In my interpretation of George Orwell’s writings the overall ideology that informs his work emphasizes the power of language. In his time there was a lot of political upheaval and he was very concerned with writers and their abuse of the power their language contained and how that power affected readers. Though he doesn’t express this concern outright its evident in his criticism’s of the perversions of language that writers in the fields of politics, sociology and mass media were guilty of. In “Politics and the English Language” for example, Orwell writes that, “The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not,” as if conscientious and deliberate use of language would somehow correct the political corruption of his time (p. 2). He clearly accuses politically motivated writers of misusing the English language to dress up their writing so that their audiences would be fooled into thinking he or she was some sort of authority. In his view they were snowing over the reader in an attempt to persuade him into taking sides with the writer’s perspective. Some of the tactics he accuses writers of using are “dying metaphors” to “save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves”; “operators of verbal false limbs” to “pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry”; and “pretentious diction” to “to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements” (p. 3). It seems that Orwell is asking his own audience to ignore his bias and to pay close attention to the use of these abuses of the English language because in his own idealistic image of a reader’s experience of a text he or she alone has the power of interpretation.
Idealism motivated Orwell’s criticisms and it was behind his own assumption of his life’s purpose. First off, believing we have a life purpose, or that one has a destiny to do something at all is very idealistic. But for Orwell it seemed like a matter of course. For example, in his essay “Why I Write” Orwell opens with the airy line, “From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer,” yet later he explains that political motivation, for him, is outweighed by the other common motivations of any writer (1). So the reason he chose to be a writer seems to be, in his mind, an urge towards some predetermined destiny. His ability to reduce, in his judgment, all writers’ internal motivation to four simple categories is a limited viewpoint and demonstrates a denial of the depth a writer may be capable of.
These four categories of motivation are “sheer egoism,” “aesthetic enthusiasm,” “historical impulse” and “political purpose.” This seems to ignore any possibility of another kind of motivation by any writer other than those that write non-fiction and have an agenda behind their work. Though these categories seem limited he explains that in the “political purpose” category of motivation he is including the “desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after” which I believe could include the motivations of many fiction authors as well (p. 5). In this way he covers his own cynical outlook of others in his trade.
Its somewhat difficult to sort out the ideology behind his work because Orwell was a cynic, but the idealism that was conveyed in his work was one of the assessment of language as a powerful force to persuade others to take a position on the topic. These experiences of reading something that a writer carelessly slapped together while pretentiously touting on their topic are the ones that shape a person’s beliefs and then those beliefs inform the reader on his or her political position. Whether or not the reader’s actions will reflect the effect of the writer’s work or whether or not a person even takes action is not important. In Orwell’s ideological view the very fact that writing has this kind of power over the consumer is a dangerous proposition and idealistically writing should be controlled and conscientious so that the writer and the audience make a positive change in the world together.
Orwell, George. A Collection of Essays by George Orwell. Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1970. Book.
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