George Orwell whose pen-name was Heric Arthur Blair was born in Bengal in India and was sent to school at Eton in England where he distinguished himself for intellectual brilliance. At Eton, a famous school for boys, he was treated badly by his schoolmates because he was not from upper middle class. So after Eton he refused to go on his studies in Oxford or Cambridge and decided to serve the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, India in 1927, which was part of the British Empire. This experience we find in Burmese Days, published later in 1934.
But after 3 years he left his work, his country, his upper-class friends and his family and went back to Europe because he refused to became part of the ruling class, he wanted to escape "not only from imperialism but from every form of man's dominion over man" as he said.
Living with the lower classes
So he left India and worked in London and Paris hotels and restaurants living in close contact with the poor, the tramps and the unemployed. This experiences we find Down and out in Paris and London, 1933.
His political view
During his experience in London and Paris he moved closer to socialism, showing his socialist belief in his newspaper articles and novels. Then, like many left-wing writers of the 1930's, when the civil war broke out in Spain he went there as a reporter but also to fight for the Republicans against the Fascists led by general Francisco Franco.
In Spain he was seriously wounded in the throat and returned to England. This experience in Spain we find in his work Homage to Catalonia, 1938
In this period he supported Socialist views but later he became disillusioned when the Soviet Communism developed into a totalitarian government.
Journalism and his greatest works
He wanted to fight during the 2th World War but he couldn't because for the army, he was unfit on medical ground. So he worked for the BBC Indian Service and for the Socialist newspaper Tribune.
He remained a left-wing political writer throughout his life even if his disillusionment with the totalitarian methods was growing.
His best works are ANIMAL FARM and NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR.
Animal Farm , 1945 ....a beast fable
Satire. It is a political satire because it satirizes the Russian Revolution in 1917 pointing out the corruption of the Socialism in the Soviet Union and attacks Stalin who had transformed Russian into a Totalitarian State. In fact there are some references to the history of USSR between 1917-1943. But far from only satirizing 20th century Russian politics, it is also a satire of all the totalitarian systems in other countries.
Allegory. It is an allegory because it tells the story of a revolution, among the animals of a farm, against a cruel master. It is a parody of the Russian Revolution in the form of a beast fable which satirizes man by transferring human feelings and defects to animals. In fact some events and animals in the story are associated with real events and figures like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler.
The main theme is the failure of any Revolution. He wants to show how ordinary people can lose their freedom step by step.
His aims He wants to show that those taking power always betray the ideals of justice, equality and fraternity. He was a committed writer who wants to inform, to educate. He attacked Stalin and warned his readers against totalitarianism
- All men are enemies
- All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others
- Revolutions are doomed to fail and the result is new forms of oppression
- Power corrupts
- A society which cannot control its language is doomed to be oppressed
So the pigs are worse than Jones because Jones controlled only animals' actions while the pigs by controlling the language they controlled the thoughts.
Orwell wants to educate, to inform, to warn us against the failure of revolution which changes into new forms of oppression. He wants to show us that people taking power always betray the ideals of justice, equality, fraternity. It is the first book in which he tried "to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole", as he said. It was praised as a little masterpiece, and was translated into many languages.
Allegory is a narrative or a description conveying a moral meaning. It uses metaphor or personifications of abstract vices, virtues, feelings.
Nineteen Eighty-four, 1949
It is a satire of totalitarianism set in the year 1984 a time assumed by Orwell as the year when his apocalyptic prophecy would come true. So it is a political satire of the 20th century, a science fiction a novel about the society of the future, with a prophetic dystopian vision of the world. It is an anti-myth with its cruel and prophetic picture of a world where individuality is destroyed. It contains many uncomfortable truths.
The story. The novel is about Oceania a totalitarian society ruled by Big Brother which control and censors everyone's Behavior and even Thoughts. Britain is part of Oceania and it is ruled by "INNER PARTY" led by Big Brother. He is the ruler the dictator of the totalitarian country which control the individual's life by mass-media, through technology. In fact the main protagonist, Winston Smith with his girlfriend Julia is subjected to rehabilitation treatment, a program of mental and physical torture to destroy his thought. Through brainwashing technique Winston is completely subdued physically, emotionally, mentally.
Big Brother is the symbol of a distant, mysterious, omnipresent oppressor who has become the symbol of the total control of the individual's life by mass media in highly technological society. But he is also the parody of a historical figure, Stalin.
The name Big Brother has become also the title of TV programs which means the domination over the individual's life by mass media.
The phrase Big Brother was first coined by Orwell in his novel 1984 and it has entered the English language and other ones to describe organizations and systems that extend their control over a large number of people and invade their privacy and life.
Newspeak is the Party language, the official language of the Totalitarian State which distorts and redefines reality and truth according to the State's wishes. It is so limited that people find it is impossible to express their ideas. It is an instrument to brainwash people with the paradoxical slogans WAR IS PEACE, LOVE IS HATE, FREEDOM IS SLAVE.
THE PARTY has absolute control of the press and communication. Any form of rebellion is punished with prison and torture
The setting There is a gloomy atmosphere of London, the city of the future with the lack of privacy, freedom, thought and speech. The story is set in 1984. the last two numbers of the year were reversed to give the title of the novel.
The themes. The increasing influence of mass media, the description of a future tyrannical world headed by the dictator "Big Brother" who control men's action thoughts and feelings through mass media.
The aim He wants to attack contemporary Britain, the loss of values of the country. He makes a parody of totalitarianism, he warns against the danger of a totalitarian state. He wants to educate, to inform, to denounce man's enslavement to mass media. The novel reflects a deep disillusionment, a pessimistic vision of the future under the threat of totalitarian regimes where people lose their identities and freedom.
His political message is to draw attention on the problems of contemporary life, to warn us against the danger of a totalitarian policy which destroys language and thoughts through mass- media, So the message is that a society based on a totalitarian system, totally destroys our individuality because it destroys our language and thoughts through mass media.
From "Animal Farm" to "Nineteen Eighty-Four"
The message we find in the novel Animal Farm is "A society which cannot control its language is doomed to be oppressed"
The next logical step is in the message of "Nineteen Eighty-four". It is "the total destruction of the language leads to the destruction of thought itself" and of the individuality.
Similarities There both are against the evils of a totalitarian state. Both the novels were the precise and passionate expression of his feelings about the failure of socialist utopia in Soviet Union, that is THE END OF IDEOLOGY.
Dystopian novel it is the word coined in the present century to describe fiction giving a picture of an imagery world where the negative aspects of the society have been carried to unpleasant extremes Utopian novel describes an ideal society in its positive aspects. It was coined by Tommaso Moro with his work Utopia.