unigo_skin
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

Biography

Orwell followed up on Animal Farm with several essays that outlined his approach to writing and politics, most notably the 1946 classic "Politics and the English Language." In that essay, he argued that sloppy writing gave way to lazy thinking, and that a public that didn't pay attention to how language was used could be too easily lulled into overlooking more important things. (His rules for good writing remain some of the best out there—use active voice, not passive; cut words when you can; don't use a long word when a short one will do.) English, he said, "becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." He continued:

"Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them."10

Though he was thriving professionally, in his personal life Orwell was floundering badly. With his wife gone, his household was decrepit and depressing. He proposed to four different women and was rejected by all of them—evidence of Orwell's famously poor luck (or lack of skill) with the ladies. He moved briefly to the Scottish island of Jura and then returned to London at the start of what turned out to be one of the coldest winters in years. The weather was devastating for his already weak health, and in December 1947 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis—the disease that would eventually kill him.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
back to top