Burmese Days

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The novels A Passage to India and Burmese Days are stories about characters deeply tied to their own cultural beliefs including a devout religion, social priorities, and friendships based on economic status and race. These conditions contribute to the diversity that separates India and the Western world. The well-documented social behaviors, inter racial friendships and cultural differences are most notable within the exclusiveness of the white man's club portrayed in Burmese Days and in the elusive mystery surrounding the caves as seen in A Passage to India. Focusing on the characters involvement at the exclusive club and the obscure caves , this paperattempt to demonstrate the uneasy feelings and mystery that encompasses these novels, characters and their authors.

As evidenced by the white men in Burmese Days, the reader quickly learns that the club is not only a place to sip on gin and escape the dreadful heat of Burma but it is their safe haven from the natives.

As evident by Mr. Ellis who says, " . . . it's a question of keeping those black, stinking swine out of the only place we can enjoy ourselves . . ."(pg23). Again Mr. Ellis conveys his true thoughts as he says, "this Club is a place where we come to enjoy ourselves, and we don't want the natives poking about in here. We like to think this is the one place where we're free of them" (pg30). This was the men's dialogue (more often than not) filled with hate and racist arrogance making it all the more surprising that the conversation has become centered in the possibility of allotting a "token" member to their group. The possible new member the men are argue about is an Oriental doctor named Dr. Veraswami, whom also happens to be friends with Mr. Flory. The mere discussion of Dr. Verswami lures uneasy and mysterious feeling concerning his fate and the sternness of the club rules.

Once again this mysterious sensation arises In a Passage to India. Aziz, the native and group leader, has invited the group to an outing at the Marabar Caves. The women, Mrs. Moore and Ms. Quested are hesitant as well as intrigued and ask Godbole to describe these caves. With a short pause and a lack of acute details, Godbole admits that, "they have no holy inscriptions; well, nothing exceptional, in fact" (pg74-76). He does insist that the caves are very unique and worth visiting. This strange conversation is abruptly interrupted and helps to contribute to the mystery of the novel, the land and the caves. The group is soon inside the caves and the "power" of the Marabar Caves prove to have a profound affect upon the women.

For example, the young Ms. Quested experiences a euphoric and orgasmic feeling to which she falsely accuses Aziz of molestation. Ms. Quested who first was angered and freighted with Aziz changes, she moves from a shallow desire to "see India" towards a more truthful sense of self, "of sexual and psychological honesty, than she had previously possessed." Mrs. Moore whom entered the cave as a content and religious woman exits the cave questioning all her Christian values. She begins to see her religion as somewhat empty and hollow and now starts to appreciate the natural beauty of the land. Mrs. Moore's new found appreciation for natural beauty, as a "religion" is an Eastern world point of view, again adding to the caves mystic spirituality. There is tension within the group now because of the accusations, personal metamorphoses and their uncertainty. The tension connects the British rather than separates. The caves have linked the Europeans with the natives, and they have shared experiences of cultural mystery.

The basis for these novels written by Orwell and Foster are radical and mysterious for their time period and subject matter. The idea of true friendship among the races was extreme subject matter for Foster's time and he goes to great lengths to convey that neither side welcomed the other. As people begin to live with and near each other friendships slowly ripen, especially between Aziz and Fielding. In a scene that begins to break down these socio-cultural walls Aziz shows Fielding a picture of his wife and states, "You are the first Englishman she has ever come before" (pg116). Just as the two men begin to bond, there is the infamous scene in the cave where Aziz is accused of molestation and Fielding does not defend his friend. Rather than be ridiculed for defending a native, he remains silent and allows Aziz to scorned by Ms. Quested. This conveys the true feeling of the people and the times.

The reader sees a similar situation in Burmese Days between an Oriental in Dr. Veraswami and Mr. Flory. Flory appreciates the local culture and the natives but detests the cultural hatred of his fellow club members. However he also lacks the confidence and integrity to defend his opinions and friend in front them. Dr. Veraswami, the highest-ranking native official seems to be the ideal candidate for their club. But when U Po Kyin launches a campaign to discredit him and his reputation Flory's character is tested. We see his confidence (or lack of) and of true friendship on the line as he faces the club members who disgrace him by calling him, "nigger's Nancy Boy" for his support of a native.

In closing, there is a quote by Dr. Versawami who is upset that he and the Europeans are not equals, yet he has accepted it, "it is a disagreeable thing when one's close friends is not one's social equal; but it is something as native to the very air of India." (pg. 47) I believed this quote summarizes and defies the time, place and characters that the authors conveyed so well.