A Collection of Essays by George Orwell

Category: George Orwell
Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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The Aims of Book review: The book-review is appreciating, analyzing and criticizing a book wherein the reviewer goes through the book comprehensively to come out with his own ideas about the book and its value in terms of its internal and external features i. e. he content, subject-matter, theme, language, target appropriateness, impact upon the readers, the ability of the writer to convey his ideas and intention behind his work as well as the composing, binding, price, size and other physical features of the book.

Objectives of Book review:

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  • The students develop writing skill by preparing notes.
  • The students develop interest in reading.
  • The students develop the reading skill.
  • The students acquire the hobby to develop the attitude of reading.
  • The students organize their thoughts.
  • The students get to know the nature of the book.

Importance of Book review: It enriches the knowledge. It enriches the language. It improves the skill of reading, writing and presentation. It develops the thinking ability.

Advantages of Book review: As B. Ed. is a new field for teacher-trainees to get acquainted with various types of books, the book-review enables them to acquire necessary skills of reading, writing, appreciating, criticizing and presentation.

Title of the book: The title of the book selected for the book review is ‘Essays of Orwell’ edited by M. G. Nayar.

The aims of selecting a particular book: Selection of a particular book depends upon the need and the interest of the reviewer.

The reviewer can review the book which he liked the most regarding the content or idea of the book. Or he can review a book to appreciate a particular work of art or literature or some useful information given in the book. I have selected ‘Essays of Orwell’ which is a compilation of essays written by George Orwell (1903-1950) in a very simple and lucid language. The aim of my selecting the ‘Essays of Orwell’ for the book-review is that the author shares his real-life experiences written with great earnestness and with the purpose of exposing, ridiculing and reforming the evils that prevailed in his age.

Also the essays brings out the author’s extraordinary wide range of taste and concerns – like social, cultural literary, political and autobiographical.

Name of the book: The name of the book selected for the book-review is ‘Essays of Orwell’ and is edited by M. G. Nayar.

Name and detail of the author: The author of the book is George Orwell, one of the most prominent essayists of the 20th century.

Eric Arthur Blair, who later became famous as George Orwell, was born at Motihari in Bengal where his father Richard Blair was employed in the Customs and Excise Department of the Government of India.  Orwell was sent to England at a very early age and he saw very little of his father till he returned to England on his retirement. His early years were very unhappy; he was lonely and had few playmates or companions. He had two sisters, a father and a mother all of whom were no closer to him. They were poor and the family depended solely on Mr. Blair’s small pension which was barely enough to keep up appearances. They found an exclusive preparatory school in the south coast, which was prepared to take the promising boy at a concessional rate in the expectation that he would win a scholarship and bring credit to the school.

The lonely and sensitive boy had a very unhappy time in this school run by a snobbish headmaster and his equally snobbish wife. They never missed any opportunity to remind him that his parents were poor and that he was there through their charity. Orwell gives a vivid description of his school (under the fictional name Crossgates) and his sufferings there in his long essay satirically titled Such, Such were the Days’. He tells us : “I had no money, I was weak, I was ugly, I was unpopular, I had a chronic cough, I was cowardly, I smelt........ ”

The humiliations inflicted on the sensitive and self-conscious boy in his wretched school by his bullying classmates as well as by those in authority left a deep scar on his soul. But from his childhood he had made up his mind to become a writer. He writes in his ‘Why I Write’, “From the very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books. Writing would also enable him to answer two compelling needs of his nature, namely, to fight against injustice and oppression in all its forms, and to take upon himself the sins of the world and make atonement. Orwell essays show his deep concern with contemporary reality and its awareness of its sordid aspects. In other words we may say that it’s a fruit of his endeavour to remove various evils to reform the world around him so as to make it a better place to live in. Apart from essay Orwell is also known for his novels.

Orwell shot into world-wide fame with the publication in 1945 of ‘Animal Farm’, a brilliant Swiftian satire on Russian Stalinism, authoritarian government and human fallibility and brutality. One of his most popular novels is ‘1984’ which presents a striking spectacle of totalitarianism in action.

Name of the Publisher and Edition: The book is published by ‘Macmillan India Limited’ and edited by M. G. Nayar. It was first published in the year 1980 and it has been reprinted in 1981, 1986 and 1994.

Cover page and Back page:The cover page is green-coloured thick paper with its title ‘Essays of ORWELL’ printed upon it inside a hexagonal white border. At the top is written the name of the publisher and at the bottom is the name of the editor. The back page is a plain white thick paper with the name of the publisher written on it.

