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Essay/Term paper: Life and works of george orwell

Essay, term paper, research paper:  George Orwell

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In his short life, George Orwell managed to author several works which

would inspire debate across

the political spectrum for years to come due to his extreme views on

Totalitarianism as exemplified in

his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell is now regarded as one of the

finest essayists in Modern

English literature because of his inspired common sense and a power of

steady thought.

Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in Bengal on January 23, 1903. He

lived with his two sisters,

mother and father who was a minor official in Indian Customs. Orwell"s

childhood has been an

influence on his later life and writing. British Writers by Ian

Scott-Kilvert quotes Orwell as saying:

Looking back on my own childhood, after the infant years were

over, I do not believe

that I ever felt love for any mature person, except my Mother,

and even her I did not

trust, in the sense that shyness made me conceal most of my

real feelings from her… I

merely disliked my own father, whom I had barely seen before I

was eight and who

appeared to me simply as a gruff-voiced elderly man forever

saying "Don"t."

Early in his childhood, he was sent to a fashionable preparatory school

on a scholarship. The other

boys were much better off than Orwell was. Looking back on his school

years, British Writers by

Ian Scott-Kilvert again quotes Orwell as saying:

I had no money, I was weak, I was ugly, I was unpopular, I had

a chronic cough, I

was cowardly, I smelt… The conviction that it was not possible

for me to be a success

went deep enough to influence my actions until far into adult

life. Until I was thirty I

always planned my life on the assumption not only that any

major undertaking was

bound to fail, but that I could only expect to live a few

years longer.

At the age of 13, Orwell was rewarded with not one, but two separate

scholarships. Orwell decided

upon Eton, which was the more distinguished and prestigious of the two.

Of his time at Eton,

Modern British Essayists by Robert L. Calde quotes Orwell as saying, "I

did no work there and

learned very little and I don"t feel that Eton had much of a formative

influence on my life." However,

a majority of English students does no work at Universities but instead

broaden their outlook on life

and acquire a new sense of self-confidence along with an ability that is

far more valuable than

academic learning.

After Orwell"s time at Eton, the natural thing for him to do would have

been to go on to Cambridge

and continue his career there where he could easily have gained a full

scholarship. Instead, Orwell

was advised by a tutor to break away and begin his own career. Orwell

took this advice and took

an open post in the Indian Imperial Police where he spent the next five

years of his life. It was there

that Orwell began his writing career and wrote about his life

experiences in Burma and India.

Orwell felt very guilty about the actions which he took part in during

his time in India so he sought to

escape the guilt in England. When that did not work he instead traveled

to Paris, supposedly to

write, but an unknown author in a foreign country is not likely to make

much of a living so his motives

most certainly must have been otherwise. It is thought that he went to

Paris to face the

down-and-out lifestyle that he was brought up to fear and to experience

a level of pain and failure to

which very few people were subject. It is also believed that Orwell did

this as an act of public

defiance against those wealthier than himself who had humiliated him

during his school years. Orwell

also referred to the time as:

A feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself

at last genuinely down and

out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs, -- and

well, here are the dogs, and

you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a

lot of anxiety.

Eventually, Orwell accepted a friend"s offer of a job and money. After

this job was over, he made

enough money as a private tutor to keep himself afloat. After years of

tutoring, he got a job as an

assistant in a bookshop. It was during this time that Orwell married his

first wife, Eileen

O'Haughnessy. In addition, during this time, Orwell became very active

as a Socialist. After writing

some more in England he grew tired of it and then traveled to Spain.

Upon recalling his reasons for

going, Orwell was quoted as saying:

I had come to Spain with some notion of writing Newspaper

articles but I had joined

the militia almost immediately, because at that time and in

that atmosphere it just

seemed to be the only conceivable thing to do.

The unit which Orwell was recruited into was at first peaceful but

before long they were involved in

heavy fighting and Orwell was hit in the throat, mere millimeters away

from his windpipe and carotid

artery. The wound ended Orwell"s fighting career but because of the

injury, he got an opportunity to

see a new side to the fighting while recuperating. After another number

of months passed, Orwell

and his wife managed to escape with a few friends back to France.

