Orwell on Writing
Orwell was English through and through. In his essay, Politics and The English Language, as he stated, “Bad writers, and especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon words.” Orwell preferred English words to the use of foreign words and found that foreign words “are used to give an air of culture and elegance.” Snobbery is another word to describe such writers in Orwell’s eyes. Orwell declared war on Pretentiousness in writing and felt that often writers used abundance of useless words and felt that simplicity was a skill that was often neglected.
Then in the political sense, there were those words that were not misused but purposely misused to difficult to obscure their true meanings. Words like fascism, socialism, democracy and freedom often had multiple meanings, which as Orwell noted, “can’t be reconciled with one another.” As Orwell complained, “In the case of words like democracy, not is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides.” When countries such as former East Germany or North Korea uses words like Democratic to describe their country, it is an attempt to deceive. Certainly, North Korea is no democracy nor is China truly a “People Republic. Words lose their meanings when they are deliberately misused. In 1984, Orwell made the elimination and twisting of language to change meanings one mean by which the Party controlled the populace.
For Orwell, conciseness and simplicity was the key to successful writing and to maintain correct meaning. It was not just about communicating but language was the means to pass on truth and if the truth in language was compromised, so was truth.
So why did Orwell write? Orwell stated that there were four reasons to write:
- Sheer egoism
- Esthetic enthusiasm
- Historical impulse
- Political purpose.
Orwell observed about writers belong to a class who are determined to live their own life and felt that more talented, “were on the whole more vain and self centered than journalists, though less interested in money.” Ego does drive writers and from personal experience, seeing our book in print does feed the ego and give boost to one ego. As for esthetic enthusiasm, to share ones belief or one experience is a driving factor in writing as well as for the sheer art of writing. Writers are driven by the craft itself.
Then there is the need to use writing as a mean of discovery the world around us, to find the truth and then write them for future generation. Writers are observers of the world and even the fictional writer details the reality around us for fiction does have basis in facts.
Finally, there is the political purpose, the need to promote and to convince. As Orwell got older, this latter reason drove him. To defend democratic socialism and to fight totalitarianism became a driving force in his life. As the gathering storm of war approached in the 30’s; the rise of Communism and Fascism forced Orwell to take a stand. As Orwell observed, “It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think one can avoid writing of such subjects.” Orwell goal was to turn his writing into art and to expose the truth of the world. For Orwell, detachment could not always be reconciled with political writing. In the end, his desire to persuade and warn became his main motive and in his last book, 1984, was his final masterpiece. It was the book that predicted a bleak future in which human dignity was crushed by a totalitarian state. Humanity ceased to exist and people were merely clog in a machine. There was no rage but mere obedience. This was Orwell fear of the future but for the past nearly 60 years since his death, Orwell vision has yet to come to pass. It does not mean that it could yet not materialize but for the most part, freedom and liberty has triumphed. Words still have meaning and the artist is still among us, writing.