Sara

BIBLIOGRAPHY URLS

Posted by saformo on 15 Octubre 2012

– Animal Farm historical context. Scribd. 10-10-2012

http://es.scribd.com/doc/36842155/Animal-Farm-Historical-Context

– A study guide for Animal Farm. The Glencoe literature library. 12-10-2012

http://www.glencoe.com/sec/literature/litlibrary/pdf/animal_farm.pdf

– The Antagonish Review 111.Pyle, Steve. Last update 1:41 PM 23/02/99. St. Francis Xavier University. 12-10-2012

http://web.archive.org/web/20070108225314/http://www.antigonishreview.com/bi-111/111-pyle.html

– Charles´George Orwell links. 1995 – 2012 orwellweb.com. Netcharles. 10-10-2012

http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/articles/letters-agent-af.htm

George Orwell´s Animal farm and the politics of animal farm. Eissen, Paul. Charles´George Orwell links. 10-12-2012

http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/articles/col-paf.htm

Animal Farm character profiles. Charles´ George Orwell links. 9-10-12.

http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/articles/col-afcp.htm

– Oxford National Bibliography.Goldman, Lawrence.First published September 2004 (ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison). Oxford University Press. 10-10-2012

http://www.oxforddnb.com/public/dnb/31915.html

Topics and Subjects MA English-Literature.Sunday, October 31, 2010. NEO English system. 12-10-2012

http://neoenglishsystem.blogspot.com.es/2010/10/george-orwell-biographical-sketch.html

– Animal Farm historical context. Scribd. 10-10-2012

http://es.scribd.com/doc/36842155/Animal-Farm-Historical-Context

 

 

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HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL BACKGROUND

Posted by saformo on 15 Octubre 2012

 

As Orwell spent more and more time with the down-and-outs of England, he became convinced that the only remedy for the invidious

problem of poverty lay in socialism, a political andeconomic philosophy arguing that only when the state controlsthe means of production and distribution will all members of anation share its profits and rewards. Unlike capitalism , thephilosophy holding that a nation’s means of production anddistribution should be privately owned and controlled, socialismargues that only government regulation of a nation’s economycan close the gap between the rich and the poor. Although hewas not a virulent anti-capitalist , Orwell did think that onlywith the gradual introduction of socialist ideas and practices intoBritish life would the poor eventually come to share in the fruitsof their nation’s prosperity

As he explained in his Preface to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, “I became pro-Socialist more out of disgust with the waythe poorer section of the industrial workers were oppressed and neglected than out of any theoretical admiration for a planned society.”

After fighting against fascism (an oppressive system ofgovernment in which the ruling party has complete economiccontrol) in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell dedicated himself toexploring political questions in his writing. As he explains in theessay “Why I Write,” “Every line of serious work I have writtensince 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.” His detestation and fear of totalitarianism — an even more extreme form of fascism in which the ruling party hascomplete control over all aspects of a people’s lives — thusinformed much of his literary output.Orwell examined socialism in a number of his nonfiction works butwas prompted to write Animal Farm by what he saw as a Prevalent — and false — belief that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was a steptoward socialism for millions of poor and oppressed Russians. Orwellfelt that Stalin’s brutal rise to power was not only barbaric , but abetrayal of the socialist principles for which Lenin, Trotsky, and hehad presumably revolted.

In hindsight , this seems obvious, but in the world of World War IIEurope, such an attack on Russia was willingly stifled by manyBritish leftists who wanted to believe that Russia was indeed movingtoward a true union of socialist republics. The fact that Russia was— like England — fighting Hitler also made Orwell’s position more unpalatable to leftist thinkers. Still, he felt that Russia was notprogressing toward socialism but totalitarianism : “I was struck byclear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, inwhich the rulers have no more reason to give up their power thanany ruling class.” Convinced that “a destruction of the Soviet mythwas essential if we wanted a revival of the Socialist movement,”Orwell began thinking about how he could best communicate hisopinions on socialism and Stalin.

His thoughts were ignited when he happened to see a village boywhipping a cart-horse. At that moment, Orwell received theinspiration he needed to formulate his ideas into Animal Farm : “Itstruck me that if only such animals became aware of their strengthwe would have no power over them, and that men exploit animals”as the government in a totalitarian state exploits the commonpeople. Now Orwell had a plan for his novel which would both arguethe need for a true socialist government and warn the world of theways in which socialist ideas threatened the will of these in powerwho wish to control other people. His book would demonstrate theways in which — despite all of their socialist propaganda — theleaders of the Russian Revolution (especially Stalin) had created ina system even worse than its previous one and sound an alarm to all English readers about the dangers of believing in the Sovietmyth. After a number of rejections from publishers, the novel was finally accepted by the small publishing firm of Secker and Warburgand proved to be a tremendous success, both in England and theUnited States. AfterNineteen Eighty-Four, another novel thatportrays life under an oppressive government, Animal Farm Is Orwell’s most renowned work.Of course, the novel’s meaning is not rooted solely in its portrayalof the Russian Revolution. The novel asks its readers to examinethe ways in which political leaders with seemingly noble and altruistic motives can betray the very ideals in which theyOstensibly believe, as well as the ways in which certain membersof a nation can elect themselves to positions of great power andabuse their fellow citizens, all under the guise of assisting them.The novel also presents the subtle ways in which a group of citizens— of a farm or a nation — can be eventually led by the nose into aterrible life ruled by a totalitarian regime . In “Why I Write,” Orwelldescribes Animal Farm as “the first book in which I tried, with fullconsciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose andartistic purpose into one whole.” His political purpose — presentinga model of socialism gone wrong — is found in the way that thenovel’s animals reflect different kinds of humans and their strugglesfor freedom and power. Orwell felt that a farm where “All AnimalsAre Equal” would solve many social and economic problems — buthe also knew that such a system would be difficult to maintain ,since some animals would act on the principle that “Some AreMore Equal Than Others.”

 

Animal Farm historical context. Scribd. 10-10-2012   http://es.scribd.com/doc/36842155/Animal-Farm-Historical-Context

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WORKS OF GEORGE ORWELL

Posted by saformo on 15 Octubre 2012

Fiction

1984

A Clergyman’s Daughter

Animal Farm

Burmese Days

Coming up for Air

Down and Out in Paris and London

Keep the Aspidistra Flying


Non-FictionNon-Fiction

Homage to Catalonia

The Road to Wigan Pier


Essays

 

The complete works of George Orwell. 12-10-2012 http://www.george-orwell.org/

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ANIMAL FARM CHARACTERS PROFILE

Posted by saformo on 15 Octubre 2012


Mr. Jones: Mr. Jones is Orwell’s chief (or at least most obvious) villain in Animal Farm. Of course Napoleon is also the major villain, however much more indirectly. Orwell says that at one time Jones was actually a decent master to his animals. At this time the farm was thriving. But in recent years the farm had fallen on harder times (symbol of the world-wide Great Depression of the 30’s) and the opportunity was seen to revolt. The world-wide depression began in the United States when the stock market crashed in October of 1929. The depression spread throughout the world because American exports were so dependent on Europe. The U.S. was also a major contributor to the world market economy. Germany along with the rest of Europe was especially hit hard. The parallels between crop failure of the farm and the depression in the 1930’s are clear. Only the leaders and the die-hard followers ate their fill during this time period.

Mr. Jones symbolizes (in addition to the evils of capitalism) Czar Nicholas II, the leader before Stalin (Napoleon). Jones represents the old government, the last of the Czars. Orwell suggests that Jones (Czar Nicholas II) was losing his “edge.” In fact, he and his men had taken up the habit of drinking. Old Major reveals his feelings about Jones and his administration when he says, “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough , he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving and the rest he keeps for himself.”

So Jones and the old government are successfully uprooted by the animals. Little do they know, history will repeat itself with Napoleon and the pigs.

Old Major: Old Major is the first major character described by Orwell in Animal Farm. This “purebred” of pigs is the kind, grand fatherly philosopher of change— an obvious metaphor for Karl Marx. Old Major proposes a solution to the animals’ desperate plight under the Jones “administration” when he inspires a rebellion of sorts among the animals. Of course the actual time of the revolt is unsaid. It could be the next day or several generations down the road. But old Major’s philosophy is only an ideal.

After his death, three days after the barn-yard speech, the socialism he professes is drastically altered when Napoleon and the other pigs begin to dominate. It’s interesting that Orwell does not mention Napoleon or Snowball anytime during the great speech of old Major. This shows how distant and out-of-touch they really were; the ideals old Major proclaimed seemed to not even have been considered when they were establishing their new government after the successful revolt. It almost seemed as though the pigs fed off old Major’s inspiration and then used it to benefit themselves (a interesting twist of capitalism) instead of following through on the old Major’s honest proposal. This could be Orwell’s attempt to dig Stalin, who many consider to be someone who totally ignored Marx’s political and social theory.

Using old Major’s seeming naivety, Orwell concludes that no society is perfect, no pure socialist civilization can exist, and there is no way to escape the evil grasp of capitalism. (More on this in the Napoleon section.) Unfortunately when Napoleon and Squealer take over, old Major becomes more and more a distant fragment of the past in the minds of the farm animals.

Moses: Moses is perhaps Orwell’s most intriguing character in Animal Farm.This raven, first described as the “especial pet” of Mr. Jones, is the only animal who doesn’t work. He’s also the only character who doesn’t listen to Old Major’s speech of rebellion.

Orwell narrates, “The pigs had an even harder struggle to counteract the lies put about by Moses, the tame raven. Moses, who was Mr. Jones’s especial pet, was a spy and a tale-bearer, but he was also a clever talker. He claimed to know of the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which al animals went when they died. It was situated somewhere up in the sky, a little distance beyond the clouds, Moses said.In Sugarcandy Mountain it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges.The animals hated Moses because he told tales and did no work but some of them believed in Sugarcandy Mountain, and the pigs had to argue very hard to persuade them that there was no such place.”

Moses represents Orwell’s view of the Church.To Orwell, the Church is just used as a tool by dictatorships to keep the working class of people hopeful and productive. Orwell uses Moses to criticize Marx’s belief that the Church will just go away after the rebellion.Jones first used Moses to keep the animals working, and he was successful in many ways before the rebellion. The pigs had a real hard time getting rid of Moses, since the lies about Heaven they thought would only lead the animals away from the equality of socialism. But as the pigs led by Napoleon become more and more like Mr. Jones, Moses finds his place again. After being away for several years, he suddenly returns and picks up right where he left off. The pigs don’t mind this time because the animals have already realized that the “equality” of the revolt is a farce. So Napoleon feeds Moses with beer, and the full-circle is complete.

Orwell seems to offer a very cynical and harsh view of the Church. This proves that Animal Farm is not simply an anti-communist work meant to lead people into capitalism and Christianity. Really Orwell found loop-holes and much hypocrisy in both systems. It’s interesting that recently in Russia the government has begun to allow religion again. It almost seems that like the pigs, the Kremlin officials of today are trying to keep their people motivated, not in the ideology of communism, but in the “old-fashioned” hope of an after-life.

Snowball: Orwell describes Snowball as a pig very similar to Napoleon— at least in the early stages. Both pigs wanted a leadership position in the “new” economic and political system (which is actually contradictory to the whole supposed system of equality). But as time goes on, both eventually realize that one of them will have to step down. Orwell says that the two were always arguing. “Snowball and Napoleon were by far the most active in the debates. But it was noticed that these two were never in agreement: whatever suggestion either of them made, the other could be counted to oppose it.” Later, Orwell makes the case stronger. “These two disagreed at every point disagreement was possible.”