When World War II began Orwell frantically tried to join the army but

was not allowed due to his

injuries, however, he was able to land a job in the British Broadcasting

Company into which he

threw himself completely. A man in full health might have been stressed

from the activities but to a

man in already bad shape the conditions were near fatal. Added onto this

was also the tragic news of

his wife"s death during a very minor surgery.

Following the end of World War II, Orwell worked for two more years in

London before retreating

to the remote island of Jura off the west coast of Scotland in order to

rest and to get on with the

writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four which he had by now drawn out in his

mind. However, life on the

island was extremely rough on his already poor health and he was forced

into the hospital several

times. By 1949, he entered a sanatorium and a few months later he was

moved to University College

Hospital in London where he finished the writing of Nineteen


While once again in London, Orwell married a second time, this time to

Sonia Brownell who was an

editorial assistant on a magazine which had been involved in the

publication of some of Orwell"s

many essays. Together, they discussed plans for future works and he had

even roughed out the plans

for a new book with her. The book was scheduled to be a complete break

from his propagandist

way of writing and would have instead concentrated on the treatment of

human relationships.

Unfortunately, the book was destined never to be completed because

Orwell died on January 23,

1950 a few minutes following a tubercular hemorrhage.

Orwell wrote many intriguing works through his years as an author, among

those are many essays

that are mostly political in nature. One of his first essays, "Shooting

an Elephant" tells of a story in his

life in which he was forced to hunt down an elephant which was running

amok throughout the

countryside. The essay is "an example of his prose style at its most

lucid and precise." Another essay

written by Orwell is "Wells, Hitler and the Soviet State" which

discusses H.G. Wells"

misunderstanding of Hitler and World War II. In all, Orwell released

four books of essays: Inside

the Whale (1940), Critical Essays (1946), Shooting an Elephant (1950)

and England Your

England (1953).

Orwell"s early books were mostly about his life experiences and

political perceptions. His novels

include Down and Out in Paris and London, which tells of his years among

the dogs in Paris,

Burmese Days which tells of his police years in Burma, Homage to

Catalonia tells about the years

he spent in Spain and of the political movements there, and finally,

Road to Wigan"s Pier tells of his

trip around England and was placed on the Left Book Club"s officially

recommended reading list,

but is today considered one of his worst works.

By many people"s figuring Orwell"s finest book was published in May of

1945. The book had a very

difficult time coming into print, going through four separate publishers

who refused it on the grounds

that it was not wise to print a book attacking an ally of the nation

during wartime. However, the

timing could not have been better and Animal Farm was an instant best

seller in Britain and in the

United States. Animal Farm is a satire on Stalinist dictatorship in

which pigs play the role of leaders

and overthrow the current leader, Farmer Jones. However, after the

threat of Jones" return is past

the pigs are forced to focus the animals" attention on other threats to

keep them working at maximum

levels. Finally, after a time of this the other animals figure out that

they"re getting the short end of the

stick which leads to the theme statement of the book, "All Animals are

Equal" and below that in

another handwriting "But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others."

Orwell"s other very well known book was Nineteen Eighty-Four which is

Orwell"s version of the

future awaiting mankind. The world is completely controlled by

Totalitarian governments that have

rewritten history and extracted any and all sense of freedom. Every room

is watched remotely via

cameras and the dreaded Through Police keep track of any and every

person"s actions to ensure

that there are no thoughts or actions which might be viewed as harmful

to The Party. This book shot

to the top of the best seller list in 1984 as people rushed to see how

the prophetic book compared

with the reality in which they lived.

