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.
Reading Orwell’s writing makes me feel like I’ve known him personally for a long time. His low diction and register make his writing available for anyone to read and gives the reader a sense of relatability to his life, even if it’s not half as extreme. I constantly found myself relating to either there characters in Orwell’s stories, or the narrative opinion (his thoughts). For example, in The Spike I got a very relatable feeling of not being able to bring valuables into an area for risk of them being stolen. Similarly I had another relatable feeling when reading How the Poor Die I felt a sense of relatability to Orwell as he watched the other patients treated as less than human. I see similar things when I am downtown Victoria and see people treat the homeless population the same way. This relatable style of writing is extremely efficient in having the reader connect to your writing and is one of the reasons Orwell’s pieces so prolific.
Writing the DRJs I also learnt somethings. As these were my first DRJs after doing the Oral I felt like I was better equipped and understood how to properly analyze the texts. In some instances I struggled finding points to make in some of the boxes, but in others I was overwhelmed with how much I found. The areas I feel very strong writing about are Imagery, Structure/Organization, and Diction/Register. I feel strong in these areas because they are the categories that leave a bigger impression on me meaning I am more likely to notice them. The areas I wish to improve are Sound Effects, and Tone. I am typically able to hear the tone of a story, yet I struggle finding evidence to support my claims. In terms of sound effects I found out only recently from Mr. MacKnight’s group feedback that I hadn’t been doing this section properly, I would focus on sound imagery more than the sound effects like we were supposed to.
Reading Wheatcroft’s tribute to Orwell helped me understand just how good of a writer Orwell really was. It felt like my thoughts on Orwell were explained further using evidence and it really helps the average reader understand why Orwell does prevail.
Reading Orwells Essays, I gained much more knowledge, and it made me think deeply about the issues that occurred in his time and all the injustices he saw. While reading his essays, we were shown experiences and images through his lenses and how he truly felt in those situations. Specifically, I enjoyed reading “The Spike” and “How the Poor Die.” Reading these two essays made me reflect and think about the injustices happening to people at this time. Working in the spike meant being abused and denied even the most basic human needs. I was astonished to see the differences in medical practices and how it felt to be a patient in a public hospital in 1929 France, where the hospital staff simply treated you without conversing with you. He highlighted many essential points, like how the poor suffered more medically and were not treated the same and that the hospital was not a place where the sick could get treatments and rest but rather a place of torment and harsh treatment. Reading this essay made me reflect on the health care we have now and how many years that took compared to the cruelty of the hospitals in France in 1929.
After receiving feedback on my DRJs and going over each aspect of the DRJs in a class discussion, I learned more in-depth and better understood what each one means. After going back and looking at my own, I realize where I could have analyzed what I read much better. For example, I was a bit confused about sound effects and imagery, but I recognize the difference now after clarification. Asking about these sections, such as diction and register, will definitely help make my DRJs and analysis more precise.
Reading”Why Orwell Endures” by Geoffrey Wheatcroft was an interesting but confusing analysis that I did not fully comprehend. It was confusing because the words used were very complex and hard to follow. However, reading it was interesting, and It showed how Orwell was really not known for one specific thing but rather for a variety of things. We can see from this essay many social issues he was interested in. As a result, as readers, we can gain much information from Orwell’s insights and personal experiences wherever he went.
Reading George Orwell’s essays has given me a completely new insight as to why literature endures. Personally, I have never seen an author write in such an ‘unbiased’ way, always conveying issues and stories with the utmost neutral background, while still strongly portraying his perspective and making sure the reader knows his thoughts exactly on a certain topic. It comes to show that the correct use of language skills and diction make an incredible difference, as to whether or not the author is actually emotionally invested in his own words. A great example for this would have to be his essay ‘The Hanging’, giving details about the decapitation of a young man in Burma, respectfully told from Orwell’s point of view on site. There is not one word which indicates towards any direct emotion but his tone and inner voice within the passage, create sympathy amongst the audience. I believe that with this, Orwell was trying to make sure the readers had enough freedom to form their own thoughts, while at the same time still making absolutely sure they would lean towards the same sense of commiseration creating a balanced form of harmony.
These thoughts and learning outcomes were naturally achieved along with the ‘Daily Reading Journals’. They allowed me to pause and reflect every couple of sentences and think about what purpose or meaning was being revealed behind the text. We were warned in advance that when looking at sound imagery and sound effects, confusion could occur as to what words or phrases would belong in which category. Even though I definitely believe that after the received feedback I still have some progress to make, Orwell has easily made the difference more clear with a good set of examples. Without his fairly playful and bold style of writing, including several uses of sound imagery as well as sound effects, I believe it would be questionable whether or not Orwell would have achieved this memorable affect on the reader without them. It is almost as if he wanted us to solely focus on this linguistic aspect.
