earlier, he would have found a much more orderly, ordinary province, appearing to function in a smooth, untroubled way under a benevolent imperial administration. It is not inconceivable that the jarring, sometimes quite t r i v i a l events that stood out so painfully when he was there would have been less noticeable, less abrasive, less guilt-producing, i f they had not taken place against a background of growing confusion and uncertainty for the once so self-confident British rulers in Burma. Paradoxically, i t was the very attempts of the British government to liberalize i t s own administration and to allow the Burmese voice to be heard that made Orwell more conscious than he probably would have been otherwise -of the Empire as a system in which he could not continue to participate and keep his self-respect." See also p. 172. 14. Orwell, Burmese Days, p. 221. 15. See James F. Guyot, "Bureaucratic Transformation in Burma," in Asian Buruaucratic Systems Emergent from the B r i t i s h Imperial Tradition, ed. by Ralph Braibanti (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1966)j p. 374. Guyot talks of how the Club is the place where "many of the important administrative decisions, particularly those affecting the big British firms, were made in an environment free from the restraints of formal bureaucratic routine." Forster makes the same point i n A Passage to India. Turton, one of the Club members, approaches Fielding and says coldly, "I should be glad 54. i f you w i l l put in your appearance at the club this evening." Fielding answers, "I have accepted re-election, s i r . Do you regard i t is necessary I should come? I should be glad to be excused..." Turton replies, "It is not a question of your feeling, but of the wish of the Lieutenant-Governor. Perhaps you w i l l ask me whether I speak o f f i c i a l l y . I do. I shall expect you this evening at six." (P. 268.) 16. Orwell, Burmese Days, v. 32. 17. Ibid., pp. 181, 225. The scene in which E l l i s canes the Burmese boy almost certainly owes something to the following incident as described by Dr. Maung Htin Aung: "One afternoon, at about 4 P.M., the suburban railway station of Pagoda Road was crowded with schoolboys and undergraduates, and Blair came down the stairs to take the train to the Mission Road Station, where the exclusive Gymkhana Club was situated. One of the boys, fooling about with his friends, accidentally bumped against the t a l l and gaunt Englishman, who f e l l heavily down the stairs. Blair was furious and raised the heavy cane that he was carrying, to hit the boy on the head, but checked himself, and struck him on the back instead. The boys protested and some undergraduates, including myself, surrounded the angry Englishman ....The train drew in and Blair boarded a fi r s t - c l a s s carriage. But in Burma, unlike India, f i r s t - c l a s s carriages were never taboo to natives, and some of us had f i r s t - c l a s s season tickets. The argument between Blair and the undergraduates continued. Fortunately, the train reached Mission Road Station without further incident, and Blair l e f t the train." (See p. 188, The Unknown Orwell.) 18. Ibid., pp. 75, 223. 19. Ibid., pp. 222, 33. 20. Ibid., pp. 66, 67. 21. Orwell, Other Essays, p. 92. 22. Ibid., p. 95. 23. Woodcock, The Crystal Spirit, p. 76. 24. R.W. Sutherland, Jr., "The P o l i t i c a l Ideas of George Orwell: A Liberal's Odyssey in the Twentieth Century" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1969, Call No. DA29: 4563A-64A [Duke]), p. 43. 25. Orwell, Burmese Days, p. 37. 26. Orwell, CEJL, IV, p. 90. 27. Orwell, Burmese Days, p. 28. 28. In The Clash of Cultures, p. 92, Cairns notes the existence of the same analogy in imperialist Africa and also mentions that "the most explicit indication of the denial of equality of r a c i a l and cultural status is seen in the very widespread comparison of the African to a child." 29. Orwell, Wigan Pier, pp. 120-34, 131. 30. Orwell, CEJL, I, p. 265. 31. A l l d r i t t , The Making of George Orwell, p. 21. See also Stevens, "George Orwell and Southeast Asia," p. 134. 32. Meyers, A Reader's Guide to George Orwell, p. '67. • 33. Forster, A Passage to India, p. 314. 34. Ibid., pp. 168, 51. 35. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, pp. 183, 201. 36. See Hollis, A Study of George Orwell, p. 38, where the author, in reference to the train journey during which he and the Educational Officer g u i l t i l y damned the Empire, writes, "Because he found i t d i f f i c u l t to reveal himself to others, he thought that everybody found i t d i f f i c u l t . " 37. Philip Woodruff, in The Men Who Ruled India: The Guardians, II (London: Jonathan Cape, 1963), p. 240, describes how "Amritsar city from April 10th to the 12th was in the hands of a mob" and how Brigadier-General Dyer, who arrived on the 11th, forbade public meetings. The population defied the order and subsequently Dyer ordered his troops to f i r e into a c i v i l i a n crowd, k i l l i n g over three hundred people and wounding about one thousand. His action, which was followed by his order' that "any Indian" passing through a certain area "must crawl along the street where an English woman, a missionary teacher, had been attacked by the mob and l e f t for dead," (p. 241) was fiercely debated, not so much in India but in England. In Burmese Days E l l i s remarks, "Those cowards in England have got something to answer for." And "Even Mr. Macgregor, who detested bloodshed and martial law, shook his head at the name of Dyer. 'Ah, poor man! Sacrificed to the Paget M.P.s. Well perhaps they w i l l discover their mistake when i t is too late.'" Orwell does write in The Road to Wigan Pier that "Seen from the outside the British rule in India appears - indeed i t is - benevolent and even necessary; and so no doubt are the French rule in Morocco and the Dutch rule in Borneo, for people usually govern foreigners better than they govern themselves." But then he adds, "But i t i s not possible to be part of such a system without recognizing i t as an unjustifiable tyranny." (Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 126.). 38. E.M. Forster, A Passage to India, p. 180. 56. SECTION II - INDIGENOUS CONDITIONS: KYAUKTADA TO WIGAN - FROM ANTI-IMPERIALIST TO SOCIALIST Chapter I - Background. For Blair in the f a l l of 1927, on leave from Burma, the need to "expiate" the "immense weight" of imperialist guilt a l l i e d with his lifelong desire to be a writer forged the decision that he would not return to be a part of that " e v i l despotism." He resigned his commission in the Imperial Police, determined that he had "to escape not merely from imperialism but from every form of man's dominion over man." He wanted instead to sink into the world of the poor. Invoking the analogy between the Burmese and the working class he recalls: I now realized that there was no need to go as far as Burma to find tyranny and exploitation. Here in England, down under one's feet, were the submerged working class, suffering miseries which in their different way were as bad as any an Oriental knew...it was in this way that my thoughts turned towards the English working class. x The poor and the English working class had of course existed when Eric Blair l e f t for Burma. Evidence of poverty and working class conditions abounded even for a relatively sheltered King's Scholar at Eton. In 1921, the year before he l e f t for Burma, there had been a general strike and the • 2 birth of the "dole," and in 1922 unemployment already exceeded 1.5 million. There i s no reason, however, to assume that Blair the schoolboy was either very conscious of or concerned with the obviously worsening situation in Britain. But six years later when he returned to England the evidence