What is betel juice? How was it used in the story "Shooting an Elephant"?

1 Answer | Add Yours

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Betel juice, also called betel nut juice, is the juice that is produced when a person chews betel nut. Many people in Asia (mainly Southeast Asia) chew betel nut, as do many people in parts of Oceania like Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.  Betel nut is typically wrapped in betel leaf and powdered with slaked lime (gotten from coral) and then chewed.  As the user chews, a juice is produced that must be spit out constantly. The juice is red, though Orwell describes it as “brown” in “Shooting an Elephant.”  Here is a picture of a betel nut juice stain.

In the story, betel juice is mentioned only once, at the very beginning.  It is used to show that the people of Burma resented the fact that their country was controlled by foreign imperialists. In the first paragraph, he says that

…if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress.

Betel juice would stain the dress.  In other words, the Burmese would spit their betel juice on a white woman’s dress to ruin it and to show their anger towards the white imperialists.


We’ve answered 318,995 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question