“FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters.” This is a famous line from Animal Farm by English author, George Orwell. Some of his major works are Animal Farm and 1984. He also published many newspaper and magazine articles. George Orwell was a different kind of writer. Still to this day, he is well known for his unique, propagandist, and also controversial writing style. What made George Orwell the author he was? Why did George Orwell distort his writing? Orwell had a rough childhood, was ill or injured often, and had a lot of experience with propaganda, failure, wars, revolution, and socialism and these things could be the reasons why Orwell distorted his writing and became the writer he was.
To begin with, George Orwell’s childhood could have contributed to how he grew and developed as a writer. George Orwell was not born George Orwell. He was born as Eric Arthur Blair to Richard and Ida Blair on June 25, 1903 in Bengal, India. Orwell’s parents were both British but worked and lived in India, which was a part of the British Empire at the time. His father worked in the opium division of the Indian Civil Service and oversaw Britain’s trade with China, so he was always very busy and often away. After Orwell was born, his parents moved back to England, but Orwell’s father continued to work in India so George rarely saw him. Orwell recalled on this, “‘I barely saw my father before I was eight.’ He remembered him as a stern, quiet man who often said ‘Don’t’.” (Agathocleous 9) Orwell loved to write starting at a very young age, writing his first poem about a tiger with “chair-like teeth” at age four. In 1911, he received a scholarship to a very prestigious boys’ boarding school called St. Cyprian’s. Many of the school’s students were wealthy and more trusted by the staff so Orwell, coming from a lower class had to work harder to prove that he was good and worthy. The children were often punished and terrorized by the schools’ owners and the other boys were very snobby and Orwell did not enjoy the boarding school experience. From his school experiences, he was beginning to shape this image of abuses of power and said, “‘Life is hierarchical and what happened was right.’” (Agathocleous 11)
Furthermore, Orwell dealt with many illnesses and injuries that made him the author he was. After young George’s terrible education, he came down with a chronic cough that was eventually diagnosed as tuberculosis. In the late 1920’s when Orwell moved to Paris, he caught a bad case of pneumonia. He was taken to a hospital for the poor and the medical care was not strong at all. Students with little medical experience were allowed to practice on patients like Orwell and the procedures the students performed were described as “grim and no doubt harmful”. One of these procedures was known as “cupping” in which a vacuum was created within a glass and then placed on the patient’s back to create a blood blister which would eventually be drained. A while later, Orwell traveled to Spain and joined the POUM (In Spanish the letters stand for: Workers’ Party for Marxist Unification). On May 20, 1937, while fighting with POUM, Orwell was looking over a sandbag and was hit in the throat with a sniper bullet. Orwell was transported to a hospital and treated. His vocal chords were paralyzed for some time and he also couldn’t talk for quite a while. The bullet had missed his spine and main artery by only a millimeter. By 1947, George Orwell’s health was on a steep downhill slope and he was still working on writing 1984 at the time. He continued to struggle with his health and even through all of the hard times, Orwell managed to write and because of all of his time in a hospital bed, he could think, in some kind of way, and put his ideas on paper. He even came up with his pen name, George Orwell, while he was ill. All of his suffering and struggles with his health can be seen in his writing.
Additionally, Orwell experienced a lot of failure with his writing, was very involved with war and revolution, and also had a lot of experience with socialism. After his bad schooling experience at St. Cyprian’s, Orwell still managed to get into Eton, which was another prestigious boys’ boarding school. His academic performance was extremely poor and after college, he decided to join the Imperial Police force. During his time with the Imperial Police in Burma, he saw many brutal and unjust things and even had to perform them himself sometimes. Orwell was required to arrest and beat native Burmese when they were violating the law. He was even required supervise hangings. George soon left the Imperial Force and joined an underground communist group and was offered to be a writer of propaganda. Life was not going so well for Orwell and he became extremely poor and found his living situation horrendous and disgusting. Also, Orwell always made a point to show that he was against fascism and did what he could to write about his struggle of speaking out for what he thought. He was interested in observing the process of revolution in Spain and after his POUM group was betrayed by another group of communists, Orwell became furious, discouraged, and felt betrayed by POUM. To add on to this, after the fail of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell was crushed so, he went back home to England to write Animal Farm. The year was 1945, this was at the end of World War II. Animal Farm was rejected by more than 20 publishers in England and America because they believed it was a “dangerous” and extremely controversial book and they didn’t want to become a part of something like that. Not only did Orwell write this famous book, he went on to establish his own branch of socialism and published many articles. BBC noticed Orwell’s ability to write and hired him to work on the radio as a propagandist. Over time, George got the inspiration to become an author who can make propaganda an art. And so, while he was extremely ill, George Orwell worked on his next big book, 1984. All of these challenges in life made George Orwell a propagandist and controversial author.
After five long years of medical struggles, George Orwell suffered from a massive hemorrhage of the lung and died. The date was January 21, 1950. Orwell was 46. George Orwell will be remembered for his unique writing style. His rough childhood, medical issues, and experience with failure, war, revolution, and socialism made him the well known author he is today. “Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” -George Orwell, 1984