Soon the differences, like whether or not to build a windmill, become too great to deal with, so Napoleon decides that Snowball must be eliminated. It might seem that this was a spontaneous reaction, but a careful look tells otherwise. Napoleon was setting the stage for his own domination long before he really began “dishing it out” to Snowball. For example, he took the puppies away from their mothers in efforts to establish a private police force. These dogs would later be used to eliminate Snowball, his arch-rival.

Snowball represents Trotsky, the arch-rival of Stalin in Russia. The parallels between Trotsky and Snowball are uncanny. Trotsky too, was exiled, not from the farm, but to Mexico, where he spoke out against Stalin. Stalin was very weary of Trotsky, and feared that Trotsky supporters might try to assassinate him. The dictator of Russia tried hard to kill Trotsky, for the fear of losing leadership was very great in the crazy man’s mind. Trotsky also believed in Communism, but he thought he could run Russia better than Stalin. Trotsky was murdered in Mexico by the Russian internal police, the NKVD-the pre-organization of the KGB. Trotsky was found with a pick axe in his head at his villa in Mexico.

Napoleon: Napoleon is Orwell’s chief villain in Animal Farm. The name Napoleon is very coincidental since Napoleon, the dictator of France, was thought by many to be the Anti-Christ. Napoleon, the pig, is really the central character on the farm. Obviously a metaphor for Stalin, Comrade Napoleon represents the human frailties of any revolution. Orwell believed that although socialism is good as an ideal, it can never be successfully adopted due to uncontrollable sins of human nature. For example, although Napoleon seems as first to be a good leader, he is eventually overcome by greed and soon becomes power-hungry. Of course Stalin did too in Russia, leaving the original equality of socialism behind, giving himself all the power and living in luxury while the common peasant suffered. Thus, while his national and international status blossomed, the welfare of Russia remained unchanged. Orwell explains, “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer–except, of course for the pigs and the dogs.”

The true side of Napoleon becomes evident after he slaughters so many animals for plotting against him. He even hires a pig to sample his food for him to make certain that no one is trying to poison him. Stalin, too, was a cruel dictator in Russia. After suspecting many people in his empire to be supporters of Trotsky (Orwell’s Snowball), Stalin systematically murders many.

By the end of the book, Napoleon doesn’t even pretend to lead a socialist state. After renaming it a Republic and instituting his own version of the commandments and the Beasts of England, Comrade Napoleon, he quickly becomes more or less a dictator who of course has never even been elected by the animals.

Boxer: The name Boxer is cleverly used by Orwell as a metaphor for the Boxer Rebellion in China in the early twentieth century. It was this rebellion which signalled the beginning of communism in red China. This communism, much like the distorted Stalin view of socialism, is still present today in the oppressive social government in China. Boxer and Clover are used by Orwell to represent the proletariat, or unskilled labour class in Russian society. This lower class is naturally drawn to Stalin (Napoleon) because it seems as though they will benefit most from his new system. Since Boxer and the other low animals are not accustomed to the “good life,” they can’t really compare Napoleon’s government to the life they had before under the czars (Jones). Also, since usually the lowest class has the lowest intelligence, it is not difficult to persuade them into thinking they are getting a good deal.

The proletariat is also quite good at convincing each other that communism is a good idea. Orwell supports this contention when he narrates, “Their most faithful disciples were the two carthorses, Boxer and Clover. Those two had great difficulty in thinking anything out for themselves, but having once accepted the pigs as their teachers, they absorbed everything that they were told, and passed it on to the other animals by simple arguments.”

Later, the importance of the proletariat is shown when Boxer suddenly falls and there is suddenly a drastic decrease in work productivity. But still he is taken for granted by the pigs, who send him away in a glue truck. Truly Boxer is the biggest poster-child for gullibility.

Squealer: Squealer is an intriguing character in Orwell’s Animal Farm. He’s first described as a manipulator and persuader. Orwell narrates, “He could turn black into white.”Many critics correlate Squealer with the Pravda, the Russian newspaper of the 1930’s. Propaganda was a key to many publications, and since their was no television or radio, the newspaper was the primary source of media information. So the monopoly of the Pravda was seized by Stalin and his new Bolshevik regime. In Animal Farm, Squealer, like the newspaper, is the link between Napoleon and other animals. When Squealer masks an evil intention of the pigs, the intentions of the communists can be carried out with little resistance and without political disarray. Squealer is also thought by some to represent Goebbels, who was the minister of propaganda for Germany. This would seem inconsistent with Orwell’s satire, however, which was suppose to metaphor characters in Russia.

Mollie: Mollie is one of Orwell’s minor characters, but she represents something very important. Mollie is the animal who is most opposed to the new government under Napoleon. She doesn’t care much about the politics of the whole situation; she just wants to tie her hair with ribbons and eat sugar, things her social status won’t allow. Many animals consider her a trader when she is seen being petted by a human from a neighbouring farm. Soon Mollie is confronted by the “dedicated” animals, and she quietly leaves the farm. Mollie characterizes the typical middle-class skilled worker who suffers from this new communism concept. No longer will she get her sugar (nice salary) because she is now just as low as the other animals, like Boxer and Clover.

Orwell uses Mollie to characterize the people after any rebellion who aren’t too receptive to new leaders and new economics. There are always those resistant to change. This continues to dispel the believe Orwell hated that basically all animals act the same. The naivety of Marxism is criticized— socialism is not perfect and it doesn’t work for everyone.

Benjamin: Old Benjamin, an elderly donkey, is one of Orwell’s most elusive and intriguing characters on Animal Farm. He is described as rather unchanged since the rebellion. He still does his work the same way, never becoming too exited or too disappointed about anything that has passed. Benjamin explains, “Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey.”

Although there is no clear metaphoric relationship between Benjamin and Orwell’s critique of communism, it makes sense that during any rebellion there or those who never totally embrace the revolution— those so cynical they no longer look to their leaders for help. Benjamin symbolizes the older generation, the critics of any new rebellion. Really this old donkey is the only animal who seems as though he couldn’t care less about Napoleon and Animal Farm. It’s almost as if he can see into the future, knowing that the revolt is only a temporary change, and will flop in the end.

Benjamin is the only animal who doesn’t seem to have expected anything positive from the revolution. He almost seems on a whole different maturity lever compared to the other animals. He is not sucked in by Napoleon’s propaganda like the others. The only time he seems to care about the others at all is when Boxer is carried off in the glue truck. It’s almost as if the old donkey finally comes out of his shell, his perfectly fitted demeanour, when he tries to warn the others of Boxer’s fate. And the animals do try to rescue Boxer, but it’s too late. Benjamin seems to be finally confronting Napoleon and revealing his knowledge of the pigs’ hypocrisy, although before he had been completely independent.

After the animals have forgotten Jones and their past lives, Benjamin still remembers everything. Orwell states, “Only old Benjamin professed to remember every detail of his long life and to know that things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse— hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life.”

Muriel: Muriel is a knowledgeable goat who reads the commandments for Clover. Muriel represents the minority of working class people who are educated enough to decide things for themselves and find critical and hypocritical problems with their leaders. Unfortunately for the other animals, Muriel is not charismatic or inspired enough to take action and oppose Napoleon and his pigs.

Pigs: Orwell uses the pigs to surround and support Napoleon. They symbolize the communist party loyalists and the friends of Stalin. The pigs, unlike other animals, live in luxury and enjoy the benefits of the society they help control. The inequality and true hypocrisy of communism is expressed here by Orwell, who criticized Marx’s oversimplified view of a socialist, “utopian” society. Obviously George Orwell doesn’t believe such a society can exist. Toward the end of the book, Orwell emphasizes, “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer— except, of course, the pigs and the dogs.

Dogs: Orwell uses the dogs in his book, Animal Farm, to represent the KGB or perhaps more accurately, the bodyguards of Stalin. The dogs are the arch-defenders of Napoleon and the pigs, and although they don’t speak, they are definitely a force the other animals have to contend with.

Orwell almost speaks of the dogs as mindless robots, so dedicated to Napoleon that they can’t really speak for themselves. This contention is supported as Orwell describes Napoleon’s early and suspicious removal of six puppies from their mother. The reader is left in the dark for a while, but later is enlightened when Orwell describes the chase of Snowball  Napoleon uses his “secret dogs” for the first time here; before Snowball has a chance to stand up and give a counter-argument to Napoleon’s disapproval of the windmill, the dogs viciously attack the pig, forcing him to flee, never to return again.

Orwell narrates, “Silent and terrified, the animals crept back into the barn. In a moment the dogs came bounding back. At first no one had been able to imagine where these creatures came from, but the problem was soon solved: they were the puppies whom Napoleon had taken away from their mothers and reared privately. Though not yet full-grown, they were huge dogs, and as fierce-looking as wolves. They kept close to Napoleon. It was noticed that they wagged their tails to him in the same way as the other dogs had been used to do to Mr. Jones.”

The use of the dogs begins the evil use of force which helps Napoleon maintain power. Later, the dogs do even more dastardly things when they are instructed to kill the animals labelled “disloyal.” Stalin, too, had his own special force of “helpers.” Really there are followers loyal to any politician or government leader, but Stalin in particular needed a special police force to eliminate his opponents. This is how Trotsky was killed.

Animals: The sheep and other animals are very similar to Boxer and Clover. Both the horses and sheep represent in many ways the proletariat, or working class of unskilled labourers. These animals depend on their backs, not their brains, to do work. Thus, they fall into the bottom of society and are the focal point of politicians’ brainwashing. The animals are stubborn and easily swayed. Orwell points out repeatedly that if it wasn’t for the bleating of the sheep, “Two legs bad, four legs good,” which was strategically inspired by the pigs, Napoleon wouldn’t have the power and control that he eventually came to enjoy and then abuse.

Frederick: The theme of the gun and flag rituals performed by the animals at the urging of Napoleon is strengthened through Orwell’s description of Mr. Frederick, the neighbour of Animal Farm. Frederick, through the course of the book, becomes an enemy and then a friend and then an enemy again to Napoleon, who makes many secret deals and treaties with him. One of the major problems the two farms have is the issue of the timber. Napoleon sells the wood to Frederick for bank notes, only to find that they are worthless. During the world wide depression, countries were forced by necessity to trade with other countries. One country would have a product or natural resource another country would not; therefore to survive, the country would trade. Many times the trades were unfair and fraudulent. This created many international problems. So you can see the parallels are clear.

Pilkington: Orwell uses Pilkington, another neighbour of Animal Farm, as a metaphor for the Allies of World War II (excluding, of course Russia). Like the Soviet Union before World War II, Animal Farm wasn’t sure who their allies would be. But after losing the relationship with Frederick (Germany), Napoleon (Stalin) decides to befriend Pilkington, and ally with him. Napoleon and the other pigs even go as far as to invite him over for dinner at the end of the book. Here Mr. Pilkington and his men congratulate Napoleon on the efficiency of Animal Farm.

Orwell narrates, “Mr. Pilkington once again congratulated the pigs on the low rations, the long working hours, and the general absence of pampering which he had observed on Animal Farm.”Russia’s allies, after the war, also admired it’s efficiency. But soon the cold war would begin between the United States and Russia. This is unbelievably also referred to in the book (published in 1946) when Orwell writes, “An uproar of voices was coming from the farmhouse…a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shouting, banging on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials.” Amazingly Orwell seemed to sense the start of American-Russian tension for years to come.

