Orwell Essay Politics And The English Language

In this way, abstract language becomes a means for political writers to “justify unjustifiables.” He presents a list of tools that can be used to resist dishonest language.

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All of these pieces of writing show attempts to deceive and mislead, and, he claims, they are full of swindle.

One of the most interesting actions he takes in this essay is to translate a passage from the Biblical text of Ecclesiastes.

Summary Orwell opens by discussing the value of working against the decay of the English language. Thus, if it is corroding, this is a human-controlled rather than simply natural process. In clear terms, Orwell describes the cycle in which the poor use of language becomes reinforced by that poor use.

He uses a clear analogy to describe this cycle, stating that “a man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks” (251).

George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language,” begins by refuting common presumptions that hold that the decline of the English language is a reflection of the state of society and politics, that this degeneration is inevitable, and that it’s hopeless to resist it.

This disempowering idea, he says, derives from an understanding of language as a “natural growth” rather than an “instrument which we shape for our own purposes” (251).

As corrupted language smothers independent, original thinking, it thus serves a political purpose.

Orwell demonstrates the deceptive effect of various political terms, showing how elevated, complex and abstract language actively disguises ugly and violent concrete realities.

Known for its poignancy and illustrative metaphor, he reduces the Ecclesiastical passage to a baffling convolution of words that seems to barely mean the same thing as the original.

By adding in larger, more flexible words and removing all the imagery, he removes all the clarity from the work and makes it much harder to understand, all under the guise of updating the language.


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