George Orwell: The 20th Century Genius Writer Who Slummed on Purpose

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

Many people consider literature to be one of the greatest inventions humans have ever come up with. Reading literature is a gateway to a ‘whole new world’. It gives us the chance to live a different life, experience new things, and visit places we might not even have heard of before.

Reading literature is also sometimes viewed as a cure when life gets hard. It is like a temporary escape from everyday challenges. Yet, what is even more beautiful is that literature is a passage to the inside of someone’s head, the writer’s head.

And writers are either ordinary or extraordinary. Ordinary writers are those who have a little bit of talent and must put in so much effort to come up with good literary work. On the other hand, extraordinary writers are the geniuses. They are the ones who produce exceptional literature that lives for years on end.

One of those geniuses is the British writer George Orwell.

And this is what today’s lesson is about.

george orwell
LONDON, UK – CIRCA SEPTEMBER 2019: George Orwell in front of BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place

George Orwell

George Orwell was a 20th-century British writer. His passion for writing appeared from a very young age and seemed to have grown with him the older he got as he became such a prolific writer. In his relatively short lifetime, George Orwell wrote a total of 647 works, 556 of which were essays on so many different topics.

These also include six novels, some of which are considered among the best pieces of literature ever written in the history of humanity.

In addition, George Orwell excelled in many other areas. For instance, he loved languages and could speak French and Burmese fluently. Besides, he studied Latin, Spanish, and Greek.

Though he is known worldwide as George Orwell, that was not his real name but rather his pen name. His real name was Eric Arthur Blair. 

Now one might ask: why did writers do that? Why did they not publish their work under their real names?

Well, there seems to be a point in this.

Some writers, especially young ones, used pen names to avoid any biassed judgement against them. For instance, the English literary sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë veiled their real names to eschew any blind criticism caused by their being women. At the time, British society, which was referred to as Victorian society, highly disadvantaged women.

Other authors use pen names to protect themselves and their families. In the case of George Orwell, he chose a pen name because he did not want to embarrass his family in case he failed as a writer or, as we will see later, by his poverty.

In addition, it is said that George Orwell did not like his first name, Eric, very much. That is because it reminded him of a character from an old story he once read. The character was called Eric, and George hated it so much.

So Eric Arthur Blair changed his name to George Orwell when it was time to publish his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London. He named himself Orwell after his favourite place in England, the River Orwell.


Writing is characterised as fiction and non-fiction.

Fiction work refers to creative narrative work that is mainly produced by the imagination of the author. It includes characters, events, and places described in detail. But they never took place in real life. A work of fiction may also be inspired by real events. However, they are tweaked in a way that does not copy reality.

For example, stories, novels, and legends are fiction work.

On the other hand, non-fiction refers to factual writings that document real events as-is. It provides information about actual topics. Newspaper articles, biographies and manuals as well as history, guide, academic, and self-help books are examples of non-fiction work.

Sometimes, stories can also be non-fiction if they are real and non-imaginary ones.

Speaking of that, George Orwell was kind of a master of all. He was a novelist and a journalist, so he wrote both fiction and non-fiction. He wrote novels, stories, essays, and reviews. He had multiple columns in different newspapers and magazines. In addition, George was a critic, and he criticised other literary works. 

But before all else, he was a poet, writing his very first poem only at four.

That is all regarding his writing career. Before that, George was a police officer in India. Then he became an army soldier and he served in Spain. He also worked as a teacher for a few year and as a bookseller too.

George Orwell is best recognised for his genius fiction work Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Both are imaginary stories inspired by significant, actual events and hold hidden meanings that stun the readers. In my opinion, I believe these are two of the most exceptional pieces of literature ever written in human history.

Early childhood (1903 – 1908)

George Orwell was born on 25 June 1903 in a small town called Motihari, located to the north of India. At the time, India had already been under British occupation for 45 years. It was even called British India. So many British people were already living, working, and serving as police personnel in India. 