Price of the book : The price of the book is Rs. 28. 00 6) No. of pages and no. of chapters : The book runs into 159 pages along with 11 pages of introduction at the beginning. The book consists of 12 essays on different subjects.

Binding of the book : The book is loosely bound with gum.

The cover page is not strong enough to hold the pages of the book with the gum.

Fonts - shapes and size, printing size of the book : The fonts of the book are readable and have appropriate size. Proper line-spacing is given between the lines for a comfortable reading. The book is a pocket-size one and easy to carry. internal features of the book : (a)Theme of the book : The theme of the book ‘Essays of Orwell’ is promoting the moral responsibilities among people. Orwell feels disgusted with the intellectual dishonesty and moral depravity of his times and feels regret over the loss of sound values.

He revolts against the various ills of his age, like injustice, inequality and loss of individual freedom. The theme of the book revolves round the idea to reform the people by inculcating the ideas of decency, integrity and intellectual liberty. b) Chapterisation : The book consists of 12 essays each of which are interesting and poised with the author’s qualitative analysis of the situations of the new world order. The central idea of some of the important essays are as follows :

Essay I.

Reflections on Gandhi : George Orwell showers praises on Mahatma Gandhiji referring to his autobiography ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’.

The essay enables to see how the Western rationalist views the life an doctrines of the Mahatma whose life the author considers as a sort of pilgrimage in which every act was significant. Even though he fought against the mighty British Empire through the principle of non-violence the British officials who spoke of him with a mixture of amusement and disapproval also genuinely liked and admired him. Orwell stating Gandhi’s qualities says, “Nobody ever suggested that he was corrupt, or ambitious in any vulgar way, or that anything he did was actuated by fear or malice. ”

He further says, “His character was an extraordinarily mixed one, but there was almost nothing in it that you can put your finger on and call bad, and I believe that even Gandhi’s worst enemies would admit that he was an interesting and unusual man who enriched the world simply by being alive. ” While admiring Gandhiji’s uncommon physical courage, his incorruptibility and political integrity, Orwell finds in the high moral values held scared by Gandhiji, especially in the doctrine of non-attachment, a vein of anti-humanism – a quality which made him more saintly than human.

Orwell ends the essay by the remark, “..... but regarded simply as a politician, and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind. ”

Essay II. Shooting an Elephant

This essay enables us to get a glimpse of the author’s experiences in Burma where he was employed in the British Imperial Police (1922-1927). Orwell had already come to regard imperialism ‘as very largely a racket’. And he knew he was ill fitted for the role he was called upon to play. During this period of Imperial service a sense of guilt continually haunted him.

While secretly he condemned imperialism as an evil, he was embittered by the anti-European sentiment among the natives who hated him as a representative of British Imperialism. The incident described here brought home to him the tyranny that imperialism imposes on the ruler as well as the ruled. It was as he marched at the head of an expectant crowd, rifle in hand, to shoot the mad elephant, that the irony of his own position struck him. He instinctively recoiled from the destructive act to which he had committed himself, but, should he fail to carry it out, he knew he would be ridiculed by the crowd that followed him.

It was therefore imperative that he should impress them in order to be considered firm, fearless, imperturbable and capable of rising to the occasion in a crisis. Torn between the immediate need to play the ‘Sahib’ and his own ingrained aversion to the role thrust upon him, he set about the task of shooting the elephant, though it had never been his intention to kill the animal. Finding himself thus caught between two tyrannies – the tyranny of the ruler and the tyranny of the ruled that seemed to push him to and fro as if he were an absurd puppet – he realized the futility of Imperialism that deprives the tyrant himself of his free will.

Essay III. You and the Atom Bomb

This essay was first published in the Tribune (19 October 1945). Here Orwell discusses the effect of the power that a sophisticated weapon is likely to bestow on the strong and affluent nations and the consequent threat to the freedom of the weaker ones. The more complex and expensive a weapon is, the more are the chances of its becoming the monopoly of the state and the more likely it is to keep its people under subjection. In the past, as the major weapons were accessible to the people, they could rise in revolt against despotic governments.

But the atomic bomb, being expensive and difficult to manufacture, will ever remain a rare weapon under state control and any revolt of the exploited classes will be rendered more and more difficult in future. And if the number of states possessing the bomb increases, it is unlikely that they will use it against one another, but they will tend to be despotic within and aggressive without, and as a result the poorer nations which cannot afford to make it will always be in danger of losing their freedom.

In these circumstances, a reimposition of slavery like that of ancient Rome and Greece is a possibility that cannot be wholly ruled out.

Essay IV.

