Spring 2002

ISSN 1473-219X





The English observer: Orwell, Englishness and Empire

Stephen Woodhams,
University of Luton

The existing literature on George Orwell is considerable and the arguments varied. One approach has been a biographical extension of either a literary or political theme. The effect of such treatment has been what Raymond Williams has referred to as the ‘creation of a character called Orwell who is very different from the writer.’ (Williams, 1979: 385) Starting from that point this paper follows Williams's suggestion that what is needed is to 'widen the discussion... in other words not Orwell writing but what wrote Orwell.' (Williams, 1979: 388) In taking up this challenge I argue that this approach must place England and Empire side by side since Orwell’s conception of one was affected by his perception of the other. More precisely, I argue that to each of these Orwell was, by origin, choice and temperament, an outsider, an observer.

Firstly, I will attempt to place Orwell in the politics of his time. This is less to elicit any new revelation as to provide a setting. Secondly, I trace Orwell’s writing from Empire to England and back again, introducing major themes and drawing out the effect contrasting the two, finally suggesting that Orwell made commitments that were of his experience and time, and not ours.

Perhaps we can get some initial measure of the importance of Orwell for the left from Raymond Williams’s comments in an interview which later became part of the collection Politics and Letters:

In the Britain of the fifties, along every road you moved, the figure of Orwell seemed to be waiting. If you tried a new kind of popular cultural analysis, there was Orwell; if you wanted to report on work or ordinary life, there was Orwell, if you engaged in any kind of socialist argument, there was an enormously inflated statute of Orwell warning you to go back. (Williams, 1979: 384)

But to understand this situation we need to go back a further forty years. The end of World War One brought with it a significantly changed political landscape. The Liberal Party were set on the path of long term decline, while Labour were beginning their prolonged history of lost opportunities, divisions, and encampment on the opposition benches.

As such, one distinctive feature in the context of Orwell’s work was a political landscape where not only did the right dominate, but the left was at times impotent, (Pimlott, 1977). The divisions which have always plagued the left were represented in the interwar period by three main groups: The Labour Party, the Independent Labour Party [ILP] and the Communist Party of Great Britain [CPGB]. Yet to suggest such impotence would seem to run counter to the oft-cited notion, ascribed to the thirties at least, of the 'red decade'. The two may be to an extent married if the politics to which each refers are compared. To picture the left as ineffective is to focus on Parliament, the economy and the main international events. The red decade, by contrast, draws on an independent realm of politics, operating more by way of networks and causes, which owed less to the grindings of Labour Party machinery than the spontaneous actions of the Left Review, the Left Book Club and, of course, the situation in Spain.

Such a scene was arguably far more congenial to a figure such as Eric Blair, for whom organisation and hierarchy were precisely what he was rejecting in leaving the Indian police force. He had entered this period in a very particular manner. The lower-upper-middle class (as Orwell defined his background) had grown so as to fulfil a special function within English society. Not part of the land-owning classes they still carried with them many of the trimmings of that class. Their function was to ensure the necessary order for the maintenance of the society which their betters had instituted. But such order was more than merely a domestic affair, needing to be maintained across the globe, throughout the far reaches of an Empire. Its upkeep required continual activity, both mental and physical. To this end sections of the middle class were trained in the art of service. (Williams, 1963: 314-315)

One particular feature of this class, Williams suggests, was their contradictory relation to power. Not owning land or substantial capital, Orwell’s lower-upper-middle class were responsible to those that did, since it was the latter who required such a service. On the other hand, such work required command be taken over the activities of a large workforce employed for more mundane tasks, and an even larger number carrying on the production on which a land-owning class’s wealth depended. As Orwell once pointed out: ‘What we all seem to forget is that the overwhelming bulk of the British proletariat does not live in Britain but in Asia and Africa... This is the system we all live on.’ (Orwell, 1970: 397) The lower-upper-middle class were then dominant and dominated. A circumstance, which Raymond Williams suggests can be read across to the double vision characterising so much of Orwell's writing.

