Homage to Catalonia | Study Guide

Orwell

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Homage to Catalonia | Summary

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Summary

December 1936: Barcelona

Homage to Catalonia begins in Spain in December 1936 and ends in June 1937. In February 1936 Spain elected a communist government by a narrow margin. Spanish army officers revolted against the government, starting the war. The two sides in the Spanish Civil War are the Republicans, who defend the newly elected government, and the Nationalists, who rebel against it. Author George Orwell comes to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39); his wife, Eileen (1905–45), accompanies him as far as Barcelona. Orwell finds Republican Barcelona full of joyous egalitarian spirit. He joins a militia organized by the POUM, the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista or Workers' Party of Marxist Unification.

January 1937: Alcubierre

In January 1937 Orwell and his company arrive at the front in the region of Aragon in northeastern Spain, in a town called Alcubierre. Both opposing armies are dug in in the hills; it is like trench warfare except the opponents are very far apart. (In trench warfare, opposing armies settle into holes and trenches dug in the ground. They attack and counterattack from these relatively permanent positions, firing at each other and occasionally emerging from their trenches to make raids.) Orwell endures boredom, food shortages, weapons shortages, and lice. Orwell is also sent to the towns of Monte Trazo and Huesca. At Huesca he participates in a nighttime raid on a fascist position.

April, May, and June 1937: Barcelona

In late April 1937 Orwell is granted leave and returns to Barcelona, where his wife meets him. He finds Barcelona much changed; wealthy people are once again in evidence, strutting in new clothes and eating expensive food. The government is carrying out a propaganda campaign, praising the Popular Army and vilifying the militias. The Popular Army is the force organized to replace Spain's regular army, whose officer class had largely defected to the Nationalist side. Factions on the Republican side are at each other's throats; the chief division is between anarchists and communists. In early May there are fierce street battles, which came to be known as the May Days, and Orwell fights to defend a POUM building.

The POUM is declared illegal, and Orwell knows the government will blame the POUM and other anarchists. He had been planning to join a communist brigade to be of use to the Republican cause. But after the May Days in Barcelona, Orwell is disgusted with the communists' betrayal of their fellow leftists, the anarchists and the POUM.

Orwell returns to the front at Huesca. During a battle a Nationalist sniper shoots Orwell in the throat; the bullet passes through his neck without piercing an artery. His arm is also painfully wounded. Orwell languishes in field hospitals with his wound untreated. Finally he is treated in a hospital near Barcelona. A doctor predicts, mistakenly, that he will never talk again.

Orwell does regain the use of his voice, and he and Eileen decide to leave Barcelona. POUM members are being thrown in prison. Orwell evades arrest and returns to the front to get his discharge papers. He hears that his old POUM commander, a Belgian named Georges Kopp, has been imprisoned and will likely be shot. He visits Kopp and tries to get him released, but his efforts fail. In June 1937 Orwell and his wife leave Spain, taking a train to France. When Orwell arrives in England, he finds it lovely but sleepy, and he wonders what it will take to awaken England.

Homage to Catalonia Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction

Introduction

1 George Orwell arrives in Barcelona to fight.

Rising Action

2 Orwell arrives at the front near Alcubierre.

3 Orwell fires on a human being for the first time.

4 Orwell joins a contingent of Englishmen at Monte Trazo.

5 Malaga falls; Orwell realizes there is Republican treachery.

6 Orwell participates in a night raid on a fascist position.

7 Orwell is granted leave and goes to Barcelona.

8 Class divisions and hierarchy return to Spain.

Climax

9 Communists turn against anarchists in Barcelona.

Falling Action

10 The POUM is declared an illegal organization.

11 Orwell is shot in the throat.

Resolution

12 Orwell and his wife leave Spain.

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