Politics and the English Language Study Guide
Politics and the English Language: Themes
Politics and the English Language: Characters
Politics and the English Language: Analysis
Politics and the English Language: Quotes
Politics and the English Language: Questions & Answers
Politics and the English Language: Introduction
Politics and the English Language: Biography of George Orwell
Introduction to Politics and the English Language
George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” was published in 1946 in the literary magazine Horizon. Though modern considerations of Orwell more often focus on his novels, especially Animal Farm and 1984, his contemporaries knew him better as an essayist and literary critic. “Politics and the English Language” is regarded as one of his most influential works of criticism for its analysis of the vague and overly complicated rhetoric that suffused the post–World War II political and intellectual landscape.
Orwell’s oeuvre focuses heavily on the dangers posed by authoritarianism, and in “Politics and the English Language” he expresses the belief that the manipulation of language is a powerful tool in the arsenal of tyranny. Using examples pulled from other contemporary works and speeches, Orwell demonstrates the ways in which abstract, imprecise language obscures meaning—both intentionally and unintentionally—and offers solutions for writing more straightforward prose.
A Brief Biography of George Orwell
George Orwell (1903–1950) was a socialist, born Eric Arthur Blair, who wrote some of the greatest criticisms of totalitarianism published in the twentieth century. He did so through honesty and direct personal experience, and 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 descriptions and dense theoretical discussions of politics. Both novels 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 still offer powerful statements on the nature of ethics, responsibility, politics, and writing.