O is for Orwell


George Orwell was born in 1903 as Eric Arthur Blair to English parents living in India but when he was 1 year old the family returned to England and settled there.

As a child he dreamed of writing a book in the style of HG Wells A Modern Utopia and whilst still at college produced the college magazine. Instead of attending University (the family couldn’t afford it) he returned to India as part of the Imperial Police and on a trip back home to England after suffering an illness he decided to quit the police and become a writer.

But it wasn’t until he visited his aunt in Paris and received her financial support that he began to write novels. On his return to England he began research into his a memoir entitled Down and Out in Paris and London, and changed his name for publication so that it wouldn’t embarrass his family.

The publication of Animal Farm in 1945 plunged Orwell into worldwide success and followed up by Nineteen Eighty Four in 1949 (which has sold over 25million copies to date) cemented his place amongst the great writers of the 20th century.

While he was alive, Orwell was best known for his essays and journalism. He died at the age of 46 having suffered from reoccurring symptoms of Tuberculosis (which troubled him for several years) leaving behind his own adjective “Orwellian”.

My Favourite George Orwell quotes:

“Rules on Writing – Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

“The best books…are those that tell you what you know already.”

“Good writing is like a windowpane.”

“For a creative writer possession of the ‘truth’ is less important than emotional sincerity.”

George Orwell’s Essay – Politics and the English Language

The first part of a documentary on Orwell.

Orwell went to great lengths to research his project Down and Out in Paris and London, to the point where he explored the slums of London, even staying the night in a common lodging house. You often hear of other authors who will go to great lengths to research their books. Personally, I haven’t, but what lengths have you gone to for research?

The Art of Allegory

According to Fred White in The Daily Writer “Every aspiring writer should read an allegory now and then because it illustrates, in a vivid way, the essence of storytelling.”

Ok, well you know me, I do like to learn stuff, I’m always up for a challenge and that there statement Mr White, is pure fighting talk! 😉

So what is an allegory? I knew about allegory in paintings, so I kinda knew what it was, but, in fiction? Hmmmm, nope, can’t think that anyone’s every mentioned it to me before now. I hadn’t even considered it.

My first stop, Wikipedia, says “a device in which characters or events represent or symbolise ideas and concepts. As a literary device, an allegory in its most general sense is an extended metaphor.”

Ahhhhh, I see…I think lol

A story where things and people represent something entirely different, ie, an idea or philosophy. The story conveys a deeper meaning (has 2 meanings) and the characters are usually personifications of ideas such as charity, greed, hope and envy.

Image from dtldobsvtn’s Blog post on Allegory

So as far as examples go, George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a good one. The farm animals represent Communist Russia. The pigs are the government, the dogs, the police and the rest of the animals symbolise the working class. Another is John Bunyans The Pilgrims Progress

The Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz said “An allegory is not meant to be taken literally. There is a great lack of comprehension on the part of some readers.”

Hmmmmm….ok, it does sound quite fascinating, but bloody hard work! Lol. I’m not sure I would be up to it that’s for sure 😉

So have you ever written an allegory? Is it something you would try?

There’s a great article on the Writerly Life site which tells you how to write one if you fancy giving it a go. Me, I think I’ll just stick to stories with one meaning 😉