‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’
Unfortunately, a great deal of truth is hidden behind those seemingly funny, harmless words. This quote summarises in a very good way Orwell’s style of writing – satiric, witty, to the point.
George Orwell is an English novelist and essayist. He was born on 25 June 1903 in Motihari, British India as Eric Arthur Blair. He was brought to Henley-on-Thames, England by his mother when he was only 1-year-old. The family was reunited later. Orwell was sent to boarding school and it was there that the little boy noticed for the first time the gap between the rich and the poor. After graduating, Orwell could not afford to continue his education so he took a position as an imperial policeman in Burma. He went back to England in July 1927. His experience abroad inspired him to write the novel ‘Burmese Days’ and the essays ‘A Hanging’ and ‘Shooting an Elephant’. Orwell lived almost two years in Paris observing working-class people. He wrote a number of essays and articles for various newspapers. Back in England, he started teaching, followed by working part-time in a bookshop.
Orwell’s life was heavily influenced by the occurring political events – he fought in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 where he was badly injured. Even though he could not actually fight during World War II, Orwell found other ways to remain close to it. It was around that time that he started working on ‘Animal Farm’ which was published in 1945. A couple of years later, in 1949, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ was published. At that time, Orwell was already a very successful author and did a lot of journalistic work but his health was deteriorating. He died on 21 January 1950 at the age of 46.
At a first glance, ‘Animal Farm’ is a funny entertaining story. But what a deception! Orwell succeeded in creating a very accurate description of the communist regime in the Soviet Union. He based his characters, the pigs Old Major and Napoleon, on the political leaders Lenin en Stalin and applied the communist ways of manipulating the people (the other animals) into believing what is not necessarily true. He depicted this dystopian world where people were afraid, deceived and even had their human features taken away.
The other masterpiece that Orwell wrote is ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. Central topics in the novel, just as in ‘Animal Farm’ are dystopia, war, oppressing the people. It is not only the characters but also the readers who get the overwhelming feeling of being constantly watched by Big Brother – the Party leader. Nothing is quite what it appears to be. The Ministry of Love’s main occupation is war and Ministry of Truth actually alters reality by changing historic facts so they support what the Party says the truth is. There is constant war, hunger, everything is grey and grim. Throughout the whole novel the Thought Police searches for people who dare to speak against the Party. But even doubting is enough. Using torture and mind games, the Thought Police breaks the spirit of anyone who does not obey. This is exactly what happens to the main character – Winston Smith. There is no happy ending. Physically broken, at the end he surrenders mentally as well – he loves Big Brother!! The Party has won!!
Soviet Union – a former communist country in eastern Europe and northern Asia; established in 1922 and officially dissolved in 1991; included Russia and 14 other soviet socialist republics
communism – a system of government in which a single party has absolute control