Re: Orwell & Didion

Something in Orwell’s reading that resonated with me, that I first wasn’t really sure I agreed with, is his argument that we need to know an author’s background in order to understand their true motives. I want to say that I could read a similar statement about any writer’s motives for writing at face value but the more I think about it, the more of a disservice that seems. Knowing both Orwell’s experiences in Burma and Didion’s wandering at Berkeley helps us understand their views with more integrity that I think is necessary given how personal writing is.
I was initially kind of turned off by Orwell’s four motives, though  – how can we really boil the act of writing down words (at least prose) to four single ideas? – but his explanation that they’re always in flux, depending on the writer’s location, age, mood, state, whatever, took away some of my doubt and made me think harder about what “political purpose” actually means.
Something I really loved from Didion’s piece was her line “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” The process of discovery she describes is one of my favorite parts about writing – fitting words together to make them convey exactly what you need them to, even the things you didn’t know you needed to convey. It’s interesting to compare her process of such personal self-discovery to Orwell’s thoughts on truthfulness, that the writer needs to “efface his own personality” to write something readable. Part of me thinks Orwell needs to calm down a little.

Margot Kriete

Hi! My name's Margot. I study computer science, have super long arms, never skip breakfast, and will probably become a German shepherd lady (as opposed to those "cat ladies") when I grow up. I like to cook, read, run, change my mind, and write.

One thought to “Re: Orwell & Didion”

  1. I too really loved Didion’s line on why she writes because that is exactly how I see writing. For me, the end product of a writing piece is always surprise. I start with what I see and what I think, and from those words, ideas and new opinions blossom. I agree that sometimes you don’t realize what you are trying to say or what you feel until you see the fitted words in front of you and you realize these are the ideas you subconsciously needed to convey. It’s a pleasant surprise when you reread what you have written for the first time and you think, “Wow, this is exactly what was going through my mind.”

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