George Orwell Biography

George Orwell Biography

George Orwell (Eric Allan Blair's pen name) was a socialist who wrote some of the greatest criticisms of totalitarianism published in the twentieth century. How did he do it? The answer: honesty and direct personal experience. Orwell is best known for his novels Animal Farm and 1984. The first is a fable written in simple language, the second is a dystopian novel full of brutal description and dense theoretical discussions of politics, but both methodically expose the dangers of the totalitarian state. Orwell is also known as one of the greatest essayists of the twentieth century. “Shooting an Elephant” and “Politics and the English Language” are still widely read today—and are still powerful statements on the nature of ethics, responsibility, politics, and writing.

Facts and Trivia

  • Orwell was born in Bengal, India (which was still part of the British Empire at the time), but he was sent to England when he was a year old. Orwell’s father stayed in India, and Orwell didn’t see him again for years.
  • One nice thing about Orwell is that you don’t have to guess what he thinks about a subject; he has usually left written records. In his essay “Such, Such Were the Joys,” Orwell describes in detail his unhappy experience at English boarding schools. The essay starts with him wetting the bed and moves quickly to him getting beaten for it.
  • Orwell served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, which gave him a chance to see imperial and racial politics first hand.
  • In his nonfiction work Down and Out in London and Paris, Orwell describes his experience tramping around England and France. He took low-paying jobs requiring very long hours, was unemployed at other times, and once had to sleep on the beach to dodge a landlord.
  • While fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell was shot through the neck and nearly died.
Additional Content
  • Biography (History of the World: The 20th Century)
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  • Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
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