Nineteen Eighty-Four
March 30, 1997
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. Orwells
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 “Dont.”
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 dont 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 Orwells 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 friends 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 Orwells 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 wifes 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
Eighty-Four.


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 Orwells
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).


Orwells 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 Wigans Pier tells of his
trip around England and was placed on the Left Book Clubs officially
recommended reading list,
but is today considered one of his worst works.
By many peoples figuring Orwells 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
theyre 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.”
Orwells other very well known book was Nineteen Eighty-Four which is
Orwells 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
persons 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 Orwells great insights
into the true nature of
Totalitarianism.
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 af