How the Poor Die This is a chapter from the author’s days of penury and vagrancy in Paris. Here, Orwell tells us of his experience in a French hospital where he was treated for pneumonia in 1929. From his own bed in the dingy public ward of Hospital X in Paris, he could watch everything that went on around him with a gently critical eye. The poor died of disease and neglect, getting very little by way of real medical aid or human sympathy.

The account we ger of the patients, doctors, nurses, and of the whole sordid atmosphere of the ward reads almost like the pages of a novel. The primitive conditions of the hospital – callous indifference of the doctors and nurses who regarded the patients as nothing more than ‘specimen’ – reminded him which used to be houses of torture rather than centres of healing. The entire picture is painted with a certain degree of detachment, devoid of any cynicism or sentimentality, but marked by a fine sense of humour.

Essay V

New WordsIn this essay (1940), Orwell dwells on the need to coin new words to communicate certain feelings that are too subtle for expression. He feels that there is a considerable province of human experience that lies beyond the descriptive power of words, especially aesthetic and moral feeling, our likes and dislikes and all that concerns our inner life. Orwell here discusses the possibility of bridging these gaps in language by inventing new words. He refers to certain methods, by which words may be coined, the source of methods like analogy, onomatopoeia and slang.

Orwell hopes that large numbers of people apply themselves to the task of inventing new words on the basis of common experience so that we world be able to overcome the verbal inadequacy and ‘give an objective existence’ to our thoughts.

Essay VI. Propaganda and Demotic Speech

The paradox about modern propaganda is its unintelligibility and its consequent failure to impress the audience it is aimed at. According to Orwell, this is due to the fact that the language used for the purpose has nothing to do with thelanguage of the common man.

There is, in every language, a lot of difference between its written and spoken forms, but in English this difference is so glaring that the bookish language of Government leaflets or party pamphlets very often fails to get across, and succeeds at best only in creating vague and sometimes, erroneous impressions on the ordinary man. Eminent writers like Harold Laski also are guilty of this sin. Orwell says that, in order to appeal to the ordinary man, neither high-sounding words nor ’the educated accent’ which is viewed suspiciously by the working classes as an upper-class affectation, will serve as a vehicle of communication.

The language of propaganda, to be effective, must be brought closer to the language of the common man. A truly democratic government that needs to educate the public on matters of national interest will necessarily have to choose the right words and adopt the right tone – the vocabulary and tone of a genuinely demotic speech.

Essay VII. The Writing of History

Orwell in his essay discusses the question of objectivity in the writing of history. It often happens that some of the facts of history get so mixed up with falsehood as to become indistinguishable from lies.

Orwell cites certain verifiable facts of recent history which have, within a brief period of time, undergone such distortion. Truth, which is of paramount importance in the recording of events, seems to be at the mercy of ‘might’ and the modern tendency to tamper with truth is likely to make the task of the future historian complex as well as difficult.

Essay VIII. Bookish Memories 

After his return to England from Paris, before he could earn enough to live on his writings, in the early thirties, Orwell worked as a part-time assistant in a London bookshop, where he worked for about a year.

Though it was drudgery for him, he had opportunities of observing customers of various kinds, including eccentrics, their habits and tastes. Here he records his impressions of such people with a half-humorous, half-indulgent attitude which, incidentally, enables us to get a glimpse into his own tastes and habits of reading. The essay reveals one curious face – that Orwell lost his love of books. The changing literary tastes of the reading public are also brought out.

Essay IX. The English Character 

In this essay Orwell perceptively analyzes the general characteristics of the English people with a remarkable degree of objectivity. The usual generalizations about the English character are vitiated by pre-conceived notions of the British aristocracy that is often drawn upon to typify the national image. Orwell draws our attention to the hitherto ignored majority – the English commoners – whose exclusion from the picture has so far tended to perpetuate misleading notions about the race as a whole. The racial characteristics described like artistic insensibility, xenophobia, snobbery and hypocrisy are common to the entire race.

The picture that emerges is no idealized image but a true one, as sharp and well defined as the reflection in an undistorting mirror held up before English humanity as a whole, apt to jolt them out of their complacency rather than flatter their national pride.

Essay X. The Moral Outlook of the English People

In this essay Orwell draws our attention to the moral sense of the English people. While the majority of the English people are indifferent to organized religion, some of the ethical aspects of Christianity do appeal to them still.

In this age of power-politics, they cling to the belief that might is not right – a truly Christian principle, though it is not one among the Biblical doctrines. That England has always supported the cause of the weak against the strong even when it was disadvantageous to them shows that the English do not subscribe to the power cult. They are neither prudish nor lax about matters of sex, gambling and drinking. Violence of any sort is repellent to the English. They have an ingrained respect for the law and human liberty. The vaunted freedom of the press in England may largely be an illusion, but freedom of speech is a reality.