Rats:Orwell’s rats (and the other wild animals, like rabbits, for that matter) represent the opposition to the Bolsheviks. They too, had to be included in the rebellion, although for the longest time they sided with the another party. The rats and rabbits symbolize other political parties. Although the communist party took off with Lenin, there were still others around. These are the wild animals.

Pigeons: The pigeons symbolize Soviet propaganda, not to Russia, but to other countries, like Germany, England, France, and even the United States. Russia had created an iron curtain even before WWII. The Communist government raved about its achievements and its advanced technology, but it never allowed experts or scientists from outside the country to check on its validity. Orwell mentions the fact that the other farmers became suspicious and worried when their animals began to sing Beasts of England. Many Western governments have gone through a similar problem with their people in this century. There was a huge “Red Scare” in the United States in the 20’s. In the 1950’s in the United States, Joseph McCarthy was a legislative member of the government from Wisconsin. He accused hundreds of people of supporting the Communist regime, from famous actors in Hollywood to middle-class common people. The fear of communism became a phobia in America and anyone speaking out against the government was a suspect.

Animal Farm character profiles. Charles´ George Orwell links. 9-10-12.http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/articles/col-afcp.htm


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THE THEMES OF ANIMAL FARM

Posted by saformo on 15 Octubre 2012

Animal Farm

Animal Farm is George Orwell´s first satirical beast fable. Although people refere to Animal Farm as a political allegory of the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin, the truth is that can be read as a political allegory of any political revolution of the 20th century. The novel circulates around seven commandments of the animal in the farm, and the return of tyranny and cruelty of the beginning, after the fulfillment of Animalist revolution; the only notable real change they have after the revolution is the change of the head masters of the farm, but not their forms.

The novel begins with the introduction of Mr. Jones, the old owner of the Manor farm. He is a cruel owner that badtreats the animals in the farm, and he is irresponsable on the necessities the animal have in the farm: he often appears drunk, he insults and hit the animals etc… One day the pig Old Major confesses a dream he had before he died, in the dream the animals of the farm were free of human owners and they managed the farm.

One night, the animals were starving to death so they decide to break the door to eat freely. When Mr. Jones and the farm workers come in the animals leap on them and kick them out of the farm, they had carried out their revolution without notice the big stept they had done. When the owners have already gone, the animals burn everything that resembles them to Mr. Jones and humanity with an understable agresivity, an agresivity that will be the preface of what will come after the revolution.

Now the owner of the farm Mr. Jones is replaced by the pigs Snowball and Napoleon, and they write the seven commandments that condensed their ideals, although they will be soon perverted. The last os the seven commandments is ” All animals are equal ” , however while the rest of animals are working, the pigs assume the leadership and they direct and supervise the other animal´s actions, but they don´t work with the rest. This will be the first perversion of the Seven Commandments.

The Seven Commandments:

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

When Animalism rules, there will come far more horrible situations for the animals in the farm. While the leader Snowball is organizing, the other leader, Napoleon, manipulates the small animals for his own devil purposes. Soon the rumours of the revolution are spread on the different farms, the rumours for humand will be news of tortures and cannibalism, a place where human beings had been been turned out, but for the animals on other farms will be rumours about a farm where animals manage their own lives. This shows de misinterpretation and falsification of truth.

Then, conflicts between both leaders will start, it is the major theme of the book, the corruption of power and the rivalry between leaders. Soon Napoleon startds to poison the mind of animals to become the only leader, he will betray the commandments to be the only manager of the farm. Satirically, the human being that was present in the animals will soon developed into the animalism humans have.

“The evening Squealer explained privately to the other animals that Napoleon had never in reality been opposed to the windmill. On the contrary, it was he who had advocated it in the beginning, and the plan which Snowball had drawn on the floor of the incubator shed had actually been stolen from among Napoleon’s papers… He had seemed to oppose the windmill, simply as a maneuver to get rid of Snowball, who was a dangerous character and a bad influence.”

After Snowball leaves the farm and Napoleon consolidates himslef as the leader, the real tyranny starts. The corruption of power will become the main element of the plot. George Orwell wants to show us the decadence of characters, especially the ones that took the control of the farm, that is, the pigs. They betray their ideals and after the revolution, they badtreat, as humans used to do, the rest of animals, practising the same hard tyranny as Napoleon as the head of this dictatorship.

Power corrupts minds, gradually Napoleon takes control ver every word and action the rest of animals do, as politics do when they have reached power, they forget their ideals and they change history in order to justify the change in the commandments. Animals, like society, will be afraid of new changes and they will accept any rule that power imposes as they are frightened of an worsening of their lives if they react.

In the story, the windmill will become the mean by which Napoleon exerts the control on the rest of animals, and while they are concentrated on the building of the mill, they won´t notice his tyranny as all their efforts are concentrated on the mill. But it is about this time when the animals start to notice the difference between then as animals and the pigs. The pigs had abandoned the nature of the commandments: they sleept in beds, they refused to eating in company of other animals, etc… and one of them notices that  one commandment had been changed.

“No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.”

Beginning with this change in the commandment, the animals of the farm will live the most significant change, an alteration of history through the change of commandments. When a commandment is changed, they think they had remembered it wrong, so they accept the change one by one of all commandments. As years pass, most of the animals involved in the revolution were forgotten, and the only commandment that remains in the wall is:

” All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”

Pigs were not distinguished from humans any more, that shows the terribly condition of humans, there have always been pigs on society and they have always died for a little more of power. To be a”pig” is in human nature.

Animalism was only an illusion cretaed by the pigs to control their society, while they get more power and wealth, and trough the change and manipulation of history, animals will not be able to control the present nor the future.

 

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THE CONSEQUENCES OF PUBLISHING ANIMAL FARM

Posted by saformo on 15 Octubre 2012

George Orwell’s final novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949, becoming an instant best-seller and critically-regarded as a modem classic. The author had just recently become a world literary figure thanks to the amazing little book Animal Farm, which very nearly never made it into print. He was also mortally ill.

‘The tragedy of Orwell’s life is that when at last he achieved fame and success he was a dying man and knew it,’ his friend since their preparatory school days, Cyril Connolly, wrote. ‘He had fame and was too ill to leave his room, money and nothing to spend it on, love in which he could not participate; he tasted the bitterness of dying.”1

Animal Farm was written in the final years of World War 11 and Nineteen Eighty-Four immediately afterwards. Orwell conceived both masterworks as components of a thematic series concerning abuse of political power. Such radically different fictional equipment was incorporated within each book though that their mutuality can be lost as one becomes absorbed by the sheer power of the writing. Orwell’s brilliance created two works of intellectual continuity which stand separately, alone.

In fact Nineteen Eighty-Four may not have been written at all without its tiny (thirty thousand-words) zoomorphic predecessor about the Russian Revolution then the sorry aftermath of idealism corrupted and betrayed by totalitarianism. The idea for Animal Farm came innocently enough. Orwell wrote: ‘On my return from Spain I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood by almost anyone and which could be easily translated into other languages. However, the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day (I was then living in asmall village) I saw alittleboy, perhaps tenyears old, driving a huge cari horse along a narrow path whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.

‘I proceeded to analyze Marx’s theory from the animals’ point of view…”2

Orwell also said that by writing Animal Farm he entered a new realm of creative invention, thus settling the table for everything which followed: ‘Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.”3 Not only was it his first novel written exclusively for political purpose, however, but in retrospect Orwell himself considered it as his preeminent work.4

Animal Farm was written in just a few months, from November, 1943, to the end of February, 1944. The Allies had already entered into their non-aggression pact with Soviet Russia. Orwell was a committed Socialist but politically cynical and distrustful. Time spent in Spain fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, documented in Homage to Catalonia (I 938), had shown him first-hand how peoples’ hopes could be perverted against them by leaders who were not so much interested in political philosophy as in ultimate power.

For most of his adult life he was troubled by a political paradox: Socialism seemed necessary to eliminate poverty and economic imperialism yet once established, by its very egalitarianism, Socialism was especially vulnerable to exploitation by ruthless power seekers. This was a driving force behind Animal Farm. Global tyranny beyond the revolution and dehumanization, perpetuated forever by an elite intelligentsia, became the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Considering Orwell’s obsession with prosaic precision and his hallmark style of plain, straight forward English, it’s a wonder how misrepresented and misunderstood the little book became. Orwell’s primary theme, of course, was condemnation of tyranny. Yet beyond that, some Socialists saw a message that the Russian Revolution could have been successful if not for betrayal. Others, Connolly included, said Russian-style revolution was doomed to failure because its violence gave licence to violence afterwards, in the name of preserving the new status quo. In some quarters, especially in the United States, the book was heralded as proof that Socialism could never work. To the consternation of Orwell it was used as anti-Communist propaganda.5

The book’s political motives aside, however, it may of course be read on an entirely differentplane altogether. Both of this writer’s daughters read it before they were teens, enjoying it immensely without knowing a scrap of the politics behind it. Surely that was an acid test to determine the greatness of any satire.

With relevance, controversy and exceptional artistic merit, was it incomprehensible then that Animal Farm barely made it into print? Numerous British and American publishing houses rejected it. One, Dial Press, New York, returned the manuscript and, according to Orwell, told him that it was ‘…impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”6

Faber and Faber, London, rejected the book despite it being termed a ‘…distinguished piece of writing’, according to T.S. Eliot, one of the firm’s directors and managing partners. ‘The fable is very skilfully handled … the narrative keeps one’s interest on its own plane – and that is something very few authors have achieved since Gulliver.’

Eliot added: ‘It is certainly the duty of any publishing firm which pretends to other interests and motives than mere commercial prosperity, to publish books which go against the current of the moment; but in each instance that demands that at least one member of the firm should have the conviction that this is the thing that needs saying at the moment. I can’t see any reason of prudence or caution to prevent anybody from publishing this book – if he believed in what it stands for.”7

All of Orwell’s previous books had been published by Victor Gollancz, London, who held right of first refusal for Animal Farm. Gollancz was a left-wing Socialist who found the book’s indictments too disagreeable. As a matter of policy and principle he decided not to publish it, agreeing to surrender rights.

The book began making the rounds but at that time British publishers were nervous about the ‘Ministry of Information’, the Churchill govemment’s euphemistically-titled public relations bureau which was also involved in subtle censorship. With cooperation from publishers the MOI was scrutihizing all politically-sensitive manuscripts under consideration for publication.

Publisher Jonathan Cape’s prestigious firm was apparently ready to take on Animal Farm but backed out at the last moment. In a letter to Orwell’s agent, Leonard Moore, Cape said: ‘My reading of the manuscript gave me considerable personal enjoyment and satisfaction, but I can see now that it might be regarded as something which it was highly ill-advised to publish at the present time.’

Citing’…an important official in the Ministry of Information’ whose name has now been lost, Cape wrote that the book was too specific in its allegory: ‘The fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators, that it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of other dictatorships. Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs.’8

At this same time Orwell was writing a regular column for The Tribune newspaper, London. He contributed seventy-nine pieces in all and in one published July 7,1944, he deplored the servility of publishers and the insidiousness of their quiet cooperation with the government.

