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Author Biography

Learn more about George Orwell's life and the personal experiences that inspired his novel 1984 in Course Hero's video study guide.

George Orwell | Biography

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Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born on June 25, 1903, in India, where his father worked for Britain's Civil Service. Within a year his mother returned with the children to England, where they were raised.

Blair started boarding school in 1911. There, as a scholarship student, he first encountered class distinctions. Not popular with the other students, he took refuge in books and won another scholarship—this time to Eton. He couldn't afford to attend university after graduation, so he went to Burma (now Myanmar) to work for the Indian Imperial Police. He returned to England in 1927. He would call on these experiences in the creation of 1984.

Blair adopted the pseudonym George Orwell when he published a memoir called Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). The living conditions and situations he describes in the book are dismal and were based on his own experiences as a writer struggling to make a living. Orwell did not want anyone to connect those conditions to him or his family by using his real name.

Orwell embraced socialism and decided he would do more than just write about the plight of the working class. He traveled to Spain to join the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification and fought in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). The war began as a conflict between Nationalist rebels and the socialist Republican government. The Nationalists were backed by the fascists and the Nazis, while the Republican government, for which Orwell fought, was supported by many European countries, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Orwell was wounded by a fascist sniper and decided to leave Spain. This wasn't easy to do, however, because the communist forces in Spain, backed by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, had declared Orwell and his comrades traitors to the antifascist cause. Orwell and his wife had to plot their escape to London in secret. This experience, too, informed the creation of 1984.

During World War II, Orwell worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation, where he produced propaganda supporting Britain. He didn't like disseminating propaganda, and that may have influenced his depiction of his protagonist's work for the Ministry of Truth in 1984.

In 1945 Orwell published the allegorical novella Animal Farm, in which pigs, representing leaders of the Russian Revolution, fight over philosophical differences. In 1949 critical acclaim of 1984 brought Orwell prosperity for the first time in his life. He died in London seven months later, on January 21, 1950.

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