Orwell and Me

Yes, I realize that I’m semi-plagiarizing this title…One of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood, (Handmaid’s Tale, 1985) wrote an essay that shares this name. In her essay Orwell and Me, Atwood deals with the deep-rooted relationship between her books and those of George Orwell. It’s kind of cool; you should check it out sometime:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2003/jun/16/georgeorwell.artsfeatures

Back on topic! Undoubtedly, all of the Sullivan, Orwell, and Didion pieces are united upon the ground that they view writing as a form of self-expression and discovery, and Orwell provides four examples pertaining to a writer’s impetus to create new works. Of the four, I cannot seem to identify with the platform of “political purpose” but the others are right on track with my philosophy. However, Orwell’s definition of ‘historical impulse’ resonates the most.

Orwell defines a writer’s motive of ‘historical impulse’ as “[the] [d]esire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity” (Orwell, Why I Write). Although I do not possess the desire to write about my life for future generations to read, I feel as though this same concept can be translated into a more micro-level of writing—journaling.

Journaling is important for many (and myself!) for in the future, one may aspire to recount the memories of the times past. However, as life moves on, truth and reality become obscured and memory—which is often skewed by time—takes over. Therefore, this act of journaling is analogous to Orwell’s position of remembering history, because it aids in the act of remembering one’s life history in its truest form.
Furthermore, the piece that I choose to discuss in class is George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language (1946) where he discusses the futility of academia’s infiltration of superfluous words into writing; rather, Orwell advocates for clear and concise prose to become the basis for what is taught in schools.

Looking at countless examples of Orwell’s work, one would certainly discover that he “practices what he preaches.” The one thing that I really enjoy while reading Orwell are his clear arguments. It is because of this clarity that his works are so accessible to many, and it is for this very same reason that I would like to emulate his work in my future essays and projects.

That’s all for tonight!
-Jen-

2 thoughts to “Orwell and Me”

  1. Jen,
    I really agree with your point about journalism. “However, as life moves on, truth and reality become obscured and memory – which is often skewed by time – takes over. Therefore, the act of journaling is analogous to Orwell’s position of remember history, because it aids in the act of remembering one’s life history in the truest for.” I could not agree more with these few lines. Its interesting because at first glance I’d think that Orwell isn’t really concerned with journalism or blogging. But the way that you put it, opens up the door to the idea that Orwell would approve of blogging and “quick/instant” writing. This is a new view on Orwell’s writing that I have not heard yet. Good work.

  2. Re: Orwell and Me

    Jen addresses a concern that I have with Orwell’s piece. As an up-and-coming journalist, I feel challenged to think about the same question she raised–the position of journalism in storytelling and recording history.

    For Orwell, it seems that if someone is bestowed with the interest in articulating the human condition as they experience it through themselves and by others, then it is the responsibility of writers to elevate the consciousness of their public audience. What concerns me is the responsibility piece as a journalist or an author. For instance, when should certain experiences be kept sacred and just for the enjoyment or learning experience of the writer, and when should others be shared with the world? Its these types of questions that Orwell inspired that I feel motivated to address.

    Understanding that certain experiences, such as traveling to points of the globe where access to public education is a luxury and not a basic need, or where to protest against government is seen as an act of rebellion and not democracy, creates worry apprehension for me as a writer. My concern is that the respect for such experiences as these won’t be affirmed for being real and honest, but instead might be misunderstood or overshadowed with the beliefs and principles of one’s own country. Hence, suggesting that it might not be possible for the true value of repression to be fully understood or respected, unless the reader bears witness to the same experience in real time, just as the writer has done.

    So, with all things considered it seems like the ultimate question surrounding journalism is its functionality. Does journalism truly allow readers to see themselves in the stories they read, or if such facts of life expressed throughout the story-lines of various journalists further the expression of difference and disconnectedness within and between the human experience.

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