1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Politics and Literature: George Orwell


On Nineteen Eighty-Four - Orwell and Our Future

On Nineteen Eighty-Four - Orwell and Our Future

Princeton University Press

Compare Prices

"Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not simply due to the bad influence of this or that individual writer."

--by George Orwell Quotes
"Politics and the English Language"

The topic "Politics and Literature" is not a new one. As, we discuss the ideas that relate to politics and literature, George Orwell is a writer that comes to mind when such a topic arises.

Orwell didn't have the most positive view of the future and politics. He was, after all, the creator of "1984 "and that famous line: "If you want to picture the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever."

Visions of the Future Days

Orwell was in many ways a visionary--not just because of "1984". Born in India to a British civil servant father, George Orwell took that pen name in exchange for his given name (Eric Blair). In 1947, he explained in "Why I Write" the impulse that drove him to write: "From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books."

Of course, he draws upon his experiences around the world and in various economic situations. Writing during a World War II bombing in London, he said, "As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me." Although his experience shaped him, he felt that there were four motives for writing: egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and finally political purpose. Of these writing impulses, the last of the motives seems the most important.

His style is clear, with a simplicity and directness that is combined with underlying humor to create works of literary art. But, through his words, Orwell created an identity, a face to put to the writing voice - so democratic and aloof. He wanted to create a new politics in writing... to bring political writing up to a new level and make it art.

In writing a work of art, his first impulse is to "expose" some lie. In "Why I Write," he further says, "Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant."


Orwell sees himself and society as being in historical crisis. In his essays and novels, he dramatically depicts what dangers can ensue when history is forgotten and neglected. Only by honestly and openly considering personal and historical history can we ever truly understand the truth, minus all the lies.

With a firm stance in history, he sees politics as an integral part of writing... if the words are to have any life at all - for the writer or the reader. In his experience, language and writing had been perverted. Words no longer held any weight, any meaning, or direction.

Most of all, he wanted to avoid the fault that he saw in Jonathan Swift, as he explains in "An Imaginary Interview that Swift "was a great man," but that he "was partially blind" because he "could see only one thing at a time." He was not afraid to switch sides, to change his mind, and to write about his convictions.

In the end, though... Is there a final conclusion, an answer, an ultimate solution? Is language really disintegrating - falling away beneath our feet without our even realizing it? Was George Orwell even more of a visionary than he ever could have realized?


Related Video

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.