Homage to Catalonia Essay - Critical Context

George Orwell

Critical Context

Although it is easy to criticize the short-term political judgments found in Homage to Catalonia, it is, in a sense, unfair to do so. If the Orwell who left Spain was a different man from the Orwell who had arrived there, the Orwell of the late 1940’s was also a different man from the one who had written Homage to Catalonia. The account, like a snapshot, captures for all time one moment of that process of growth and change with which Orwell groped toward the elaboration of a clear and consistent political philosophy. The end product of that process, which began long before Orwell’s Spanish experience, would be his two great works of political fiction; the fable Animal Farm (1945) and the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Under the influence of his direct observation of colonial oppression as an imperial policeman in Burma in the 1920’s and of his awareness of the suffering of working-class Englishmen during the Depression, Orwell had, by 1936, come to incline towards a Socialist viewpoint. Prior to his Spanish experience, however, he had been neither doctrinaire in his views nor especially hostile to the Communist Party. In the Road to Wigan Pier (1937), an account of his visit to an English industrial town, Orwell had criticized English Socialists of all varieties for their dogmatism and lack of understanding of the English working class; he bore no special animus against the Communists. In the short run, Orwell’s Spanish experience which made him a fierce anti-Communist, also converted him to an ardent faith in revolutionary Socialism. Yet, the experience also planted the first seeds of doubt, seeds that would germinate in the decade after Homage to Catalonia was first published.

With the...

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