of physical and psychic exhaustion which followed World War I had a profound effect on him. In one of his f i r s t articles as a professional writer Orwell claimed that whereas before World War I England had been "the winner 3 today she is the loser. There in two words is the source of a l l the e v i l . " 57. The e v i l was unemployment, the losers the unemployed. After Burma, beginning his pilgrimage of expiation, he wanted to join the losers: 4 "I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed." The nineteen-year old Blair who had l e f t England on October 7, 1922 had not wanted to be an anti-imperialist or rub shoulders with the poor. This was the youth who had not only written "Awake! Young Men of England!" but who, after "his f i r s t adventure as an amateur tramp," concluded that while he was "very proud" of the "adventure" he would not repeat i t . " ' Blair would repeat i t , however, and so would Orwell, not as a schoolboy looking at the world of tramps and unemployed from afar but as an adult who would go among the lower classes from a sense of duty rather than adventure. He would repeat i t in an England where the collapse of the post-war boom amid the dramatic rise in England's trade d e f i c i t (exports declining by 47.9% in 1921 compared with 1920), the beginning of protective t a r i f f s , the hunger marches^ of the unemployed, the stringent economies proposed by the Geddes' committee and the coal and general strikes of 1926 had l e f t a bitter legacy. The dole in particular, which J.B. Priestley reported as characterizing the "fourth" England,^ had long ceased to be regarded simply as a legislative agent of r e l i e f . Instead i t had become a way of l i f e , a symbol of hated charity both by those who needed i t and those who did not. A symbol of society's failure to provide jobs for a l l those willing to work, i t fuelled the growing belief that men's lives were controlled by uncontrollable forces. Blair noticed that "the word 'unemployment' was on everyone's l i p s " 8 which "was more or less new to me after. Burma." S t i l l , while "unemployment" may have been more or less new to him the feeling that new social forces were at work in the breakdown of the old order was not. 58. George Bowling, the insurance salesman and protagonist of Orwell's novel Coming Up For- Air (1939), recalls the time. Bowling, like so many of the demoralized and demobilized soldiers of World War I, had made the bitter discovery that Lloyd George's "land f i t for heroes" was a land of rampant unemployment. He comments that "It's very strange, the things 9 war did to people," recalling how a few years before he had been a young grocery clerk in Lower Binfield, a quiet English country town. Then suddenly he was in uniform and soon in the officer class, "more or less keeping my end up among a crowd of other temporary gents....And - this i s really the point - not feeling i t in any way strange. Nothing seemed strange in those days...there was a temporary feeling about everything."1^* Just as suddenly as he had joined the Army he was out of i t and out of work. Though trying to recapture the memory of a surer age by returning to Lower Binfield, he t e l l s us that he i s not i n nostalgic search of an ideal time. Indeed he admits that l i f e wasn't "softer" before the war, "actually i t was harsher. People on the whole worked harder, lived less comfortably, and died more p a i n f u l l y . " 1 1 But the redeeming feature of l i f e then, he argues, was the "feeling of security," above a l l , a "feeling of continuity." (My i t a l i c s . ) " A l l of them," says Bowling, knew that they had to die and a few of them even knew they faced bankruptcy "but what they didn't know was that the order of things could 12 change." Bowling understands that much anxiety is relieved i f the idea of death can be faced in the knowledge that "the things you care 13 about are going to survive." The loss of such conviction i n the thirties and the f u t i l i t y of his own "backward" journey to Lower Binfield in search of the old certainties is revealed when he remembers how "the war and the feeling of not being one's own master overshadowed everything." 59. If the war didn't happen to k i l l you it.was bound to start you thinking. After that unspeakable i d i o t i c mess you couldn't go on regarding society as something eternal and unquestionable, like a pyramid. You knew i t was just a balls-up.14 This feeling lingered, for even as the England of the twenties recovered slightly i t was assaulted anew by the shock.waves of the Wall Street crash. X^ The latter helped.to push Britain's unemployment to two and a half million in 1930 as the country entered the great depression, and the realization that the old pre-war order was never to return grew • - • i ' i 16 even more pervasive, particularly among young writers. The year 1931 saw a revolution in Spain, the f a l l of Manchuria to the Japanese, and in England a series of crises which, amid increasing unemployment, a drain on gold, and the f a l l in the British pound, culminated in the resignation of the second Labour government under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. And, to the Labour cabinet's "utter stupefac-ti o n , " 1 ^ this was immediately followed by the formation, under MacDonald's leadership, of a National government consisting of a coalition of Labour, Liberal and Conservative members. Apart from the sharp division this caused in the Labour Party, the divisions between l e f t and right were made worse by the National government's subsequent attempts to drastically cut wages and unemployment pay. For the most part the middle classes had r a l l i e d to the government's side, responding to calls at year's end to "Buy British," to help shore up the weakened pound. And something of a patriotic determination to go along with the austerity cuts even reached 18 the working class (who of course were by no means solidly Labour). Part of the austerity program also called for a reduction of pay in the armed services. In the Navy this meant a pay loss of approximately twenty-five percent. The loss incurred by the enlisted men was to be 60. proportionally much higher than that of the officers. The result on the fifteenth of September, 1931 was a "mutiny," called a "strike," aboard the Atlantic Fleet in Cromarty Firth and though i t ended quietly i t helped move the government a year later to introduce the "Incitement 19 to Disaffection act." It was in this climate of emergency that the Conservatives, using MacDonald, the former Labour Prime Minister, as their choice for a leader of a new National government, called for an election in October of 1931. The result was an overwhelming victory for the National Government which won 556 seats, 472 of them Conservative as against only 46 seats for Labour. It was in essence a Conservative victory "under false colours" and "Once again, whatever the popular tides of feeling since the war, they [the Conservatives] were in power...the old ministers were back, the humdrum figures of the twenties, without even the need of seeking the new ,20 blood." For many in England i t was not so much a vote of confidence as 21 the lack of any viable alternative. In any event, the collapse of the Labour government was a devastating blow for the l e f t i s t reformers who had hitherto placed so much faith in the Labour Party. Recalling how New Signatures, an anthology of poetry, was "related to the p o l i t i c a l events," one of i t s founders, John Lehmann, writes, By the time of the General Election in 1931 I was already sufficiently converted [to Socialism] to share.to the f u l l the consternation and gloom that settled on a l l our cir c l e at the collapse of the Labour Government.... But even as