Eric Arthur Blair (25th June 1903-21st January 1950), we know him as George Orwell the author of the famous modern novella Animal Farm (1945), was a man survived through the struggle of life. He was born in Motihari, a town in Bengal in the British Raj India. He was the son of Richard Blair, a British official, with low salary, and a French woman, Ida Mabel Blair (nee Limouzin). His father retired after his birth and the troubles started due to lack of money. It became difficult to them to bear the expenditure and has to return to England around 1907.
The poverty and anxieties of poor were firmly set in his mind in early childhood which persisted for longer time in his life. Later it reflected in his writings. The scars of poverty stuck so deep in his life that he described them into his autobiographical essay Such, Such were the Joys (posthumously published in 1953). He was sent to a boarding school on the Sussex coast in 1911 where he became aware of his and his family’s social status and tortured at school as a poverty ridden boy not only by the fellow students but some teachers also. He had to face humiliation regularly and grew indifferent and eccentric. It was the worst of the times of his childhood at the boarding school. But he outnumbered in his brilliance. There he won the scholarship for further study and pursued next grades at Eton from 1917-1921 where he met Aldous Huxley, a famous novelist and critic of the time and could learned lessons under his guidance.
He studies for five years at Eton and wanted to go for higher education which was available only in university which cost was beyond his reach. Some of his friends advised him to find a job instead of further study considering his economic condition. He returned to India in 1922 taking a job in Indian Imperial Police and had to go to Burma. He had a secret wish to become a writer but the situation was not in his favour. He could publish a piece of writing in his stay at Eton in college magazine. That was his early attempt in writing. He worked in Burma in Indian Imperial Police from 1922 to 1927 but was not satisfied with the unsentimental life there and confessed: “for five years, I had been part of an oppressive system and it left me with a bad conscience…I was conscious of an immense weight of guilt that I had got to expiate.” It shows how he was considerate and respected the feelings of human beings. In 1927, he left the job and returned to England with determination of not to return to Burma. Later, the sordid experiences of Burma are delineated in his novel Burmese Days (1936). When he returned to London in 1927, he lived in poorer parts of the city, labour areas where low life is found. His ambition to become a writer arose and he decided to pursue it going to Paris. In 1928, he moved to Paris to try his literary career.
At initial, he could not get success, many publishers rejected his articles and essays. He got disappointed and soon went out of money. Again poverty compelled him to live in filthy areas among low people. He had to work in private hotels washing the dishes. There, he could not get anything but the experiences for his later works. The most sordid experiences of his life are reflected in his works like:
1. Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)
2. Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
3. A Hanging (Essay, 1931)
4. Shooting an Elephant (Essay, 1936)
5. The Spike (Essay, 1931)
6. How the Poor Die (Essay, 1941)
He lived in Paris for two years receiving sour and pungent experiences of the life and in December 1929 returned to England at his parent’s house in Southwold, a coastal town. There he worked as a tutor, first to a disabled child, then to a three young brothers among them one Richard Peters who later got the fame of a distinguished academician. He wrote reviews for the magazine Adelphi and engaged in his literary career. Still his economic condition was not so good. Often he visited London for his writing where he has to work as domestic help at a lodging only for half a crown, an amount equal to none to bear his trip and living. He became regular contributor to Adelphi. He tried to publish his account of experiences as A Scullion’s Diary (first version of Down and Out in London and Paris) but was rejected by the publisher. Then he tried at Faber and Faber, a reputed publishing house at the time, but again rejected by T. S. Eliot, the then Director of the publishing company.
In 1932, he was appointed as a teacher at Hawthorns High School, west London. It was a small school of 14-16 boys only. Now he received offers for publications in Adelphi. He fully worked on A Scullion’s Dairy converting it into the full version of Down and Out in London and Paris, his experiences as tramp in London and Paris. But he did not want his family to be got embarrassed and suggested some pseudonyms to publisher, among them was George Orwell, which later became famous. It is published in 1933. In the same year, he became the teacher at a bigger institution, Frays College. Now his economic condition was improving but meantime he fell ill and caught pneumonia, his health was in danger. He recovered after a long time. In 1934, he returned to his parents at Southwold and terminated the job of teaching. In this period, he tried various irrelevant jobs to earn money—he worked as a workshop assistant, maintained a chicken farm, a village store and a public house, a part-time assistant in a second-hand book shop, etc.
Till this time, he was adequately writing and publishing. In 1935, he met Eileen O’Shaughnessy, an attractive young woman in a party. He married her in June 1936, the time Spanish Civil War broke out. He went to Spain with his wife to cover the Spanish Civil War. There he became the victim of a stray bullet on the road which caused him a severe wound. We find this experiences in his Homage to Catalonia (1938). He returned England in 1937 and wished to join the army but was rejected on the grounds of poor health and the wound of the bullet. In 1940, he could join the Home Guard of the Indian Service of B.B.C. Broadcasting to Malaya. With ending of the World War II in 1945, he resigned the job and resumed his literary career. But again the era of utter poverty reversed back and he had to work very hard to earn livelihood of him and his family through writing. He could not save his wife Eileen in this bitter days who died of a minor operation. Animal Farm, his master work was ready to publish in 1944 but was rejected by four publishers. It published next year i.e. 1945 in Britain and in 1946 in United States.
From 1946, he was contributing regularly as a literary journalist in London. But in 1947, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In 1949, he was hospitalized and there in a room he married Sonia Brownell to whom he courted and engaged earlier in the same year. But he could not recover from his deteriorating health and at the age of 46, on 21st January 1950 he died of the bursting of artery in lungs early in the morning leaving behind a vast body of famous and experience based rich literary works.
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Author: Datta G Sawant