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Transcript of George Orwell
Paris and London 1928-1936
The Spanish Civil War, Part One
Orwell’s socialist beliefs were deepened when he went to Spain in 1936 to report on their civil war.
Spanish Civil War, Part Two
Orwell's Youth and Ties to India
George Orwell was born in India, which was still part of the colonial empire of Britain, on June 25, 1903, as Eric Arthur Blair.
He returned to England with his mother at a young age where he attended prestigious boarding schools.
Because he was unable to afford university, he went to Burma and joined the Indian Imperial Police. His job basically required him to prevent the Indian people from rebelling against British rule.
While with the POUM, Orwell was shot in the neck by a sniper from a Soviet-backed squad.
Shortly thereafter, He and his wife Eileen were barely able to escape from Spain with their lives because when the communists backed by Stalin began to gain control, they tried to eliminate their opposition, including the POUM. Many of Orwell's friends were arrested, killed, or disappeared.
Orwell later published Homage to Catalonia, a
personal account of his time in Spain.
"There seemed to be a loud bang and a blinding flash of light all around me, and I felt a tremendous shock - no pain, only a violent shock, such as you get from an electric terminal; with it a sense of utter weakness, a feeling of being stricken and shriveled up to nothing."
Answer the following questions,
and then use the answers to these
questions to write a paragraph that sums up
how Orwell's life and politics shaped him into a writer whose books are still read today--over sixty years after they were published. This paragraph must be titled creatively to suggest the link between his politics and his writing.
World War II Era
Orwell’s political themes and socialist views were shaped greatly by this time period—Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler reigns especially, as their ultra-controlling governments censored free speech, manipulated through propaganda, and eliminated opposition (purges and concentration camps).
Joseph Stalin was the Soviet leader from the mid-1920’s until his death in 1945. He was successful in making the Soviet Union more industrialized and stronger militarily, but he did so through cruel methods.
He was also responsible for the Great Purge of the 1930’s, in which millions of Soviet citizens were tortured, executed, and imprisoned.
His rule, which was presented to the world as a communist state, was believed by Orwell to be a totalitarian state due to its use of propaganda, terror, and dictatorship.
In 1934, Adolf Hitler became the Nazi leader of Germany. He turned Germany into a fascist state. He gained godlike status among the German people through the use of propaganda, which created extreme nationalism.
He made Germany into a great military power and began two major campaigns: to expand Germany throughout Europe and Asia, and to create a master race.
These agendas led to the beginning of World War II when Germany invaded Poland and the Holocaust, in which millions including Jews (6 million), Gypsies, gays and lesbians, the physically and mentally handicapped, and political opponents were executed, experimented upon, and sent to concentration camps to die.
In Why I Write, Orwell described how the Spanish Civil War and World War II era solidified his political views: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it."
Short Answer Response #3:
How do the Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union’s “communist” government, and Hitler’s rule connect to totalitarianism?
Orwell often used satire, the use of wit, irony, and sarcasm to ridicule people and what they do, to comment politically.
His two most famous novels, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, are seen as political satire.
In Animal Farm, the animals on a farm revolt against their human owners and establish a system of equality where all animals are equal and work together for the benefit of them all (communism). However, the equality they sought to create is short-lived as the smarter animals that take the lead become corrupted by their power.
The novel is an allegory for the Russian Revolution and the Soviet state through World War II.
Short Answer Response #4:
Animal Farm was ready for publication in 1944, but its publication was delayed. Its English publishers were fearful of backlash if they published it. Why would this be? Use your notes and research online to look at what was going on in 1944 and what the relationship was between England and the Soviet Union and then answer the question.
1. What life experiences shaped Orwell the most?
2. As a result of these life experiences, what did he
believe in politically and
what did Orwell criticize
3. How did these experiences and political ideals impact his writing? Be specific and make connections.
Short Answer Response #1:
George Orwell despised imperialism. Based on the nature of Orwell's
job and the division between British colonists and the Indian people, How do you think his time in India shaped this dislike?
Watch this video clip about Britain's colonial empire,
listening carefully to the attitudes and opinions expressed by British colonists about the natives of the countries they were occupying.
Orwell resigned from the Indian Imperial Police and went back to Europe. He tried to write but was unable to publish much, so he began to experience, partially by choice because he could have gotten help from his family, life as a tramp—living hand to mouth and working low-paying jobs.
This gave him an interest and concern for the lower classes and a resistance to the snobbery of the upper classes, which drew him to socialism.
Orwell used his experiences from this time to write Down and Out in Paris and London, which was published in 1933.
1984 was written to be a powerful warning against the dangers of totalitarian societies. Drawing upon what he witnessed during the 1930's and 1940's in Spain, Germany, and the Soviet Union, the novel describes a world where the rulers control absolutely everything, including people's history, language, and thoughts.
Spain had been hit hard by the Great Depression and unemployment was high. In addition, the government had been through several different transitions in the previous decade.
Francisco Franco, an army general took control of the military and revolted against the government. He was a brutal leader, a dictator,
The civil war was a power struggle between this fascist leader who was receiving support from Adolf Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy, and the republicans, who were receiving support from Stalin and the Soviet Union.
Although Orwell went to report on the conflict, while he was there, he joined the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), which was an anti-Stalinist communist group that supported Leon Trotsky's political ideals.
They were fighting against the fascist dictator Franco and the influence of Soviet communism.
Short Answer Response #2:
If Orwell was a socialist, why would he be critical of Stalin?