To not only return to England from having spent much of his early adult life in the service of its Empire, but then to reject that life, was to be left in need of finding some new means of identification. In the process was created a persona of Orwell that could be decscribed as unfinished. In the 1930s the movement is as much physical as it is intellectual. In an attempt to, as it were, reverse the role he played in Burma, Orwell embraces the world of the outcast. As important as any literary presentation of this is Orwell's own attempt to acquire an identity, opposite to that from which he came. Of course no such identity could be fully achieved, nor was any such probably intended. Instead Orwell, as Blair was now becoming, was situated in the tension characteristic of this decade. In effect, there wasn't a social class with which to identify with, unless one suggests that the outcasts from the ‘higher’ classes were themselves a class.

One means out of the dilemma was to identify with the vanguard of the working class, the ‘Party’ – a choice adopted by a significant minority. The CPGB in the 1930s had probably a larger share of middle class members than at any other time. Yet this was precisely the grouping against which Orwell's strongest condemnation was directed – an action that left Orwell even further isolated and marginalised. Yet, paradoxically, it is this that gave Orwell his greatest advantage, the ability to be part of something, yet always separate.

Having completed Down and Out in Paris and London, Orwell was commissioned by the Left Book Club to visit the North of England to write an account of life during the depression. Williams notes this ability again whereby ‘... in the first part, the 'observation' of the industrial north, one of the key points, in literary terms, is that Orwell is the isolated observer going around and seeing for himself.’ (Williams, 1974: 60)

This is the contradictory character of Orwell’s background carried forward into a different circumstance. While he aligned himself with working class people, he remained an outsider. This ability was exploited superbly, of course, in the careful representations of working class life that so characterised his writing. Yet there is no hiding that these descriptions come from within a different structure of feeling. The stance of this aligned observer can be seen to reoccur in Spain.

The Spanish Civil War had broken out in 1936 and in 1937 Orwell travelled there. Crick suggests that by this time he was already out of favour with the Communist Party, due to the attack on the left in England in the second half of The Road to Wigan Pier, which was published in March of that year. As it is Orwell fails to join the International Brigade and travels under the direction of the ILP – joining on arrival the United Marxist Workers Party (POUM), a development that had enormous effects on Orwell's future political thinking. Prior to Spain, the development of Orwell’s politics is not entirely clear. The usual account though is that, his political commitment came from experience rather than any sort of abstract intellectual discourse (Crick, 1982). In Orwell's case this experience encompassed the education of the ruling classes, the Empire, and the life of the poor. Orwell's socialism was more moral indignation, a will to end what he had witnessed in Malaya and the North of England, than deduction from first principles. This perhaps explains, in part, Orwell's indifference during much of his time in Spain to the arguments between the different anti-fascist factions. But this can also be seen again to be part of that characteristic trait whereby it was possible to identify with a cause to the point of dying for it, yet remain aloof from the lives of people around you.

In his own accounts, this heightened positive desire for socialism came not from any understanding of politics in the abstract, but from the experience of a place, Barcelona, where for a time the 'workers were in the saddle'. (Orwell, 1966) The new stronger commitment to socialism soon though comes to be combined with an even stronger detestation of the official forms in which socialism was so often been advanced. Also, Spain begins the long gestation of Animal Farm, even if the actual writing does not start till some years later.

The aim of this excursion into familiar ground is to demonstrate that, at each juncture, Orwell can be seen to be on the outside of, or even opposed to, any larger formation. After returning from Spain, for example, he joins the ILP, when a very large percentage of its membership are already leaving. The reason for this, it seems, were in part paternalistic, though there is also the more positive feeling that the ILP represented the only significant political grouping between the social democratic stance of the leadership of the Labour Party, and the 'Stalinism' of the CPGB. A term which incidentally, Williams suggests Orwell was already using in the 1930s.

But Orwell’s marginal place in relation to political organisations during his own lifetime seems to be inverse to his importance as an influence for left political formations from the 1950s. Yet while race and nation have become a major area of consideration during the intervening decades, little attempt has been made to bring these issues to bear on the role of Orwell as a dominating figure in politics, particularly of the ‘new’ left, which itself existed primarily outside of organised party politics. Critical debate on the intentionality of Orwell's work, particularly with reference to the later novels, and an appraisal of Orwell’s complex, and even contradictory, views of race and nation, have, largely, been kept separate. The remainder of this paper seeks to demonstrate that within the created persona of Orwell coexisted an anti-imperialism, encompassing a personally experienced rejection of racism, together with an articulated evaluation of the English and notions of nationality and ideology.