Although a few of his earlier books gained some amount of popularity, it

was not until Animal Farm

that Orwell gained the recognition which would ensure that his name

would live on past his death and

into decades to come. Beyond monetary value and international renown,

Orwell gained a sense of

contact with ordinary people for the first time. Nineteen Eighty-Four is

also considered to be one

of the best futuristic novels of all time due to Orwell"s great insights

into the true nature of


The gifts for writing that Orwell possessed gave him a very unique

style. His gifts were not those of a

novelist for he had little imagination and little understanding of human

relationships. His gifts were

instead a "very inspired common sense, power of steady thought, wary

refusal to be taken in and the

courage of a lonely man who is not afraid of being alone."

Another style often used by Orwell is to add a very unforgiving essence

to his novels. The author"s

own anger conveys a sense of discomfort to the read, who feels he is

being "nagged at for something

which is only very indirectly his fault and resents that an author of

such uncommon talents should care

so little whether he conveys enjoyment to the readers."

Orwell"s essays show his unique qualities to advantage. He was very

adept at choosing topics that

interested normal people because he himself was nothing more than an

ordinary person and he had

seen life from the lowest possible level. Few other authors were able to

write with the skill, insight

and frightening reality which Orwell constantly was able to muster and


The themes of Orwell"s books are mostly derived from his own view of the

world. Due to his

childhood and years in Paris he was very familiar with the low end of

the spectrum of life. His years

in Spain served to give him a view of Communism at its worst and gave

him the inspiration he

needed to write his two most famous books, Animal Farm and Nineteen


The theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four was derived from another book We by

Zamyatin. There is

resemblance in detail and structure that occurs multiple times

throughout. For example, both books

assume that Utopia will lead to the end of the mere idea of freedom and

a total destruction of history.

However, while Zamyatin explored the technological and mechanical side

of the future, Orwell

instead was able to focus on the cultural and psychological side of

Totalitarianism. Another essential

difference is the timeline on which the respective Utopias took place.

Zamyatin assumed that such a

time and set of circumstances would need thousands of years to develop

whereas Orwell insisted

that less than half a century was sufficient.

Orwell"s themes however serve a purpose other than mere entertainment,

they serve as a warning to

those who dare not see life from the viewpoint which he himself opened

his mind and let himself

explore. Kinley E. Roby, in his biography, quoted Orwell as saying, "I

do not believe that the kind of

society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe that something

resembling it could arrive."

All of Orwell"s characters are alike in that they are solitary beings

that seek to make contact with

others but are almost always betrayed or rebuffed. There was Winston

Smith, the main character of

Nineteen Eighty-Four, who was incapable of both showing and feeling love

for any other person

including Julia whom in return did not love him but instead used him for

her own gain. Then also there

is Gordon Comstock from Keep the Aspidistra Flying who gives up a great

opportunity in an

advertising firm and instead goes to work in a bookstore so that he can

be alone and work solely on

his writing. Once again in Coming up For Air, Orwell writes about a fat

good-natured man who

keeps his feelings hidden from those around him in order to protect


Another attribute which belongs to many of Orwell"s characters is that

of cowardliness, a lack of

courage which plagues them throughout their respective stories. In

Animal Farm, the barnyard

animals, though they easily outnumber the pigs, are too afraid to

attempt an overthrow. In Nineteen

Eighty-Four, the characters have been completely cauterized of any

semblance of courage or


Orwell"s works have gained their fair share of both lovers and haters.

British Writers by Ian

Scott-Kilvert quotes Compton Mackenzie as saying in reference to Down

and Out in Paris and

London, Clergyman"s Daughter and Burmese Days, "No realistic writer has

produced three

volumes which can compare in directness, vigor, courage and vitality of

Mr. George Orwell."

George Woodcock stated in his book The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George

Orwell that "Orwell

possesses an extraordinary ability to so thoroughly entrance a reader

that he feels every bit of the

pain expressed in the text."

