Remembering George Orwell
1903, June 25. - 1950, January 21.

George Orwell and the Problem of Authentic Existence

by Michael Carter
Published by Croom Helm Ltd.
Beckenham, UK. 1985

Although George Orwell is indisputably a socio-political writer, many critics have responded to his novels in ways which suggest that his literary identity cannot be adequately expressed in socio-political terms. His appeal, furthermore, is 50 various, that people of almost any political persuasion can find some of their views eloquently expressed in his work. The aim of this book is to define an aspect of Orwell's literary identity which underlies and informs the socio-political content of his novels and which may account for his being 'more widely read' than perhaps any other serious writer in the twentieth century.
It is the author's contention that the thematic source of the Orwell novel is the problem of authentic existence, and that Orwell's particular sociopolitical concerns were expressions of this problem. In Chapter One selections of Orwell's autobiographical writings are assessed, for in these the existential conflict between authentic and inauthentic modes of existence is traceable from childhood onwards. Orwell, it is argued, developed an inauthentic self-for-other in response to authoritarian oppressions, and he consequently pursued a double-life characterised by the contradictions of 'doublethink'. Only decades later, in the Spanish Civil War, did he finally resolve his doubleness and become single, authentic and free. Chapter Two is an account of existential authenticity, and provides both the terms and the perspective subsequently applied in the separate chapters in which each of Orwell's five novels are analysed. In every case, J.P. Sartre's 'bad faith', Martin Heidegger's 'mine' and 'they' and Martin Buber's 'I','Thou' and 'It', are seen to be crucial explanatory notions within the Orwell novel. In his Conclusion, therefore, Dr Carter redefines Orwell as an existential sociopolitical writer .

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