George’s family was a lower-to-middle class family. His father was called Richard Walmesly Blair, and he had a minor position in the Indian Civil Service. His mother was called Ida Mabel Blair. She originally came from France, but she grew up in Burma. 

Though it is now an independent country and has changed its name to Myanmar, Burma was a part of the colonised empire of India for almost a century, from 1824 to 1937.

George was the middle child. His sister, Marjorie, was five years older than him. On the other hand, George’s other sister was Avril—Avril is the French name for April—and she was five years younger. 

Though he was born there, George never got to see India as a child. When he was just one year old, his mother took him and his sisters and returned to England. They lived in a small town called Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire located to the south of England.

Like India, George did not really see his father until he turned nine except for only one time. That is because his father had already stayed in India.

George’s family had limited financial resources and was considered poor. However, they had a very snobby, disgraceful attitude toward poorer families. They even pretended they had a higher social class while they did not.

This is something that George hated about his family and may have influenced some of his most important decisions later in life. 

First school experience (1908 – 1911)

When George was five years old, his mother sent him to a Roman Catholic French school in the town. She was not really happy with that as she wanted her son to receive proper education in a public school. However, such schools charged so much at the time, and the family was not able to pay the fees. So George settled for the Catholic school, where he studied for three years.

Second school experience (1911 -1916)

Lucky for him and thanks to his uncle, George received a scholarship to a preparatory school called St Cyprian’s School in Eastbourne, Sussex. Scholarships allowed pupils to study with little to no fees at all. That is how George was able to go to a public school whose little fees were affordable to the family.

The new school, however, was 172 km away from his hometown. It was different from the previous one because it was a boarding school. Pupils stay at boarding schools for the entire school year and only go home during school holidays such as Christmas.

Though we do not know much about George’s first school experience, his stay at the St Cyprian’s School in Sussex was not pleasant at all. In fact, he hated it. 

First, it had a snobby atmosphere that made George feel pretty uncomfortable. Since the school mainly accepted pupils who came from rich families, those pupils had the same snobby attitude that George once found in his own family. And as he and the other pupils who received scholarships were distinguished, George felt excluded and maybe even inferior. 

Another thing that George hated about the school was its headmaster and his wife. He often described them as horrible and cruel. They frequently mistreated him and constantly reminded him of his lower-class background.

The school officials also used to punish the pupils very cruelly. In their minds, they thought they were teaching them discipline. But in fact, they were humiliating them and causing them extreme physical and emotional pain.

One time when George was just seven years old, he wetted his bed at school. So the headmaster beat him with a riding crop. Later, George told one of his colleagues that it did not hurt him.

Unluckily for George, the headmaster overheard him. So he beat him again, so violently this time that the crop broke. This made the headmaster become more frustrated and blame George for the whole thing.

The sad thing about this incident was not just the savage punishment but also its emotional effect on George. The seven-year-old child felt guilty after he was beaten. The punishment had convinced him that he was a misbehaving child who ruined an expensive crop.

This tells us how much children can be affected by what they are told and how they are treated. Because of this incident and for many years, George believed that he would not be able to become good ever in his life.

Another bad thing about the school was the food. In short, it was a disaster. Breakfast was tasteless and somewhat sour. It did not look good to eat either, for it contained lumps, hairs, and other black things that no one really knew what they were.

The bathroom was not any better either. George reported that it was disgusting and slippery. The towels smelled awful too.

Despite all the misery that young George experienced during his time at St Cyprian’s, his passion for writing started to emerge. Maybe that was a counter-reaction to help him cope with the harsh conditions he was living in. So he wrote two poems which were published in a weekly newspaper in Oxfordshire.

Then George entered a history competition called Harrow History Prize. It tested pupils on dates and battles and asked them to write essays. George got second place in this competition after his friend Cyril Connolly who would also become a writer later on like George.