I reached this point of intellectual conviction, I began to move away from i t , further to the l e f t ; The discredit of Labour made even staunch supporters of the Party in Bloomsbury mutter that perhaps more radical measures of Marxism were necessary to defeat reaction and stop the drift.towards a new war.22 Despite Lehmann's attraction to socialism most members of the intelligentsia had not yet moved to the l e f t , indeed they had not moved in any direction. Many of them, like Spender who wrote, "From 1931 onwards, in common with many other people, I f e l t hounded by external 23 events," were s t i l l in the process of deciding whether or not to make the commitment to p o l i t i c a l and social purpose. Once the decision! to make that commitment was made, the direction of the move would be "forward 24 from liberalism" towards a "general radical revolutionary leftism." By 1933, with such decisions having been made, Michael Roberts, in the preface of New Country, another influential anthology, could write, I think, and the writers of this book obviously agree, that there is only one way of l i f e for us: to renounce the (capitalist) system now and live by fighting against i t . It is time that those who conserve something which is s t i l l valuable in England began to see that only a revolution can save their standards.25 It i s important to remember that though in most cases i t was writers who articulated the l e f t ' s disillusionment with the old order, such disillusionment was widespread in the general population. As two social historians note, "Years later ageing Labour supporters were s t i l l saying, 'I remember the time when Ramsay MacDonald went over,' as though 26 nothing that had ever happened since had made an equal impression." Such excerpts capture the growing impatience of the young towards the older members of society who, they believed, perpetuated the old p o l i t i c a l order. The gap between young and old was more noticeable because of the missing generation that had been k i l l e d in the war, a generation which might have acted as a kind of buffer zone between the experience of the old and the impatience of the young. As' a manifestation of their forward looking view and in more charitable extensions of what Orwell called the "curious hatred of old 27 men," the younger writers, now preoccupied with revolt against the 62. authority and orthodoxy of the old order, inclined "towards a world view, social consciousness," and "a platonic affection for the prole-28 tariat." Into this world came Eric Blair, his nascent affection for the proletariat an inverse measure of his own disillusionment with the old order. It i s significant in viewing Orwell's entry into the post-war world of ,young writers that whereas the conflict between youth and the old order had largely come about through the disorder and uncertainties of a world war, Orwell's dislike of the old order had other origins. The ex-policeman's disillusionment was not nurtured in the trenches of France where the holocaust had been "conducted mainly by old men...with supreme 29 ' ' • 1 incompetence" but by the old order's imperial stance in Burma where Flory describes the war as having merely "rolled on like a storm beyond 30 the horizon." (My i t a l i c s . ) And again, unlike so many other post-war writers, Blair, upon his return to England, had "no interest in Socialism or any other economic 31 theory." In "Why I Write" (1946), Orwell says that while "the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism... these experiences were not enough to give me an accurate p o l i t i c a l 32 orientation." But the growing impatience of would-be reformists of the early thirties would lead Orwell to such an orientation. Indeed, as Zwerdling notes, i t would be responsible for the "transition" from Orwell's 33 "unformed p o l i t i c a l consciousness" to his "socialist f a i t h . " Part of this "unformed p o l i t i c a l consciousness" was Orwell's anti-imperialistic and self-confessed "anarchistic theory" which viewed a l l government as e v i l and divided the world up into the oppressed, who were always right, 34 and the oppressors, who were always wrong. The irrevocable p o l i t i c a l orientation was to come in 1936-37, the 35 events of which "turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood." Nevertheless, between the time he resigned from his,job in Burma and went to Spain where he fought with the Republicans, Orwell's disillusionment with the old order continued to vent i t s anger and guilt in an investigation of, and fascination with, poverty and unemployment. In 1928, after a f a i l i n g apprenticeship as a struggling poet in Portobello Road and occasional sorties into London's East End as the tramp, P.S. Burton, the aspiring writer went to Paris. Here his f i r s t professional piece ("Censorship in England") appeared in Monde, followed by other articles about unemployment in England, tramps, and Burma which were published in Pvogres Civique. During the period 1928-29 in Paris, Blair was a dishwasher for a time, was hospitalized with pneumonia, wrote several unpublished short stories and two unpublished novels, a l l of which 36 he later destroyed. At the end of 1929 he returned to England and tried his hand at writing reviews, poems and documentary sketches. These, with few exceptions, were a l l published between March, 1930 and August, 1935 in Adelphi, the "scurrilous [socialist] rag" Blair had used for target practice • TI 37 in Burma. By January, 1933, Down and Out. in Paris and London was published • after T.S. Eliot had rejected i t and a depressed Blair had l e f t i t with a friend with instructions to "throw i t away." The book of course was saved, though Blair requested that i t be published pseudonymously "as I am not 38 39 proud of i t " and thus the name George Orwell was used for the f i r s t time. Though Orwell had not as yet even nominally a f f i l i a t e d himself with any party he was convinced that only his descent into the abyss would exorcise his guilt. What I profoundly wantedj at that time, was to find some way of getting out of the respectable world altogether.... Once I had been among them [the "lowest of the low"] and accepted by them, I should have touched the bottom, and - this i s what I f e l t : I was aware even then that i t was irrational - part of my guilt would drop from me.40 But Blair was rational in that he understood that i f you are to successfully exorcise your guilt, as Orwell only partially succeeded in doing by "writing i t out" in Burmese Bays, you need to r i d yourself of '. the cause of that guilt,.not merely the symptoms. You need some philosophy which w i l l prevent you from repeating the old mistakes - i n Orwell's case, the exploitative attitudes and acts of the imperialist. I wanted to see what mass unemployment i s like at i t s worst...this was necessary to me as part of my approach to Socialism for before you can be sure whether you are genuinely in .favour of Socialism [or any replacement system] you have to decide whether things at present are tolerable or not tolerable, and you have got to take up a definite attitude on that terribly d i f f i c u l t issue of class.41 Thus while Blair knew that he did not want a prolongation of the days when he wore the policeman's uniform, when "those straps under the 42 boot give you a feeling l i k e nothing else in l i f e , " and while he had formulated his "anarchistic theory" of government Orwell was not yet sure as to what system should replace the one Blair had spurned. The ensuing years, the indigenous period of poverty and semi-poverty in which Orwell, through choice, was for a time a struggling writer, tramp, tutor (1930-31), schoolmaster (1932-33), bookshop assistant (1934), and