Practice Essay – Orwell
In the context of your critical study, to what extent does your response to the closing statements of Why I Write inform your judgement of his essay and Orwell’s essays as a whole? In your response, make detailed reference to Why I Write and at least ONE other essay set for study.
The closing statements of George Orwell’s essay ‘Why I Write’ reflect not only Orwell’s subject matter and stance within this essay, but also demonstrate his approach to his world which can be seen through all of his essays. Orwell cynically discusses the motives that drive people in the closing paragraph of ‘Why I Write’ and thus demonstrates his highly analytical nature. It is this very personality trait that drove Orwell to write his essays and is highly prevalent in his essay ‘The Sporting Spirit’. These two essays are reflective of both Orwell’s character and his collective works as a whole.
Through his essay ‘Why I Write’, Orwell discusses the driving forces which make him write. He then further states that there are four of these, which are applicable to the reasoning of any author or writer and at least one of these is a cause for their writing. These four causes are sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse & political purpose. Orwell’s understanding of the impact context has upon a writer’s work is shown through his statement “His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in,” with this focus in mind while producing this essay, Orwell satirically sets these four reasons behind any piece of writing to emulate a formula for a fascist manifesto. This is found within his focus on the largely egocentric concentration on the ‘genius’ of a writer.
To enhance this, Orwell further implements his skills as a novelist and incorporates his own sympathetic back-story in order to build a repore with the audience as well as point out how with the compassion felt by a person or a society can lead them to trusting in another’s words completely. Orwell purposefully comments on our willingness to accept facts even if they are false as long as there is a sense of relatability within the words of the author. This makes direct reference to Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, ‘Mein Kamph’ which linked with Orwell’s views both political and artistic in Hitler’s revealing of his true egomaniac character.
George Orwell uses his essay ‘The Sporting Spirit’ to convey his stance on the state of politics and its role in sporting events, namingly the 1945 Russian ‘Dynamo’ football team tour of Britain. In this essay, Orwell seeks to challenge the conventional truisms of his era. He once more leans to the use of satire by constructing a simple, logical argument but building it upon weak evidence. Orwell knowingly creates a flawed argument which states that the recent visit of the Russian team has bred hatred and aggression between the citizens of Russia and Britain. Orwell increasingly draws on rhetoric and hyperbole in order to justify his argument, shown in his statement, “sport is war minus the bullets.” To further enhance this satirical point, he concludes this essay with no convincing summation.
Through George Orwell’s essay ‘Why I Write’ there is a self-indulgent, egotistical reflection upon the reasons behind Orwell’s essays existence. Ironically, Orwell contradicts himself by providing the audience with his sympathetic backstory which reflects upon his childhood being lonely, isolated and rejected by his peer group due to “disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my school days.” However, it is shown through his quote “I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories” that Orwell’s greatest contradiction in this essay is found. Through this quote, Orwell provides another, differing reason from which one may write, and ironically it is shown to be how he started his writing career in the first place.
Isolation, loneliness and the exploration of a vivid imagination most commonly found in a child’s mind are what drove Orwell to write his essays and the bitterness that the loneliness left in Orwell not only strove him to write, but to explore the world around him in an overly analytical fashion, shown by him recalling the stories he made of his own heroism in everyday life. By labeling this as an “instinct” in his closing paragraph, Orwell relates it to an inescapable trait all humans share, this is further exemplified through his relation of it to an infant’s cry for attention. The basic, primal commonality that this stage of human life suggests, shows the extent of Orwell’s belief in this idea.
‘The Sporting Spirit’ has two major purposes; one is to express Orwell’s disgust at the idea of sporting events acting as “mimic warfare” and the idiocy of society in believing that it is a way to bypass international conflict. The second purpose of this essay is to present an argument that is incredibly counter-intuitive, rhetorical and satirical, in order to demonstrate to the ‘educated’ people the way that a highly opinionated, emotive argument built on nothing but spurious reasoning is the strongest weapon of the propagandist.
This essay shows that we are all vulnerable to shallow arguments, no-matter how ‘educated’ one is, nor what social class one falls into. With this in mind, this essay is infact one of Orwell’s most political and strongest pieces of writing when coupled with his apparent ethos in the final paragraph of ‘Why I Write’ implying that his best works were driven by strong political purpose and stating that without such purpose, he fell into “purple prose,” a meaningless, dwindling piece of writing.
In conclusion, George Orwell’s essays ‘Why I Write’ and ‘The Sporting Spirit’ are both representative of Orwell’s writing as a whole and can be explored widely through the view provided by his closing paragraph of ‘Why I Write’. He clearly defines the purpose and beliefs of his writing through this essay and reflects it throughout his works making it a high reference point in understanding his motives and in deconstructing his pieces of literature.