George Orwell’s family had lived in India, where his father was employed as a servant of the Government’s Opium Department. Orwell subsequently himself enlisted in the Indian police, serving in Malaya. Here, though far from the stereotypically gracious atmosphere of the English Raj, Orwell held the power of a local colonial officer – a post, which, by his own account, was little more than that of a junior clerk cum village police sergeant. That Orwell came to completely reject his experience in this post is well known, though the process is perhaps less clear. Benard Crick put it as follows: ‘He came to reject imperialism while in Burma, but probably not at once, only gradually; meanwhile he did his duty with distaste. For his anti-imperialism would never imply anti-patriotism.’ (Crick, 1982: 147)

Yet the nature of that anti-imperialism in unclear. For instance, Orwell was able to hold to anti-imperialism alongside a eulogising of the English at times. This, precisely, was because he believed they could administer an Empire benefiting the colonised more reasonably than any new pretender. One writer has commented that ‘Orwell's condemnation of imperialism is unhesitating, but nowhere does he suggest that the blame can be set rightly in any one place every character, English and Burmese alike is to some extent guilty of opening up the abyss between human beings.’(Lewis,1981:65)

There is perhaps something of that abyss in the last two novels: Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four, though the referent is usually assumed to be something quite other than the ending of an English Empire. (O'Brien, 1974) What is evident, however, is Orwell’s complex view of imperialism. There is, for instance, an ambiguity not only with respect to blame, but also to who the losers are. On the one side, it might be the newly independent workers who find they have exchanged foreign rulers for cynical professional nationalist revolutionaries, or it could be those thrown forsaking the canopy of their Raj for a world that neither knows them or cares. In Orwell’s formulation it would seem to be both, and it is perhaps this that makes his view of Empire much more complex than any simple calculation can allow for. However that view is formulated, it cannot be separated from Orwell’s experience of a world marked out by death camp, atomic bomb and police helmet.

I had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East. I did not know that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it. All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British tyranny, as something clamped down ... upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian Official, if you can catch him off duty. (Orwell, 1962a: 92)

In this passage, the magnitude of the contradictions are made apparent. Neither is the passage unique, though perhaps more sharply worded than some. The contradictions are of hatred for the Raj and rage at those over whom it rules, but also a sense that for all its failings it is still better than anything to which other imperial nations might aspire. A sentiment that links directly into that sense of service, duty, and responsibility, which the authorities were so keen to emphasis.

This sense that the continuation of British rule (as opposed to anyone else's) was the surest way of maintaining the ‘liberty’ of the colonial subject, has been expressed by a former Deputy Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir Charles Jeffries. Referring to the time of his appointment to the Colonial Office and the process of decision making in place, he states:,

... my superiors asked themselves not what was expedient or fashionable or convenient or economical but what, in all circumstances of the given case , was right. And in judging what was right they were guided by a code which was no less compulsive for being unwritten and taken for granted. It was indeed the common code of our British Christian cultural inheritance, and amongst its rules were such as these – that an undertaking once given must be honoured at whatever cost; that every person has an equal title to have his case heard and to receive impartial justice; that the rights of the individual against the state are as important as the rights of the state against the individual; that in any case of doubt, judgement should err, if err it must in the direction of charity. (Jeffries, 1956)

In other words, the established regime was viewed as a great deal better than those that would supplant it.

To further elaborate on this image of the Englishman in the East, Orwell's claim seems to be that his contradictions were not only not unique but indeed the norm. At one level Orwell's descriptions are reminiscent of those stories of the young men who find there own strength of character, the reinvigoration of their own youth, the challenge that induced meaning into life, so reminiscent of early twentieth century imperial fiction. (Winks and Rush, 1990)

Orwell in Malaya is, however, only one side of a coin the other side of which is Orwell's relation to England. Here, as Salman Rushdie comments, we are among Orwell and the red pillar-boxes.’ The titles of his essays and collections alone provide an imagery more dense and deeper than flag, crown or military pomp; England your England, Shopkeepers at War, The Lion and the Unicorn. And this from a critic of English society! Yet the question returns, which England? And in this rests the intractable difficulty wherein any criticism of England resides – the bones of past battles to ‘have Orwell for ‘our’ side.’ To excavate some useful remnant of those encounters it would be useful to examine some of Orwell's own configurations.