storekeeper (1936), was in effect an apprenticeship. It was a period of d i s t i l l a t i o n for some of Blair's generalized, albeit firmly held, convictions about exploitation most specifically about the working class and poor in England. As Jeffrey Meyers notes, Orwell i s a "literary non-conformist" who, because of the various forms he engaged in , i s d i f f i c u l t to place in any particular genre. In his s a t i r i c a l attacks he has a strong a f f i n i t y with Shaw, Butler and Swift. In his writings on the working class he owes more to writers lik e Cobbett, Crabbe and Dickens, while the influence of Kipling, Wells, Lawrence and Joyce i s evident in the early writings, particularly Lawrence in the naturalistic descriptions of Burmese Days, and Joyce in the badly done stream of consciousness chapter of A Clergyman's Daughter. His writings about poverty, however, clearly f a l l into a long British tradition of inquiry into the lives of the underprivileged, beginning i n 43 44 novel form with Defoe and onwards through Gissing, Osborne and Pinter, and to the "sociological" tradition of Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (1851), Booth's L i f e and Labour of the People in London (1889-1903) and Dickens' Bard Times (1854).^5 Ironically, however, he was mostly influenced in the way he went about descending into the world of the poor by the earlier investigations of the American, Jack London. Orwell thought that the investigation of the poor in the East End of London, recorded i n The People of the Abyss (1903), " s t i l l has sociological value" and believed that London's book, The Road, describing the author's experiences on the road, was " b r i l l i a n t . Of the beginning of his voluntary descents into the lower classes Orwell writes, "I knew nothing about working-class conditions. I had read the unemployment figures but I had no notion of what they implied...all this was outside the range of my experience.^ (My i t a l i c s . ) Orwell of course was not alone in his ignorance or confusion about what the unemploy-ment figures really meant. Amid the myriad st a t i s t i c s for Britain's interwar years historians and economists show us that even with benefit of hindsight paradox runs r i f e , from the boom of 1918-20 through the ensuing depression (at i t s worst i n 1933)., and the thwarted recoveries 48 of 1920, 1929, and 1937-38. Just as "figures showing the distribution of the national income did not suggest that any large change [for the 49 worse] had taken place in society" in the twenties, stat i s t i c s in the thirties showing a general rise in real income did not reveal the stark reality of massive unemployment. They did not reveal the fact, "as the . uneasy conscience discovered," that thousands of families were s t i l l " i l l fed, i l l housed, i l l cared for when illness struck."^^ Even among, those whose material well being was improved there were many for whom the effects of increased material benefit were negated by pervasively depressing social conditions.^ 1 In short, while in retrospect economists and historians can t e l l us that otherwise useful economic indicators in the interwar period were "up," large sectors of the population, particularly the two and a half million unemployed, did not experience an upswing. Orwell's determination to penetrate the abstraction "poverty" began with the experiences he recorded in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). His investigation of poverty reached a high point i n 1936 with his journeys into the depressed coal mining areas of northern England at a time when the country's unemployment figure stood in excess of 2.1 mil-lion, and 23.9 percent of those receiving the dole had been out of work 52 for more than a year. Orwell would meet these stat i s t i c s face on, particularly in Wigan (where in 1933 one man in three had been on the dole), and record his experiences in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). The t i t l e of the book is significant in that Wigan, being inland in Lancashire, has no pier -the phrase "Wigan Pier" being a wry substitute for those workers unable 53 to afford a holiday in Blackpool. Very few could afford Blackpool in 1936. I turn now to a discussion of some of those factors examined by Orwell which led him to believe that the gap between privileged and underprivileged would grow in our century, and which might,help us to understand not so much why the "disprivileged often rebel against the 54 privileged, but why they do not rebel more often than they do." Before entering such a discussion the reader should be aware that although Orwell's indigenous period takes us to the Second World War and so goes beyond his Spanish experience, the latter has been accorded i t s own section rather than being included as part of the indigenous section. This has been done f i r s t because of a decision to follow through on Orwell's views on subjects, such as the British educational system, which he considered to be barriers to the attainment of a classless society in England. Secondly, but just as importantly, while his Spanish exper-ience no doubt had i t s effect upon his writing in the last three years of the t h i r t i e s , the hard lessons of Spain manifest themselves more, at least so far as his novels are concerned, in the global views of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. In treating the Spanish experience separately as a precursor to the global view I not only believe that i t s lessons can be more clearly defined but I agree with Raymond Williams' assessment that in moving from England to Spain, from the world of Wigan Pier to Barcelona, 55 George Orwell moved into another dimension. 68. Notes to Section II - Chapter I 1. Orwell, Wigan Pier, pp. 126, 130, 129-30. 2. Mowat, B r i t a i n : 1918-1940, p. 126. ^ , . 3. The article was one of a series on unemployment which appeared in Progres Civique, in Paris, between December, 1928 and May, 1929. 4. Orwell, Wigan 'Pier, pp. 129-30. 5. Orwell, CEJL, I, pp. 34-35. 6. Probably the most celebrated of these, the "Jarrow Crusade," took place i n October, 1934 under the leadership of Labour candidate Ellen Wilkinson who reported that the unemployment rate in Jarrow was "over 80 percent." See Symons, The T h i r t i e s , p. 55. 7. The other three Englands recorded in J.B. Priestley's English Journey (1934) are cited in Mowat, B r i t a i n : 1918-1940, pp. 480-81, as (1) the scenic southeast of guidebooks; (2) the industrial north; and (3) the chromium world of twentieth century suburbia. 8. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 130. 9. George Orwell, Coming Up For Air (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books [in association with Seeker and Warburg], 1962), p. 111. 10. Ibid., pp. 112-13. 11. Ibid., p. 106. 12. Ibid. , p. 107. 13. Ibid., pp. 107-08. 14. Ibid., pp. 113, 123. 15. William Ashworth, An Economic History of England: 1870-1939 (London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1960), p. 410. 16. Mowat, B r i t a i n : 1918-1940, pp. 261, 201. 17. Ibid., p. 393. 18. Noreen Branson and Margot Heinemann, B r i t a i n in the T h i r t i e s (Frogmore, St. Albans, Herts: Panther Books, 1973), pp. 20-21. 19. Ibid., pp. 21-28. 20. Mowat, B r i t a i n : 1918-1940, p. 412. 21. Samuel RynesThe Auden Generation: Literature,and P o l i t i c s in England in the 1920s (hereinafter referred to as The Auden Generation), (Toronto: The Bodley Head, 1976), p. 66. 22. Ibid., p. 75. 23. Ibid., p. 65. . ' 24. Samuels, English Intellectuals, p. 214. 25. Hynes, The Auden Generation, p. 108. The writers referred to here included Auden, Spender, and Day Lewis. (See The Auden Generation, p. 115.) 26. Branson and Heinemann, B r i t a i n in the Thirties, p. 19. 27. