What stylistic devices does George Orwell use in his essays "Marrakesh" and "Revenge is Sour"?

Expert Answers

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

Stylistically in these two (and other) essays, Orwell uses an approach that describes his intimately personal reactions to the scenes and people around him, coupled with a direct, almost conversational tone. A non-elaborate, scaled-down style had been cultivated by many if not most writers in English (and other languages) since...

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

Stylistically in these two (and other) essays, Orwell uses an approach that describes his intimately personal reactions to the scenes and people around him, coupled with a direct, almost conversational tone. A non-elaborate, scaled-down style had been cultivated by many if not most writers in English (and other languages) since the end of World War I, in comparison with the usual style of earlier prose. Though Orwell had written more floridly in his early novel Burmese Days, in most of his fiction and essays he cultivated a plainer manner relying on simple, matter-of-fact description, with little emotionalism. And one could say of Orwell, as Orwell himself said of Jack London's writings, that his essays are "written in the usual pitiless style," though this is only superficially true of both writers.

"Marrakesh" recounts Orwell's time spent in that city in Morocco. He presents facts that describe the poverty of the country, but despite the stylistic directness and the straightforward way he writes, there is also an implied subtext which amounts to a commentary on European racial attitudes. From our perspective it may be difficult to decide whether Orwell himself is only commenting on racism or, unfortunately, to some degree expressing it himself (definitely with regrets, however):

All people who work with their hands are partly invisible, and the more important the work they do, the less visible they are. Still, a white skin is always fairly conspicuous. In northern Europe, when you see a labourer ploughing a field, you probably give him a second glance. In a hot country, anywhere south of Gibraltar or east of Suez, the chances are that you don't even see him. I have noticed this again and again. In a tropical landscape one's eye takes in everything except the human beings. It takes in the dried-up soil, the prickly pear, the palm-tree and the distant mountain, but it always misses the peasant hoeing at his patch. He is the same colour as the earth, and a great deal less interesting to look at.

This passage is stylistically typical of Orwell's intimate approach. He writes as if talking to a friend, and his directness enables us to forgive him, hopefully, for his own prejudices that he cannot suppress. He also writes in a manner that recognizes the tragedy of human existence without pointing fingers, as if to say (as he does more explicitly in "Revenge is Sour") that it's not worthwhile or profitable for us to hate even those who have committed the worst crimes. Whether or not one agrees with Orwell's view, his lucid prose, totally without artificiality or affectation, convinces us of his sincerity.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Stylistic devices are elements writers use to both create and enhance meaning. Stylistic devices can also be called rhetorical devices or figures of speech ("Stylistic Devices (Rhetorical Devices, Figures of Speech").

We definitely see quite a number of stylistic devices in even the very first paragraph of George Orwell's essay "Marrakech." One stylistic device he employs is anthropomorphism, which is a form of personification. Personification is used when writers attribute human characteristics to inanimate objects or abstract concepts; using anthropomorphism, writers specifically attribute human characteristics to animals. Orwell uses anthropomorphism in the sentence, "What really appeals to the flies is that the corpses here are never put into coffins." Since we don't normally literally refer to flies as having any preferences, we can see this is a perfect example of anthropomorphism.

A second stylistic device we see in this very first paragraph is the use of parallelism, specifically tricolon parallelism. Parallelism happens when writers "create similar patterns of grammatical structure and length" (Dr. Wheeler, "Schemes"). Tricolon parallelism contains three parallel structures. Dr. Wheeler gives us the following example of tricolon parallelism: "That government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth" ("Schemes"). Orwell creates tricolon parallelism in the following sentence fragment found in the very first paragraph: "No gravestone, no name, no identifying mark of any kind." The repetition of the word "no" creates parallelism in three different grammatical phrases, showing us this is a perfect example of tricolon parallelism. His repetition of the word "no" also underscores the differences in culture due to poverty.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team