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Politics and the English Language

by George Orwell

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How effective is Orwell's use of analogy in "Politics and the English Language"?

Quick answer:

Orwell's central analogy is between clarity of expression and the quality of political thought, and his own writing is an effective demonstration of the truth of this analogy.

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The central analogy in Orwell's essay is that clarity of expression—good writing—is connected to clarity of thought, or effective politics. He writes that our writing becomes "ugly" because our thoughts are "foolish" and that because our writing is bad, it becomes easier to have "foolish thoughts." If we can get rid of these "bad habits" of poor writing, it becomes possible to take a "first step toward political regeneration."

Orwell illustrates this analogy through the use of examples. He produces five "representative" samples of professional writing that exhibit the bad qualities that make for bad thinking. The two attributes these examples have in common are "staleness of imagery" and "lack of precision." In the same way bad writing leads to bad thinking, the use of clichés clouds meaning. These expressions are used without thought, and the writer often does not fully understand what they mean in the first place.

Orwell's point is not that metaphors are bad, but that they should be new and creative. Orwell's own metaphor, in which he compares inflated diction to "soft snow" that "covers up all the details" of things, is an example of a metaphor that helps meaning.

Orwell's entire essay functions in this way. It has the double purpose of making an argument while at the same time being that argument's best example. Orwell's style is his own best evidence of the relationship between clarity of expression and clarity of thought.

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