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 121. 28. Mowat, B r i t a i n : 1918-1940, p. 201. For comments on Orwell as a writer in the thirties see Mowat, pp. 486, 522, and 531. 29. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 121. 30. Orwell, Burmese Days, p. 64. 31. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 130. 32. Orwell, CEJL, I, p. 26. 33. Alex Zwerdling, Orwell and the Left (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), p. 68. 34. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 129. 35. Orwell, CEJL, I, p. 28. 36. Ibid., p. 596. 37. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, p. 207. 38. Orwell, CEJL, I, p. 101. 39. Named after a river he lived near in Suffolk. 40. Orwell, Wigan Pier, p. 131. 1 41. Ibid., p. 106. 42. Stansky and Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, p. 178. 43. Meyers, A Reader's Guide to George Orwell, p. 80. Gissing's writings on poverty placed emphasis on what Orwell was to c a l l the "respectable poverty" of the middle and lower middle classes, that i s , the poverty of "underfed clerks, downtrodden governesses and bankrupt tradesmen." (See Meyers, p. 88.) .70. 44. Meyers, A Reader's Guide to George Orwell, p. 88. 45. Ibid., p. 91. 46. Orwell, CEJL, IV, pp. 44, 46-47. 47. Orwell, Wigan Pier, pp. 130-31. 48. Ashworth, An Economic History of. England: 1870-1939, p. 410. 49. Mowat, Britain: 1918-1940, p. 205. 50. Ibid., p..502. 51. Ashworth, An Economic History of England: 1870-1939, p. 425. 52. Mowat, Britain: 1918-1940, p. 433. Their numbers were greatest among men aged sixty to sixty-four for whom the dole would cease at age sixty-five. (See Mowat, p. 482.) 53. Woodcock, The Crystal Spirit, p. 128. 54. Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost (London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1965), p. 48. 55. Raymond Williams, ed., George Orwell: A Collection of Critical Essays (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1974), p. 61. 71. Chapter II - Poverty, Revolution and the Middle Classes As we move on to a discussion of the "Poverty, Revolution and the Middle Classes" theme in Orwell's indigenous work i t is appropriate here to c l a r i f y what he meant by the word "revolution." While he did not shy away from the possibility of bloody change in his assault against the class system, noting that "at some point i t may be necessary to use violence," X Orwell clearly preferred the removal of privilege i n society through effecting a fundamental shift i n power through the pressure of public opinion, rather than through arms. Revolution does not mean red flags and street fighting, i t means a fundamental shift of power. Whether i t happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place. Nor does i t mean the dictatorship of a single class.^ Certainly he did not see violence as a pre-ordained policy of a revolution - only, like war, as a sometimes unavoidable, i f necessary e v i l . And while he believed that the "structure" of society must be changed "from below," with violence i f absolutely necessary, he believed just as strongly, even in time of war, in f i r s t trying the democratic process. This can be seen in a passage from The Lion and the Unicorn: If during this winter the war settles into another stagnant period, we ought in my opinion to agitate for a General Election, a thing which the Tory Party machine w i l l make frantic efforts to prevent. But even without an election we can get the government we want, provided that we want i t urgently enough. A real shove from below w i l l accomplish i t . As to who w i l l be in that government when i t comes, I make no guess. I only know that the right men w i l l be there when the people really want them, for i t is movements that make leaders and not leaders movements.3 (My i t a l i c s . ) Above a l l he would come to believe that the real beginning of revolution, of overthrowing privilege, lay in a change not only in "struc-ture," however i t was achieved, but in oneself. An attack upon the class system really began with an attack upon one's own class prejudices, and 72. that, as he demonstrates in The Road to Wigan Pier, is the most d i f f i c u l t revolution of a l l . For to get outside the class-racket I have got to suppress not merely my private snobbishness, but most of my other tastes and prejudices as well. I have got to alter myself so completely that at the end I should hardly be recognizable as the same person. What is involved is not merely the amelioration of working-class conditions...but.a complete abandonment, of the upper-class and middle-class attitude to l i f e . ^ (My i t a l i c s . ) I w i l l now discuss (1) those aspects of poverty which, Orwell's indigenous writings suggest, w i l l inhibit any urge for revolution, and (2) those attitudes which he believes are responsible for perpetuating poverty. •k A & * * He wanted to submerge himself - .to sink, as Rosemary had said.... He liked to think about the lost people, the underground people, tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes...beneath the world of money...where failure and success have no meaning; a sort of kingdom of ghosts where a l l are equal...where you could lose yourself for ever.^ This is George Orwell describing Gordon Comstock, a struggling young poet and assistant bookseller in London. It is not long after Comstock has spent the night in j a i l , an incident which, based on Orwell's night in j a i l as described in "Clink," is a striking example of Orwell's penchant for conscripting his experience for use in his f i c t i o n . ^ Satisfying his perverse desire to be down and out, Comstock quickly discovered that "the f i r s t effect of poverty is that i t k i l l s thought" because "he had learned what i t means to live for weeks on end on bread and margarine, to try to 'write' when you are half starved, to pawn your clothes, to sneak trembling up the stairs when you owe three weeks' rent." Above a l l he discovered that while one may be free i n poverty from the restraints and responsibilities expected and imposed by the respectable "world of money" you do not escape from money pressures "merely by being moneyless." Ironically you are as much a "slave" of 73. money as you are in "the servitude of a 'good' job" from which Comstock , j 7 tried to escape. The discoveries of Gordon Comstock come directly from Orwell's experience. Apart from his intermittent descent into the world of the down and out between 1928 and 1931, when he was trying to "write" on very limited means, Orwell's most sustained experience of poverty, after a particularly p r o l i f i c but commercially unprofitable period of writing in 1928-29, was a ten-week period in Paris in the f a l l of 1929. When his Burmese savings had a l l but disappeared he worked as a plongeuv (dishwasher) in both a luxury hotel and a small restaurant. In i t s implications for this study another of Orwell's most important discoveries of this transitional period of poverty was that poverty which "you thought... would be quite simple...is extraordinarily complicated." He describes how the drive to keep up appearances, to maintain dignity, creates a need for "secrecy" which can only be met and maintained by a habitual and often expensive lying. "You stop sending clothes to the laundry, and the laundress catches you in the street and asks you why; you mumble something and she, thinking you are sending the clothes elsewhere, is your enemy for l i f e . " And in the same way as Comstock in London studiously avoids meeting acquaintances in the pub, being too poor to buy a round, Orwell, writing of his Paris period, t e l l s of how you have strayed into a respectable quarter, and you see a prosperous friend coming. To avoid him you dodge into the nearest cafe. Once in the cafe you must buy something, so you spend your last f i f t y centimes on a glass of black coffee.... Once [sio] could multiply these disasters by the hundred. They are part of the process of being hard up.