‘The MOI does not, of course, dictate a party line or issue an index expurgatorius,’he wrote. ‘Itmerely’ advises”. Publishers take manuscripts to the MOI and the MOI “suggests” that this or that is undesirable or premature, or “would serve no good purpose”. And though there is no definite prohibition, no clear statement that this or that must not be printed, official policy is never flouted. Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.’9

It was after Animal Farm had been rejected by Cape’s that Orwell sent it to Faber’s. Eliot’s rejection letter must not have come as any real surprise as Eliot had, in 1932, also rejected Orwell’s graphic account of life on the bum: Down and Out in Paris and London, influenced in idea and technique by Jack London’s People of the Abyss (1903).

The manuscript Orwell sent to Faber’s was ‘…decidedly too short’, said Eliot, ‘…and particularly for such a book of such length it seems to me too loosely constructed, as the French and English episodes fall into two parts with very little to connect them. I should think, however, that you should have enough material from your experiences to make a very interesting book on down-and-out life in England alone.’10

The manuscript was-reworked by Orwell and it made an interesting book for sure, despite finding limited success after publication by Gollancz in 1933. It was remaindered and out of print until a 1940 Penguin paperback release of fifty-five thousand copies, which gave the author a modicum of renown. Its fame grew with the author’s subsequent reputation and it is now regarded as a classic of the polemical/documentary genre.

Following Faber’s rejection of Animal Farm, Orwell was trying to raise money to self-publish when the then-modest London firm of Secker & Warburg agreed to issue a limited printing, which appeared shortly after the war ended. That printing sold out immediately. Animal Farm went to re-print and translation and has never been out of print since. It has become one of the world’s most widely-read novels originally written in English.

Animal Farm made me as a publisher,’ Frederic Warburg wrote. It also transformed Orwell from a minor British writer into a world figure.11 By then though the chain-smoking, consumptive Orwell, who had done much of his writing in dank rooms, became stricken by lung hemorrhages. His condition was exacerbated by the gruelling schedule kept while working on Nineteen Eighty-Four, completed while he was bed-ridden nonetheless typing the final draft himself because of a post-war scarcity of good typists for hire.

George Orwell died, alone, in hospital of tuberculosis at forty-six. During his relatively short writingcareerhecreated arich legacy ofpolitical writing as art unmatched since Jonathan Swift. ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear,’

 

The Antagonish Review 111.Pyle, Steve. Last update 1:41 PM 23/02/99. St. Francis Xavier University. 12-10-2012 http://web.archive.org/web/20070108225314/http://www.antigonishreview.com/bi-111/111-pyle.html

 

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WHY GEORGE ORWELL WROTE ANIMAL FARM

Posted by saformo on 14 Octubre 2012

In the years since the publication of Animal Farm and 1984, both of which conjure visions of modern government’s dangerous power, critics have studied and analyzed George Orwell’s personal life. Orwell was a man who had a reputation for standing apart and even making a virtue of his detachment. This “outsider” position often led him to oppose the crowd.

Orwell began life as Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell was a pen name he adopted later for its “manly, English, country-sounding ring.”) He spent his early years in India as a lonely boy who liked to make up stories and talk with imaginary companions. He began to “write” before he even knew how, dictating poems to his mother, and perhaps saw this outlet as an alternative to the human relationships he found so difficult.

Refuge in words and ideas became increasingly important when Orwell’s parents sent him, at age eight, to boarding school in England. Later, instead of going on to university, he decided to take a job in Burma with the Indian Imperial Police. Orwell wrote about this experience in Burmese Days (1934) and in the essay “Shooting an Elephant.” At odds with British colonial rule, Orwell said he “theoretically—and secretly, of course . . . was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British.” Returning to England to recover from a bout of the chronic lung illness that plagued him all his life, Orwell began his writing career in earnest. Over the next two decades, he wrote newspaper columns, novels, essays, and radio broadcasts, most of which grew out of his own personal experience.

Orwell’s beliefs about politics were affected by his experiences fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He viewed socialists, communists, and fascists as repressive and self-serving. Orwell patriotically supported England during World War II, but remained skeptical of governments and their willingness to forsake ideals in favor of power. With each book or essay, Orwell solidified his role as the outsider willing to question any group’s ideology. Orwell spoke his mind with Animal Farm, in which he criticized the Soviet Union despite its role as a World War II ally of Great Britain. At first, no one would publish the novel, but when Animal Farm finally appeared in 1945 it was a success. It was later adapted both as an animated film and as a play.

In explaining how he came to write Animal Farm, Orwell says he once saw a little boy whipping a horse:

It struck me that if only such animals became

aware of their strength we should have no

power over them, and that men exploit animals

in much the same way as the rich exploit

the [worker].

Orwell said it was the first book in which he consciously tried to blend artistic and political goals. Orwell’s final novel, 1984, continued that effort with a grim portrayal of a world totally under government control. Orwell pursued his writing career faithfully, although it was not always easy. In his final days he made the statement, “Writing . . . is a horrible, exhausting struggle . . . One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven . . .”

Animal Farm is written on many levels. It is

already a children’s story in its own right. . . .

[It] is also a lament for the fate of revolutions

and the hopes contained in them. It is a moving

comment on man’s constant compromise with

the truth.

John Atkins, George Orwell

On the publication of Animal Farm in 1945, George Orwell discovered with horror that booksellers were placing his novel on children’s shelves. According to his housekeeper, he began traveling from bookstore to bookstore requesting that the book be shelved with adult works. This dual identity—as children’s story and adult satire—has stayed with Orwell’s novel for more than fifty years.

Animal Farm tells the story of Farmer Jones’s animals who rise up in rebellion and take over the farm. Tired of being exploited solely for human gain, the animals—who have human characteristics such as the power of speech—vow to create a new and more just society. Though the novel reads like a fairy story, and Orwell subtitles it as just that, it is also a satire containing a message about world politics and especially the former Soviet Union in particular. Since the Bolshevik revolutions of the early 1900s, the former Soviet Union had captured the attention of the world with its socialist experiment. Stalin’s form of government had some supporters in Britain and the United States, but Orwell was against this system.

In a satire, the writer attacks a serious issue by presenting it in a ridiculous light or otherwise poking fun at it. Orwell uses satire to expose what he saw as the myth of Soviet socialism. Thus, the novel tells a story that people of all ages can understand, but it also tells us a second story— that of the real-life Revolution. Many critics have matched in great detail the story’s characters to historical persons––for example, linking the power struggle between Napoleon and Snowball to the historical feuding between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trostky for control of the Soviet Union. Critics also believe that Old Major represents Karl Marx, who dies before realizing his dream. Other comparisons include Moses as the Russian Orthodox church, Boxer and Clover as workers, the sheep as the general public, Squealer as Stalin’s government news agency, the dogs as Stalin’s military police, and Farmer Jones as Czar Nicholas II. The farm’s neighbors, Pilkington and Frederick, are said to represent Great Britain and Germany, while Mollie suggests the old Russian aristocracy, which resists change. A tremendous success when published, Animal Farm has since become part of school curriculums and popular literary culture. Readers and critics alike have enjoyed its imaginative premise and the engaging charm of its animal characters. Orwell’s straightforward language draws readers into the farm’s world, while the witty underlying satire invites serious analysis. In George Orwell: A Personal Memoir, T. R. Fyvel writes:

Orwell] turned the domestic animals on the

farm into immediately recognizable and

memorable and sometimes lovable characters.

Animal Farm is more than a fairy story. It is a commentary on the the relevance of independent thought, truth, and justice.

THE TIME AND PLACE

An allegory is a narrative that can be read on more than one level. Critics often consider Animal Farm to be an allegory of the Russian Revolution. In the early 1900s, Russia’s Czar Nicholas II faced an increasingly discontented populace. Freed from feudal serfdom in 1861, many Russian peasants were struggling to survive under an oppressive government.

By 1917, amidst the tremendous suffering of World War I, a revolution began. In two major battles, the Czar’s government was overthrown and replaced by the Bolshevik leadership of Vladmir Lenin. When Lenin died in 1924, his former colleagues Leon Trotsky, hero of the early Revolution, and Joseph Stalin, head of the Communist Party, struggled for power. Stalin won the battle, and he deported Trotsky into permanent exile.

Once in power, Stalin began, with despotic urgency and exalted nationalism, to move the Soviet Union into the modern industrial age. His government seized land in order to create collective farms. Stalin’s Five Year Plan was an attempt to modernize Soviet industry. To counter resistance (many peasants refused to give up their land), Stalin used vicious military tactics. Rigged trials led to executions of an estimated 20 million government officials and ordinary citizens. The government controlled the flow and content of information to the people, and all but outlawed churches. Orwell initially struggled to find a publisher for

Animal Farm. Many liberal intellectuals in Europe admired the Soviet experiment with socialism. They believed socialism would produce a society in which everyone—workers and employers—was equal, and in which there were no upper, middle, or lower classes. In Orwell’s words “they want[ed] to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist.” Also, British publishers were hesitant to publicly criticize their Soviet allies as World War II came to a close. The book was published in 1945, after Germany surrendered. Orwell believed that the basis for society was human decency and common sense, which conflicted with the ideals for society that were prevalent at the time: socialism, capitalism, communism, and fascism, to name a few. As an individualist who believed that his own experiences should guide his philosophy, he was often at odds with these popular ideas. He believed that governments were encroaching on the individual’s freedom of choice, love of family, and tolerance for others. He emphasized honesty, individuality, and the welfare of society throughout his writings.

 

A study guide for Animal Farm. The Glencoe literature library. 12-10-2012 http://www.glencoe.com/sec/literature/litlibrary/pdf/animal_farm.pdf

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EXCERPTS FROM ORWELL´S LETTERS TO HIS AGENT LEONARD MOORE

Posted by saformo on 14 Octubre 2012

To Leonard Moore
9 January 1944

Dear Mr Moore,

… I am overwhelmed with work. I am getting on with my book [Animal Farm] and unless I get ill or something hope to finish it by the end of March. After that I have contracted to do one for the “Britain in Pictures” series, but that shouldn’t take long.

This thing I am doing now will be very short, about 20,000 to 25,000 words. It is a fairy story but also a political allegory and I think we may have some difficulties about finding a publisher. It won’t be any use trying it on Gollancz nor probably Warburg, but it might be worth dropping a hint elsewhere that I have a book coming along. I suppose you know which publishers have paper and which haven’t?

Yours sincerely Eric Blair

To Leonard Moore
19 March 1944

Dear Mr Moore,

I have finished my book [Animal Farm] and will be sending you the MS in a few days’ time. It is being typed now. I make it about 30,000 words. To avoid wasting time I think we ought to decide in advance what to do about showing it to Gollancz. According to our contract he has the first refusal of my fiction books, and this would come under the heading of fiction, as it is a sort of fairy story, really a fable with a political meaning. I think, however, Gollancz wouldn’t publish it, as it is strongly anti-Stalin in tendency. Nor is it any use wasting time on Warburg, who probably wouldn’t touch anything of this tendency and to my knowledge is very short of paper. I suggest therefore that we ought to tell Gollancz but let him know that the book is not likely to suit him, and say that we will only send it along if he very definitely wants to see it. I am going to write to him in this sense now. The point is that if Gollancz and his readers get hold of it, even if they end by not taking it, they will probably hang onto the MS for weeks. So I will write to him, and then he will know about it before you get the MS.

