Examine whether or not Orwell's lament of 1946 remains a concern in today's society.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Politics and the English Language," Orwell was concerned with the deterioration of language and its ramifications. Orwell was aware that language is a tool for conveying meaning. Thus, in order for effective communication, that meaning needs to be transmitted with clarity. And yet, in observing the writing...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In "Politics and the English Language," Orwell was concerned with the deterioration of language and its ramifications. Orwell was aware that language is a tool for conveying meaning. Thus, in order for effective communication, that meaning needs to be transmitted with clarity. And yet, in observing the writing which proliferated in his own day, Orwell found a great deal of obfuscation and lazy formulaic turn of phrases which hindered that communication.

Moreover, much of that language is largely unintentional, created out of force of habit or laziness: Orwell himself admits to committing some of those same transgressions against language he complains about. These traps are incredibly easy to fall into (and I would suggest, they remain very easy to fall into), which makes the deterioration of language all the more concerning.

Furthermore, Orwell holds that the use of language has political ramifications. Euphemisms can serve as a tool, through which a population can remain ignorant as to the cruelties and misery propagated by its own political actions. As he puts it in one passage:

Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. (Orwell, "Politics and the English Language")

I'd suggest looking towards modern political speeches and the language which politicians use to see if this same analysis applies today.

Ultimately, that same methodology should guide your approach in general. The first task is to understand Orwell's analysis, concerning the deterioration of the English language. Next, you would need to apply this analysis into the present day. Certainly, with the advent of the internet, the English language has been altered in ways which Orwell could not have foreseen (one can only imagine what he might say of a website such as Twitter, for instance). But even then, do these same criticisms hold true? Furthermore, are the ramifications as destructive as Orwell himself painted them to be?

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team