^ As well as.the myriad connivances which the requirements of dignity force upon you there i s the sheer exhaustion which a f f l i c t s those who have always been poor and must work long hours for l i t t l e pay. Describing the plongeur as "one of the slaves of the modern world...no freer than i f he were bought and sold," working between sixty and a hundred hours a week, Orwell notes that "he lives in a rhythm between work and sleep, 9 without time to think, hardly conscious of the exterior world." It is not surprising that, in an industrialized world, we most often think of such conditions as being the lot of the city worker but Orwell in A Clergyman's Daughter reminds us that the superficially i d y l l i c country setting can camouflage an equally debilitating l i f e . Based on his own experience in the hop fields Orwell writes of Dorothy Hare, the Reverend's daughter who through amnesia has drifted off into the "hard up" worlds of the seasonal agricultural worker in Kent and the unemployed in London. He t e l l s us that while she was happy in the hop fields the work l i t e r a l l y stupefied her. In London Dorothy i s not working but again she experiences the blurring of perceptions, "the dazed witless feeling she had known on the way to the hop fi e l d s . " Now the almost constant lack of cover, which is the lot of many unemployed, causes her condition to worsen and " a l l the while i t is as though everything were a l i t t l e out of focus, a l i t t l e unreal." Even for the plongeur who is employed, "the world, inner and outer, grows dimmer t i l l i t reaches almost the vagueness of a dream. The dream is not a nightmare, because i t is accompanied by extreme "apathy."''*"'" The point which the above excerpts make clear i s that on the one hand, fatigue through overwork, and on the other, lethargy through undernourished inactivity, often converge. Whether the world of poverty and unemployment is transitional or not, "the best intellects w i l l not stand up against it...you cannot command the s p i r i t of hope in which 12 anything has got to be created." The result of this kind of experience for Dorothy Hare in her slave-like labour of the hop fields was that "More and more she had come; to take her curious situation for granted, to abandon a l l thoughts of either yesterday or tomorrow...it narrowed the 13 ' range of your consciousness to the passing minute." Orwell shows us how the petty details of poverty, a l l but insig-nificant in themselves, accumulate and how the resulting complexity of livi n g from day to day drains you of a l l energy, which is already low because of lack of food. And whether or not being poor is caused by unemployment, or by low wages accompanied by long, dull, exhausting hours of work, the job of satisfying hunger and finding shelter leaves no time for anything else. Hence his remark that plongeurs never thought of forming a union or going on strike because they simply had no leisure for 14 i t . And from his living with miners in Wigan he was quick to see that after travelling time (to and from the actual work face where payment begins) and "washing up" time had been accounted for, some miners had less than four hours a day free time.1"' This i s an instance of how, with his eye for the concrete detail, Orwell alerted his readers to the qualifica-tions which one has to place on o f f i c i a l s t a t i s t i c s which gave the impression, for example, that miners only work seven and a half hours a day His conclusion i s simply that tired poor people are unlikely to resist exploitation, l e t alone to revolt. In any case, as we shall see in the section on class, Orwell believed that such a revolt would most likely be instigated and led by middle class intellectuals who had more free time than the poor. In such conditions of poverty as Orwell describes wherein the satisfaction of basic necessities poses a daily challenge to the dulled brains of the undernourished i t would seem that people would readily agree to serve whoever can assure them food and shelter. The assumption that revolution is unlikely to come from these poor gains strength from Orwell's observation that together with the boredom of the unemployed comes "the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that i t annihilates the future.""'"^ If concern for the future is gone, so is any motive for resistance. The annihilation of the future is largely possible because the need to satisfy immediate and essential needs makes the present and not the future the one thing worth thinking about. The resulting lack of anxiety about the future, says Orwell, is "a great consolation in poverty"'"'^ and gives way to a sense of r e l i e f , almost pleasure, gained from knowing that you have reached bottom and have not gone to pieces. This is the world of the proles i n Nineteen Eighty-Four who precisely because they do not go to pieces hold the only hope, weak though i t i s , 18 of humanity surviving in a world of Big Brother. But i f the future is annihilated, what of the past? No matter how much, hunger may exclude worry about the distant future, the past is embedded in memory and is not annihilated. Does i t not present the poor with the idea of an alternative way of l i f e , whose reinstitution they might see, however simplistically, as a solution to their poverty? In short, why do the lessons, the models of action i n history from the revolt of Spartacus to the French Revolution and on, f a i l to move the poor to action? Instead of standing about on the dole, permitting apathy to take hold, why is i t that those stories of the past about the revolts of people against their rulers f a i l to.excite even the dream of a way out? The 77. answer is to be found in one of the most important insights of Orwell's indigenous novel, A Clergyman's Daughter, i n that part which i s clearly based on Orwell's experience as a private school teacher in 1932-33: Dorothy had not realized t i l l now how hard i t is,for children who come from poor homes to have even a conception of what history means...these children came from bookless homes and from parents who would have laughed at the notion that the past has any meaning for the present.19 (My i t a l i c s . ) Because the poor do not read books they do not have a sense of history. Because they do not have a sense of history they are ignorant both of other ways of l i f e and of blueprints for action for attaining 20 other ways of l i f e . With this in mind there is l i t t l e difference in Orwell's extrapolation from the particular to the universal, between the miners in Wigan who do not read books and only know of an acute housing 21 shortage "when we were told about i t " and the proles in Nineteen Eighty-Four who so docilely accept their wretched conditions because the history books have been written by the ruling class. In both cases Orwell believed that the lack of history condemned the underprivileged to a largely unquestioning and servile acceptance of an apparently immutable world of "them" and "us." It should be stressed, however, that Orwell's emphasis on the lack of history among the poor should not be taken to mean that he thought the poor so abysmally ignorant as to be incapable of recognizing their plight, or so mentally deficient that they could never envisage a better 22 future. The point is that the lack of models for realizing a better future encourages the poor to adapt to circumstances rather than to try to change them. The tendency to adapt to circumstances rather than to challenge "them" i s particularly