George would come to describe his preparatory school years in an extended essay titled ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’ later in his life and this is how we knew about them. The title was actually a line from a poem that his mother read to him and which he seemed to love.

Third School Experience (1917-1921)

His winning in the competition and his praised literary work made George win two other scholarships to two distinct secondary schools, Wellington College and Eton College. In early 1917, George left his preparatory school and moved to Wellington, where he studied for only one term, the spring term. That said, the term was not entirely pleasant.

Luckily for George, a place became available at Eton College, and he moved to study there in mid-1917. George’s study at Eton was rewarding in a way that made him quite happy. 

Despite that, George did not seem to care much about his studies. His performance was bad, and he usually received poor grades. On the other hand, he dedicated all his energy to writing, at least within the limits of his school.

For instance, George and his friend Roger Mynors, who would also grow to become an Oxford and Cambridge University professor, co-operated to produce a college magazine which they called The Election Times. George also participated in the Eton Wall Game. This game was invented at Eton and somehow looked like football.

Interestingly, both the Eton College and the Eton Wall Game still exist.

First job (1922-1927)

In 1921, George graduated from Eton College. His parents, the French mom and the overseas father, intended to send him to college if he won a scholarship. But George’s poor results at secondary school stood as a significant barrier in his educational path.

So George’s parents settled on him joining the imperial police. That was in 1922 when England was still ‘The Empire on which the sun never sets’. In other words, there were British colonies all over the world. In this regard, the imperial police was part of the Indian Police Services in which George’s father worked.

So George took and passed the entrance exam in October 1922. Then he and the rest of his family set off for India. George chose to serve in Burma, where his French grandmother lived. There, he took on a big responsibility. At times, he was in charge of securing 200,000 people.

George moved among different places, serving as a colonial officer. He stayed in Burma for a total of five years, from 1922 to 1927. After that, he got extremely sick and was allowed to return to England earlier than his official leave.

During the time he spent in England, George assessed his life. Ever since he was a boy, he wanted to become a writer. But those five years he spent in Burma showed him how the British were oppressing the Burmese. He felt very ashamed of his job. So he decided not to go back to Burma and quit his job as a colonial officer.

Instead, George made up his mind to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.

Moving to London (1927-1928)

When George went back to England, he lived in his family house in Suffolk. He reunited with his local friends and revisited his school Eton College. And in the pursuit of becoming a writer, George decided to move to London.

Upon his arrival in London, George received help from one of his family acquaintances, who provided him with a place to stay. He was also quite interested in George’s writings and gave him some good advice to improve his style.

At some point, after he settled in London, George decided to immerse himself in poverty to see how the poor people lived. Some say that he did so because he felt so guilty for what the British did to the Burmese. He also felt guilty for all the disadvantaged people and the harsh circumstances they were forced to live under.

In this way, George thought he might be able to push away some of that guilt if he became one of those people.

Another reason why George decided to slum on purpose was authenticity. As he wanted so much to write about poverty and poor people, he thought he would not be able to do that unless he experienced what it is like to be poor.

So George started visiting the poor neighbourhoods in London. These are usually known as slums. Since he wanted to experience what it was like to be poor and homeless, he lived in cheap lodgings where cleanliness was a luxury. He slept beside beggars, ate with workers, and wore ragged clothes.

In short, George drowned himself in poverty. And such an experience would later become the basis of his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London.

Early writings (1928-1929)

In early 1928, George moved to Paris and continued his exploration of poverty. He stayed in a working-class neighbourhood in Paris. After some time there, all his money was stolen, so he started doing low-grade jobs to earn his livelihood. One of such jobs was working as a dishwasher in some French restaurants and hotels.

Then in February 1929, George became very sick and was moved to a free hospital. The conditions at the hospital were very bad; yet, he found them inspiring to write about the poor.

During this period, George was practising writing. He tried to write his first novel, but that trial was relatively unsuccessful. On the other hand, he showed a better ability to write essays. So his first article was published in a French magazine in October 1928. Then another article by him was published in England in December of the same year.

