John Giangrasso Intro to Journalism
8/1/08 Prof. King
Eric Arthur Blair (Born June, 25th 1903 – January 21st 1950) was an English journalist, political essayist and novelist who wrote under the pseudonym George Orwell. He is most famous for two novels critical of totalitarianism, Nineteen Eighty – Four and Animal Farm (a satire of Stalinism).
Eric Arthur Blair was born in Motihari, Bengal Presidency, British India. His mother Ida Mabel Blair took her from a three-month visit to England his father Richard Blair did not enter his son’s life until he was nine years old. Blair described his family as “lower-upper-middle-class.” His work at St. Cyprian’s School in Eastbourne, Sussex earned him scholarships to Wellington and Eton. After a term at Wellington College, Blair transferred to Eton College where he was relatively happy because the school allowed students much independence.
Blair joined the Indian Imperial Police in October 1922 because his parents could not afford to send him to Oxbridge without another scholarship. He moved to Moulmein where his grandmother lived in April 1926 and at the end of that year went on to Katha where he contracted Dengue Fever in 1927. In view of his illness he was allowed to go home in July and he reappraised his life and resigned from the Indian Imperial Police with the intention of becoming a writer.
He moved to London and started his exploratory expeditions to the poorer parts of London and recorded his experiences of the low life for use in “The Spike”, his first published essay, and the latter half of his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933).
In spring of 1928, he moved to Paris, where the comparatively low cost of living and bohemian lifestyle offered an attraction for many aspiring writers. He worked on novels but was more successful as a journalist. He published articles in Monde, G. R.’s Weekly and Le Progres Civique. In August 1929 he sent a copy of “The Spike” to The Adelphi magazine in London and it was accepted for publication. In December, after a year and three quotes in Paris, he returned to England.
Orwell did his leg and home-work as a social reporter: he gained entry to many houses in Waigon to see how people lived; took systematic notes of housing conditions and wages earned; and spent days in the local public library consulting public health records and reports on mine working conditions. The Road to Wigan Pier’s second half was a long essay of his upbringing, and the development of his political conscience, including a denunciation of the Left’s irresponsible elements.
In December 1936, Orwell went to Spain as a fighter for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War that was provoked by Francisco Franco’s Fascist uprising. In conversation with Philip Mairet, editor of New English Weekly, Orwell said: “This Fascism…somebody’s got to stop it. Fortuitously, Orwell joined the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unification Marxista), a revolutionary communist party, rather than the Communist International Brigades, but his experiences much increased his sympathies for the POUM, making him a life-long anti-Stalinist and firm believer in what he termed Democratic Socialism, socialism with free debate and elections.
I asked one of my classmates Matthew Fischofer if he thought Orwell’s criticism of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin damaged the socialist cause but he said, “No, because Stalin wasn’t true socialism. He was a dictator with one ruling class that stood above everybody else. Still there is a negative connotation of Socialism in this country, such as the Obama bashing for his support of socialized medicine.”
After the Spanish Ordeal, Orwell’s formation ended; his finest writing, best essays, and great fame lay ahead. In 1941, Orwell worked for BBC’s Eastern Service, supervising Indian broadcasts meant to stimulate India’s war participation against the approaching. Japanese army. Despite the good salary, he resigned from the BBC in September 1943, and in November became literary editor of the left wing weekly magazine Tribune.
I asked Mr. Fischofer, during his employment at the BBC, Orwell became familiar with the methods of Nazi propaganda. Do you think if he were around to watch TV today would he feel anything has changed significantly? Fischofer said, “I think we still use the propaganda used by the Nazis. Bringing the fear out of people is a good motivator. Propaganda has snowballed. People are to busy living their own little lives and when they hear it they take it too emotionally.”
In 1944, Orwell finished the anti-Stalinist allegory Animal Farm to critical and popular success. With Animal Farm at the printers, with wars end in view, Orwell’s desire to be in the thick of the action quickened. David Astor asked him to be the Observer was correspondent reporting the liberation of France and the earl occupation of Germany. He had a baby later that year and also lost wife in the spring of 1945 during an operation to remove a tumor.
For the next for years he mixed journalistic work – mainly for the Tribune, The Observer and The Manchester Evening News, though he also contributed to many small-circulation political and literary magazines – with writing his best-known work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was published in 1949. The book was originally supposed to be named 1980 but due to the illness it was changed to 1982 then 1984.
I asked Fischofer in 1984 Oceania is in perpetual war. The enemy regularly changes but the state is always at war. Do you think what Orwell is trying to say is that mankind will always find a reason to go to war? Is peace a possibility? He said, “There’s always going to be a power struggle, it depends if blood is going to be shed. People strive for peace but they don’t get it. Everyone really just wants for their own good.” We were in agreement on the latter point.
Orwell died in London of tuberculosis at the age of 46. When Orwell wrote “Down and Out in Paris and London” a semi-autobiographical account of his experiences in both cities this was a prime example of how journalism shaped his literary work. Orwell said of the experience, “At present I do not feel that I have seen more than the fringe of poverty. Still I can point to one or two things I have definitely learned by being hard up. I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy, nor subscribe to the Salvation Army, nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill, nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning.” Orwell, in my opinion, most likely turned to journalism from literature because he found it easier to get work and found the work he was doing important. John McNair (1887-1868), quotes him: “He said that this [writing a book] was quite secondary, and his main reason for coming was to fight against Fascism.”
Orwell, in my opinion, was a journalist at heart before he was an essayist or a novelist. He did an extensive amount of work that was primarily journalist material and his two most famous books were so political they could be considered works of journalism too. Animal Farm was an allegory in which animals play roles of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and Nineteen Eighty-Four a novel about life under a futuristic authoritarian regime in the year 1984. Both describe how a society’s ideologies can be manipulated and twisted by those in positions of social and political power, including how a utopian society is made impossible by the corrupting nature of the very power necessary to create it.
I thought Nineteen Eighty-Four with its concept of the Big Brother is the most realistic example of how Orwell’s work is important today. I asked Fischofer if he thought the concept of Big Brother in which people are always being watched and under constant surveillance all the time is a valid prediction from Orwell? Does the Patriot Act prove this theory? He said, “Absolutely, when people are afraid of something they will look to anything for security. The more freedom you have, the less security you have. Free will gives them a choice of failure. They always wanted a Patriot Act in Congress but I haven’t heard of anyone being tried for it.”