In the last blog you read why one of my fellow interns absolutely despises Orwell, and I’m not here to say that his feelings towards Orwell are wrong….But there’s so much to appreciate and love about Orwell!
George Orwell is a great writer and one of my favorite works by him is his essay “Politics and the English Language”. Orwell spends the essay describing the degradation of the English language and creates a set of rules that a writer should not break:
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright.
As both a writer and a reader I love these rules because Orwell places an emphasis on the simplicity of description. Orwell did not write this essay to sound pretentious, he wrote these rules and his critique of the seemingly new version of the English language because he loves the aesthetic of the written word and can’t stand to see it be destroyed.
Most of Orwell’s works are essays and memoirs. And the beauty of Orwell’s memoirs are that they’re written in such a way that the reader forgets that what they’re reading is not a piece of fiction. In one of Orwell’s most famous memoirs, “Shooting an Elephant”, Orwell describes a particular experience he had with a rampaging elephant. In the last blog post my fellow intern criticizes Orwell for not capitalizing on the symbolism of the elephant. But since the work is a memoir perhaps the elephant was simply just an elephant? Maybe Orwell did write it so that the elephant’s imagery can represent either the British or the Burmese or maybe he didn’t? Orwell doesn’t make his memoir overtly complex; Orwell lets the reader do what they will with the elephant.
The author of the last post believes that Orwell spews negativity and it is true that at one point Orwell “wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings” (Orwell’s “Why I Write”). Yet there’s a reason behind some of Orwell’s negativity, there’s a reason why his works are somber. In “Why I Write” (My favorite Orwell essay!) Orwell discusses his motives for writing and finally settles upon two motives: writing for the aesthetic pleasure of it (as discussed above) and, more importantly, writing to expose truths.
Orwell writes because “there is some lie that [he] want[s] to expose, some fact to which [he] want[s] to draw attention” (“Why I Write”). With that in mind readers can read Orwell’s work and ask themselves what truth Orwell is trying to expose. If Orwell is being negative is that his personal stance or is a reflection or point he’s trying to make about the world or situation around him?
You can love him OR hate him, but he writes pretty WELL!