George Orwell, Author of 1984

The High School English Literature Curriculum

Who was George Orwell, the author of 1984?

George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair.

He was born in Bengal, India in 1903. His father was an opium agent and worked for the Indian Civil Service. When he was four years old, his family returned to England. He attended the Anglican national school at Henley and later St Cyprian’s school in Sussex. Possibly due to the strict regime of these schools, he wrote some anti-authoritarian works including ‘Awake! Young Men of England’.

When he was fourteen, he won a scholarship to Eton College and made a name for himself as a contributor to many college publications. One of his teachers at Eton was the famous author Aldous Huxley (Brave New World).

At the age of nineteen, he joined the Burmese police and spent five years there. Although he enjoyed his time in Burma, he became disillusioned with the cloak of Imperialism and this may also have inspired his anti authoritarian views later expressed. On his return from Burma he moved to Paris and started to write short stories but success eluded him. Most of his work was rejected by the publishers.

He contracted pneumonia in 1928, an illness which weakened him considerably. After recovering, he returned to England in 1929, when he was twenty-six, and lived on the bread line for a couple of years as he wanted to experience the tough living conditions of the under privileged. To protect his family’s reputation, he adopted the penname George Orwell.

Subsequently he got a job as a sales assistant in a bookshop in London while continuing to write in his spare time. He married in 1936 and he and his wife went to Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War to fight against General Franco’s Nationalist party. He sustained a neck wound during the war. After the war, both he and his wife joined a Marxist party in Barcelona and were fortunate not to have been arrested or worse.

He returned to England in 1937 and from this period onwards his writing career became more productive. After a number of successful publications and several salaried jobs later including a broadcasting career with the BBC, George Orwell’s legendary novel ‘Animal Farm’ was published in 1944. Although suffering from   tuberculosis , and attending a sanatorium, he labored with his final novel, 1984, originally entitled ‘Last man in Europe’ and this remarkable book was published in 1949. He died a year later from  tuberculosis  at the age of 47.

1984, A synopsis

George Orwell depicts a gray, totalitarian world dominated by Big Brother and its vast network of agents, including the Thought Police, a world in which news is manufactured according to the authorities’ will and people live tepid lives by rote.

Winston Smith, the hero with no heroic qualities, longs only for truth and decency. But living in a social system in which privacy does not exist and where those with unorthodox ideas are brainwashed or put to death, he knows there is no hope for him.

The year 1984 has come and gone, yet George Orwell’s nightmare vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is still the great modern classic of negative Utopia