The English people are never afraid to give expression to their opinions in public, but then they are never fanatic because they lack conviction, and being a phlegmatic race they are not easily roused to action.

Essay XI. The English Class System

Class distinctions are a vestige of the past still clinging to English society. The aristocracy of the feudal age was replaced by the nobility of the later periods, and the titled class today commands a certain respect, probably because of its traditional integrity, though its importance has been steadily dwindling with the rise of the rich middle class.

By adopting the habits and manners of the nobility, the rich middle class tends to become indistinguishable from the upper class. At the lower level, despite the antagonism in the political field, the working classes which are not entirely free from snobbishness try to imitate the middle class in speech, manners and dress. There is also a large section of classless people – the technically educated persons. Thus both at the top and the bottom, a sort of levelling process has been at work.

On the whole, the general trend seems to be towards the blurring of class distinctions, though essentially English society remains what it used to be in the nineteenth century.

Essay XII.Why I Write

In this essay originally written in 1946 for publication in the journal Gangrel, Orwell discusses the impulses that prompted him to take to creative writing as a profession. The motives that urged him to turn author are mainly those that urge every artist, namely, egoism and aesthetic pleasure. Like other writers, Orwell too had a passion for truth.

What he calls the historical impulse is his concern for truth – the truth about things as they are. In Orwell’s case, it was chiefly a concern for finding the truth about political institutions and movements as he understood them. In fact, the political purpose was strong and it bestowed on his writings a certain verve without affecting his aesthetic and intellectual integrity.

Presentation of Content

George Orwell in his essays has presented the issues that concerned him during the 1940s.

In these essays we find considerations of the totalitarian impulse, the quality of modern intellectual life, the nature of modern art, nationalism, and the emergence of the new managerial society. All the essays are inter-connected as they are concerned with the real life and invites the readers to ponder upon certain subtle issues concerning the human life. They are all essays in thought and maintain a sequence of thought. Orwell has presented the content in his essays in the neutral style, good, limpid, contemporary, and it was always equal to its purposes. Within what seems a narrow range, he showed virtuosity in the different ‘timings’.

He managed diligently the narrative, descriptive, critical, denunciatory and straight exposition from his life. Due to this he is also successful to reach to the target-groups from various cross-section of the society.

Content Validity

The content of the essays of Orwell has direct validity to the aims of his purpose. The subject as well as the content has been aptly justified with the references and context to the situations. Orwell has presented his real life incidents with an aim to expose the hypocrisy of the powerful nations as well as the snobberies of the upper-class people.


Lucidity and clarity are the two main features of Orwell’s prose style. He disliked all vagueness and ambiguity in thought and is clear and straightforward in his thinking. Often he writes the slangy, colloquial English, mostly his prose is that of the journalist. Moreover, we also do not find unnecessary ornamentation and use of a figurative language, rather he has frequently made use of apt metaphors and images that enhances the beauty of his writing. John Atkins rightly observed, “Orwell’s campaign was therefore for a language that should be both pure and subtle, flexible and simple. ” ) Justification of the Title of the Book : The title of the book ‘Essays of Orwell’ is apt and appropriate as it contains the selected essays written by George Orwell. g) Other features depending upon material selected : The book also consists of the short summary of each of the essays along with the glossary and the unfamiliar words at the end. Overall evaluation : In ‘Essays of Orwell’ we find a direct expression of Orwell’s ideas. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, his essays stand favourable comparision with the essays of the prominent essayists of modern times, like Gardiner, Chesterton, Stevenson, Huxley and others.

The essay is the dominant literary form employed by Orwell throughout the later half of his writing career. As in his other works, so in his essays there is the frequent intrusion of the author and a direct expression of his ideas. According to B. T. Huxley, “The real backbone of his work is to be found in the essays – a form of writing mainly characterized by just such a personal intrusion on the part of the author. ” Some of the best work of Orwell is to be found in his essays. They constitute a valuable comment on criticism of contemporary life.

Though he was a professed socialist he did not accept a party line. He is quite sincere and honest about what he sys, and does not hesitate to criticize the terrors of fellow socialists and the short-comings of socialism. Orwell says, “To write in plain, vigorous language, one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly, one can not be politically orthodox. ” John Atkins also says, “Orwell’s uniqueness lay in his having the mind of an intellectual and the feelings of a common man. ” To conclude we can say that the book makes an interesting reading for all the people who think.

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A Collection of Essays by George Orwell. (2018, Feb 27). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-collection-of-essays-by-george-orwell/

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