Although George Orwell was a great writer from the beginning, he didn’t become famous until very late in his short life. His writing was very clear and precise. He mainly wrote autobiographical accounts but his last two novels were bitter accounts of political beliefs. His last two novels became so popular that he became a renowned writer all over the world.
He was born in 1903 to a low-classed, British family in Motihari, Bengal, India and was christened was Eric Arthur Blair. His father, Richard Walmesley Blair was a customs officer in the opium department of Indian Civil Service. When he was merely four years old, his family moved back to England and lived in a small village called Henley which was a short distance from London. His father left Orwell and others in Henley and went back to India to serve in the Indian Civil Service.
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When Orwell turned eight, he entered into a private preparatory school in Sussex. After attending the school in Sussex, he obtained a scholarship and attended two different schools: one in Wellington for a term and another in Eton for four and half years. Later on in his life Orwell claimed that his experience in the preparatory school shaped his views on the English class system.
Eton College was based in an area where upper-class people resided. The consciousness of being poor boy living in an upper-class society where the poor were detested helped to make him a radical in his youth.
In 1922 he joined the Indian Imperial Police. His training took place in Burma and he served there for about five years in total. This five year period decisively transformed his mental life. He gradually stated to despise his role as a representative of an alien government and to identify himself with the subject race. In 1927, he went back to England on leave and there he decided not to go back and serve as a police in Burma. His resignation became effective from January 1st 1928. His dream since childhood was to become a writer and he regarded his profession as a policeman “unsuitable”. However it was understood later that he began to understand imperialism which he abhorred. Thus he left his job as a policeman and started his life as a writer. The name by which the world knows him now and knew him them, George Orwell, was a pseudonym which was suggested by his publisher when he published his first novel.
The crises in Orwell’s life were the topic of his writings. His essays and his novels were mainly autobiographical and portrayed his political feelings. The first incident in his life occurred when he was sent in 1936 by the Left Book Club to study the unemployed were living in the working-class districts of Northern England. He observed the people in Northern England in a miserable state and was tempted to write a novel called “The Road to Wigan Pier” despite the disapproval of his sponsors because he criticized the orthodox English socialism. This trip had a tremendous long term effect on Orwell’s interests; he became interested in the popular culture, which is reflected in his classic essays such as “The Art of Donald McGill”.
The second but the most important crisis in Orwell’s life was a visit to Spain as a journalist. As Orwell arrived at Barcelona, he joined the militia unit of a Marxists workers party, the POUM. While serving on the Aragon and Teruel fronts, he got severely wounded. In May 1937 he was involved in a fight in which the POUM and the Anarchists were on one side and the Communists were on the other. Eventually, the Communist secret police chased him out of Spain. Spain revealed to him how far political motives, wrongly applied can destroy the respect for truth prized by the liberal nineteenth century. His experience in the Spanish Civil War and the fights in trenches were told in his novel “Homage to Catalonia”. This novel also exposed the Stalinist bid for power in Spain. Later in his life Orwell wrote the novel “Animal Farm” which showed how much he abhorred Stalin and his communist views.
Orwell was an essayist, journalist, and a novelist with a unique combination of a middle-class intellectual and a working-class reformer. A strong autobiographical element runs through most of Orwell’s writing giving both his novels and essays a sense of immediacy and conviction. He wrote with remarkable clarity and his credo was that fine prose should be transparent ‘like a window pane’. Orwell felt that the age was threatened by totalitarianism. Therefore, he wrote for libertarian socialism and against totalitarianism. His essays ‘Shooting an Elephant’ and especially, ‘Politics and the English Language’, in which he asserts that dishonest politics and slipshod language are inseparable connected evils, are models of what he wrote. His concerns also led him to write Animal Farm which is a bitter satire against totalitarianism specifically criticizing the Stalinist rule in USSR. Animal Farm also has the most important message that Orwell had to convey: ‘liberty means telling people what they do not want to hear. “If the vehicle for telling gets corrupted, then the message itself will always be corrupted”’.
