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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
George Orwell was the pen name of an English writer, Eric Blair. He was born in Motihari, Bengal in India in 1903, the second child of an Anglo-Indian family. At the age of eight, he was sent to boarding school in England. After winning a scholarship, Orwell went to Eton, where he studied from 1917 to 1921 and was exposed to liberal and socialist ideas. From 1922 until 1927, he served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma; he resigned because the climate affected his health and because he believed that the British rule in Burma was unjust.
He returned to Europe to pursue a writing career and first lived in Paris and then London. At first he could not find a publisher for his works. As a result, he led a life of poverty, doing odd jobs to make ends meet. His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, was published under his pseudonym in 1933; largely autobiographical in nature, it told about living among the poor. Since the book was not a financial success, he supplemented his writing income by teaching school. His next two published books were novels. Burmese Days, published in 1934, was based upon his experiences in Burma, and A Clergyman's Daughter, published in 1935, was based upon his teaching experience.
By 1935, Orwell had essentially become a political writer and novelist and was largely able to earn a living from his literary efforts. He was greatly influenced by leftist ideas and became a member of the Independent Labour Party. In 1936, he served in the loyalist forces during the Spanish Civil War and was wounded in the fighting. When Communists began to control the Spanish political scene, Orwell and his wife left Spain, fearing imprisonment. Upon returning to England, he published Homage to Catalonia, a book about his war experience.
A year later, in 1939, he published another novel, Coming Up for Air that predicted the outbreak of World War II. By the time the war began, he had grown disillusioned and left the Independent Labour Party. His political views against totalitarianism were later revealed in Animal Farm, published in 1945, and in 1984, published in 1949; both books met with great success, especially in the United States.
Orwell also published collections of his essays, including, Inside the Whale and Other Essays; The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius; Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays; and Dickens, Dali, and Others: Studies in Popular Culture.
Throughout his life Orwell expressed his hatred of cruelty and totalitarianism. Though he was critical of Communism, he considered himself a socialist. He died, in 1950, at the age of forty-seven due to a long illness.
In writing 1984, George Orwell admits that he was influenced by the novel We, written by Russian author Eugene Zamiatin. Though Zamiatin's work appeared much earlier, there are striking similarities between the two books. Both Orwell and Zamiatin belonged to the anti-Utopian School of Thought, which opposed the traditional Utopian philosophy that painted a near-perfect picture of the world.
1984 is not just a depiction of society under a dictatorial government; it is also a product of the author's own disillusionment with the Communist Party. The novel reveals a negative picture of life in a strictly state-controlled society (with allusions to the Soviet society).