Whilst thinking that I had gotten a pretty good understanding of George Orwell’s personality through his own words, Geoffrey Wheatcroft finally sheds light upon Orwell’s character outside of literature. Even though he does mentions that “no other can have so enriched the language” he brings forward something I would have not expected. By saying “there were dark sides to his personality” about his friend of many years, it makes one question the reason behind his yet mysterious style of writing. Throughout all essays and short-stories I have not once recognized anything ‘dark’, as Wheatcroft mentions. Even the essays with the heaviest meaning seem to be told in the easiest and most lighthearted way, awakening a sort of urge for the reader to continue.
After reading the selected essays by George Orwell I learned about what he endured and experienced and his insight on those experiences. I was not exactly excited to read these essays but I learned a lot about Orwell as a person and his take and opinions on the matters he talked about. It widened my knowledge on the different topics that were discussed and raised many questions regarding the content. I especially liked reading The Spike and thought it was interesting and easiest to analyze. By doing the daily reading journals after reading the selected essays it helped me analyze and pick apart the excerpt, observing the content, diction, register, structure, organization and tone. By writing these DRJ’s I also had a chance to reflect on the works I had read. I was able to ask myself what I learned and I was able to see how the writer was able to convey or express a certain emotion or tone using different writing techniques. A key takeaway from writing the DRJ’s was to question what the effect of x did to make me feel a certain way and observe those details. By doing the DRJ’s it kept me reading throughout the summer and then also kept me writing.
After handing in my DRJ’s and getting feedback on them I knew what I needed to improve next time to deepen and further my analysis. I was also able to get clarification for what was supposed to be put down in the different columns. Another thing that helped was that the feedback had pointers for what I should think about and look out for.
When reading Why Orwell Endures by Geoffrey Wheatcroft there was a quote Wheatcroft said that caught my attention. “He was a great something — but a great what?” This was interesting to me because it raised many questions in my head as well. Orwell had endured and experienced so much. His whole reputation and name was never for one thing but rather numerous things. He definitely was a great something, but a great what? That quote in Wheatcrofts essay had me thinking about Orwell and how much he had endured his lifetime. Why Orwell Endures reminded me of the essay Politics and the English Language by George Orwell when Orwell described how things should be put simply. This essay by Wheatcroft was not simply put. The language used in his essay was complex and not straightforward which made it more difficult to comprehend.
By reading Orwell’s essays, I learned more about him and his way of thinking. I noticed that he is a serious and honest writer with a passion for language. Orwell being a serious writer brings the focus on his surroundings by the way he writes about the disappointment for people and justice with personal experiences. He writes his personal experiences with honest opinions and thoughts, this helps the reader to understand the way he thinks and bring sympathy towards Orwell. I really liked how he describes his surroundings, “harshness of environment”, it conveys the reality of the world and the people which I think is a reason why Orwell is still an influential writer, because the world hasn’t change and the same issues which he mentions in his essays continues on. And with his honest opinions, it makes the essays to really get in readers’ mind with the freedom to share their opinions. By also writing his personal experiences, it brings the political side closer. In the other hand, his passion for language is another reason why his essays are very influential. He knows the real meaning of clear writing and using it as a powerful tool to bring the emotional, cultural and political side together.
By doing the DRJs, it helped me to see his passion for writing in a clearer way analyzing the words he use to create an image, sound effects, structure, diction and tone. It made me raised questions about his events that he writes in a very special way. Because he is a very good writer, I found it challenging to analyze his essays. Getting feedback on the DRJs, helped me to notice the more deep side of the meaning of the words he use.
Finally, I really like the way Wheatcroft describes Orwell. The phrases he chose to describe him, really match Orwell. He describes Orwell as “Unusually high moral sense and respect for justice and truth” and “His passion for liberty and intellectual honesty”. This phrases really brings Orwell’s personality to life and it can be seen in every essay. It makes me realize how strong his opinion is that it is still relevant to the world we live in today.
During the summer; reading Orwells selected essays, I was intrigued by his unique language and metaphors which were almost always original. This use of imagery created an environment in which I could picture myself standing in his shoes, either at age 7 in private school, or standing atop a hill holding a rifle; looking down on the dying elephant. Orwell used imagery in such a way, that he would vividly depict what was most important, and suggest the surroundings in such a way that your mind would fill in the rest. Orwell’s strong opinion was carried within his writing in sometimes subtle and sometimes eminent ways. Through his writing, Orwell illuminated how he thought critically of those around him. He would use descriptions of a person’s looks to produce the personality that they carried.
Doing the drjs, however monotonous at times, helped me build the skills to not only read but analyze what I was reading in different ways. One of the ways was by taking a closer look at the tone the writer was trying to convey. Orwell normally framed his writing in such a way that you could decipher the tone without too much difficulty. This being said, I still need to greatly improve this skill of analysis as it still takes great concentration, and my assertions are not always on the right track. I had more trouble finding and deciphering sound effects and diction.