The novel which brought fame for Orwell was Animal Farm. In this novel, a bitter animal satire, he criticized communism and expressed his political beliefs. His beliefs were absolutely true and his view of communism eventually was seen by the whole world by the way Stalin treated his people just to maintain power. To appreciate his message in this novel it is important to know its plot, the initial criticism he received and how this is connected to his life. The connection of his life to this extraordinary novel is his time at Eton College and then later on his visit to Spain. These events have been talked about earlier. Now its time to talk about the plot and other things related to the novel.
This novel is made around the events in the USSR, from before the October Revolution to the end of World War II. This is done by using a frame of reference of animals in a farmyard, the Manor Farm, owned by Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones is drunk most of the time and is out f touch with the animals he governs, just like Czar Nicholas of USSR. Mr. Jones neglects the farm causing displeasure and bitterness among his animals. One day after Mr. Jones finishes his nightly rounds, Major, a commanding pig (V.I. Lenin), tells other animals about a dream he has had regarding the theories about the way they have been living. The animals had been exploited by Mr. Jones but according to Major’s dream, the animals would overthrow Mr. Jones and share the profits and dangers of work equally. Major teaches the animals the words of the song “Beasts of England” (The Internationale) and tells them to look for the betterment of all animals. Three days later Major dies.
The most intelligent of the animals, the pigs, are provoked by Major’s speech and clandestinely learn how to read and write. After much thought they come up with a philosophical system called animalism (Communism, Bolshevism) whose principles are taught to all animals. When Mr. Jones forgets to feed the animals one day (as the Russians starved at the end of WWI), the animals start a revolution. Thus driving out Mr. Jones, his wife (the Russian nobility), and Moses, the raven (the Russian Orthodox Church). The animals rejoice over their great victory and start right away to build their new and better life.
The pigs took over all the responsibility of the organization and decision-making processes. Also the pigs took the rights to all the milk and apples. Orwell has admitted that taking the cow’s milk was the first sign of corruption which inevitably led to the total destruction. The two pigs in power were Snowball and Napoleon, which represent Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin, respectively, and they argued all the time. The third important pig, Squealer (Pravda, Tass), appears more hypocritical. He endorses any action with his skillful use of language. The pigs change the name of the farm from Manor Farm to Animal Farm and print the seven commandments of animalism on the barn wall. In the meantime, Napoleon has been raising puppies which will eventually develop into savage attack dogs (NKVD, secret police) which will one day hunt down all his personal enemies, especially Snowball.
When the animals start physical control of the farm, work becomes difficult and the animals gradually start to lose the cohesiveness. Even though Benjamin (Tolstoyan intellectuals) remains cynical about the heaven on earth as proposed by animalism, Boxer (the peasantry) keeps on working harder and harder. The togetherness between the animals is regained when Mr. Jones attacks on the farm to regain it. The confrontation is called the Battle of the Cowshed and the animals win it because of Snowball’s excellent strategy.
After the battle, the two leading pigs, Snowball and Napoleon argue over the next step. Snowball says that the most important task is to increase food production (develop socialism in Russia) and the Napoleon says that the important step is to build the windmill (permanent revolution). The argument is fierce and when it seems like Snowball is going to win the vote, Napoleon unleashes his secret weapon, the dogs. The dogs drive Snowball out of Animal Farm forever. Thus Napoleon has no rival and he can impose all the changes he wants. So he changes many rules and cancels the usual Sunday meetings.
The animals continue their hard work, still having faith that their life will indeed get better. The changes that Napoleon institutes are so different from the initial rules of animalism that life become more of a hell than heaven. The present was so bitter that the animals don’t have the memory to recall or the energy to change the present even if the memorize were fresh. Very soon the life at Animal Farm seems impossible to differentiate from the life the animals led at Manor Farm.
The novel can be interpreted by two different age groups in two different ways. Children can view this novel as merely a good ‘fairy story”. However the veterans of World War II can appreciate this as a political satire. The latter interpretation was the intention of George Orwell. He wanted to tell the world that communism is a curse and it will lead to severe problems. Orwell wanted to state that “institutionalized hierarchy begets privilege, which begets corruption of power”.
Thus it can be concluded that Orwell’s life has had a major impact on his writing. His early days at the preparatory school in Henley made him despise the English system and then his years at Eton College nurtured him as a rebel who wanted to warn the world against corruption. His experience in Spain finally made him write the political satire criticizing communism.
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