George’s first articles revolved mostly around poverty and misery. The two poverty-exploring experiences in London and Paris had such a profound effect on him that even his subsequent work for the following 10 years would have poverty as the core idea.

Teaching (1930-1934)

In December 1929, George decided to get back to England. He had spent nearly two years in Paris, collecting as much information about poverty as he could, and he succeeded in getting published too.

Yet, George did not go back to London but rather to his hometown Suffolk. This is where he would live for the next five years. At the time, he was writing book, film, and play reviews for a magazine called Adelphi, where he also published many of his essays. Then he started teaching children. 

At the same time, George continued his poverty exploration and wrote in his personal journal about what he experienced.

Another thing that shows how dedicated George was to staying authentic was the fact that he got himself arrested on purpose by the end of 1931. He did this because he wanted to experience what Christmas in jail was like and how detainees felt at such a holiday.

So he drank heavily and behaved quite out of order in the hope that he would get arrested and sent to jail. Unfortunately, that did not happen. For some reason, the police officers saw that his behaviour did not deserve imprisonment. George later wrote an essay about this ‘failure’ which was published in Adelphi later in August 1932.

In April 1932, George started working as a teacher at a high school in Hayes, west London. The school was very small and only had 16 students. He stayed there for a year, then he moved to another school in west London in 1933.

George’s experience in the new school was different because it was bigger and had twenty times the students of the previous one. While working there, he bought himself a motorcycle and went on little trips in the surrounding areas.

One day while on one of these bike trips, George caught a cold. His condition then got worse and caused him inflammation in his lungs. When he was taken to the hospital, the doctors reported that his condition was extremely serious and that he needed immediate rest.

After a few months, specifically in January 1934, George had become better enough to leave the hospital. So he returned to his parents’ house and never worked as a teacher again.

First three books (1933-1935)

George thought of collecting all his poverty experiences in a non-fiction story, and so he did. The earliest version of that book was called ‘A Scullion’s Diary’ which he sent to multiple publishing houses. However, it was rejected. More than six months later, a publisher called Victor Gollancz agreed to publish it.

Yet, some changes were made to suit the first publication. For example, the book’s name was changed from A Scullion’s Diary to Down and Out in Paris and London. 

Secondly, the author’s name also changed.

Up until that point, George was publishing essays under his real name Eric Arthur Blair. But when his first book which documented his detailed experience of living like a tramp was about to come out, George was afraid he might embarrass his family. So he decided to use a pen name.

After thinking of four different names, George finally chose George Orwell. George came from Saint George, the patron saint of England, and Orwell was the name of a river George loved very much.

George particularly liked this new name more because it was ’round’!

Down and Out in Paris and London came out in early 1933. It received good feedback and soon became successful. This made the book get published again by a publishing house in New York, USA.

Sometime after publishing his first book, George finished his second novel Burmese Days. He thought his publisher would accept it, given that his first book was successful. But to George’s surprise, he did not.

On the other hand, George’s American publishers agreed to publish the second book in the United States. So Burmese Days was first published in America in October 1934. A year later, the book was published for the first time in England.

In Burmese Days, George poured his experience of working as a colonial officer in Burma. As we mentioned earlier, he felt both frustrated and guilty for how cruel the British occupation was ruling the poor nation. Such guilt was one of the factors why he decided to slum in England’s poorest neighbourhood.

At this period of his life, George Orwell was quite prolific. When his second book, Burmese Days, was first published, he had already started working on his third novel, A Clergyman’s Daughter. The story was inspired, again, by his own experience. But this time, it was his teaching experience the novel was centred on.

A Clergyman’s Daughter was published in March 1935. In June 1935, Burmese Days was published in the UK.

