Eric Arthur Blair aka “George Orwell” was born in 1903 at Motihari in British-occupied India. While growing up, he attended private schools in Sussex, Wellington and Eton. He worked at the Imperial Indian Police until 1927 when he went to London to study the poverty stricken. He then moved to Paris where he wrote two lost novels. After he moved back to England he wrote Down and Out in Paris and London, Burmese Days, A Clergyman’s Daughter and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. He published all four under the pseudonym George Orwell. He then married Eileen O’Shaughnessy and wrote The Road to Wigan Pier. Orwell then joined the Army and fought in the Spanish civil war. He became a socialist revolutionary and wrote Homage to Catalonia, Coming Up for Air, and in 1943, he wrote Animal Farm. It’s success ended Orwell’s financial troubles forever. In 1947 and 48 despite Tuberculosis, he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. He died in 1950 (Williams 7-15). This essay will show and prove to you that George Orwell’s life has influenced modern society a great deal.
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In 1903, Eric Arthur Blair was born. Living in India until he was four, Blair and his family then moved to England and settled at Henley. At the age of eight, Blair was sent to a private school in Sussex, and he lived there, except on holidays, until he was thirteen. He went to two private secondary schools: Wellington(for one term) and Eton (for four and a half years). After Eton, Blair joined the Imperial Indian Police and was trained in Burma. He served there for nearly five years and then in 1927, while hom on leave, decided not to return. He later wrote that he had come to understand and reject the imperialism he was serving. He was struck…between hatred of the empire and rage against the native people who opposed it, and made his immediate job more difficult. Blair, on his first six months of release, traveled to the East End to research the English poor. In Spring of 1928, he took a room in a working-class district of Paris. He wrote two novels, which have been lost, as well as publishing a number of articles in French and English. He became ill with pneumonia, worked ten weeks as a dishwasher and kitchen porter, and returned to England at the end of 1929. He used his parents’ home in Suffolk for writing and earned money from occasional articles and teaching. Blair then completed several versions of what was to become his first book, called, not by his choice, Down and Out in Paris and London. The book was a record of his experiences, but “If it’s all the same to everybody, I would prefer [it] to be published pseudonymously”. Discussing the publication of his first book with his agent, he decided on three possible pseudonyms: Keneth Miles, George Orwell and H. Lewis Always. He favored George Orwell. The Orwell is a river in Suffolk, south of his parents’ home. “George Orwell” published his first book in 1933. Down and Out… was followed by the novel Burmese Days, published first in the United States rather than in England because of his English publishers fear of it’s giving offence in Burma. After Burmese Days came two more novels: A Clergyman’s Daughter, published in 1935; and Keep the Aspidistra Flying, published in 1936. In the Spring of 1936 he moved to Hertfordshire and married Eileen O’Shaughnessy, an Oxford graduate in English, a teacher, a journalist, and later a London graduate in psychology. Orwell’s reputation at this time was based mainly on his accounts of poverty and depression. His next book, The Road to Wigan Pier was written for the Left Book Club and started his career as a political writer. Much of this book was composed of an essay on class and socialism, which was Orwell’s first statement of his political position. In July, he left for Spain to fight (and write) in the Spanish civil war. For the next two or three years, Orwell became a revolutionary socialist. When he returned from war, he wrote Homage to Catalonia and in the winter of 1938, wrote Coming Up for Air. In 1941 he wrote London Letter’s and in August joined the BBC as a talks producer in the Indian Section of the Eastern Service. Later in the year, he began writing Animal Farm. It did not appear until August 1945, at the end of the war. He and his wife adopted a son in 1944, but in 1945 his wife died during an operation. Animal Farm’s success ended Orwell’s financial worries that he had suffered from for twenty years. In 1946, he settled in Jura, Scotland, with his younger sister as housekeeper, though he returned to London for the winter. During 1947, in the early stages of renewed tuberculosis, he wrote the first drafts of Nineteen Eighty-Four. In 1948, amid several attacks, Orwell wrote the second draft. In September, 1949, he went into a hospital in London, and in October married Sonia Brownell. In January 1950, Eric Arthur Blair, aka “George Orwell”, died. (Williams 7-15)
In 1933, Orwell wrote Down and Out in Paris and London. This was his first book. It is the record of a young man’s (most-likely Orwell’s) experiences with poverty in Paris and London. It did very well for a first novel. In most ways it was a long, autobiographical essay on poverty. (Wykes 71-72) Orwell’s second novel was Burmese Days. It was an account of Orwell’s experiences working for the Imperial Indian Police in Burma. For fear of insulting Burma, this novel was published first in the U.S. rather than in England. (Wykes 44) His next two novels were A Clergyman’s Daughter and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. A Clergyman’s Daughter, published in 1935, is the journey of Dorothy Hare. A journey of escape and self-exploration (Wykes 4). Keep the Aspidistra Flying, published in 1936, is a novel about middle-class decline and compromise (Wykes 7). Orwell regarded these novels as failures. The Road to Wigan Pier, written for the Left Book Club in 1936 was Orwell’s fourth novel. This book started Orwell’s life-long career change to political writing. The first part of this book is reporting on the poor and unemployed. The second part is an essay on class and socialism, as I mentioned before. It was the first statement of Orwell’s political position. (Wykes 50-60) Homage to Catalonia, Orwell’s fifth novel, completed his break with the orthodox left. It is an attempt to tell the truth about war from Orwell’s point of view. The genre to which this book belongs was later defined by Orwell as the “Political book…a sort of enlarged pamphlet combining history with political criticism”. Orwell came to believe that Homage to Catalonia was the best book he had ever written. During winter in 1938, Orwell wrote his sixth novel Coming Up for Air. It is the discovery of George Bowling, that his boy-hood home has changed like everything else. It is regarded as his best novel (with the exception of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four). It illustrates in great detail, the fact that everything peaceful eventually becomes corrupt. After Coming Up for Air, Orwell wrote one of his most-loved novels, Animal Farm. It is the “fairy story” of an animal revolution on the Manor Farm, The animals create a socialistic republic in which “Some animals are more equal than others” (Orwell). The book an allegorical essay on the Russian Revolution. By the end of the book the pigs disobey the laws of “Animal Farm”, but as they do so, they change the laws to fit their needs. Animal Farm is a spiritual parody of the Communist Manifesto (Calder 5-20) Animal Farm was followed by Orwell’s eighth and last novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Another of Orwell’s best novels, 1984 is the story of Winston Smith. Smith is a member of a totalitarianism party ruled by the god-like Big Brother. There is no freedom, privacy or choice. No friendship or love. There is only love for Big Brother. It is the story of Smith’s secret rebellion from the party through love, sex, free-thought and choice. It is said to be Orwell’s greatest achievement (Calder 74-88).
