George Orwell

(1903-1950), English

George Orwell is remembered today for his social criticism, belief in democratic socialism, and his novels ‘Animal Farm‘ and ‘1984‘. George Orwell is the pen-name of Eric Arthur Blair, born June 25th, 1903 in what is known today as East Champaran, Bihar, India. Orwell’s parents also had two other children, girls Avril and Marjorie. His mother grew up in Burma and this father worked in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service.


Life Facts

  • George Orwell was born in 1903 in India.
  • He was a member of the Indian Imperial Police.
  • His novel, ‘1984’ was written in 1948.
  • Orwell worked for BBC radio, broadcasting in India.
  • He died after suffering for a prolonged period of time from tuberculosis.

Interesting Facts

  • Orwell once got intoxicated in public so that he’d be arrested.
  • He was taught by Aldous Huxley, the author of ‘A Brave New World’.
  • By the time of his death, he could speak seven different languages
  • He was charged with treason in Spain after fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
  • Several of his novels are semi-autobiographical.


Famous Books by George Orwell

1984 is his best-known and most widely read novel. It takes place in the futuristic superstate of Oceania in what once was England. There, the main character Winston Smith suffers under the rule of The Party, a totalitarian government determined to destroy free thought and desire by any means possible. Animal Farm is only second to 1984 in fame. It takes place on a farm in which the animals decide to overthrow the farmers that have been running their lives. The novel satirizes the Russian Revolution and Soviet Communism. Burmese Days is one of several semi-autobiographical novels that Orwell wrote over his lifetime. This one focuses on the story of a character named John Flory, living in South East Asia under British rule. It was inspired by the periods of time that Orwell spent in India. Keep Aspidistra Flying tells the story of a man who abandons his life, becomes an outcast from society, and purpose writing. He tries to live beyond the confines of money and societal norms and represents many of Orwell’s own beliefs about capitalism and modern society. Down and Out in Paris and London was inspired by the time that Orwell spent living in both cities. He visited the darkest, scariest, and poorest areas, trying to understand the truth about life unseen. It was during this period of time that he purposefully got himself arrested.


Early Life

A year after his birth George Orwell’s mother, Ida, made a home for the family in Oxfordshire. His father stayed in India and therefore Orwell went long periods without seeing him. As a young boy, he attended a convent school and then won a scholarship to attend St Cyprian’s, an institution that he consistently hated. In his free time, Orwell enjoyed normal outdoor activities such as fishing and birdwatching.

 

Orwell went on to attend Eton but he was not as successful of a student as he could’ve been. He worked on the college magazine as well as on other publications. His first poem had already been composed at the age of four, so writing had been a part of his life for a long time.


Literary Career

Orwell spent time with the Imperial Police in India, posted in Burma where his grandmother lived. He was appointed an Assistant District Superintendent in November of 1922. Unlike many of the other men in the service, Orwell enjoyed spending time along, reading, and studying Burmese. He resigned after five-and-a-half years of service. This period of his life is often cited as the inspiration for later essays such as “A Hanging” and the novel Burmese Days.

 

Once back in London he explored the city and published his first essay in English, “The Spike”. George Orwell also spent time living in Paris where worked on his novel Burmese Days and essays for journals and newspapers. His first major work, Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933 and chronicles this period in his life where he struggled to pursue writing while also making a living. He didn’t want to embarrass his family with the novel and therefore published it under the name “George Orwell”.

In the mid-1930s George Orwell joined the Spanish Civil War, fighting against Franco. After he left, Orwell and his wife were indicted on treason charges. As in his childhood, Orwell dealt with periods of poor health in his adulthood. He contracted tuberculosis in 1938 and spent months in the hospital recovering.

 

It was in 1941 that he got a steady job as a producer at the BBC. He worked on news commentary shows that often hosted high-profile guests. One of the worst parts of his job, he reported, was having to act as a propagandist for his country during World War II.


Writing Career and Relationships

George Orwell’s best-known novels, Animal Farm and 1984 were published after he resigned from the BBC. The former in 1945, and the latter in 1949 (1984 was actually finished in 1948). Animal Farm is famous for its satiric depiction of Soviet communism and the Russian Revolution. 1984 is one of the most widely studied novels today. It was published while he was in the midst of a battle with tuberculosis and not long before he passed away. The book describes in gripping and often horrifying detail a dystopian futuristic version of England.

Today, Orwell is also remembered for his essays. These include works such as “Shooting the Elephant” and “Politics and the English Language”.


Death

Orwell passed away from complications due to tuberculosis at forty-six years old in January of 1950. During his short life, he made an as-so-far permanent impact on the literary world. His novels fueled an entire genre of dystopian fiction and inspired the coinage of words such as “Orwellian” and “memory hole”.


Influence from other Writers

George Orwell was notably influenced by writers such as Aldous Huxley, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, and James Joyce.


Literature by George Orwell

Explore literature by George Orwell below, created by the team at Book Analysis.