evident in The Road to Wigan Pier when upon 78. investigating the chronic and severe unemployment in the North Orwell notes that because conditions were more or less the same for millions of unemployed and their dependents a sense of relative deprivation was lessened. Consequently "you have populations settling down, as i t were, to a lifetime on the P.A.C take, for instance, the fact that working 23 class think nothing of getting married on the dole." (My i t a l i c s . ) The dole, however, hardly makes for contentment, even after the 2 A-transition or the "settling down" to poverty has been achieved. The contrary assumption made by many c r i t i c s of the poor, that living on the dole spawns a contented and rampant laziness among i t s recipients who 25 thus become unwilling to improve their situation, was vigorously attacked by Orwell. (Such an assumption led to the use, by those c r i t i c a l of the t poor, of the term "unemployable" to designate unwillingness rather than incapacity.) For Orwell the assumption was grossly exaggerated, i f not simply wrong in most cases. Drawing on his association with the down and out he suggests that quite apart from the money, the unemployed among the poor, far from being contentedly lazy, worry as much as i f not more than anybody else about not having work. This is especially true, he argues, of the i l l i t e r a t e man who, having l i t t l e or no other means of expression 2 6 save his work habit, needs work "even more than he needs money." (My i t a l i c s . ) This questions whether the dole, or i t s modern equivalent, w i l l in fact keep people (as C.L. Mowat claims i t did in the "hungry thirties") 27 "on the safe side of discontent and thoughts of revolution." Indeed i t was not the dole, Orwell argued, that accounted for the fact that, amid the grinding poverty of the interwar years, the working class "neither 28 turned revolutionary nor lost their self-respect," but what the dole could now purchase. The fact that the underprivileged had not risen up against the privileged, despite the i n i t i a l postwar "wave of revolutionary feeling," . was due, he said, to the advent of cheap luxuries which mitigated the 30 humiliating conditions of poverty. This helps explain how, as Orwell noted earlier, people were able to accept the dole as a way of l i f e rather than simply as a temporary measure. Today in the face of the outsider's ignorance of how the "poor" or "unemployed" mind works the number of T.V. aerials cluttering the already cluttered slum disposes many an observer to regard the prolifera-tion of luxuries among the poor as evidence of a parasitic irresponsibility. But to the insider the truth i s that when you are depressed by poverty the same logic applies to appliances as i t does to food, that i s , you do not want the ordinary - that is a l l around you - what you want is the extraordinary - you want escape. "When you are unemployed...bored and miserable you don't Want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a l i t t l e b i t 'tasty.'" With more disturbing implications for our age he adds that "an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust 31 of brown bread." In particular Orwell discerned how post-war mass production resulted in the luxury often being cheaper than the necessity. The effects of mass production among the poor were most noticeable in the appearance of relatively cheap clothes which, Orwell claimed, along with movies made 32 the greatest contribution to the mitigation of poverty. Ironically, while coal miners were thrown out of work by the post-war industrial advance which relied less and less on coal, the work-filled l i f e of a miner's wife was eased by the advent of the rayon industry and the working 33 miner's l i f e made easier by cheaper and time-saving bathtubs. 80. Among the cheap luxury items which provided some respite for 34 the poor in inter-war Britain, and in his view "averted revolution," Orwell talks of gambling as an agent of hope, "something to l i v e for" amid the squalor of economic deprivation. Calling i t "the cheapest of a l l luxuries" he notes that gambling "has now risen almost to the status of a major industry. Consider for instance the Football Pools, with a turnover of about six million pounds a year, almost a l l of i t from the pockets of working-class people" and how when Hitler re-occupied the Rhineland...the threat of war aroused hardly a fl i c k e r of interest locally [in Yorkshire] but the decision of the Football Association to stop publishing their fixtures in advance (this was an attempt to quell the Football Pools) flung a l l Yorkshire into a storm of fury.35 Beyond viewing gambling as being an agent of hope lie s the deeper conviction among the poor that l i f e i t s e l f i s dependent on chance and not on planning. This is expressed by Boris, the garrulous waiter in Down and Out in Paris and London who t e l l s Orwell, the dishwasher: "Waiting is a gamble...you may die poor, you may make your fortune in a 36 year...you never know when a stroke of luck i s coming." Again the lack of a conception of history plays i t s part because i n not providing the poor with an histo r i c a l l y identifiable v i l l a i n i t moves them instead to look for other answers to explain their underprivileged world. One answer is to believe in luck (another i s religion which w i l l be discussed later). One can revolt against an identifiable v i l l a i n but one cannot revolt against luck. In any event, as Orwell's journey to Wigan suggests (though "It goes against the grain to say this"), the poor know that while ideally, the worst type of slum landlord i s a fat wicked man, preferably a bishop, who is drawing an immense income from extortionate rents...actually, i t i s a poor old woman who has invested her l i f e ' s savings in three slum houses, inhabits one of them, and tries to live on the rent of the other two - never, in consequence, having any money for repairs."" How can one revolt against old ladies who cannot afford repairs? Orwell was aware, of course, that belief i n luck was not confined to the poor. But he also saw that despite the upper and middle classes' indulgence in buying the "odd" r a f f l e ticket and "occasional" drink, these classes held a disdainful view of the poor's preference for luxury over necessities. They saw the unemployeds' preference for luxury not as a measure of the constant crushing boredom of unemployment but as evidence of the lack of the w i l l to work, even though, as Orwell has.shown, to the lowest educated, and hence the most likely to be unemployed, work was "greatly desired, i t being regarded as the sole measure of personal worth. Again, as in Burmese Days, hypocrisy is hidden in language. Although the upper and middle classes are attracted to luxury, to gambling, as are the poor, their indulgence is l i k e l y to be camouflaged by the use of "non-poor" words. Thus Reverend Hare i n A Clergyman's Daughter desperately trying to maintain the old pre-war lower middle class style with one thumb in the belt of his cassock...frowned abstractedly ....His broker had advised United Celanese. Here - i n Sumatra Tin, United Celanese and numberless other remote and dimly imagined companies - was the central cause of the Rector's money troubles. He was an inveterate gambler. Not, of course, that he thought of i t as gambling; i t was merely a lifelong search for a "good investment."38 Unless we are aware of such verbal camouflage we are apt to underrate, or simply not notice the importance of the belief in "luck" 3 9 in Orwell's work. The institutionalization of this belief by the rulers in Nineteen Eighty-Four is captured in the following example of Orwell's ab i l i t y to extrapolate from f i r s t hand experience to the