As to what publisher to approach, I think Nicholson and Watson might be the best. I told one of their men I had a book coming along and he seemed anxious to get hold of it. Or else Hutchinson, where I have a contact in Robert Neumann. Or anyone else who (a) has got some paper and (b) isn’t in the arms of Stalin. The latter is important. This book is murder from the Communist point of view, though no names are mentioned. Provided we can get over these difficulties I fancy the book should find a publisher, judging by the stuff they do print nowadays.

I am going to send two copies. I think we might have a try at an American publication as well …

Yours sincerely Eric Blair

To Victor Gollancz [Orwell’s publisher]
19 March 1944

Dear Mr Gollancz,

I have just finished a book [Animal Farm] and the typing will be completed in a few days. You have the first refusal of my fiction books, and I think this comes under the heading of fiction. It is a little fairy story, about 30,000 words, with a political meaning. But I must tell you that it is—I think—completely unacceptable politically from your point of view (it is anti-Stalin). I don’t know whether in that case you will want to see it. If you do, of course I will send it along, but the point is that I am not anxious, naturally, for the MS to be hanging about too long. If you think that you would like to have a look at it, in spite of its not being politically O.K., could you let either me or my agent (Christy & Moore) know? Moore will have the MS. Otherwise, could you let me know that you don’t want to see it, so that I can take it elsewhere without wasting time?

Yours sincerely
[Signed] Eric Blair

To Leonard Moore
29 August 1944

Dear Mr Moore,

I have just seen Warburg. He has definitely arranged to publish “Animal Farm” about March 1945, so perhaps you can get in touch with him about the contract. He is willing to pay an advance of £100, half of this to be paid about Christmas of this year.’ I shall give him an option on all my future books, but this can be arranged in such a way as not to tie me down if for some special reason I want to take a book elsewhere.

Yours sincerely E. A. Blair

 

Charles´George Orwell links. 1995 – 2012 orwellweb.com. Netcharles. 10-10-2012  http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/articles/letters-agent-af.htm

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GEORGE ORWELL´S BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Posted by saformo on 14 Octubre 2012

His Connection with the East

George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair. He was the second of three children of his parents. Both sides of his family had been connected with the East. His paternal grandfather was an Anglican priest in Australia and India; and his maternal grandfather, who was French, was a teak merchant in Moulmein, Burma. His father, Richard Blair, was a deputy agent in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service, which supervised the legalized opium trade with China. Orwell’s family belonged to the English upper-middle class.

 

His Attitude to His Parents

 Orwell was born in 1903 in Motihari (Bengal) situated on the bank of a lake in the State of Bihar. He spent the first three or four years of his life in India before he was sent to England in 1907 to begin his schooling. The years of childhood spent in India, the heat, the colour, and the social atmosphere had deeply affected his childish imagination. In England Orwell attended a primary school at Henley-on-Thames. In an essay which Orwell wrote in 1947, he recorded that his early childhood at home had not been altogether happy. In 1911, at the age of eight, Orwell joined a preparatory school called St. Cyprian’s. Orwell’s memories of his parents were not very pleasant. In the essay referred to above, for instance, Orwell wrote:

One ought to love one’s father, but I know very well that I merely disliked my father, whom I had barely seen before I was eight and who appeared to me simply as a gruff-voiced elderly gentleman forever saying: “Don’t.

Orwell’s mother, who was eighteen years younger than her husband, was a charming woman, a bit exotic and gypsy-looking. About her Orwell wrote: “I never felt love for any mature person except my mother, and even her I did not trust.”

Miserable and Lonely at St. Cyprian’s School

Orwell afterwards wrote that at the age of eight he was suddenly separated from his family and “flung into a world of force and fraud and secrecy.” He did not have a happy life at St. Cyprian’s school which was situated in Eastbourne. In his reminiscences, he later emphasized what he regarded as the hellish aspect of this school where he spent the crucial years from the age of eight to the age of fourteen. He wrote later that he was miserable at school and lonely, and that he “soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my school-days.” He stated that one of the school codes was “an almost neurotic dread of poverty and, above all, the assumption that money and privilege are the things that matter.” In school Orwell felt guilty because he was not the son of rich parents and because he did not have much money. Orwell’s feeling about St. Cyprian’s school were so intense and painful that the essay, Such, Such Were the Joys, in which he recorded these feelings could not be published during his life-time, because the essay could have been regarded as defamatory and libellous and could have provoked the school authorities to prosecute Orwell on the basis of what he had written about that school. A school-fellow by the name of Cyril Connolly, gave a different and more pleasant picture of St. Cyprian’s school in one of his books. When Connolly’s book was published in 1938, Orwell said to him: “I wonder how you can write about St. Cyprian’s. It is all like an awful nightmare to me.” Recalling his experiences at St. Cyprian’s, Orwell   in   his essay wrote:  “Soon after I arrived at St. Cyprian’s I began wetting my bed.” The result of this shameful weakness was that he received two beatings which created in him

a sense of desolate loneliness and hopelessness, of being locked up not only in a hostile world but in a world of good and evil where the rules were such that it was actually not possible for me to keep them. I had a conviction of sin and folly and weakness, such as I do not remember to have felt before. This acceptance of guilt lay unnoticed in my memory for twenty or thirty years.

His Painful Memories of School Life

The bed-wetting was only the first of numerous episodes which made Orwell feel guilty. He was poor; he was lazy; he was a failure; he was ungrateful and unhealthy; he was weak, ugly, cowardly, and smelly. His teachers beat him and humiliated him throughout the six years of his stay at St. Cyprian’s. As a consequence he developed the profound conviction that he was no good, that he was wasting his time, and that he was behaving foolishly and wickedly. Orwell’s experiences at school and the feelings of guilt and sinfulness which he developed there are vital to the understanding of his character and the nature of the books which he afterwards wrote. The most moving passages in the essay Such, Such Were the Joys, come from Orwell’s realization of his own disloyalty, untruthfulness, and hypocrisy, and a major theme in that essay is his retrospective horror at the kind of person he was. Of course, in his view, the entire responsibility for his being what he was is attributed by him to the environment at the school, the atmosphere in which the students were educated, and the treatment he received from the school authorities. The themes of authority, guilt, cruelty, helplessness, isolation, and misery are quite prominent in this essay. Orwell compares St. Cyprian’s school with that infamous school in Dickens’s novel Nicholas Nickleby where lasting agonies and disfigurements were inflicted upon children by the treatment of the teachers. In short, Orwell depicts St. Cyprian’s school as a reactionary and barbaric Victorian institution.

At Eton

In spite of his depression of spirits and his feelings of misery at St. Cyprian’s school, Orwell was able to win a scholarship which enabled him to proceed to the public school at Eton where he was the contemporary of Cyril Connolly (who had been with him at St. Cyprian’s also) and Steven Runciman (who was afterwards knighted). One of Orwell’s teachers at Eton was Aldous Huxley who taught English and French there from 1917 to 1919. But Huxley’s influence on Orwell was very limited. Orwell studied very little at Eton, learnt very little, and got very low marks. There was nothing very unusual about the young Orwell, no promise of genius, nothing to suggest that in course of time he was to become one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. At Eton he soon developed a kind of aloofness which left him on good terms with everyone without his being the close friend of anybody. He was poor at games, but he edited a humorous magazine called College Days and served in the Officer Training Corps. As these were the years of World War I, Orwell’s father joined the army as a subaltern at the age of sixty, and from 1917 to 1919 looked after the mules in an army camp near Marsailles (in France).

His Rejection of the Aristocratic Values at Eton

Eton did not constitute a formative influence in Orwell’s life. He spent five years at this school but never felt enthusiastic about it. The aristocratic values which reigned at the school were distasteful to him. He rejected the snobbery which was the most prominent feature of the life of this school. After completing his education at Eton, Orwell should have proceeded to a university (Cambridge or Oxford), but he was not rich enough to meet the expenses of university education, and he failed to win a scholarship which could have taken him there. His inability to win a scholarship deepened his feeling that he was a failure in life. His father now suggested that he should try to join the British police force in Burma. His father was confident that he would get Orwell selected for the Burmese Police Service because of the personal connections which his family had with Burma for over three generations.

Selected For the Burmese Police Force

Orwell left Eton in December 1921 and got admitted to a tutorial establishment in order to prepare for his competitive examination. Two of the teachers at Eton gave him the required testimonials of good character which Orwell had to send with his application for being allowed to appear in the examination. In the summer of 1922, he was examined in several subjects. He got his highest marks in Latin and his lowest in history and geography. He got the seventh position in a class of twenty-nine, and he was one of the three men; selected for the Police Service in the East. On the 1st September, 1922 he was certified as physically fit. He selected Burma because his father had spent several years there. He could have selected the Punjab or the U.P., and even Bengal; but he expressed a preference for Burma.

Service as a Police Officer in Burma;
and His Resignation

Arriving in Rangoon in the same year (1922) Orwell took courses in Burmese, Hindustani, Law, and Police Procedure. Then he served as a police officer in various Burmese towns including Moulmein where he shot an elephant. He worked as assistant to the District Superintendent of Police in the capital of Upper Burma, where he was expected to run the office, supervise the stores of clothing and ammunition, look after the training school for locally recruited constables, and  so on.  He had also to check the night patrols in the city, and he had to assume general charge when the Superintendent was away. At his house he kept a large number of birds and animals—geese, ducks, goats, etc. He thus maintained what could be called an “animal farm”.  There were a number of servants at his house to attend upon him.  He allowed himself to be dressed and undressed by his Burmese servants whom he sometimes kicked and beat. In August 1927 Orwell went on leave to England, after five years of service in Burma. In spite of the strong tradition of imperialist sentiment in his family, he disliked the job which he had undertaken to do in Burma. He had developed a bitter hatred of imperialism, and he felt that he could not go on with his public duties, which involved a lot of cruelty towards the Burmese. Furthermore, the District Superintendent of Police under whom he had been serving had not been treating him well. So he made up his mind to resign his job in Burma. He submitted his resignation and, though his superiors were annoyed because he gave no reason for leaving, they accepted the resignation.

Sick in a Paris Hospital

Orwell now bought a tramp’s clothing in a pawn-shop and made the first of his many expeditions among the poor and outcast of London. In the spring of 1928 he went to France where he rented a shabby room in a working-class quarter of Paris, and published his first article in a weekly magazine called Monde. In February 1929 Orwell fell ill with pneumonia and had to spend several weeks in a Paris hospital as a charity patient. In one of his essays written afterwards, he thus records his feelings:

When I entered the ward at the hospital, I was conscious of a strange feeling of familiarity. What the scene reminded me of, of course, was the reeking, pain-filled hospitals of the 19th century.

As a non-paying patient, Orwell had to endure the depressing conditions in the hospital and the bad treatment which he received. His whole experience in the hospital was disgusting.

His First Publication, ‘Down and Out in Paris and London”; and the Use of a Pseudonym

In the summer of 1929, Orwell wrote several short stories and two novels, none of which could be published. The little money that he had in his possession having been stolen, he felt compelled to pawn all his clothes. He then worked for ten weeks as a dish-washer (or a plongeur) in a luxurious but filthy hotel. His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London is a record of his experiences among the poor of the two capital cities. This book was rejected by the publishers Cape and Faber, but was accepted by Gollancz. It was published in 1933 under the pseudonym of George Orwell. (As has already been pointed out, his real name was Eric Arthur Blair. He did not publish the book under his real name because he had begun to hate his name and therefore felt it necessary to have a pseudonym. It was by his pseudonym that he eventually became famous and by which he is now known). Orwell left Paris at the end of 1929 and went back to London where he gave lessons to a retarded boy in a town on the Suffolk coast. Subsequently, he picked hops in Kent, and taught in small private schools in two different towns. In the first school he thrashed a boy who was trying to blow up a frog with a bicycle pump.

