George Orwell’s Social Vision: A Critical Study

Dr RamjiLal

Foreword of the Book

From the Desk of
Dr RamjiLal
Principal (Retd.) Dyal Singh College,
Karnal

(Asian Independent)- It gives me immense pleasure to write the foreword of the book George Orwell’s Social Vision: A Critical Study inked by Mr. Dinesh Kumar, Assistant Professor of English, Dyal Singh College, Karnal. Mr. Dinesh Kumar has been working as an assistant professor of English at Dyal Singh College, Karnal for the last 16 years. He is a young and energetic scholar of rare intellectual caliber. He is a very hard working young man of English literature. He is actively participating in seminars, webinars and conferences at National and international level. He is the sole of two more books-Voice in Literature (ISBN NO. 978-93-87276-79-6), and Feministic Ethos in Pre-Independence and Post-Independence Indian Literature (ISBN NO. 978-620-3-921908). He has also edited two books-English Language as Mediator of Human-Machine Communication (ISBN NO. 978-81-948672-1-0), by Natalia Lazebna, Associate Professor, Zaporizhzhia Polytechnic National University, Ukraine, and a poetry book, Drops of Intensity by an Italian poet, Gerlinde Staffler.

George Orwell (25 June, 1903-21 January, 1950), whose real name is Eric Arthur Blair (Born at Motihari Behar, India), is an English novelist, journalist, critic, essayist. Throughout his writings, he stands like a rock against to all type of totalitarian powers like fascism, Nazism, communism. It is important to emphasize that he strongly and boldly favours a society based on the triple foundations of democratic socialism-equality, liberty and deceny. He vehemently opposed totalitarian in the name of socialism which was present in the erstwhile Soviet Union at that time.

Though he is a champion of egalitarian society, but like Karl Popper, he strongly advocates a society based on equality and decency. In his fictional and non-fictional works, his major concerns have been compassion, sympathy and humanitarianism. Right from the beginning, his life was not stable and he lived a very miserable life full of sufferings, hardships, trials and tribulations. He had to suffer racial and cultural discrimination in Burma (now Myanmar) during his job as a police–officer where he was considered as an ‘outsider.’ This aspect of his life has been vividly portrayed in his maiden attempt, Burmese Days.

Though, he experienced the problems of poverty and unemployment during the Great Economic Depression period, which finds its powerful expression in his work, A Clergyman’s Daughter through the character of Dorothy Hare. Like all other great scholars and writers of his time, his ideas and ideals were shaped by the contemporary socio-economic and socio-political conditions of the society. At that time, the world was passing through the economic crisis (1929-30) which resulted in breakdown the entire economic edifice of the world. This economic crisis hampered the growth of the world. Consequently, unemployment, poverty, bankruptcy, economic inequality and exploitation increased manifold.

Orwell gained experience while working as a tramp, and school master. It can be emphasized that poverty remained as a central stage in all of his writings. During his hospitalization, he came across the miserable life of poor patients. This experience is the sum and substance of his essay, “How the Poor Dies”(1946). If we take into consideration the present scenario, we will find that things have not changed even after almost seven decades in current century for those who are living in the periphery of the society.

His writings are based on social conditions of the economically depressed, deprived and oppressed working class living in North England where he worked as a worker in coal mines. While working as a coal mines, he came out of the imaginary world and had to face miserable conditions which find a powerful exploration in his novel, The Road to Wigan Pier.

As an author of nineteen thirties, George orwell’s imagination was shaped by the social, economic, political, cultural aspects. The environment prevailing at that time also played a significant and vital role in enriching the texture of his books. Though he was born in India, he was sent to England for his schooling where he had to face discrimination in his early childhood at St. Cyprian School. During his stay in this school, he suffered from the domination of the students of elite class. The students of this school had a strong feeling of discrimination and snobbishness towards the students belonging to poor class, and George Orwell was no exception in this direction. The Middle-Class students, by adopting the snobbish attitude towards the poor and deprived sections of society always created a feeling of guilt, subordination, subjugation, oppression, depression and exploitation. Consequently, the students from the Middle-Class and the rich classes controlled the poor masses by creating a sense of guilt. George Orwell had to suffer the sense of guilt and discrimination not only from his fellow students, but also from his teachers. This feeling is reflected by him in his essay, Such Such Were the Joys (1939-40). It generated a feeling of revolt against the social and cultural values of the dominant classes.

While serving in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma (now Myanmar) from 1922-27, he was deeply influenced by the excessive exploitation of the Burmese by the British imperialism-the highest state of capitalism as stated by V.I. Lenin. He had a strong feeling of rebelliousness generated in his mind against the exploitation and oppression of the natives of Burma. Due to his rebellious nature, he revolted against the British regime because he did not want to be used by the British people as an instrument by being a member of this corrupt and exploitative system any longer. As a result of it, he resigned from his job and left Burma. His experiences as a police officer in Burma have been clearly delineated by him in his first novel, Burmese Days through the portrayal of John Flory, the protagonist of the novel.

The Great Depression was a worldwide economic depression of the twentieth century. It was widespread throughout the whole world from Washington to Berlin on the one hand, and from London to Paris on the other. The whole economy of the world declined at lowest ebb. The unemployment, poverty and hunger increased manifolds. This great economic depression finds its powerful expression in George Orwell’s book, Down and Out in London and Paris (1933) which is a microcosm of the wretched conditions of poor masses rampant in the society. This Great Economic Depression had a profound and deep impact on every individual, and Orwell was no exception in this direction. It transformed him from fictionalism to hard realism which is very reflected in his non-fictional work, The Road to Wigan Pier(1937). The present book has been written in an autobiographical mode based on his personal experiences of reality of contemporary period. The present work is a powerful manifestation of Orwell’s idea of equality, liberty justice and decency. It deals with his philosophy of socialism and its tenants.

