Happy Birthday to George Orwell & me………..

Orwell at work

I was browsing through the internet looking for literary figures that are born in June, the same month as I was and to my delight found I am in good company.  Pearl S. Buck (1892 – 1973), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939),  Yasunari Kawabata (1899 – 1972) and Salman Rushdie (1947 – ) are among them.  An added bonus for me is the fact that one of my favorite writers George Orwell (pen name for Eric Arthur Blair) (1903-1950) happens to be born on June 25, the same day as I was.

So I’ll dedicate the post written on my birthday to George Orwell whose books Animal Farm and  Nineteen Eight Four (1984 ) are  two of the most politically relevant books  , not only in context of the times they were written in but up to this very  day.

Animal Farm

Animal Farm

Animal Farm was first published in August 1945 .In it Orwell characters are animals who are used to  give a biting political narrative. Many have interpreted the story as that of what was unfolding in the Soviet Union under Stalin where the communist state imposed one set of rules for the masses to abide by while the leaders flaunted the rules. The rules in Animal Farm are made by way of seven commandments which are put up for all animals to follow after the humans, who are labeled the enemy, are driven out and the animals take matters into their own hands. The original commandments are:-

1.    Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.

2.    Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.

3.    No animal shall wear clothes.

4.    No animal shall sleep in a bed.

5.    No animal shall drink alcohol.

6.    No animal shall kill any other animal.

7.    All animals are equal.

However as time passes, the commandments are secretly rewritten leaving the majority of the animals in a state of confusion. Soon they are unsure of what the original commandments were as nightly the commandments get revised.  The changes take place as the leaders begin to indulge in vices and execute other animals who oppose them. The revised commandants are meant to justify their wrongdoings and read as follows:

1.    No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.

2.    No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.

3.    No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.

As the book draws to an end, the final salvo is fired with all the commandments replaced with one which saysAll animals are equalbut some animals are more equal than others“.

Nineteen Eighty Four

Nineteen Eighty Four was first published in 1949 and tells the bleak story of a totalitarian state known as Oceania. While 1984 has come and gone and while most of societies have managed to live within systems that guarantee individual freedom to a large extent, Orwell’s dire predictions in the book are a reminder of the ever present threat of what is at stake if state control grows to such an extent that people are left as puppets on a string, moving and thinking only to the dictates of authority.

1984

Phrases such as “Big Brother is watching you”, which is what the people of Oceania are told on a regular basis via huge billboards put up in the city, have passed into common English usage today.

The brilliance of the writer is the manner in which he has coined so many new words that are now widely used. The Thought Police, Thought Crime, Double Speak, New Speak” are some such words while the term Orwellian itself  is used to describe totalitarian societies where people’s individual freedoms are scarified for the survival of the dictators who seek to control very aspects of people lives from  the manner in which they think,  love,  speak,dress.

Orwell was also a newspaper columnist and wrote both political and literary commentaries. His biographers feel that much of the pessimism reflected in his writings had to do with ill health that he suffered most of his life. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 46.I am 46 today.

A cartoon on Orwell
Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007 “When will politicians realize that George Orwell’s 1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual? ”  DEREK CLARK – member of the European parliament, on a proposed law to question women about their sexual history to improve census data. 

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Chandani

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3 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to George Orwell & me………..”

  1. You said “While 1984 has come and gone and while most of societies have managed to live within systems that guarantee individual freedom to a large extent …”. I assume you’re being careful?

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