Third job (1935-1936)

As we have seen earlier, ever since George left Eton, he had been working. Even during his slumming experience and the walks he took all around London and Paris exploring poverty and collecting information, he was never wasting time. He was writing and publishing essays. He was drafting novels. He did several teaching jobs and never abandoned his passion for writing.

If you recall from above, George became extremely sick and spent some time in the hospital. He left the hospital in early 1934 and went back to his parents’ house, where they took care of him. That was the end of his teaching career.

So he worked on his books and socialised with his old friends in town. By October 1934, George had already finished A Clergyman’s Daughter and sent it for publication. When his friends left, he felt lonely and isolated. So his French aunt secured a job for him in London. That was when he left the town to start a brand new chapter of his life.

The new job was quite suitable for a writer and someone who liked knowledge and literature: a bookseller. It was a part-time job in the Booklovers’ Corner, a bookshop run by two of George’s aunt’s friends.

Such a job provided George with an excellent daily timetable to earn his livelihood and enjoy his life too. He used to write in the morning, work at the bookshop in the afternoon, and meet friends and other writers in the evening. The bookshop owners also provided him with suitable, nearby accommodation. 

George kept working in the bookshop until late January 1936. But as he decided to go on another investigation, he had to quit.

Fourth book (1936)

George was advised by his publisher to start an investigation on the economic conditions under which people in Northern England lived. This area of the country was known as the home to the working class. So George travelled to Manchester then to Wigan, which is a city in Northern England, and this is where he started his investigation.

George talked to people, asked them questions, and visited them at their homes to evaluate the conditions they were living in. He asked about their wages and whether or not they received good public health. He also went to the public library in the city to check the health records and learn about the different work conditions.

George kept a record of everything he was told, discovered, and learned. He stayed for one month in Wigan, then moved to Liverpool and Yorkshire. He attended meetings, visited mines, sought the answers to tons of questions, and wrote down everything.

After it seemed like he got a good deal of information, George started working on collecting all of it in a book, but he actually came up with two books. The first one was a novel revolving around the middle class and stemming from his investigation. It was called Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and it was published in April 1936.

The second book documented George’s journeys in Lancashire and Yorkshire. It was called The Road to Wigan Pier, and it was published in 1937

During this period, George got married to Eileen O’Shaughnessy, who he had already met a year before. 

Going to Spain (1936-1937)

Precisely during the second half of 1936, things were not politically stable in Spain to the point that started a civil war. Civil wars are those that happen inside one country where two sides fight.

With regard to the Spanish civil war, it was between the nationalists and the republicans. The nationalists were represented by the military, which sparked the war when it took over the country and overthrew the president in late 1936. This movement the military wanted to implant in the country was then called fascism. On the other hand, the overthrown government represented republicans. 

It seemed like the military side was stronger because it received support from both Germany and Italy. Concerned by that already, George decided to go to Spain to fight against the nationalists, the army. He wanted to defend democracy and fight fascism.

So in January 1937, George left his new wife, Eileen, and set out for Spain to join the republican forces.

Five months later, George got shot in the throat and was immediately taken to the hospital. Although his case was not extremely serious, his voice was almost unheard. This injury declared George unfit to continue serving in the army. As a result, he went back to England.

Hardship (1937-1938)

George Orwell was destined for a series of bad luck once he returned from Spain. Besides being in a bad health already, the essays he wrote about what he experienced in the Spanish civil war were rejected and banned from publication. His publisher was quite concerned these articles would get him as well as George in trouble.

In addition, George’s fourth book, The Road to Wigan Pier, was attacked by a local newspaper. In March 1938, his health worsened. So once again, he was admitted to the hospital, where he stayed up until September.

When George was out of the hospital, he received a precious gift from one of his acquaintances: a trip to Morocco. It was secretly organised by the novelist L. H. Myers because he loved George so much and was genuinely concerned about his health.

So Myers funded that trip to allow George and his wife to spend a few months in Morocco and escape the cold English winter in a way to help George regain his health. 

