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George Orwell

  • Shamsul Islam

Abstract

After Kipling and Forster, Orwell is perhaps the most important writer on the Raj,1 and though he is generally regarded to be in direct revolt against both Kipling and the Empire, the relationship between Orwell and Kipling is far more complex than has been suggested, and similarly his reaction to the Raj is also not one of simple hostility. One must not allow oneself to be carried away by Orwell’s anti-imperial or anti-Kipling stance alone for this is not the whole story; in order to form a correct view of Orwell’s reaction to the Raj one must look into the many contradictions and paradoxes in Orwell’s personality,2 especially his points of contact with rather than departure from Kipling.

Keywords

Police Officer Imperial Police Local Jail Dirty Work Fuse Politics 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    The paradoxical and contradictory nature of Orwell’s personality is perhaps the essential factor that lends complexity to his work. For example, Orwell was a rebel with a strong sense of responsibility; he crusaded for a socialistic society, yet he had important reservations about socialism; he knew that socialism implied increased mechanisation, but he had an aversion to modern machinery, and so on. This aspect of Orwell has received considerable scholarly attention. See for instance, Richard J. Voorhees, The Paradox of George Orwell (Purdue, 1961).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Francis Odle, ‘Orwell in Burma’, Twentieth Century, 179 (1972), 38–9.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Maung Htin Aung, ‘George Orwell and Burma’, The World of George Orwell, ed. Miriam Gross (London, 1971), pp. 19–30. He also thinks that Orwell went to Burma because of his romantic notions about the role of an empire-builder.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Christopher Hollis, George Orwell (Chicago, 1956), p. 27.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Roger Beadon, ‘With Orwell in Burma’, Listener, 81 (29 May 1969), 755.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Malcolm Muggeridge, ‘Burmese Days’, World Review, (June 1950), 45–8.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Malcolm Muggeridge, ‘Burmese Days’, World Review, (June 1950), 45–8.Google Scholar
  8. On the points of contact between Orwell and Kipling see also Richard Cook, ‘Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell’, Modem Fiction Studies, 7 (Summer 1961), 125–35.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Raymond Williams, ‘Observation and Imagination in Orwell’, George Orwell: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Raymond Williams (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1974), P. 53.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (Penguin: London, 1976), p. 126.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Allen J. Greenberger, The British Image of India (London, 1969), pp. 174–6.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Orwell’s fiction, particularly early fiction, has traditionally been dismissed as a mere polemic on political issues and of slight artistic merit. For example, see John Atkins, George Orwell (New York, 1954)Google Scholar
  13. Raymond Williams, George Orwell (New York, 1971).Google Scholar
  14. Maung Htin Aung, ‘George Orwell and Burma’, The World of George Orwell, ed. Miriam Gross (New York, 1971), pp. 10–30.Google Scholar
  15. However, recent Orwell scholarship has been much concerned with correcting this view though in its zeal to prove the artistic worth of his fiction, it sometimes goes to the other extreme. See for instance Robert A. Lee, ‘Symbol and Structure in Burmese Days: A Revaluation’, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 11 (1969), 819–35.Google Scholar
  16. David L. Kubal, Outside the Whale: George Orwell’s Art and Politics (Notre Dame, 1972).Google Scholar
  17. John V. Knapp, ‘Dance to a Creepy Minuet: Orwell’s Burmese Days, Precursor of Animal Farm’, Modern Fiction Studies, 21 (1975), 11–30.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    Jeffrey Meyers, A Reader’s Guide to George Orwell (London, 1975). pp. 68–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 18.
    George Orwell, Burmese Days (Penguin: London, 1975), p. 119. Subsequent references will be to this edition.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    Robert A. Lee, ‘Symbol and Structure in Burmese Days: A Revaluation’, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 11 (1969), 819–35.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    Maung Htin Aung, ‘George Orwell and Burma’, The World of George Orwell, ed. Miriam Gross (London, 1971), 19–30.Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    David L. Kubal, Outside the Whale: George Orwell’s Art and Politics (Notre Dame, 1972), pp. 73–4.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Quoted by John Atkin, George Orwell (New York, 1971), p. 83.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (London, 1974), p. 71.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Shamsul Islam 1979

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  • Shamsul Islam

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