One is Orwell's claim that a country whose strength rests on naval power, will be different in kind from one dependent upon an army. The notion brings together the possibility for the insularity or introspection necessary for little England, and the extension of those borders to incorporate that incoherent spread of territories gained (almost) in a fit of absent mindedness – yet constitutive of the largest of all empires. We are ‘safe’ with a navy, its presence in England is less obvious, its firepower inappropriate, at least at first glance, for internal suppression. Yet abroad that presence is reassuring, looking after 'our' interests. To simply point out that technically this is inaccurate is to miss Orwell's point. To grow up in the shadow of a naval dockyard and to be taken as a child to the cenotaph to sing 'for those in peril on the sea' to a naval band, is, perhaps, to recognise yourself in Orwell's claim.

We can perhaps better appreciate Orwell’s England if we focus in on the few essays written over a short, but crucial, period of time. Some have already been cited, but they need to be detailed with an eye to their chronology: Shopkeepers at War, The Lion and the Unicorn, My Country Right or Left and England Your England were all written and published in the opening years of the war. By contrast The English People was written in the middle of the war, completed in 1944. Thus, together, the different essays covered the period when Raymond Williams suggests there was a steady turn in Orwell toward a ‘regressive social patriotism’. (Williams, 197: 385) The earlier essays while varied, contained a revolutionary emphasis. There is the suggestion that what is wrong with England is that the ‘wrong’ people are in charge; that somewhere below the surface exists a real England whose character can be realised if only the trouble is taken to enquire. Of course Orwell had done just that in the 1930s both in London and the north. In the earlier war essays there is an appeal over the heads of both the established rulers of the country, and disaffected intellectuals who had made common with the organised politics of the Communist Party, the vanguard by which revolutionary change was to be secured. In Shopkeepers at War, he states:

It is only by revolution that the native genius of the English people can be set free. Revolution does not mean red flags and street fighting, it means a fundamental shift of power. Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place. What is wanted is a conscious open revolt by ordinary people against inefficiency, class privilege and the rule of the old. England has got to resume its real shape. The shape that is only just below the surface. (Orwell, 1962b: 58-59)

The juxtaposition of words and phrases is telling. Native genius is set against the rule of the old; the real shape of the country is set against class privilege. One overtly on show, the other just below the surface. The means of change is through conscious open revolt by ordinary people. Nowhere here is there a place for a political party. Yet we should note also that Orwell is almost careless in considering whether change might involve bloodshed. A stance which cannot be interpreted as anything other than revolutionary. In this, as in so many instances, Orwell is picking up on his own experience. The English people he trusts are those he saw in coal mines and Soho pubs. Against this his experience of organised politics consists of the communists in Spain. There the party had put down what Orwell perceived as the ordinary people, the popular revolt. We can argue with his interpretation, but at least he is consistent when, in the circumstance England under attack, he sees ordinary people, conscious of themselves, in open revolt, as the only salvation. The depth of trouble to which England had been brought by the rule of the old, is again expressed in Shopkeepers at War:

Anyone able to read a map knows we are in deadly danger. I do not mean that we are beaten or need to be beaten. Almost certainly the outcome depends on our own will. But at this moment we are in the soup, full fathom five, and we have been brought there by follies which we are still committing and which will drown us altogether if we do not mend our ways quickly. (Orwell, 1962b: 47)

Yet if we are to understand Orwell’s sympathy with ordinary people in these early war essays, we will have to move away from their representation as political beings, to their life as typical citizens. In the aptly named England Your England, Orwell describes ‘the clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns... the rattle of pin tables in the Soho pub... not only fragments, but characteristic fragments of the English scene.’ (Orwell, 1962a : 64)