As a Contributor to “Adelphi”, and a Part-Time
Job at a Bookshop

From 1930 to 1935, Orwell contributed book reviews to a magazine called Adelphi which was being edited by Orwell’s close friend, Sir Richard Rees. He earned an income of three to four pounds a week from doing this work which he afterwards described as an “exceptionally thankless, irritating, and exhausting job”. Orwell’s journalistic output was enormous, and in about twenty years he produced more than seven hundred articles, besides writing his books. In October 1934 he took up a part-time job in a bookshop where he worked for a year and a half and later wrote about this experience in his novel, Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

Visit to Wigan. Marriage

In January 1936, Orwell was commissioned by the Left Book Club to study the economic and social conditions in the industrial region of northern England and to write a book describing those conditions. He gave up his job at the bookshop and went to the industrial county borough of Wigan in order to make a first-hand study of the conditions of working-class life. He recorded his impressions of this life in his book, The Road to Wigan Pier. In June 1936 Orwell married Eileen O’Shaughnessy, a rather frail but attractive graduate student in psychology at the University of London. She was three years younger than he. She was sophisticated, fastidious, highly intelligent and intellectual. She was tall and slender, with blue eyes, and dark-brown, naturally wavy hair.

Participation in the Spanish Civil War

In December 1936 Orwell went to Spain to write about the Civil War which had broken out in that country five months before. But, instead of getting busy observing the conditions there and writing about them, he joined the militia known as P.O.U.M. at the Lenin barracks in Barcelona in order to fight on the side of the democratic forces against Fascism. His wife also went to Spain two months later to work at the office of the I.L.P. (Independent Labour Party) in Barcelona. After a week of cursory military training, Orwell was sent to the battle-front at Aragon in north-east Spain. He suffered the boredom and hunger of static trench warfare in an extremely cold climate until one day, on the 10th May, 1937, he was hit by a bullet fired by a Fascist sniper and received a serious wound in his neck. After recovering from his wound in the following month, he again offered to go to the battle-front but P.O.U.M. was suddenly declared illegal, and Orwell and his wife, now suspects in the eyes of the Communist police, somehow managed to cross the French frontier into safety. All these events became the subject of Orwell’s book, Homage to Catalonia which contained a severe attack on Stalin’s Communists.

In Quest of Health in French Morocco

In March 1938 Orwell fell ill with tuberculosis. This was a disease from which he had already suffered as a child. He had been offered a job by the newspaper Pioneer at Lucknow in India, but he could not accept the assignment on account of this illness. With a gift of three hundred pounds from L.H. Myers, the novelist, Orwell and his wife were able to spend the winter in Marrakech (in French Morocco). It was there that he wrote his novel, Coming Up For Air. Unfortunately, their stay in Marrakech did not improve the health of either Orwell or his wife, and they were not much stronger on their return to England in the spring of 1939. In June that year, Orwell’s father died of cancer at the age of eighty-two.

As a Talks Producer for the B.B.C.

World War II broke out in September 1939. It was an event which Orwell had been apprehending for a long time. He offered himself as a volunteer for the army, but was rejected on medical grounds. In August, 1941 he took up a job as Talks Producer for the Indian Section of the B.B.C. (British Broadcasting Corporation) and carried on war propaganda, for the cause of the Allies, addressed to the people in Asia. Others who contributed talks to this programme included E.M. Forster, T.S. Eliot, and Herbert Read. In November 1943, Orwell left the B.B.C. and became the literary editor of The Tribune for which he also wrote a column under the heading “As I Please”. His subjects in this column, which he continued for the next four years, covered a very wide range. The Tribune was a weekly newspaper which was both progressive and humane, and which tried to combine a radical socialist policy with a respect for freedom of speech and a civilized attitude towards literature and the arts.

Financial Gain Through “Animal Farm”

In February 1944, Orwell completed Animal Farm, a satire on the Russian revolution and its betrayal. He received a big shock when several publishers refused to publish this book on the ground that it contained a severe condemnation of Russian Communism. Russia was at that time an ally of the western democracies against Hitler’s Nazism, and no English publisher felt inclined to give offence to an ally in the war against Hitler. Eventually this book was published by Seeker and Warburg in August 1945, at a crucial moment in world history. In the previous four months, Roosevelt, Mussolini, and Hitler had died; Churchill had been voted out of office, Germany had surrendered to the Allies; and the first atomic bomb had exploded over Hiroshima (in Japan). That month was also a turning-point in Orwell’s life, because half a million copies of Animal Farm were sold through the American Book-of-the-Month Club and he became financially prosperous for the first time in his life.

The Tragic Death of Orwell’s Wife

However, Orwell’s literary success was marred by a personal tragedy. He and his wife, having been unable to have a child of their own, had adopted a one-month-old baby in June 1944 and had named him Richard Horatio Blair. In February 1945, Orwell had gone to France and then to Germany as a war correspondent for a newspaper. While he was abroad, his wife, who had been in poor health throughout the War, had to undergo an operation to stop the decline of red corpuscles in her blood. She died when she was still on the operation table. Despite his wife’s sudden death, Orwell refused to give up his adopted son. He put the little boy under the care of several house-keepers one after the other until his younger sister, Avril. came to live with him in 1946.

The Publication of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.
Second Marriage. Death

Orwell began writing Nineteen Eighty-Four in August 1946 and finished it in November 1948. He was seriously ill for much of that time. He was now living on the island of Jura in the Hebrides where there was neither a telephone nor electricity in his house. Life on Jura was very hard, and Orwell had selected this place for a stay in order to punish himself. Perhaps there was a masochistic strain in him. His wife’s death and his own distaste for social life created in him an irrational desire to live an arduous life on this rainy island, far from medical attention. He was confined to bed for varying periods during this time. In the summer of 1947, he and the boy Richard were shipwrecked in a dangerous whirlpool off Jura and were lucky to be rescued by a fisherman. Orwell was admitted to a tuberculosis sanatorium near Glasgow in December 1947 and remained there until June 1948. He again became seriously ill in November-December 1948. In 1949 he was admitted to a hospital in London for the last year of his life. His letters during this period revealed the gravity of his disease. In October 1949 he married again, his wife this time being a woman called Sonia Brownell who was working as a secretary on Cyril Connolly’s magazine, “Horizon”. Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in June 1949, but Orwell did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of the success of this masterpiece. He felt somewhat better in the beginning of January 1950 and made plans to enter a sanatorium in Switzerland. But he died of tuberculosis on the 21st January 1950, and was buried in the churchyard of All Saints in Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire.

Topics and Subjects MA English-Literature.Sunday, October 31, 2010. NEO English system. 12-10-2012 http://neoenglishsystem.blogspot.com.es/2010/10/george-orwell-biographical-sketch.html

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GEORGE ORWELL´S BIOGRAPHY

Posted by saformo on 14 Octubre 2012

Blair, Eric Arthur [pseud. George Orwell] (1903–1950), political writer and essayist, was born in Motihari, Bengal, India, on 25 June 1903, the only son of Richard Walmesley Blair (1857–1938), a sub-deputy opium agent in the government of Bengal, and his wife, Ida Mabel Limouzin (1875–1943). Richard Blair’s great-grandfather Charles Blair (1743–1820), a Scot, had been a rich man, a plantation and slave owner in Jamaica who had married into the English aristocracy; the money had run out by Richard Blair’s time, who all his career held poor posts, and was on the move constantly. He married Ida Limouzin, who was eighteen years his junior, late in his career. Her mother was English and her father French; she was born in Penge but had spent most of her life in Moulmein, Burma, where her father was a teak dealer and boat builder. Ida Blair took three-year-old Eric and his older sister, Marjorie, back to England just before the birth of her third and last child, Avril. Eric attended a small Anglican convent school in Henley-on-Thames until he gained a part scholarship to St Cyprian’s, a fashionable preparatory school where Cyril Connolly was among his contemporaries. His fees were topped up by his mother’s unmarried brother, who like his sister, and totally unlike Richard Blair, seems to have had intellectual interests and ambitions for his nephew.

In The Road to Wigan Pier Orwell described his family with sardonic precision as ‘lower-upper middle class’, that is the ‘upper-middle class without money’ (Complete Works, 5.113–14). Late in his life he wrote a long account of his prep school days, ‘Such, such were the joys’, that could not be published in his lifetime for fear of libel. Some have taken this to be a literal account of the horrors of an oppressive and socially discriminatory regime, but it is more likely a polemic against private education based on fact and with a reimagined Eric Blair as the observer, hero, or rather anti-hero. However, whether or not he was caned in front of the school for bed-wetting, the school was bad enough.

Education and early life

Young Eric crammed for and eventually won a scholarship to Eton College, but once there he rested on his oars, neglecting the set tasks; however, he read widely for himself in the canon of English literature and books by rationalists, freethinkers, and reformers like Samuel Butler, George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells. As a scholarship boy at Eton he was in the College—an intellectual élite thrust into the heart of a social élite. He found a few kindred spirits, including Steven Runciman (later the historian of Byzantium) and his prep school friend Cyril Connolly (the critic and writer). In Connolly’s Enemies of Promise there are good descriptions of Orwell both at prep school and at Eton. Orwell’s contemporaries agree that, without being openly rebellious, he cultivated a mocking, sardonic attitude towards authority. The classical scholar Andrew Gow, who as a young man had taught Orwell, in the mid-1970s remembered him only with irritation and annoyance for having wasted his chance to get to university. It was that kind of attitude that Orwell reacted against.

Following in his father’s footsteps, probably more cynically than purposively, Eric was sent to a crammer’s to prepare for the Indian Civil Service exams. He scraped just enough marks to be able to join the Burma police in 1921. Burma was then governed as a province of India and did not rate high in the pecking order of ‘the Service’. Eric Blair may well have been the only Etonian ever to pass through the police training school at Mandalay to become an assistant superintendent. His fellow recruits were all older than he (though none taller or wearing size eleven boots) and almost all had gone through the First World War. Blair showed a loathing both for the war and for military values, but also some signs of guilt or regret at having missed it. He grew to like the Burmese and to dislike the effect of colonial rule on his fellow British. Like Flory in his first novel, Burmese Days, he ‘learned to live inwardly, in books and secret thoughts that could not be uttered’. He was not popular in the police and had poor postings: ‘In Moulmein in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people—the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me’ (Complete Works, 10.501). When he wrote about Burma, both in Burmese Days and in two of his finest essays, ‘Shooting an elephant’ and ‘A hanging’, his contempt for imperial rule and the arrogant pretentiousness of too many of his fellows came bursting out.

Setting out

To the dismay of his parents Blair resigned his safe, respectable, and pensionable job while on leave in England from July 1927 and not only resolved to be a writer but took to making journeys among tramps. He lived as a tramp sometimes for a day or two, sometimes for weeks at a time. He said that he wanted to see if the English poor were treated in their own country as the Burmese were treated in theirs. On the whole he thought they were. In spring 1928 he went to Paris to write. As he wrote for an American reference book in 1942, he

lived for about a year and a half in Paris, writing novels and short stories which no one would publish. After my money came to an end I had several years of fairly severe poverty during which I was, among other things, a dishwasher, a private tutor and a teacher in cheap private schools. (Complete Works, 12.147)

But in an introduction to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm he revealed more:

I sometimes lived for months on end among the poor and half-criminal elements … who take to the streets, begging and stealing. At that time I associated with them through lack of money, but later their way of life interested me very much for its own sake. (ibid., 19.86–7)

Years later Sir Victor Pritchett described him as a man ‘who went native in his own country’ (Crick, 276). In this period he called himself ‘a Tory anarchist’. At first he did not know what he wanted to write about, and he destroyed two early novels. The poet Ruth Pitter remembers reading early manuscripts: ‘How we cruel girls laughed. … He wrote like a cow with a musket’ (ibid., 179).

