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My name is Eric Arthur Blair, but many of you may know me as the author George Orwell. Looking back on my lifetime I have had many accomplishments and I've made a big difference in many lives by using fictional and non fictional books to speak to the readers. In my lifetime I have been many things; a writer, a political critic, an enforcer, a prisoner, a teacher, a soldier, and most importantly a free-thinking individual. Of all my works, and the experiences that inspired them, my most powerful and influential pieces are the novels Down and out in Paris and London, Burmese Days, The Road to Wigan Pier, Animal Farm, and 1984. All five novels are significant to times of revolution, war, poverty and politics. Down and out in Paris and London was the first book I ever wrote and it is a fictional account of my experiences living in abject poverty. The Road to Wigan Pier, out of the five, was my only non fiction novel. It retells the events that took place in the coal mines of Northern England during the Depression. Burmese Days describes life in the Imperial Indian police force in Indian during the heyday of the British Empire. Animal Farm is a symbolic novel about the Russian Revolution and its purpose was to enlighten people on how what had started out as a revolution to attain equality for all morphed into a totalitarian rule which benefited very few. 1984 is a novel which prophesizes how life would be in the year 1984 and it was designed to open people's eyes as to how the government was manipulating their thoughts. It spurred people to make a difference before the government transformed them all into mindless drones that do exactly as they're told and believe exactly what they are told to believe. Now, I know what you're thinking; how could this autobiography be accurate if it doesn't reveal any failures that I have had? But I will tell you that I have had many failures. First of all most of my books were financially unsuccessful and I lived in poverty for many years. It was only when I created Animal Farm in 1945 that I earned a reasonable income for my efforts.
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My first novel Down and out in Paris and London, written in 1933, is a fictional story that is based on my life living on the streets. I gave up my job, my house, I sold my clothes, and I lived in poverty in an attempt to get some first hand experiences. I was originally a teacher and I quit my job to live like a poor working man to learn about the lives and the stories of the poor. I did this as a rebellion against the hypocrisy of society at the time. I wrote about a wide variety of individuals that I met during my year of traveling and the novel was based on my first hand experiences. The people that I met included criminals, prostitutes and the mentally handicapped. In order to be accepted by them and to be more aware of their trials I actually got myself arrested on purpose to know what being in jail was like. I once knew of a girl who had been forced into prostitution in Paris because she was mentally handicapped and couldn't find work. Nobody would defend her and I incorporated this character into my novel, not to judge, but to educate people about the realities of true desperation. This book, in all truths, did not affect people, the problem being that it was too depressing and close to the mark for people to want to read it and relate to it. After Animal Farm and 1984 my other works were better received by the public. After my death this book inspired other writers to address social issues that were previously overlooked.
Burmese Days is a portrait of a remote corner of the British Empire which in its heyday spanned a quarter of the world. It was published in 1934 and is the story of my experiences as a police officer in the Imperial Indian Police in Burma. I tried to expose the hypocrisy of the English in their dealings with foreign subjects. It called attention to the treatment of the Burmese people by the British soldiers at the death of the Empire. It takes a look at the corruption of the natives and the attempt of one man to escape from the pettiness of life in Burma. I was born in India in 1903 and worked in Burma in the Indian Imperial Police from 1922-1928. I left when I was 25 and this story is a semi-autobiographical recollection. In writing it I hoped to educate the British back home to the double standards of the empire. It was written to portray the backwardness of the British Empire and racist and elitist views of the ruling class. It demonstrates a misuse of power among those in charge and while was not my most famous of pieces those who have read it will find that it paints the picture of a world still known that is completely preventable if one knows how
The novel The Road to Wigan Pier is the story of coal miners in the industrial city of Liverpool, England during the 1930s. It recounts the hardships of working men and women and the difficulties they faced during the depression. I talked about working men taking turns sleeping in the same beds because the rent was too high to afford alone. I talked about people who were injured in the pits (as they were known) and not being able to collect adequate compensation, some never being able to work again. I wrote about the unfair mine system where the mine owners owned everything and extended credit to miners in the company store and for company housing, and they overcharged so much that eventually the miner was working just to pay off his debt to the store, and in this way he became almost a slave to the mine owner. They structured it so the miner could never get ahead and always had to settle for what the company gave him. This story highlights the conditions that brought about the birth of the labor movement in England and Scotland. The story influenced the public by showing them the corruption that was rampant in industry during the early part of the century and it inspired people to support trade unionism.
The book I wrote in 1945 was Animal Farm and it is similar in the fact that it is an easily recognizable story with universal appeal has made it a well-known high school classic. It is an allegory for the failure of the Russian Revolution. It is the story of a group of farm animals that rise up against their human owner and expel him from Manor Farm. Everything appears to be fine in the beginning but as time goes on the pigs begin to act superior to the other animals. Eventually they become worse tyrants than the humans had been. This story is symbolic for how the founders of the Soviet Union, who offered equality for all, eventually, turned the country into a totalitarian state which robbed individuals of their freedom, and strength. The characters of Napoleon, Snowball and Boxer are easily recognizable as surrogates for Stalin, Trotsky, and the average worker. When Boxer/the average worker, who was loyal to Napoleon/Stalin, lost his strength he was instantaneously sold out and betrayed, as he was no longer of any use. This book was important because it laid bare the political state that Russia was in at the time and while it was banned from being read in Russia, it spread throughout Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
The novel 1984 was written in 1948 and its purpose was to warn people of the threat of political tyranny in the future. It was a warning of the impending dangers the totalitarian governments of the Soviet Union and China posed. It's the story of Winston Smith, a man who rebelled against the authoritarian nature of the state. He lived in Oceania which was a totalitarian society that was led by Big Brother and monitored everyone's behavior. This book coined many new words to the vocabulary such has "thought police", "doublespeak" and "newspeak". The "thought police" monitored what you were thinking and they could arrest you for thinking the wrong thoughts. "Doublethink" means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in ones mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. "Newspeak" was the new terminology, when the government told you what words you had to use. It shows that the destruction of language is an essential part of oppression. It's a fictional demonstration of the dangers of unbridled government control in the lives of civilians. The impact this book had on the world was dramatic because of the amount of young people who had read it, sharpening their sense of civic responsibility, removing the shades and revealing the light. Because it is entertaining, enlightening and has a clearly recognizable theme it has become a staple of high school literature classes for decades and means that almost anyone with a high school education has read it.
In summary there are several themes that run through all my works. Poverty is the biggest issue and I have examined how it creates injustice in many societies and cultures around the world. I also explored the theme of hypocrisy and how it is so easy for some people to mistreat others. Lastly I attempted to educate the more fortunate members of society to the plight of the less fortunate. I tried to warn people of the dangers of too much political power concentrated in the hands of very few. I hope that all of you will remember my lessons as you become leaders in your own fields.
"History has to move in a certain direction, even if it had to be pushed that way by neurotics."