For every person who enjoyed Orwell"s texts there were without a doubt

another who could not

stand it. Orwell"s preoccupation with the present acted as a handicap to

his understanding of the

past and his perception of the future. Mr. Scott-Kilvert in British

Writers also said that Orwell was

never quite capable of making the close contact with the working class

that he so desired.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is Orwell"s warning to the world of how the future

could be unless everyone

puts forth an effort to keep their freedom. The book is set thirty five

years in the future from the time

of writing in 1949 in England which is then known as "Airstrip One." The

government is broken into

four separate branches also known as ministries, the Ministry of Love

maintains law and order

through the Thought Police, the Ministry of Plenty which keeps the

citizens rationed and down to the

barest necessities, the Ministry of Peace which is in charge of the war

efforts and the Ministry of

Truth which is in charge of education and news which includes the

deleting of history and the

changing of news to fit the Party"s schemes.

Three separate countries constantly wage war against each other. At the

time of writing, Oceania

and Eastasia are allied against Eurasia but the text of the book leads

the reader to believe that these

alliances switch back and forth every few years. Indeed, there may in

fact not be any war at all but

instead just a large propagandist ploy to keep people occupied and to

give them someone to hate so

that they will not turn against The Party.

The book is an example of Totalitarianism at its finest. The government

controls every aspect of

people"s lives and the mere thought of freedom has completely been

erased from people"s minds.

The Party is then controlled by the secret "Inner Party" that controls

the Party"s direction and


The main character of the story is Winston Smith who uses the attic of

an old bookstore to keep a

diary in which he documents his anti-Party thoughts. He meets Julia in

the hallway of the Ministry and

they proceed to make love in the open and arrange many more such

meetings. After several of these

meetings, he trusts her and tells her about his feelings towards the

Party, they plan together and in the

end confide in the wrong person who reports them which results in

Winston being beaten until he

gives up and finally betrays Julia who had long since already betrayed


This novel has a very strong message for those who care to read into it.

If society is not careful, it

could easily fall into a trap such as this. As fewer and fewer people

care about the state of the

Nation and about freedom, the world that Orwell wrote about becomes

closer and closer to reality.

If mankind does not take a stand for what it believes in then there are

those who will happily take

advantage of that fact and use it in their interest to create a society

like Orwell"s in which everything

is run by a select few people and everyone is so far gone that they

don"t believe there is any way


For a book written in 1949, Orwell did a very good job of writing about

the future and about the

technologies that might be developed. Orwell wrote of "Telescreens"

which would allow The Party

to keep track of everyone. Even the people of Orwell"s novel seem a lot

like the people of today in

that they do not care as much as they should and they fail to even

recognize what freedom is being

taken from them. However, it is possible to find differences in their

world from ours, namely in the

technological devices, while there are the Telescreens, the people still

fight with rockets and Tommy

guns and there are no cars or other vehicles for transportation

mentioned in the story.

This novel was really enjoyable because it is very thought provoking and

it really has the quality of

making oneself look at the world around him and think about just how

easy it would be for

something like this to happen. Many of the pieces are already in place

and others are not far away,

all it would take is one good leader and a strong push. This book should

be read by everyone to

make him or her aware of the future ahead of mankind if they are not


The novels which Orwell wrote will continue to inspire and spark debate

for years to come and

hopefully they will also serve as a constant reminder and warning of

what is to come if our society

continues its current trend of not caring. Orwell will forever be

remembered for his keen insight and

his great ability for thinking a situation all the way through and

predicting all possible outcomes.


Bloom, Harold, ed., "George Orwell." Twentieth-Century British

Literature, vol. 4, New York:

Chealsea House Publishers, 1987.

Bloom, Harold, ed., "George Orwell." Classic Science Fiction Writers,

New York: Chelsea House

Publishers, 1995.

Caldo, Robert L., "George Orwell." Modern British Essayists, first

series, Gale Research Inc.,


Frederick, Karl R., "George Orwell: White Man"s Burden." A Reader"s

Guide to the

Contemporary English Novel, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972.

Reilly, Patrick, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1988.

Roby, Kinley E., ed, George Orwell, Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1987.

Scott-Kilvert, Ian, ed., "George Orwell." British Writers, vol. VII,

Collier Macmillan, 1984.

Smyer, Richard, Animal Farm: Pastoralism and Politics, Boston, Twayne

Publishers, 1988.

Woodcock, George, The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell, Little,

Brown & Company,



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