Mask of Domination

"For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the 'natives', and so in every crisis he has got to do what the 'natives' expect of him.  He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it".

    In this selection, the narrator highlights the problem with the sensibility and bureaucratic order that the British established in Burma as a means to control the population.  The population of Burma had followed their own body of laws and customs for generations, only to have them replaced by the British.  In response, the Burmese people force the British to live up to the same standards.  Much of the British imperialist ideology is grounded in the idea that British culture and societal structure is superior to that of the subjugated peoples.  For them to break their own system of laws would call into question the legitimacy of this imperialist argument.  
    As the narrator suggests, instead of reevaluating the imperialist ideology and coming to terms with the notion that British societal structure may not in fact be superior to that of the Burmese, the British representatives in Burma strive to consistently live up to these standards.  The narrator states this attempt as if it were itself a codified rule, saying, "For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life trying to impress the 'natives'".  His language shifts from that of a story teller to that of a judge or legal professional.  This law requires that every British person employed in the imperial project must represent the standards that the British Empire suggests. The narrator then shortens this notion  into the phrase, "He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it".  With this phrase, the narrator concretely refers to the distance between British conceptions of their own superiority over their subject peoples with the reality of the relationship.  The face, the actual nature of the British people, must grow into an artificially constructed mask of British imperial ideology.   


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