The change of manner is significant. Yet, placed alongside the call to conscious open revolt, we, perhaps, begin to get a picture of what this revolution might look like. Certainly we can get a sense of whom the beneficiaries might be. If, however, we take the description of these varied figures and move forward to the descriptions in The English People, the picture begins to change considerable. The Blimps seem no longer to be the incompetent leaders completely lacking in any ability to think. Even the intellectuals whom Orwell had derided with such vehemence only a short while before could now be granted some sympathy. While they still remain outside British society they are not an enemy likely at any moment to betray the nation. By contrast the working class are now to be gently (by Orwell’s standards) chastised for not being more prepared to think about the condition of their society and even for marginalising their own intellectuals. The call to arms has given way to a sense of frustrated resignation where social change will be less certain and even then only small scale. Of course, it could be argued that the war had changed much in Britain. Orwell certainly saw Churchill and Bevin as a new breed more capable than their predecessors of creating the conditions wherein the war could be fought more effectively and peace provide real change. In that sense the Blimps were no longer in control to the same degree and therefore less in need of eradication. Whatever may be the case, Orwell seems to have softened his assault against their very existence, and instead there is a more conciliatory tone. Referring to the marginal place of intellectuals in British society, Orwell continues, ‘the philistinism of the English public alienates the intelligentsia still further. The loss to society is very great. It means that people whose vision is acutest – the people, for instance, who grasped that Hitler was dangerous ten years before it was discovered by our public men – are hardly able to make contact with the masses and grow less and less interested in English problems.’ (Orwell, 1970: 54)

In this extract the ordinary people do not represent a future which has been elided by the ruling class and dissident intellectuals alike. The former no longer present the threat they once had, so the need for their removal is less immediate. But it is the dramatic change towards the intellectual that is most obvious here. The clogs and pin tables, far from being features of what was best with England, are now features of a philistinism. As to the idea that all that was necessary was the conscious revolt of ordinary people, now these same folk, are encouraged to pay a little more attention to those who hitherto would lead them astray.

Yet it would be a mistake to imagine that these large political essays encapsulate the best and most cogent of Orwell’s writing. Also worthy of consideration are the short meanderings about English food, pubs and past times. In The Moon under Water, written for the Evening Standard not long after the war had finished, Orwell writes:

the cast-iron fireplaces, the florid ceiling stained dark yellow by tobacco-smoke, the stuffed bull's head over the mantelpiece – everything has the solid comfortable ugliness of the nineteenth century. In winter there is generally a good fire burning in at least two of the bars, and the Victorian lay-out of the place gives one plenty of elbow-room. Upstairs, at least six days a week, you can get a good solid lunch – for example, a cut off the joint, two vegetable and boiled jam roll for about three shillings. (Orwell, 1970: 63-64)

The essay captures a mood of nostalgia effective it seems, across different ways of life. Noticeably, Orwell goes to the pains of pointing out that The Moon under Water is a town pub 'only two minutes from a bus stop', thus locating it as rural but still accessible. The point may seem small but arguably it demonstrates the degree to which details matter in Orwell's England. No single large brush can paint this landscape; the different elements require care, are painted with fine stroke work. Arguably it is a feeling for detail which perhaps only someone with a degree of estrangement from a society could make. An estrangement, which not only retains elements of some earlier condition, but is also in the process of accommodating newer elements at the margins.

Compare this to the detailed delineation of Burma:

You start of in the typical atmosphere of an Eastern city – the scorching sunlight, the dusty palms, the smells of fish and spices and garlic, the squashy tropical fruits, the swarming dark-faced human beings – and because you are so used to it you carry its atmosphere intact, so to speak, in your railway carriage. Mentally you are still in Mandalay when the train stops at Maymyo, four thousand feet above sea-level. But in stepping out of the carriage you step into a different hemisphere. Suddenly you are breathing cool sweet air that might be that of England, and all around you are green grass, bracken, fir-trees, and hill-women with pink cheeks selling baskets of strawberries. (Orwell, 1966: 105)

Throughout this passage we are offered images of one world created against another. The distance in the recollection is only a train journey, yet the difference is apparently so great that Orwell resorts to the metaphor of hemispheres, to mark the opposition. The series of signs in the first half of the passage; smells, spices, tropical, swarming, dark-faced, are contrasted by those in the second; cool sweet air, green grass, bracken, pink cheeks, strawberries. The difference is apparently so great that Orwell feels a need to remind us that the people in the first part of the passage are human beings. This pairing of contrasts becomes even more noticeable when the two Burmas are placed alongside the familiar England of The Moon under Water. The second Burma, with its cool air and strawberries is likened to England. The analogy is logical, of course, if you want to describe a place to a readership who have no experience of it, This is merely the art of good storytelling. Yet in doing this, the first Burma, having already been set off as different, becomes all the more strange; smells, spices and swarming beings. This point is fairly simple, what can more easily be missed is the familiar common thread of Orwell the observer, the visitor, who is as much an outsider in The Moon under Water as in either of the Burmas of the second extract.

