Apathetic attitudes toward imperialism

Most imperial authors were strong advocates for the spread of imperialism. William Yeats and George Orwell seemed to take a different approach to the movement. Orwell was a sub divisional police officer during the turbulent time that India was still under British rule. Despite the attitude that might have been expected by an imperialist police officer at the time, Orwell had an attitude of resentment towards imperialism. This was a surprising attitude to adopt at this time, because he himself was a European. The fact that he was chastised daily in the streets by jeering natives, but that he still resents imperialism is a contradiction. He states “All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better” (Orwell 2567). In other words even though being a sub divisional police officer was his job it was not one he enjoyed. Just as Orwell thought of imperialism as evil, William Yeats characterized the second coming as the return of Satan. He remarks “When a vast image out of Spirtus Mundi troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert a shape with lion body and the head of a man” (Yeats 2183). Yeats is personifying the pervasiveness of imperialism as the evilness of Satan. Both Yeats and Orwell demonstrate apathetic attitudes toward imperialism.

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One thought on “Apathetic attitudes toward imperialism

  1. I like the way that you describe the complexity of being critical of a norm, especially one as well-established as imperialism, expressed by both Orwell and Yeats. Yeats stating in The Second Coming that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” (2183). In Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant, describing his experiences while working as a police officer in Burma, stating that “Thereorhetically– and secretly of course– I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British,” further stating that “in a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters” (Orwell 2567). Both of these authors are different in their approaches to describing British Empire as evident in the poem and essay structures, but both shine light on the lack of an all-encompassing Imperialistic cultural stronghold in Britain. Both Yeats and Orwell provide evidence of deviants in their society which prided themselves on consistency and nationalism.

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