Fort St Band 6 Orwell

Texts of value outlive and transcend the context in which they were created. Do you agree?

Often key ideas and central issues continue to resonate throughout time and transcend context, and it is this motivation and an author’s desire to reflect and illuminate social discontent to greater society that creates these texts of value. George Orwell is one such essayist whose work comment upon and criticize the status of language and political values in this post world wars European context. His works – “Notes on Nationalism” 1945 and “Why I Write” 1946 draw upon his discontent with degradation of non-political English literature and opaqueness of political terms through the English language. Consequently critical studies of these texts helps us understand Orwell’s concerns with his own society but assists us in identifying the same key social issues in our own and as such stays ever- relevant and valuable.

In Notes on Nationalism, Orwell purposefully sets out to criticize nationalism as a competitive pursuit that discriminates individuals and promotes intolerance. This is particularly salient as Orwell himself resided and participated in a period of warfare and bloodshed and witnessed firsthand the power of political motivation to drive individuals into opposing each other. Orwell deliberately inferences the potency of his convictions and argument through his undermining depiction of nationalism to be individuals classifying each other”like insects” and “confidently label[ing]”, “that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people” to be merely ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the high modality, degrading imagery and hyperbolic tone asserting such blind political ideologies only separates people and creates prejudice. Orwell then chooses to further undermine this political practice as” purely negative.”, his utilization of anecdote in” There are, for example, Trotskyists who have become simply enemies of the U.S.S.R. without developing a corresponding loyalty to any other unit” further portrays the political practice be a source of intolerance and separation, and fortify his definition of nationalism to the reader. Ironically, it is the same protection of political values and nationalism that constitutes the “ethnic and racist hatred” of the “completely innocent” in modern day society as written by journalist John Buell; the allegory revealing nationalism to be a mechanism for instigating social divide.  Thus through Orwell’s expression of discontent on political motivations of his time, and its relevance to the modern day, he was able to create a text timeless in nature.

Orwell manages to achieve the integrity of his argument by using a series of devices in a progressive manner to empower his own critique and as such his strengthened clarity better allows for us to understand the same issues in our own context.  His assertion and contextualized allusion to the “more notorious and identifiable nationalist movements in Germany, Japan, and other countries … like Nazism” associates political movements to commonly recognized enemies of war at the time. He effectively communicates the socially divisionally effect of nationalism with reference the torture, pain and atrocities of Auschwitz and World War II, which would have been avid in the mind of all his survivor readers. His continued transition of pronouns throughout the essay from “I have” to “you can” to “we do” effectively shifting the weight of responsibility from Orwell to the responder, and cements the audience’s relationship to his biased views and definitions, an ironic almost political empowerment of his own ideas.  Furthermore his utilization of a listing method, in which he identifies and categorizes types of nationalism portrays logos to his readers of the time and a more progressive argument in which he illustrates the ethos of his views, further persuading his readers based on the expertise of his perceptions. As such through Orwell’s progressive and accessible logic and prose he is able to better present his arguments and increase the value of his text.

Similarly, in Politics and the English Language Orwell expresses his displeasure the subversion and perversion of the English language by the same negative political motivations of his time. The strong contextual relevance originates from Orwell’s participation in the Spanish Civil War personal observation of the power of political propaganda in their collusion of truth and clarity. Orwell expresses his discontent towards the degradation of the English language within his “decadent society” through the utilization of the hyperbolic aphorism in “journalism is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable,” implying that the deliberate convulsion of prose in his era is to used justify hidden motivations and social atrocities. Orwell continues to comment through “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity,”; the personification of insincerity helps address Orwell’s allegorical meaning of the deliberate human element of this issue. Orwell further degrades the use of language and asserts it to be a means of political connivance “politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia”; here Orwell chooses to make a direct link between politics and the perversion and discoloration of truth in post World War II European society. Orwell’s convictions still hold true in today’s context with the same imprecise political euphemism like “Collateral Damage” used to confuse and hide the sacrifices of warfare. Thus, through the essay, Orwell is successfully expressing his discontent with his contemporary state of politics and its abuse of language.

Orwell achieves the clarity and textual integrity of his arguments through consistent contextualized anecdotes and references in order to empower his audience and thus creates a more memorable and valuable piece. Orwell’s use of euphemisms; “Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside … this is called pacification” the violent anecdotal depictions relates to the knowledge and fear of warfare that his audience holds and clearly asserts the political jargon used to collude lies to his responders. His use of Metaphorical Conceit “A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow”; the reference to Latin relates to the previous anecdotes of convoluted language and purposeful gibberish, whilst the judiciously chosen imagery of the snow allows his reader to visualise and clearly reflect on his assertion of the ambiguity of language and need for action to return transparency. His continued use of rhetorical questions; “Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism?” causes the responder to question and reflect their own opinions and biases and cements their views with Orwell and perceive  political language as an “instrument for concealing or preventing thought”. Orwell’s logical progression climaxes when the empowers the readers to take action, upholding what he calls the “defence of the English language”; the inclusive effect of his language, shifting the responsibility from author to reader. As such, through the clarity and contextual relevance of his arguments, Orwell allows for the audience to better reflect and understand these social issues and thus creates a piece that transcends context.

Linking back to question in Conclusion with keynotes of central logic (textual integrity achieved by…?) will round this off as a winner.

By L.L 2012



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