Yet to place these short descriptions of what Orwell saw around him, into context, we must return to a chronology. The English People had been completed two years before The Moon under Water. It was then 1944, and Orwell has climbed far into the whale. The hope for change of the early war essays is evaporating, and Orwell is writing Animal Farm. Salman Rushdie puts the matter thus:

I cannot resist the idea that Orwell's intellect and finally his spirit too, were broken by the horrors of the age in which he lived, the age of Hitler and Stalin (and, to be fair, by the ill health of his later years). Faced with the overwhelming evils of exterminations and purges and fire-bombings, and all the appalling manifestations of politics gone wild, he turned his talents to the business of constructing and also of justifying escape-routes. Sit it out he recommends; we writers will be safe inside the whale, until the storm dies down. (Rushdie, 1991: 96)

But his energies have not all together dissipated. Orwell still warns the English family and nation that,

... they will have to take their destiny into their own hands. England can only fulfil its special mission if the ordinary English in the street can somehow get their hands on power. The past thirty years have been along series of cheques drawn on the accumulated good will of the English people. That reserve may not be inexhaustible. By the end of another decade it will finally be clear whether England is to survive as a great nation or not. And if the answer is to be 'yes', it is the common people who must make it so. (Orwell, 1970: 55)

Some of the old strength of argument remains, but to the fore is an emphasis on the nation beyond appeal to any subordinate group or alternative politics. Arguably, the shift perceivable through the war essays is an increasing insistence on the nation as a homogeneous entity. Where in The Road to Wigan Pier it was definitely a class which Orwell sought to identify with, as the war progresses it is the more ambiguous collective of the people that is addressed.

If these varying pictures are put together (and there are distinct differences at any one time as well as over time) then Orwell's images of Empire and England are both complex and contrasting. Arguably, their basis is a belief that a nation which could include such a people as Orwell's working class must necessarily exert an influence for good on others. It is a belief in a population’s capacity for endurance, for stoically holding on to that which is decent, and it is this perception of decency that lies at the core of Orwell's England. More than concept or idea, Orwell's England is populated by people, the clatter of clogs in a Lancashire mill town, the snooker player in a Soho pub, or a miner hewing coal. In each case, these images mark what for Orwell is most worthwhile in England and what makes England the right nation to exhibit leadership and guidance in whatever world would emerge beyond Belsen and Hiroshima.

It was on this basis that Orwell could argue that, however hateful, the Raj was still better than anything which others could impose. From this followed the argument that empires which may follow were likely to prove worse still for those over whom they would rule. The upper classes, the Raj, imperialism, fascism, official Communism, all were either evil from the first or worse still had turned out to be false. In each case the state had in some part been the guilty party. There was nothing to suppose that the British state in itself would prove to be any better than any other. But it was what lay beneath it that, for Orwell, ensured some possible hope for the future. It is only in the wasteland of Nineteen Eighty Four that that light seems to have finally gone out for ever.

We could rework Orwell’s cadre to emphasis his experiences at public school, Burma, the social patriotism later in the war, and the moral and intellectual desolation of Nineteen Eighty Four. This would neatly place Spain and socialism as a temporary aberration. Such a formula may, at least, help to explain why Orwell should appear as a ‘cold war warrior’ before any cold war had began. Yet it seems a little too simple, too neat. Perhaps instead we could say simply that Orwell was confused, a loner who simply lashed out at what was close at hand: Buddhist priests, the Raj, Franco, left wing intellectuals, etc. Perhaps, in the end, it is less important what Orwell 'was' than as Williams suggests, Orwell ‘wrote’ Orwell. This paper has argued that, in any full appreciation of what constituted Orwell, the hated Empire cannot be ignored. Neither can his experience of rejection of that imperial class and his contact with the working classes, whether as down and outs or miners in the depressed thirties. Whatever else these experiences may have produced, for a critical period at least they produced an Orwell with little doubt as to the soundness of a people wrapped in grey mists and red pillow-boxes.


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