Orwell stuck to it, however, and taught himself to write in his famous plain style. His first book published, Down and out in Paris and London (1933), was an account of his tramping days in England, particularly in the hop fields of Kent, and of the poverty he endured while living in Paris trying to write novels. The sales of the book were modest, but it received good notices. He used a pseudonym, George Orwell, partly to avoid embarrassing his parents, partly as a hedge against failure, and partly because he disliked the name Eric, which reminded him of a prig in a Victorian boys’ story. His first novel, Burmese Days, was published in New York in 1934. Victor Gollancz in London had refused it for fear of libel actions: the novel was obviously written directly from experience. Based partly on teaching in cheap private schools such as The Hawthorns in Hayes where he had a position from 1932 to 1933, and partly on his parents’ neighbours in Southwold, he wrote a contrived literary pastiche, The Clergyman’s Daughter (1935). His schoolteaching had ended when in December 1933 he had a bad attack of pneumonia. In October 1934 he left Southwold and moved to Hampstead, London, where he became a half-time assistant in a secondhand bookshop.

Since 1930 Orwell had been reviewing books and writing sketches and poems for The Adelphi, owned and edited by Sir Richard Rees, a disciple of John Middleton Murry. Orwell moved to Hampstead to see more of Rees and also the young writers who called at the Adelphi office for a cup of tea, to talk, and to solicit books to review. He became friendly with Jack Common and Rayner Heppenstall, and met Cyril Connolly again after Connolly had reviewed Burmese Days. But his world, unlike Connolly’s, was not that of fashionable Hampstead drawing-rooms but of Hampstead bohemia: those bitter and often jealous intellectuals, living in bed-sits, making a pint in a pub last a whole evening, fearing rent day, and knowing that the post brought only rejection slips. All this he portrayed in Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936). At this time he himself, like his novel’s hero Gordon Comstock, came near to making a cult of failure and to believing that all literary success is ‘selling out’.

In January 1936 the left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz, showing great faith in Orwell as a writer, gave him an advance of £500 (then nearly two years’ income for Orwell) to write a book about poverty and unemployment. He spent two months in the north of England, living with working people in Wigan, Barnsley, and Sheffield from 31 January to 30 March. On his return he moved to a cheap cottage in Wallington, Hertfordshire. On 9 June, after a short courtship, he married Eileen Maud O’Shaughnessy (1905–1945), who had read English at Oxford, and after running a secretarial agency, was taking a postgraduate diploma in psychology at University College, London. They had met in Hampstead, and hoped to live on his writing, her typing, and running a small village shop.

In Wallington Orwell settled down to write essays including ‘Shooting an elephant’, sent to John Lehmann for New Writing, which established him as minor literary talent. He also wrote The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). Gollancz liked the clear and unromantic description of working-class life and coalmining in the first part of the book, but was dismayed by the second part where Orwell announced both his adherence to socialism and his dislike of socialist intellectuals and their admiration for Soviet power. Only with difficulty did Gollancz persuade the selectors of the Left Book Club to publish the book under that banner, and only then with an introduction by himself repudiating his author. ‘A writer cannot be a loyal member of a political party,’ said Orwell (Complete Works, 11.167). Yet he was soon to join a political party.

Spain and after

When he finished his book in December, Orwell went to Spain to fight for the republic. ‘Someone has to kill fascists,’ he is alleged to have said. Impatient to be there, he made his own way to Barcelona and joined the POUM militia (‘Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista’) on the Aragon front. The POUM was an independent Marxist movement, hated by the Stalinists and in dispute with the Trotskyites. Because he was on a quiet section of the front he tried to transfer to the communist-dominated International Brigades around Madrid, but he became involved in the May troubles in Barcelona. This attempt by the communists to purge the POUM and the Catalan anarchists made him bitterly anti-communist. Upon returning to the front, he was badly wounded in the neck, and was then hunted by the communists while still convalescent. With the help of his wife, Eileen, who had come to Barcelona to work for the Independent Labour Party (ILP), he escaped from Spain at the end of June 1937.

Orwell went back to Wallington and wrote Homage to Catalonia, a supreme description of trench life (lice and boredom), but also a trenchant and detailed exposure of how the communists risked the whole republican cause in their lust for power and in their zeal to suppress all other socialists. Gollancz refused to publish it, so Frederick Warburg, who was known as the Trotskyite publisher simply because he took left-wing books that were critical of Stalin, brought out the book in April 1938. Orwell now saw himself as an anti-communist revolutionary socialist; he joined the ILP, and he attended and spoke at their summer schools. Homage to Catalonia was much abused and much defended. Its literary merits were hardly noticed, and it sold few copies. Some now think of it as Orwell’s finest achievement, and nearly all critics see it as his great stylistic breakthrough: he became the serious writer with the terse, easy, vivid colloquial style.

In March 1938 Orwell had collapsed with a tubercular lesion in one lung and was removed to a sanatorium. Thanks to help from an unknown admirer, the Blairs spent winter 1938–9 in the warmth of Morocco, where he finished Coming up for Air (1939), a novel reflecting a foreboding of war and an ironic nostalgia for a lost past. Like all his novels prior to the Second World War, except A Clergyman’s Daughter, it was not written for the modernist intellectuals: he wanted to reach the audience whom he called the common man, the audience for whom H. G. Wells still wrote and who still read Dickens—those whose only university was the free public library. In fact Orwell’s novels did not reach such a wide audience, each selling only between 3000 and 4000 copies.

In his ILP days Orwell claimed that ‘the coming war’ would be merely a capitalist struggle for the control of colonial markets. As late as July 1939 he wrote ‘Not counting Niggers’ (a title of savage, Swiftian irony), claiming that British and French leaders did not ask the vast majority of their colonies about whether they wanted to fight. But, when the Second World War broke out, he immediately declared that even Chamberlain’s England was preferable to Hitler’s Germany. In his essay ‘My country, right or left’ he stated a left-wing case for patriotism that he developed in The Lion and the Unicorn.

In wartime

Orwell was rejected for the army several times because of his tuberculosis (a friend said that he tried harder to get into the army than many did to get out), so he moved back to London and joined the part-time Home Guard; for a while he thought that it could become a Catalan-style revolutionary militia. In February 1941 he published The Lion and the Unicorn, partly a profound meditation on the English national character and partly a left-wing assertion of patriotism, but also continuing the argument from his Catalan days that the war could be won only if a revolution replaced the old ruling class. But those hopes faded. In August 1941 he became, after a period of painful underemployment, a producer with the Far Eastern section of the BBC, tolerating the job’s unaccustomed and uncongenial restraints until November 1943.

In 1939 Orwell had published a volume of essays, Inside the Whale. His powers as an essayist were recognized and went from strength to strength. A remarkable series of essays followed when he at last could begin to choose for whom he wrote: notably ‘The prevention of literature’, ‘Politics and the English language’, ‘Politics versus literature’, and ‘Writers and Leviathan’. During the war he wrote regularly for Cyril Connolly’s Horizon and for Partisan Review in New York. But some of his best writing came after November 1943, when he was made literary editor of The Tribune, a left-wing weekly directed by Aneurin Bevan. His weekly column, ‘As I please’, ranged through a vast number of topics, some serious and some comic, some political and some literary. He set a model for the lively mixed column soon to be emulated by many other writers not only in Britain. As George Orwell he became a known character, hard-hitting and good-humoured, a quirky socialist but with a love of traditional liberties and pastimes. The private man was, however, very reserved and a compulsive overworker. Both his and Eileen’s health became very run down, partly through wartime conditions and partly through physical neglect; yet he persuaded her to adopt a child, Richard.

Brief days of fame

Early in 1944 Orwell finished writing Animal Farm but at least four leading publishers (Gollancz, T. S. Eliot for Faber, Jonathan Cape, and Collins) turned it down as inopportune while Russia was an ally. It was not published until shortly after the end of the war in Europe. Several critics called it the greatest satire in the English language since Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and it brought Orwell instant fame and a huge new and international readership. Harcourt Brace took it after many New York firms had rejected it, and it was a Book of the Month Club selection: it sold 250,000 copies in one year. It was translated into every major language, including some in which it could only be read in smuggled or in samizdat versions. It has survived the late twentieth-century collapse of Soviet power not only because of its plain style—Orwell believed passionately and politically that no meaningful idea was too difficult to be explained in simple terms to ordinary people—but because the satire can touch all power-hungry regimes, left or right, and even some rulers who can be hard to pin down in either category.

Before it appeared Orwell went to France for The Observer to report on the liberation, and to Germany to try to witness the opening of the concentration camps, but Eileen died and he came hurrying home. He told people that she died during anaesthetic for a minor operation. In fact she had cancer. She may well not have told him, but it seems somewhat obtuse of him not to have seen that something was badly wrong. Outwardly he bore her death with the stoicism of Orwell, but Eric Blair was deeply hurt and shaken—though by now the public mask had taken over almost entirely. Only a few very old friends called him Eric; new friends, as diverse as Julian Symons, Arthur Koestler, Anthony Powell, and Malcolm Muggeridge, called him George. He stuck to his adopted son, Richard, first on his own, then with the help of a housekeeper. He began writing regularly again for The Tribune and The Observer and also for the Manchester Evening News. He moved to a farmhouse on the northern tip of the remote island of Jura, where, even in Eileen’s lifetime, he had resolved to escape, to avoid the distractions of London and to begin work on a new and ambitious book.

Barnhill was indeed remote, 8 miles up a track from the nearest phone, which in turn was 25 miles from a shop in a small village where steamers came twice a week. The journey from London took two days. At first Orwell revelled in the difficulties and seclusion, but soon his younger sister, Avril, followed him, froze out the young housekeeper, and became herself both housekeeper and ‘gatekeeper’ against unwanted visitors. Brother and sister did not always see eye to eye on who was unwanted or welcome. He worked hard, perhaps too hard, in a small room with a smoky stove, and chain-smoked as usual. In a notebook he wrote that in all his writing life

there has literally been not one day in which I did not feel that I was idling, that I was behind with the current job, and that my total output was miserably small. Even at the period when I was working ten hours a day on a book, or turning out four or five articles a week, I have never been able to get away from this neurotic feeling, that I was wasting time. (Complete Works, 20.204)

Orwell collapsed with tuberculosis with only a first draft of his long-planned new novel finished, which as always ‘to me is only ever halfway through’. In a Scottish hospital the new drug streptomycin, obtained from America with the help of David Astor and Aneurin Bevan, was tested on him. Gruesome side-effects resulted, not then controllable, and the treatment was unhappily abandoned. Rested, at least, he returned to Jura, but drove himself hard again and, when his agent and his publisher failed to find a typist who would go to Jura, he sat up in bed and typed the second version of his novel himself. He collapsed again when he had finished.

