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George Orwell was a British author who wrote two of the most famous novels of the 20th century, ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, and was recognized for his remarkable journalism and essays that seem to be written for modern times years ago.
See the fact file below for more information on the George Orwell or alternatively, you can download our 25-page George Orwell worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Born on June 25, 1903 in Motihari, India, Eric Arthur Blair was the second child of Richard Blair and Ida Mabel Limouzin who then resided in Indian Bengal where Richard was a British civil servant.
- His mother brought him and his older sister, Marjorie, to England about a year after his birth and settled in Henley-on-Thames while his father remained in India and rarely visited.
- Orwell did not know his father until he retired from service in 1912, and even after that, they never had a strong connection since he found his father to be dull and conservative.
- Orwell discovered his love for writing at an early age, composing his first poem at the age of four. He later wrote in his essay, “I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start, my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued”.
- One of his first literary successes was achieved when he was 11, when his poem was published in a local newspaper.
- Like many other British boys, Orwell was sent to boarding school and attended the esteemed St. Cyprian’s in 1911.
- On a partial scholarship, Orwell noticed that the school treated richer students better than poorer ones. Although an outstanding student, he was not popular with his peers, and in books he found comfort from his difficult situations.
- But what he lacked in personality, he made up for in smarts. Orwell won scholarships to Wellington College and Eton College to continue his studies.
- After finishing at Eton, Orwell found himself at a dead end as he did not obtain a university scholarship and his family did not have the money to pay for his tuition.
- Instead, he joined the Indian Imperial Army in Burma in 1922, but resigned a few years later with immense hatred for imperialism. He returned to England and endeavored on making it as a writer.
Early Writing Career
- After he returned from his military service, Orwell struggled to get his writing career off the ground and took all sorts of jobs to make ends meet, including being a dishwasher.
- Orwell’s first major work “Down and Out in Paris and London” explored his time surviving and living in the two cities and provided a brutal look at the lives of the working poor and of those living a transient existence.
- His experiences in Burma were translated into writing the novel, “Burmese Days”, which offered a dark look at British colonialism in Burma, then part of the country’s Indian empire.
- Orwell’s interest in political matters grew so rapidly after the novel was published in 1934 that he delved more into it in essays entitled A Hanging and Shooting an Elephant.
Return to War
- In December of 1936, Orwell traveled to Spain, where he joined one of the groups fighting against General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War.
- Orwell was badly injured during his time with a militia, getting shot in the throat and arm. For several weeks, he was unable to speak.
- He and his wife, Eileen, were indicted on treason charges in Spain. Fortunately, the charges were brought after the couple had left the country.
- Other health problems plagued the talented writer not long after his return to England. For years, Orwell had periods of sickness, and he was officially diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1938.
- He spent several months at the Preston Hall Sanatorium trying to recover, but he would continue to battle with tuberculosis for the rest of his life. At the time he was initially diagnosed, there was no effective treatment for the disease.
- During the 1930s, Orwell published novels including A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), and Coming Up for Air (1939) along with two insightful documentaries The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) which is about the lives of poor miners in Lancashire, Wigan, and Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences during The Spanish Civil War.
- To support himself, Orwell took on various writing assignments. He wrote numerous essays and reviews over the years, developing a reputation for producing well-crafted literary criticism.
- He wrote an essay, Shooting an Elephant, published in the literary magazine New Writing in 1936, which discusses Orwell’s disgust for imperialism during his time as a police officer in Burma (now known as Myanmar), which was still a British colony at the time.
- The essay was later the title piece in a collection of Orwell’s essays, published in 1950, which included ‘My Country Right or Left’, ‘How the Poor Die’, and ‘Such, Such were the Joys.’
- In 1941, he landed a job with the BBC as a producer for developed news commentary and shows for audiences in the eastern part of the British Empire. Orwell drew such literary greats as T.S. Eliot and E.M. Forster to appear on his programs.
- With World War II raging on, Orwell found himself acting as a propagandist to advance the country’s national interest. He loathed this part of his job, describing the company’s atmosphere in his diary as “something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum, and all we are doing at present is useless, or slightly worse than useless”.
- Orwell resigned in 1943, saying “I was wasting my own time and the public money on doing work that produces no result. I believe that in the present political situation the broadcasting of British propaganda to India is an almost hopeless task”. Around this time, Orwell became the literary editor for a socialist newspaper.
- In April 1946, Orwell released the essay “Politics and the English Language” in the British literary magazine Horizon, which is considered one of his most important works on style.
- Orwell believed that “ugly and inaccurate” English enabled oppressive ideology, and that vague or meaningless language was meant to hide the truth. He argued that language should not naturally evolve over time but should be “an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.”
- To write well is to be able to think clearly and engage in political discourse, he wrote, as he rallied against cliches, dying metaphors, and pretentious or meaningless language.
- An avid follower of politics, Orwell voiced his disgust against totalitarianism through his most famed works Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which established Orwell’s esteemed reputation as an exceptional writer.
- Animal Farm was an anti-Soviet satire in a pastoral setting featuring two pigs as its main protagonists. These pigs were said to represent Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. The novel brought Orwell great acclaim and financial rewards.
- Orwell’s masterwork, Nineteen Eighty-Four (or 1984 in later editions), was published in the late stages of his battle with tuberculosis and soon before his death.
- In the novel, Orwell gave readers a glimpse into what would happen if the government controlled every detail of a person’s life, down to their own private thoughts.
- This bleak vision of the world divided into three oppressive nations stirred up controversy among reviewers, who found this fictional future too despairing.
Personal and Family Life
- George Orwell married Eileen O’Shaughnessy in June 1936, and Eileen supported and assisted Orwell in his career. The couple remained together until her death in 1945.
- In 1944 the couple adopted a son, whom they named Richard Horatio Blair, after one of Orwell’s ancestors. Their son was largely raised by Orwell’s sister Avril after Eileen’s death.
- Near the end of his life, Orwell proposed to editor Sonia Brownell. He married her in October 1949, only a short time before his death. Brownell inherited Orwell’s estate and made a career out of managing his legacy.
Death and Legacy
- George Orwell died of tuberculosis in a London hospital on January 21, 1950. Although he was just 46 years old at the time of his death, his ideas and opinions have lived on through his work.
- Although Orwell is acknowledged mainly for his novels by the present-day reader, his essays and journalistic work is evidence of his deep interest and understanding of the politics of his era.
- Strongly opinionated and impartial to his subject, Orwell wrote his mind in a way that still seems contemporary. The writing of George Orwell does not seek to entertain the reader on purpose; instead he captures the attention of his audience by the friendly and welcoming fashion of his words.
- Orwell stressed on simplicity, creativity, and innovation in writing. His uniqueness was his lucid style.
George Orwell Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about George Orwell across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use George Orwell worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about George Orwell who was a British author who wrote two of the most famous novels of the 20th century, ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, and was recognized for his remarkable journalism and essays that seem to be written for modern times years ago.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Pop Quiz
- I Am Watching You
- Judge By The Cover
- Dystopian Dictionary
- Orwell Says
- Britons from India
- All Eyes On Us
- Total Control
- Welcome to Room 101
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Use With Any Curriculum
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