George Orwell was a complex individual who left behind some incredibly interesting personal writings, not to mentions his nonfiction books and fiction novels. On this list lovers of his writing will find ten of his best quotes. Some come from Animal Farm, others from his personal letters, and published essays.
Animals and Equality
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others
This quote comes from Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm. It is one of the best-known quotes from the book and is often cited as an example of how Orwell was critique, through satire, Soviet communism. This line appears in Chapter Ten and is one of the many proclamations that the pig leaders of the new governemnt on the farm create.
It is a perfect example of how language, and the rule of law itself, can be manipulated to benefit those in charge. The idea of differing degrees of equality is an interesting one and something that everyone should be able to spot in their own lives and the lives of those around them. Old Major’s proclamation shows how far the farm animals came from their desire to be free.
Violence, Politics and Education
If you hate violence and don’t believe in politics, the only major remedy remaining is education.
This quote is one of many impactful statements taken from Orwell’s essays. It is multifaceted and suggests several different ideas at once. The lines separate out the possibility that education has anything to do with politics and violence. It also provides the reader with an answer. It is to learning that one needs to run if they want to change anything about their world.
Truth from your Enemy
The truth, it is felt, becomes untruth when your enemy utters it.
Orwell’s words in this quote are just as impactful now as they were when wrote them. This line comes from a collection of his essays and suggests something fundamental about the societal and political divides that control the wider population. Lies and truths, Orwells alludes, are one in the same.
One truth might become a lie depending on who is speaking. Understanding this, and realizing the prejudices that one has against their neighbour will at first make everything more complicated but in the end bring about a true equality and understanding.
Man Consuming without Producing
Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals.
These lines were spoken by the character of Old Major in Animal Farm. The quote is quite well-known and even out of context makes a great deal of sense. Anyone with any understanding of society and the take, and take, nature of human existence will undemanding what Orwell is suggesting here. Human beings must do something to level the playing field. It cannot be a one sided relationship between human beings and the rest of the world. We must give something back.
Pain and Heroes
In the face of pain there are no heroes.
This quote comes from 1984 and is one of several on this list that display the complexities of the novel and the world that it depicted. The line is thought by the character Winston Smith as he is being tortured. He admits to himself that he is not as strong as he hoped he’d be. Physical pain, he declares, is the worst thing in the world. There are “no heroes” when it comes to pain.
Power and Human Minds
Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.
This quote comes from Part III Chapter 3 of 1984. It is spoken by O’Brien who has recently revealed himself to be in charge of the Ministry of Love. He is responsible for everything that has happened to Winston Smith and is in the process of trying to re-brainwash him back into the Party. But, only so that they might kill him in the future.
Essence of Being Human
The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection […] that one is prepared in the end to be defeated, and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals.
This quote appears in In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950 a collection of Orwell’s letters. It speaks on what it means to be human– the complexities and the simplicities of that state. The lines also suggest that love is at the root of humanity. It is one of many elements that keep human beings from being “perfect,” which is a state that no one should ever strive for.
Human Beings want to be good
On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.
In All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays, lovers of Orwell’s writing can find this quote. It is a simple, self-explanatory statement that gets at the heart of what it means to be human. He appears to suggest in these lines that human beings are generally “good” but that in them there is something “not too good” that wants to be engaged with. That “not good” portion of human life takes on varying degrees of darkness.
Seizing and Relinquishing Power
We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end.
These lines come from the same speech in which O’Brien was describing the power of “power”. He adds in these lines that “Power” is not something that human beings achieve and then use to some end. It is the “end”. It is the result that the seeker was striving for. O’Brien is basking in his own power as he tortures Winston into understanding the nature of the Party and its leaders.
Controlling the Past, Present and Future
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
This is one of the best-known quotes from Orwell’s 1949 novel 1984. The quote is one of several Party slogans that reveal something about the nature of Oceania. It informs the reader about the Inner Party’s motivations and intentions. They seek to change the past so that they might change the future. These two things are integrally connected and depicted for the reader through things like the “memory holes” and brainwashing.