George and his wife, Eileen, travelled to Morocco in September 1938. They moved around the country, visited many cities, and enjoyed the warm weather and the delicious food for eight months straight.

In late March 1939, the couple returned to England.

Animal Farm (1945)

Upon his return, George spent his time writing essays as well as reviews for plays, films, and books for different magazines and newspapers. When World War II started in late 1939, George hoped to join the military again to fight Nazi Germany. But because of his deteriorating health condition, he was rejected. So he continued his writings which were centred on the war events during that period.

In 1941, George got a job at the BBC which he kept until 1943. During that time, he was already working on his new novel, but he made pretty slow progress. When he resigned from the BBC, George had more time to focus on the novel and was able to finish it in 1944. The novel was called Animal Farm.

Animal Farm was first published on 17 August 1945, only a few months after the war in Europe had ended and two weeks before Japan surrendered.

In short, Animal Farm tells the story of a group of animals that rise up against their cruel human master and kick him out of the farm. Then, they create a peaceful democratic society within the farm where all animals are equal. But some animals, the pigs, covet the power of ruling the farm and slowly turn into dictators.

The story is fantastic. Some people believe it was inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917. It explains how people protest against suffering, corruption, and poverty, seeking justice, equality, and better life and work conditions. But they get betrayed by their own leaders who turn greedy and become dictators themselves.

Because it was highly critical, publishing Animal Farm was not easy. By that time, George was already a famous writer. Yet, his new novel was rejected multiple times already before it was finally accepted for publication.

The reasons for rejecting Animal Farm were many. For instance, publishers feared it may create political tension. As we have mentioned earlier, Animal Farm resembled the Russian Revolution and what happened after it. At the time, Russia was united with many other nations and together was called the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was ruled by Joseph Stalin, who was suppressing his people.

The allied forces won World War II. They were represented by the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. So when an English writer criticised an ally of his country, he might spark problems between the two countries. That is why publishers rejected the novel at first. 

That said, Animal Farm was finally published after being rejected a total of four times. The publisher was called Secker & Warburg, and the book came out in August 1945.

Contrary to all expectations, Animal Farm boomed. It became a massive international success that brought George Orwell a lot of recognition. Even his publishers and readers were looking after his next novel.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

And his next novel came out four years later, in 1949.

From 1945 to 1949, so many things went on in the brilliant writer’s life. It was a tough period that was crowned at last by what would become his eternal literary legacy: his final novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The story in Nineteen Eighty-Four has a dark theme and can be fairly categorised as black social science fiction that can potentially turn into reality. It shows a pretty pessimistic vision of how societies would be ruled in the future.

In these societies, governments would control the people without them even being aware of that. The story, once again, revolves around dictatorship and injustice.

Such a dark theme stemmed from George’s personal experiences, World War II, and how the world became after it.

For example, George’s horrible experience in the Spanish civil war as well as Stalin’s dictatorship clearly influenced the novel. There was also that widespread fear during these post-war years; fear that was intensified by the wreckage, destruction, and damage that happened in the country.

What made the situation even worse was George’s declining health as well as the loss of his beloved wife, Eileen, who died while having surgery.

To deal with his sorrow and grief, George buried himself in writing. So it seemed like his writing pace skyrocketed. He left London for Jura, which is an island in France, to escape the harsh winter of 1946-47.

Besides escaping the cold weather, travelling to Jura freed George from so many constraints and distractions. When he was in London, he used to receive many requests to give lectures and talks as the success of Animal Farm was still booming.

But in Jura, George was isolated in a distraction-free environment. Yet, at some point, his pace seemed to slow down again, and he was struggling to finish the book.

The conditions of his accommodation were no good either. There was no electricity, so he had to use Calor gas to cook and heat water. The smoke from the fire used to fill up the entire house, so George was not breathing clean air. In addition, he was addicted to smoking which did not contribute but to make everything even worse.