“This is the kind of book I like to read, where I get the truth in chapters of real life…”, writes W.h. Davies about Down and Out in Paris and London. Daniel George for the tribune says, “Much of it is, I should judge, written from first-hand knowledge.” Hames Farrell comments “[Orwell’s] account is genuine, unexaggerated and intelligent” (Meyers 39-49) About Burmese Days, an anonymous author writes, “Burmese Days, by George Orwell is symptomatic of the reaction against conventional portrayals of Burma as a land of tinkling temples bells, gentle charming Burmans, and strong silent Englishman”. For the Fortnightly, G.W. Stonier observes, “Burmese Days is another novel, and I recommend it to all those who enjoy a lively hatred in fiction” (Meyers 50-57) About Orwell’s next novel, A Clergyman’s Daughter, Peter Quennel writes “A Clergyman’s Daughter is ambitious yet not entirely successful”. Michael Sayers comments “George Orwell is a popular novelist sensitive to values that most other novelists are popular for ignoring”. For the Commonweal, Geoffrey Stone reports, “…in A Clergyman’s Daughter, [Orwell] arranges circumstance so that the pessimistic conclusion will seem inevitable” (Meyers 58-64) “Mr. Orwell’s new book, bitter almost throughout and often crude is also all about money,” writes William Plomer of Keep the Aspidistra Flying. Cyril Connoly, for the New Statesman and Nation, writes, “The book is the recital of [Orwell’s] misfortunes interrupted by tirades against money and the spiritual evil it causes”. An unsigned notice in the Times Literary Supplement states, “If this book is persistently irritating, this is exactly what makes it worth reading; few books have enough body in them to be irritants” (Meyers 65-90) Walter Greenwood writes about The Road to Wigan Pier, “Mr. Orwell has the gift of writing vividly, of creating in the mind’s eye a picture of the scene described.” “Of Mr. Orwell’s book, there is little to say except praise…,” comments Arthur Calder-Marshall. “It takes an ugly section of British life, and it forces us to confront it for what it is,” writes H.J. Laski (Meyers 91-118) “Homage to Catalonia is… a book which is at the same time a work of first-class literature and a political document of the greatest importance,” reports Geoffrey Gorer. John McNair for the New Leader, writes, “There have been many books written on the Spanish civil war, but none containing so many living, first-hand experiences as this” (Meyers 119-151) “Mr. Orwell writes with hard, honest clarity and un answering precision of feeling,” states of Coming Up for Air, an unsigned notice in the Times Literary Supplement. John Cogley for the Commonweal, writes, “George Orwell, a hard man, is frankly sentimental about the world he knew as a boy”. “Coming Up for Air, written in 1938, reverts to the journalistic style of ease and understatement, the disquietude of Burmese Days worked out of it (Meyers 152-190). “..it is as devastating attack on Stalin and his ‘betrayal’ of the Russian revolution, as seen by another revolutionary,” writes Cyril Connoly on Animal Farm. “The story is very well-written, especially the Snowball episode#, which suggests that that the communist ‘Trotskyite’ is a conception on much the same plane as the Nazi ‘Jew’…,”writes Northrup Frye for the Canadian Forum. Isaac Rosenfield for the Nation, writes, “George Orwell, to judge by his writing, is a man, not without imagination, who is never swept away by his imagination.” Of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fredric Warburg comments, “This is amongst the most terrifying books I have ever read”. “Mr. Orwell’s latest book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, can be approached either as a political argument or as an indictment of materialism cast in fictional form,” writes Harold Nicolson. “Mr. Orwell is in every way similar to Huxley, especially in his contempt for people, in his aim of slandering man,” reports Isaac Anisimov for the Pravda.
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As you can see, George Orwell is one of the most beloved and respected authors in history. His works speak out against money, hypocrisy, poverty and injustice. His style has influenced many modern authors and will, most definitely, influence many more authors to come.
Calder, Jenni. Animal Farm & Nineteen Eighty-Four. Philadelphia: Milton Keynes, 1986. Meyers, Jeffery. George Orwell: The Critical Hertige. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975. Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1982 Williams, Raymond. Orwell. London: Raymond Williams, 1991. Wykes, David. A Preface to Orwell. New York: Longman, Inc., 1987.