universal postulation. Describing Winston Smith's passage through a working class or "proles" area he uses his British experience even down to the cockney 82. accent as a blueprint f o r the B r i t a i n of 1984: I t was nearly twenty hours, and the drinking shops which the proles frequented ("pubs," they c a l l e d them) were choked with customers. From t h e i r grimy swing doors, endlessly opening and shutting, there came f o r t h a smell of urine, sawdust, and sour beer. In an angle formed.by a p r o j e c t i n g housefront three men were standing very close together, the middle one of them holding a folded-up newspaper, which the other two were studying over his shoulder. Even before he was near enough to make out the expression on t h e i r faces, Winston could see absorption i n every l i n e of t h e i r bodies. I t was obviously some serious piece of ["low l e v e l " ] news that they were reading. He was a few paces away from them when suddenly the group broke up and two of the men were i n v i o l e n t a l t e r c a t i o n . For a moment they seemed almost on the point of blows. "Can't you bleeding well l i s t e n to what I say? I t e l l you no number ending i n seven a i n ' t won f o r over fourteen months!" "Yes, i t 'as, then!" "No, i t 'as not! Back 'ome I got the 'ole l o t of 'em f o r over two years wrote down on a piece of paper. I takes 'em down reg ' l a r as the clock. An' I t e l l you, no number ending i n seven—"....They were t a l k i n g about the Lottery. Winston looked back when he had gone t h i r t y metres. They were s t i l l arguing, with v i v i d , passionate faces. The Lottery, with i t s weekly pay-out of enormous p r i z e s , was the one p u b l i c event to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some m i l l i o n s of proles for whom the Lottery . was the p r i n c i p a l if not the only reason for staying alive. I t was t h e i r d e l i g h t , t h e i r f o l l y , t h e i r anodyne, t h e i r i n t e l l e c t u a l stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could.barely read and write seemed capable of i n t r i c a t e c a l c u l a t i o n s and staggering feats of memory. There was a whole t r i b e of men who made a l i v i n g simply by s e l l i n g systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets. Winston had nothing to do with the running of the Lottery, which was managed by the M i n i s t r y of Plenty, but he was aware (indeed everyone i n the Party was aware) that the prizes were l a r g e l y imaginary. Only small sums were a c t u a l l y paid out, the winners of the b i g p r i z e s being non-existent persons.40 (My i t a l i c s . ) Here i n a d e s c r i p t i o n of a world where even the most common anodyne of t e l e v i s i o n has ceased to provide escape from the drabness, fear and inherent i n e q u a l i t y of a p o l i c e state the most s i g n i f i c a n t l i n e s are those which t e s t i f y to the f a c t that the proles' f a i t h i n the l o t t e r y i s more important than actual evidence of riches. What was the agency of hope f o r ' 41 the starving sweepstake t i c k e t holder of Wigan P i e r has become the sole repository of hope for the proles. Like everyone e l s e , they have l o s t the b e l i e f i n a personal immortality as a reward for the t r i a l s of existence i n Oceania and so in a world of such patent inequality, the only recompense, the only "believed i n " equality, i s that afforded by the hand of chance. Although in his last novel Orwell sees gambling along with cheap gin houses as a means of Big Brother containing any proletarian discontent, he dismisses the idea that in inter-war Britain gambling, along with other cheap palliatives, was an astute manoeuvre by the governing class to keep the poor and unemployed quiet. He believed instead that while revolution was undoubtedly "averted" by the advent of cheap luxuries the latter's appearance was,, in the main, the "unconscious" result of the interaction between post-war supply and demand. Furthermore he wrote that what he had seen of the governing class did not convince him that they were intelligent enough to conceive, let alone execute, any such "bread and .. , 42 circuses plan. 4 But i f Orwell viewed the servile-producing "weapon of unemployment" as simply the result of the vicissitudes of the world market rather than a w i l l f u l policy of governing elites he did hold the more privileged popu-lation responsible for the continuance of existing inequalities. Here we move from Orwell's consideration of those aspects of poverty which "cowed" the revolutionary s p i r i t to his consideration of those upper and middle class attitudes which in his view perpetuated poverty i t s e l f . In considering his views on this subject I approach his discussion of the basis of the class system in general in Britain, a system which, through his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, would culminate in the grossly unfair world of Big' Brother where eighty-five percent of the population are deliberately kept poor. Orwell argued that the perpetua-tion of poorly paid "useless work" (as i n the provision of non-essential 44 services) in order to keep the working class poor too busy for revolution was the indirect result of what he believed was the deep seated fear with which the rich regarded the poor. He argues that at the very root of this pervasive fear, and thus at the root of class structure, i s the belief that quite apart from money "there is some mysterious fundamental difference between rich and poor, as though they were two different races" such as whites and natives in Burma or men and "animals" in England. He characterized this attitude as a "deep seated fear of the mob [the poor]." Unsophisticated as this view was, Orwell saw a direct connection between i t and the s e r v i l i t y he believed was endemic to the capitalist system and the class prejudices "which generally persist from birth to death" and from which everyone claims "that he, in some mysterious way, 46 ' i s exempt." He feared that those people who continue to believe that there is a fundamental difference between rich and poor at birth w i l l not only perpetuate present inequalities but may well prefer "any injustice" sooner than let the mob loose; sooner than allow the poor time to plan and eventually challenge privilege. "The mob (the thought runs) are such. 47 low animals that they would be dangerous i f they had leisure." An intellectually honest rich man, writes Orwell, w i l l admit that poverty i s unpleasant, in fact, since i t i s so remote, we rather enjoy harrowing ourselves with the thought of i t s unpleasantness.. But don't expect us to do anything about i t . We are sorry for you lower classes, just as we are sorry for a cat with the mange, but we w i l l fight like devils against any improvement of your condition. We feel that you are much safer as you are. Hence, writes Orwell, the attitude of those well-to-do "intelligent, cultivated people" who side with the rich for no other reason than they 48 believe that more liberty for the poor is less liberty for them. The importance of this observation i s that i t suggests how easily the existence of privilege, including greater freedom for some than others 85. can be rationalized by appealing to the commercial mind; to the winner-loser, profit and loss view of the world which so pervades the marketplace. Here liberty can be thought of as being no less subject to the laws of scarcity than the supply of bread. That Is, the lack of freedom for some can be excused by those who have more freedom by encouraging acceptance of the analogy
UBC Theses and Dissertations
Orwell and the road to servitude Slater, Ian 1977
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