Through the feedback I have received on my drjs I have been able to better understand the criteria for each way of writing. When first learning about structure, I first thought of it as the way in which paragraphs were formatted, and how many lines were in a stanza, and so on. After receiving the comments on my drjs, I have realized that it is more so about time and order, and the structure in which the author formed their writing. I have learned that tone is not so much what the writing reads, but what the author intended from their writing.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes about Orwell as a friend. Wheatcroft discusses both Orwell’s strengths as well as his weaknesses, and he describes how Orwell was able to gain fame in the days near and after death. Orwell is depicted as a timeless gem of literature, and Wheatcroft seems to portray how Orwell’s mystical and clever image was not sullied, despite his radical ideals and theologies. The essay starts by creating a setting where a friend would visit another friend’s grave, and he goes on to build Orwell up by calling him a “secular martyrdom” (Wheatcroft pp. 1) and calling his aura “heroic.” Wheatcroft mentioned the unique language which Orwell uses in his writing and more particularly 1984. By the fourth paragraph, Wheatcroft starts a shift from building Orwell to describing his elusiveness as a person as well as a writer. He goes further to say that Orwell was not a great novelist or journalist, instead his fame and skill are best placed in his postcards, politics, and language; only then “he enters the realm of deathless literature.” (Wheatcroft pp. 2) Wheatcroft discusses the importance of Orwell not falling into one select group of politics, and instead placing himself in the cracks between different ideologies despite his labels. His politics cannot be placed into any 1 group as they change from place to place. These points that Wheatcroft highlights in his essay, I have not thought of in the same way. It also allowed me to better understand Orwell’s personality, as well as his reasons for writing. Wheatcroft writes of Orwell in a personable way, but also creates this facade for Orwell as a mysterious and elusive person simultaneously.
Orwell’s essays, while did not stand out in terms of its plot (in the sense that they were not surprising or shocking), his style of writing and symbolism was something that takes time to understand and many times, I would find myself intrigued, but at the same time confused by how he approach symbolism, particularly in Shooting an Elephant, where how the act of killing one can includes so many layers of meaning that I might not have fully discovered.
Like doing other DRJs, having to take notes and read has made me realized the improtance of note-taking: to fully externalized our feelings and intpretation into words and approach the reading easier. However, I have found that in all 4 readings, I had missed some details that I never considered before and did not record them in my DRJs. Therefore, I’ve better understood that the point of DRJs is to only take notes and understand how we understand a piece of writing, it is also to force ourselves to read slower and more mindful about what is written.
This leads me to my next point, feedbacks. Had I not receive feedback from Mr. MacKnight, I would not have known that there were some details of some readings that complete skipped through. So, having feedback is a great tool for me to consider multiple questions, answers about a reading that I did not see.
Lastly, Wheatcroft’s tribute to Orwell has nailed a few important points for me. Firstly, Orwell in many ways was not exceptional in the real of political writers, but rather, he had the ability to transformed his writing into something of his very own that is quite exceptional. This gave me an answer to what makes a good writer: is that one do not have to be well-known, well-recognized, but one must know their writing and intentional about it. Secondly, became clear to me how Orwell wrote the way wrote, because he was described to be a man in pursuit of justice and truth and honesty, which spoke true in all of his essays about the tyranny, absurd things of society he reflected.
Overall I did not exactly like reading the selected Orwell essays but completing the assignment was doable. Some of the essays were more enjoyable than others like How the Poor Die. Orwell seemed more invested in this part of his life and the writing reflected it. These essays were a chance to understand what the world was like for people back when Orwell was alive. I learned more about writing techniques like similes and metaphors, as well as expanding my vocabulary.
Reading these excerpts allowed me to see how different tones could be constructed using different vocabulary. An example that caught my eye was in Such such were the joys “a wretched drivelling little creature”. This is an example of a more harsh tone and diction. It improved my vocabulary as well as I did not know what drivelling meant at first.
When doing the DRJs I found that I was analyzing the excerpts more deeply and understanding how Orwell was conveying a certain tone, like in the example above, rather than just how the writing was making me feel.
Although this was a step in the right direction Mr. MacKnight found ways to make me think deeper in his feedback. He asked questions about my observations that would help to further analyze the text. He also pointed out parts that I missed in my DRJs and asked how those made me feel. This made me think deeper about the essay extracts, and from different perspectives.
Why Orwell Endures by Geoffrey Wheatcroft raises an interesting point about why Orwell suffered. Although I had to read through the essay multiple times due to confusion, one parts still made sense to me. The writer states that Orwell was never great at anything but good at many things. This allowed him to be known and stay relevant throughout his writing career. For the most part, reading this essay was unsatisfying as the writer never seemed to make a point. He kept going without hitting the nail on the head, and continued to talk about the history surrounding Orwell’s life. This made it hard for me to take in what the writer was trying to say as I had trouble following along.