The resulting novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949, immediately elicited diverse interpretations. Critics have seen it as a pessimistic and deterministic prophecy; an allegory on the impossibility of staying human without belief in God; an anti-Catholic diatribe, in which the inquisitor, O’Brien, and the inner party are really the church; a world-hating act of nihilistic misanthropy; a deathbed renunciation of any kind of socialism; or a humanistic and libertarian socialist (almost anarchist) satire against totalitarian tendencies in both his own and other contemporary societies. Isaac Rosenfeld saw it as ‘mysticism of cruelty, utter pessimism’ (Rosenfeld, 514); and Anthony Burgess as ‘a comic novel’, or one that ‘allows’ (Burgess, 20) humour.

Certainly it is the most complex piece of writing Orwell attempted. Jenni Calder in a lecture called it ‘a well-crafted novel’, perhaps over-crafted; and part of the craft was dramatizing dilemmas and fears of humanity, and not offering easy solutions. But biographically it is clear at least, contrary to much facile opinion, what it is not: it is not a work of unnatural, almost psychotic intensity dashed off by a dying man with a death wish for civilization and regressing to memories of childhood traumas. In fact it was long planned and coolly premeditated, and was neither a conscious nor an unconscious repudiation of Orwell’s democratic socialism. Czesaw Miłosz in 1953 reported that in Poland some of his old Communist Party colleagues had read smuggled copies as a manual of power, but that the freer minds had seen it as ‘a Swiftian satire’: ‘The fact that there are writers in the West who understand the functioning of the unusually constructed machine of which they are themselves a part, astounds them and argues against “the stupidity” of the West’ (Miłosz, 42). It is arguable whether Nineteen Eighty-Four was Orwell’s greatest achievement; most critics, and Orwell himself, see Animal Farm as his unquestioned literary masterpiece. ‘What I have most wanted to do is to make political writing into an art,’ he said in his essay of 1946 ‘Why I write’. He was both a great polemical and a speculative writer: ‘Liberty is telling people what they do not want to hear.’ He challenges his readers’ assumptions in direct terms of homely common sense, forces them to think, but mostly leaves them to reach their own conclusions. He may argue fiercely but never as if authoritatively, which perhaps accounts for his continued popularity.

If seen as Swiftian satire then a lot falls into place: grotesque exaggeration, humour but also deadly seriousness. Orwell raged against the division of the world into spheres of influence by the great powers at the wartime meetings at Yalta and Potsdam; power-hunger and totalitarian impulses wherever they occurred; intellectuals for turning into bureaucrats and betraying the common people; the debasement of language by governments and politicians; the rewriting of history for ideological purposes; James Burnham’s thesis in his Managerial Revolution that the managers and technocrats are going to take over the world; the existence of a permanent cold war because of the impossibility of a deliberate atomic war; and, not least, the debasement of popular culture by the mass press. He pictured the ministry of truth in Nineteen Eighty-Four as producing for the proles not propaganda but ‘rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing but sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs composed entirely by mechanical means’. Plainly he was getting at the British press of his day. It is doubtful if he had even heard of the Frankfurt school of Marxism which held that social control was maintained in capitalist society by the degradation of literacy rather than by terrorism, but in homely terms Orwell makes the same point.

Last days and afterlife

From January to September 1949 Orwell lay in a sanatorium in Gloucestershire. Then he was transferred to University College Hospital in London to be under one of the best chest specialists in England, who had also once treated D. H. Lawrence. The doctors, as was then customary, gave him some hope. In fact they knew that there was none. But he was not told, nor was Sonia Mary Brownell (1918–1980), a former editorial assistant on Connolly’s Horizon to whom he had proposed marriage without success in 1945. When he asked her again, she accepted, genuinely hoping to help him and nurse him back to health and, at the worst, perhaps not unwilling to accept the status of widow of an already world-famous author.

Orwell married Brownell on 13 October 1949 and began work on a new novel, as if he thought he would survive; but he also made his will and left precise instructions (fortunately ignored by his widow) about which of his writings to reprint and which to suppress. He read the first reviews of Nineteen Eighty-Four and dictated notes for a press release to correct some American reviewers who saw in it an attack on all forms of socialism, not just on all forms of totalitarianism. He reminded them that he was a democratic socialist, that the book was ‘a parody’, and that he meant only that something like the iron regime could, not would, occur, if we did not all both guard and exercise our liberties. He died on 21 January 1950 of a tubercular haemorrhage and was buried on 26 January at All Saints, Sutton Courtenay. Unexpectedly (for he was an avowed non-believer) he had asked to be buried not cremated, and according to the rites of the Church of England. The language and liturgies of the church were part of the Englishness he felt so deeply.

It is much debated whether Orwell’s real genius is as an essayist and descriptive writer rather than as a novelist. In ‘Why I write’ (1946) he said that

while my starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice … [yet] so long as I remain alive and well so I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth and to take pleasure in solid objects and useless scraps of information.

He said he was not able and did not want ‘completely to abandon the world-view that I acquired in childhood’. Above all else, he said, he wanted ‘to make political writing into an art’ (Complete Works, 18.319).

Rarely has a more private and simple man become more famous. Orwell’s very name has entered the English language. The word ‘Orwellian’ conveys the fear of a future for humanity governed by rival totalitarian regimes who rule through suffering, deprivation, deceit, and fear, and who debase language and people equally. But ‘Orwell-like’ conveys something quite different: a lover of nature, proto-environmentalist, advocate of plain language and plain speaking, humorist, eccentric, polemicist, and someone who could meditate, almost mystically, almost pietistically, on the pleasure and wonder of ordinary things—as in the small, great essay ‘Some thoughts on the common toad’.

Even before Orwell’s death political battle broke out and has long continued to annex his reputation. Some American editors and writers had genuinely misunderstood Animal Farm as a satirical polemic against all forms of socialism, rather than a betrayal of revolutionary egalitarian ideals by Stalin and the Communist Party. By the time of the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four the then powerful Time and Life magazines chose to ignore the author’s standpoint and to present him again as both anti-socialist and anti-communist. If they recognized a distinction in the presence of the post-war Labour government in Britain, they either thought that inevitably it ‘would go that way’ or that Orwell, had he lived, would have abandoned democratic socialism.

The espousal of Orwell by the American right and free-market liberals made some British socialists immediately brand him as a betrayer of socialism and ‘a cold war warrior’. He himself had first coined the phrase ‘cold war’ in postulating an atomic stalemate. Certainly he was much more alert and aroused than many fellow socialists to the real threat of the communist subversion in western Europe; but he cannot be considered a betrayer of socialism if his reviews and writings are followed right up to the time of his death. Many ex-communists were angry with him for being, as was said, ‘prematurely correct’ and for giving ‘ammunition to the enemy’. One example of such ammunition was that he gave permission without charge for translations of Animal Farm into Ukrainian to be made for smuggling into Ukraine by the early Central Intelligence Agency (which helped to fund a cartoon based on the novel released in 1955). He wrote an interesting introduction to explain his own background and his politics. Most of the copies were, by another irony, destroyed by the American military in Austria who were strictly observing the three power agreement. Back then, in the eyes of the left, all Ukrainians were of course fascists, and to complicate matters further some Ukrainians who did get to read his introduction could not (like the editors of Time) see any difference between communism and socialism.

The ‘old’ new left (that is, those who left the Communist Party after Hungary in 1956 but were still Marxists) engaged in a deliberate campaign of both political and literary abuse of Orwell. They still smarted at the impatience he had shown at their earlier illusions and naïvety. To this the ‘new’ new left of the New Left Review (the student generation trying to reform Marxist theory) added two more charges: that he was not a serious theorist and that he was patriotic, comfortable in his Englishness. They seemed with their secular liberationist ideology to be in favour of anybody else’s nationalism except their own. Edward Thompson’s and Raymond Williams’s intense dislike of Orwell was especially curious because all three had a vivid sense of an English radical tradition in perpetual conflict with the conservative account of tradition, the common people versus the establishment.

At least these attacks took Orwell seriously as a ‘political writer’ which, he said in his essay ‘Why I write’, had been his main intent since 1936. Many literary figures found it hard to come to terms with his politics and most critical studies in the 1950s and 1960s concentrated on his character and on his books. A Uniform Edition of his books had been published by Secker and Warburg in 1960, but not until 1968 in the four volumes of The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of 1968, edited by Sonia Orwell (as Sonia Blair, his widow, called herself) and Ian Angus, could the full variety and power of his writing be appreciated. A less Orwellian version of Orwell could then emerge: the Orwell-like speculative, humorous, sardonic, discursive essayist. Even then the last of the four volumes left out several telling political essays and long reviews that Sonia Orwell regarded as ‘repetitive’ or ‘not his best’. These could strengthen the complacent surmise of English writers that he was moving away from political writing back to more conventional novels and belles lettres, and the wishful belief of American neo-liberals that he was ‘giving all that up’, ‘that’ being democratic socialism. Sonia Blair’s friend Mary McCarthy took it for granted that he was moving to the right before his death, as did two major studies of cultural politics in the cold war. But biographical evidence is to the contrary.

The year 1984 saw a carnival of misunderstanding in the media, as if Nineteen Eighty-Four had ever been a serious projection or prophecy rather than a Swiftian satire, still less a prediction of a date. But what was remarkable was that by then all Orwell’s books and most of his essays had been in print since 1960 and that at conferences large non-academic audiences appeared. Orwell’s stature as writer and thinker cannot rival that of George Bernard Shaw or H. G. Wells, but neither of their reputations as popular writers has survived as well, nor have even their major writings remained continuously in print. Perhaps it is this popularity of Orwell in a literal sense that so irritates or embarrasses some critics and writers, either jealous or convinced that he cannot therefore be a serious intellectual writer.

In 1996 a fresh storm broke out when some files in the Public Record Office were routinely opened and The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph ‘revealed’ that Orwell had ‘spied on’ fellow writers for the Foreign Office. (In fact this information had appeared in Bernard Crick’s biography of 1980 drawn from Orwell’s own papers in University College, London.) Far from spying, he provided a list that he sent to a friend, Celia Kirwan (Arthur Koestler’s sister-in-law), who was working in the IRD (information research department), a special unit of the Foreign Office set up by Ernest Bevin. It was a list of writers who, he thought, would be unsuitable for anti-communist propaganda in 1946 when the Soviet Union was subsidizing and infiltrating every kind of cultural conference and event they could. There was a cultural cold war. The Sunday Telegraph mocked that an ‘icon of the Left has been exposed’, and The Guardian said that no liberal should ever do such a thing. But Orwell was not a liberal in their sense: his temperament was republican. When the republic was threatened, it had to be defended.

Struggles to appropriate or to denigrate Orwell will continue, as will popular interest in his essays and the documentary books. Four major biographies, with two more appearing in the centenary year 2003, have been produced, and fully reliable texts have been reissued by Secker, in the twenty-volume Complete Works of George Orwell (1986–98), and are now followed in the Penguin editions. These are freed from the bowdlerization of publishing in the 1930s, errors, and omissions, thanks to the monumental labours of one of England’s leading Shakespearian bibliographers, Peter Davison. After Orwell’s death many of the fashionable intellectuals of the time who knew him wrote tributes or assessments as if his character was more noteworthy and important than the quality or content of his writings. But the continued popularity of his writings has settled that argument. His greatest fame and readership have been posthumous.

 

Oxford National Bibliography.Goldman, Lawrence.First published September 2004 (ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison). Oxford University Press. 10-10-2012 http://www.oxforddnb.com/public/dnb/31915.html

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