Homage to Catalonia, although in many ways a controversial book, has generally been praised for its description of the common soldier’s experience of war. Orwell makes clear his belief that some ideals are worth fighting, dying, and even killing for. At the same time, the common soldier’s ambivalence about killing other human beings is reflected in his writing. Frequent expressions of his remembered impatience to get on with the job of killing Fascists are thus balanced by repeated assurances to the reader that his marksmanship was poor. The author never tries to glorify war. With his sharp reporter’s eye for the telling detail, Orwell gives the reader a feel not only for the inspiring sense of camaraderie among the soldiers but also for the dirt, cold, stench, lice, physical discomfort, and sheer fright that afflict even those soldiers who fight for a worthy cause.
In his description of his battle experiences in the winter of 1936-1937, of his wounding by a sniper, and of his harrowing life on the run from the police following the suppression of the POUM, Orwell often discusses in a cold, almost clinical, way events that must have been extremely painful and frightening. This deliberate refusal to indulge in melodrama is often effective in letting the reader imagine for himself just how bad things really were.
Homage to Catalonia is not merely a memoir of one man’s experience of war; it espouses a definite political...
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