In his short life, George Orwell managed to author several works which would inspire debate across
the political spectrum for years to come due to his extreme views on Totalitarianism as exemplified in
his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell is now regarded as one of the finest essayists in Modern
English literature because of his inspired common sense and a power of steady thought.
Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in Bengal on January 23, 1903. He lived with his two sisters,
mother and father who was a minor official in Indian Customs. Orwell's childhood has been an
influence on his later life and writing. British Writers by Ian Scott-Kilvert quotes Orwell as saying:
Looking back on my own childhood, after the infant years were over, I do not believe
that I ever felt love for any mature person, except my Mother, and even her I did not
trust, in the sense that shyness made me conceal most of my real feelings from her
merely disliked my own father, whom I had barely seen before I was eight and who
appeared to me simply as a gruff-voiced elderly man forever saying "Don't."
Early in his childhood, he was sent to a fashionable preparatory school on a scholarship. The other
boys were much better off than Orwell was. Looking back on his school years, British Writers by
Ian Scott-Kilvert again quotes Orwell as saying:
I had no money, I was weak, I was ugly, I was unpopular, I had a chronic cough, I
was cowardly, I smelt
The conviction that it was not possible for me to be a success
went deep enough to influence my actions until far into adult life. Until I was thirty I
always planned my life on the assumption not only that any major undertaking was
bound to fail, but that I could only expect to live a few years longer.
At the age of 13, Orwell was rewarded with not one, but two separate scholarships. Orwell decided
upon Eton, which was the more distinguished and prestigious of the two. Of his time at Eton,
Modern British Essayists by Robert L. Calde quotes Orwell as saying, "I did no work there and
learned very little and I don't feel that Eton had much of a formative influence on my life." However,
a majority of English students does no work at Universities but instead broaden their outlook on life
and acquire a new sense of self-confidence along with an ability that is far more valuable than
After Orwell's time at Eton, the natural thing for him to do would have been to go on to Cambridge
and continue his career there where he could easily have gained a full scholarship. Instead, Orwell
was advised by a tutor to break away and begin his own career. Orwell took this advice and took
an open post in the Indian Imperial Police where he spent the next five years of his life. It was there
that Orwell began his writing career and wrote about his life experiences in Burma and India.
Orwell felt very guilty about the actions which he took part in during his time in India so he sought to
escape the guilt in England. When that did not work he instead traveled to Paris, supposedly to
write, but an unknown author in a foreign country is not likely to make much of a living so his motives
most certainly must have been otherwise. It is thought that he went to Paris to face the
down-and-out lifestyle that he was brought up to fear and to experience a level of pain and failure to
which very few people were subject. It is also believed that Orwell did this as an act of public
defiance against those wealthier than himself who had humiliated him during his school years. Orwell
also referred to the time as:
A feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and
out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs, -- and well, here are the dogs, and
you have reached them, and you...
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New York: Chelsea House
series, Gale Research Inc.,
Guide to the
Contemporary English Novel, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972.
Reilly, Patrick, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1988.
Roby, Kinley E., ed, George Orwell, Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1987.
Collier Macmillan, 1984.
Brown & Company,
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