This paper examines George Orwell’s contribution to the literary movement of absurdism. It focuses on Orwell’s novel Animal Farm. George Orwell, formerly known as “Eric Blair” enlisted in the Indian Imperial Police at about twenty years of age and served in Burma for five years during which he witnessed imperialism at its worst; he saw hangings, floggings, and filthy prisons, and he “was forced to assert superiority over the Burmese which he never really felt.” On realizing the little economic and or cultural progress he made, Orwell left this situation with the conviction that imperialism was far too evil to risk one’s life for. In 1936, Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War and through first-hand experience he saw propaganda and the perversion of history used as instruments of war. The deliberate distortion of facts by both sides seemed to Orwell to be even more terrible than the bombs used in the war. He believed that the mere distortion of truth would create worse situations for mankind than any ideological war could. As for power, he realized that it had become an end to itself- and to those who seek it. Orwell’s involvement in these wars and the experiences seem to have influenced his life’s philosophy as it is reflected in his literary works after the war. In Orwell’s Animal Farm, the superficial level of its meaning criticizes the politics of war and its consequences; on the other hand, a deeper level sheds light on the absurdity that is the war as it examines the motive, process and outcome of the war both physically and psychologically. Absurdism is the philosophical and literary doctrines that human beings live in essential isolation in a meaningless and irrational world, absurdists therefore recognize the universe for what it is and cease to struggle against it. The notion of the absurd contains the idea that there is no meaning to be found in the world beyond the meaning we give to it. To the world there is no such thing as a good person or a bad person, and what happens happens and it may just as well happen to a good person as to a bad person. According to Jean Paul Sartre, the absurd is born out of the confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world. He asserts that “humanity must live in a world that is and will forever be hostile and indifferent towards them. This implies that humanity tends to assume that the world should fulfill its needs while absurdism tries to explain to humanity that the world owes it nothing therefore each individual should work towards fulfilling his or her own needs as they find the purpose and meaning to their own lives. While absurdism may be considered a branch of existentialism, it is a specific idea that is not necessary to an existentialist view. All existentialist have in common is the fundamental belief that ‘existence precedes essence’. The most important consideration for the individual is the fact that he/she is an individual that is acting independently and responsible conscious being (existence) rather than what labels, roles, definitions or other preconceived categories the individual fits (essence). According to Albert Camus, the idea of the absurd presents the reader with dualism such as happiness and sadness, dark and light, life and death etc. Camus emphasizes that happiness is fleeting and that the human condition is one of mortality, he does this to reflect a greater appreciation for life and happiness. This dualism is a paradox such that we value our lives and existence so much but at the same time we know that we will eventually die and ultimately our endeavors are meaningless. While we can live with a dualism -such as I can accept periods of unhappiness because I know I will also experience happiness to come-but we cannot live with the paradox- I think my life is of great importance but I also think it is meaningless. Orwell employs literature of the absurd in his book Animal Farm in an attempt to depict a grotesque...
References: Orwell, G. (2008) Animal farm. London: Penguin Books.
Alex Zwerling, Orwell and the Left (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974)
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