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Animal Farm | Study Guide

George Orwell

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Author Biography

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

George Orwell | Biography


George Orwell is the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, who was born on June 25, 1903, to British parents in India. His mother separated from her husband, a poorly paid civil servant, shortly after their son was born. Blair's mother took him and his sister, Marjorie, back to England, where Blair was educated. In 1911 he began boarding school in Sussex, attending on scholarship. In 1917 Blair went to Eton, one of Britain's premier secondary boarding schools, also on scholarship. His poverty relative to the other students in these environments introduced him to the class divisions that would inform his politics and his writing.

After Eton, Blair opted to serve in Burma (now Myanmar) with the Indian Imperial Police instead of attending university. His experiences in Burma inspired his lifelong opposition to imperialism, later reflected in his novel Burmese Days (1934). In 1928 Blair resigned from his post and returned to England. He lived among the lower classes in London's East End upon his return, giving rise to his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). The conditions described in this book, which straddles the line between fact and fiction, are so bleak that Blair adopted the pen name George Orwell to distance himself and his family from them.

Orwell's experiences with the working classes led him to embrace the concept of economic equality for all, and in the 1930s he dabbled in socialism, which in turn led him to travel to Spain in December 1936 to fight in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). He joined the forces of the Republican government, backed by the United States and the Soviet Union, in opposition to Francisco Franco's Fascist regime. After Orwell was wounded in battle by a sniper, the communist forces in Spain, supported by Josef Stalin, accused him of betraying the anti-Fascist cause, and Orwell and his wife had to flee the country. This experience left him with an ongoing aversion to Stalin's brand of communism.

Orwell spent part of World War II as a correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which further fed his distaste for totalitarian regimes. His experiences in Spain and as a BBC reporter created the political leanings that shaped his two best known works: Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). Both texts offer scathing criticism of the ways the socialist and communist ideals of equality had been warped by totalitarian regimes. Orwell died on January 21, 1950, in London, England.

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