The Great Economic Depression period was followed by the Spanish Civil War in which George Orwell actively participated against the dark forces of totalitarian led by Francisco Franco and supported by Nazi Germany led by Hitler and fascist Italy led by Mussolini. On the other hand, the republican were supported by other forces. The Spanish Civil War deeply influenced his ideas. This Spanish Civil War was also a mini dress rehearsal of the World War II. The World War II broke out on September 1st, 1939 when German forces attacked Poland and engulfed the entire world. The world was divided in two hostile blocs-axis forces and the allied powers led by Germany and England respectively. Other powers joined these blocs in accordance with their national interests. The erstlewhile soviet Russia led by Stalin also joined allies in the fear.

It is pertinent to emphasize that axis powers were led by dictators like Hitler, Mussolini and others, whereas allies were led by Winston Churchill and Stalin. The totalitarian regimes were anti-democracy and ruthlessly crushed the opponents. The British imperialism was based on exploitation, suppression, oppression, injustice and inequality. Although Stalin was a champion of ‘state socialism’, he also crushed his opponents ruthlessly like Hitler and Mussolini. Ideologically speaking, World War II apparently seemed to be the clash between democratic forces and dictatorial forces. In brief, the British imperialism, Nazism, fascism and state socialism were totally based on inequality and injustice. Although George Orwell was deeply influenced by the socialistic pattern of the society, yet he was against the state socialism of Stalin because it was not only based on inequality. But, in reality, it was dictatorial in nature and practice. George Orwell was a humanist writer and in the background of this he wrote his masterpiece, Animal Farm.

Animal Farm has been hailed as an animal fable in the form of an allegory. It is a satire on communism and bureaucracy which reveals the hiatus between ideal and reality, theory and practice. In the present novel, the author refers to the falsification of socialism by Russian communism, but the west is also guilty of similar falsification. The western countries present their society as being one of free initiative for the individual, but they too have got centralized managerial industrial society of an essentially bureaucratic nature motivated by materialistic attitude. Even in many countries, one can witness how the techniques of totalitarianism are used to crush the freedom and liberty of the individuals. Throughout this novel, Orwell exposes those forces which are responsible for the destruction of human values or what Orwell simply calls humanism.

Without any shadow of doubt, Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm is one of the major classic works of fiction of the twentieth century which exposes all types of oppression, suppression, exploitation, vices, false concerns, inequality, injustice and other evils rampant in the contemporary world. Orwell championed the cause of humanism, individual freedom, individual right to think, and justice. As a matter of fact, he remained humanistic in his approach throughout his life, and this fact is crystal clear and evident through his writings.

George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four is an extended metaphor of animal farm in which he exposes the hypocrisy of an authoritative system that controls state, societical structures and their inputs and outputs to control the individuals-whom Orwell terms as proles, a short abbreviation by the writer for the word, proletariat. These proles alone keep the spirit of live alive as they are embodiment of truth, integrity, and human values. They can play a significant role in preventing the process of dehumanization and bring life back to happiness.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, through the character of Winston Smith, Orwell firmly believes in the power of common man in the collective sense. We come across the same idea in Albert Camus’ well known book, The Rebel. The present novel conveys a profound message that where humanism, the spirit of freedom, equality and justice prevail, authoritative and totalitarianism cannot exist. This novel also projects Orwell as a man who stands for the whole humanity, and one who wanted to establish humanitarian values as the spirit of Renaissance.

Although the novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four was written in 1948 as a prophecy of the future to come, but we come to know how Orwell’s prophecy has come true in the contemporary time. After going through the current scenario of the contemporary society, we witness that even in the first quarter of 21st century, Orwell’s warning has come true. We find the ruling elites exploiting the poor masses to legitimate their authority in the name of nationalism, religion, race and class. It seems that the present day elites in the different walks of life have almost followed George Orwell even without knowing what is written in his writing except his humanistic approach to life.

The present book, Geroge Orwell’s Social Vision: A Critical Study is a brilliant attempt by Mr, Dinesh Kumar to explore various facets of George Orwell’s social vision in a comprehensive manner. The present book is divided into four chapters. It is a very comprehensive and critical evaluation of George Orwell’s social philosophy of the contemporary society. Mr. Dinesh Kumar has emphasized that George Orwell was influenced by the social, economic and political conditions of his age. Normally, it is very difficult for a novelist to follow a particular philosophy of life in his all writings. According to Dinesh Kumar, George Orwell suffered very miserably since his childhood. He was highly impressed by the predicaments of the common people. Therefore, Mr. Dinesh Kumar has aptly analysed George Orwell as a champion of freedom, justice, equality, and human dignity. George Orwell was a great humanist. Dinesh Kumar rightly opines that this book will cater to the need of research scholars, teachers and academicians. The study of this book reveals George Orwell’s anti-imperialistic and anti-totalitarian attitude in a vivid and graphic manner.

The present literary work of Dinesh Kumar, George Orwell’s Social Vision: A Critical Study will be useful for the teachers, scholars and students of English literature. I congratulate Mr. Dinesh Kumar for this valuable and useful literary work.

Dr. Ramjilal
Principal (Retd.),
Dyal Singh College,
Karnal (Haryana)

 

 

 

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