Then, George was joined by his son Richard who he and Eileen had adopted before she passed away. Richard arrived with his nanny, and soon George’s younger sister Avril joined them to take care of them both.

During his stay in Jura, George divided his time between completing the book and doing other activities. For instance, he gave himself the chance to spend time with his son Richard, enjoy the beautiful scenery of Jura, go for walks to explore the area, and go fishing.

But one day, George, Richard, the nanny, and Avril were on a small boat led by George. He apparently lost control for a few seconds, and the boat nearly drowned, causing everyone to fall into the freezing water. This did no good at all to George’s lungs and made his condition worsen even at a faster pace.

Such incidents had George slow down in writing the novel even more. And he was already behind schedule, breaking his promise to his publisher. But all of a sudden, George experienced a counterreaction when he started writing feverishly to make progress and compensate for the wasted time.

But again, he fell sick, extremely sick, and was taken to the hospital. There, the doctors diagnosed him with tuberculosis which required particular medicine that was not available. But thanks to his friends, George could get hold of the medicine.

In the course of a few months, George’s health improved so much that the tuberculosis symptoms disappeared. When he left the hospital after finally feeling better, George went back to Jura to continue working on his novel.

By that time, his publisher had already been frustrated. So he urged George to finish the novel by the end of the year. At this point, George was already done with his first draft and was revising the manuscript. So he promised his publisher to meet his deadline.

Despite being in the final stages of writing his book, George did not seem to like it that much as he found it long. He even said that he would have thrown it away only if he had not been very sick while writing it.

After the stage of producing the manuscript, which means writing the book by hand on paper, George needed to type it on the typewriter. Despite his health worsening, he insisted on taking on this responsibility.

So he typed the whole manuscript, which was then called a typoscript. By the end of November 1948, he was done. At first, he called the novel The Last Man in Europe, but then he changed it to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

George kept his last promise to his publisher and sent him the book by mid-December 1948. The publisher found it extremely horrifying; one of the “most terrifying books [he] had ever read”, but he published it anyway.

After that, George became sick again. So he was admitted to a hospital in England. That was in January 1949. He became worse, felt extremely ill day after day, and he spitted blood.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in June 1949. Less than a week later, the novel was published in the USA. It circulated the world, received recognition, collected praise from here and there, and was soon considered a masterpiece. Even Winston Churchill, the British prime minister during World War II, reported that he loved it so much that he read it twice.  

Sadly, George was not able to witness any of that because of his extreme sickness.

There are many speculations about why George chose to call his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and abandon the first title, The Last Man in Europe. Though he did not like the latter very much, no one is sure why he specifically chose Nineteen Eighty-Four. The only sure thing is that George’s publisher had gone for Nineteen Eighty-Four for it was a more commercial book title.

Many people like to describe Nineteen Eighty-Four as visionary. The novel is set in an imaginary future where society is totally controlled and monitored by the government represented by Big Brother. Through his novel, George wanted to warn the people about the dangers of dictatorship when the government becomes the centre of everything in the country.

Despite its massive success, Nineteen Eighty-Four also received some opposition. Because it is highly controversial, even more controversial than Animal Farm, the novel was banned from re-publication several times. It was also accused of being disruptive and trouble-causing.

In total, Nineteen Eighty-Four was translated into more than 65 languages and was read by millions and millions of people. Even now, more than 70 years after its first publication, the novel remains vivid, clear, and contemporary.

Though the world has now become significantly different from how it was after World War II, readers can sense how fresh this novel is and will continue to be. That is because every government is still practising some kind of oppression and near-dictatorial acts against its citizens.

Final Days (1949-1950)

It seems like George was determined to enjoy his life until the very last moment. So in September 1949, he proposed to Sona Brownell, and the couple announced their engagement. 

A month later, George collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital. His wedding was actually held in his hospital room in mid-October 1949. George was extremely happy at the time; however, he did not survive to enjoy this happiness for long as he died on 21 January 1950.

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