I’d be genuinely surprised if I had a conversation with someone who hadn’t at least heard the name George Orwell. Of all the words to describe the works and legacy of Eric Arthur Blair, “influential” is probably the most apt, and decidedly the one that appears in the most academic literature related to him (citation needed).
Up until quite recently, I was somewhat unsure of the reason for the enduring power of his writing. I was familiar with a few of his works, namely 1984 and Animal Farm, but never having read them it was unclear to me what all the fuss was about. Well, I still haven’t read either of them, but since then I have read several of his other articles and essays, and from those I think I might have a slightly better understanding of what the big deal was.
I found myself surprised at how engaged I was by Orwell’s essays. No matter the content, it was immediately clear that the author knew exactly what he wanted to make the audience feel, and how to make them feel it. It took me a bit to figure out, but I largely attribute this to his writing style. The best way I can describe it is “calculated.” When writing, particularly in an academic setting, it’s extremely easy to go too far in terms of description, and employ words that complicate one’s writing to an unnecessary degree, functionally turning it into a wall inaccessible to many readers. In his essay Politics and the English Language, Orwell explicitly states that he strives to avoid this pitfall, as well as other common practices which he believes accomplishes the same effect of obscuring the meaning and emotion behind writing. This, I believe, is the key to the effect Orwell’s writing has on a reader. His essays are not written as essays, they’re written as stories. Orwell doesn’t make his point with words, he makes his point with emotion, which is induced by words.