George Orwell was a British political essayist and novelist who is best known for his political writings criticizing totalitarian dictatorships. In particular, Orwell was especially critical of Soviet Russia, and very concerned with what the future could hold for the West if they allowed the government to have too much control.
Eric Arthur Blair was the real name of George Orwell. He was born in India in 1903, but spent a good part of his childhood being raised and educated in England. He returned to Asia at the age of 21 and became a policeman in Burma, which inspired two of his well-known works Burmese Days and “Shooting an Elephant.”
Blair was very political, and believed fiercely that democratic socialism was the way of the future. He fought in the Spanish Civil War because he wanted to defeat Fascism. He was wounded in the War, which sidelined him for World War II. He worked for the BBC where he developed a distaste for propaganda being pushed out by the government to India to counter the anti-Imperialist Nazi propaganda.
Blair is best known for his novella Animal Farm, published in 1945, and his novel 1984, published in 1949. Animal Farm is a political allegory of the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 as the Stalin Soviets gained power. He depicts both Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky as pigs who try to employ Karl Marx’s Communists ideals to their animal friends on a farm they overtake and call Animal Farm. Napoleon (Stalin) soon overthrows Snowball (Trotsky) and makes him a scapegoat, which he conveniently uses to maintain his own power. 1984 is a powerful warning about the dangers of allowing the government to have too much control over the minds and lives of citizens. Winston Smith lives in a world controlled by the Party, headed by Big Brother, and speech or thoughts against the Party are punishable by torture or death. The world is in a constant state of war, which keeps everyone preoccupied while the government ensures that they are better off not having to think for themselves.
While 1984 was an acclaimed success, Blair did not have much time to enjoy it. He died of complications from tuberculosis in 1950 at the age of 46, but his works have undoubtedly shaped a cautious perception of governmental power and interference ever since.
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
“Take away freedom of speech, and the creative faculties dry up.”
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”