Author Spotlight: George Orwell
For this installment of Author Spotlight, I thought we could throw it back a bit, and highlight a classic author whose works are more prevalent and prophetic than ever. George Orwell was a British novelist and essayist in the mid 19040’s. He is best known for his two novels, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “Animal Farm”, both of which have gone to gain worldwide acclaim. Orwell’s works are known for their heavy critique of the major political movements in the early 20th century. He took a heavy stance against totalitarianism, and was a staunch supporter of democratic ideals in a time where the world had experienced some of the worst dictators in history. Both of his novels deal with the problems that come along with imperialism, fascism, and communism, and to this day are chillingly similar to our way of life.
“Animal Farm” was Orwell’s first novella, with it being published in 1945. The novella is an allegory about a group of animals who take control of the farm they live on, ousting the humans who were their masters. The animals begin to run the farm themselves, but as time goes on, it quickly devolves into a brutal tyrannical place. The pigs on the farm, who all adopt names like Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer establish themselves as the leaders on the farm, and begin to rule over their fellow animals following a system of government they call “Animalism”.
Orwell was a strong supporter of democracy, and Animal Farm was meant to reflect the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, which was the genesis of the Stalinism in the Soviet Union, and the birthplace of communism. Orwell wrote in 1946, “Of course I intended it primarily as a satire on the Russian revolution…that kind of revolution (violent conspiratorial revolution, led by unconsciously power hungry people) can only lead to a change of masters revolutions only affect a radical improvement when the masses are alert.” The novella was banned in communist countries until the late 20th century, and to this day is one of the best satirical representations of the downfall of the oppressive Soviet regime.
“Nineteen-Eighty Four” is Orwells second body of work, being published in 1949. The novel is set in a dystopian future in the year 1984, where the world has become consumed with perpetual war between three major superpowers. The book follows Winston Smith, a citizen of Oceania, which rules of Britain and all of North America. Winston works for the Ministry of Truth, which deals with rewriting history as seen fit by the mysterious leader of the government, Big Brother. As he approaches middle age, Winston begins to question the authority of Big Brother, leading him on a journey to rebel against his oppressors.
The novel deals with themes of nationalism, futurology, censorship, and surveillance. Some of the terms and concepts coined in this book have become common use, including Big Brother, doublethink, and thoughtcrime. Orwell imagined a world where every citizen would have what was called a telescreen in their homes, which spied on people in their homes and could not be turned off. The content of the novel is alarmingly similar to our modern age, and should be read by anyone interested in the makings of an authoritarian state. I promise you, it will unnerve you to be able to see the clear parallels to the book and our current state.
Avid writer and reader with a curious mind. I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon