Orwell, George (1903–1950) By Boland, Stephanie
George Orwell is the pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair. A writer, poet, journalist, broadcaster and critic, he is best known for his satirical novel Animal Farm (1945) and the dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), both of which interrogate political systems (and the behavior of the individual within them). The term ‘Orwellian’, meaning ‘following the logic of totalitarianism’, is primarily drawn from these novels. His long-form non-fiction works Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) exemplify his particular brand of social reportage, as well as being some of the most well-known works in the genre generally. Both document life among the poor: the former taking in London’s East End and the less prosperous parts of Paris, and the latter the working-class cities in England’s industrial North.
Orwell’s writing is characterized by straightforward, unembellished prose. His 1946 essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ draws a correlation between writing and ideology, lambasting ‘insincerity’ in contemporary written English. This unadorned style helps inform today’s consensus that Orwell was a profoundly common sense writer, committed to clarity in both language and argument. His literary criticism, political reportage, and polemic journalism have been frequently anthologized since his death, and are often held up as models in their respective genres.