George Orwell's background indicates strong ties to British imperialism, but whatever romantic notions he might have had about it in his youth were shattered by his experience of serving in the Imperial Police in Burma between 1922 and 1927. In "Shooting an Elephant" and "A Hanging" he used his Burmese experiences as a metaphor to express his opposition to imperialism.
Later essay "Marrakech" is a very explicit exposition of its evils, and "Why I Write" and "Politics and the English Language", although dealing with writing and language, also brush upon the topic of imperialism. According to his biographers Peter Stansky and William Abrahams, Orwell's great-grandfather Charles Blair was a wealthy gentleman who received income from plantations in Jamaica as an absentee landlord, and his father Richard Walmesley Blair worked as an administrator for the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service.
Orwell himself was born in India, although he spent most of his childhood and adolescent years in England. In The Anti-Imperialism of George Orwell, Stephen Ingle recounts the statement of one of Orwell's friends from his early youth, who suggested that Orwell had some romantic notions about returning to the East. Orwell joined the Imperial Police and left for Burma at the young age of 19. The Cambridge Companion to George Orwell proposes that he became disillusioned within a year and developed into an opponent of imperialism, resigning his job when he returned to England after his first term of service
[...] Not related to Orwell's Burmese experience, later essay “Marrakech”, written in the spring of 1939, expresses Orwell's views on imperialism in a somewhat different way. Here Orwell denounces the evils of imperialism by expressly exposing the degradation of the native population through the images of local burying customs that treat the dead as animals, an employee of the municipality begging bread that the narrator is feeding to a gazelle, Jews in the ghetto not being able afford cigarettes in spite of all their hard work, invisible people working in the fiend and old women invisible under their loads of firewood. [...]
[...] ) He is the same colour as the earth, and a great deal less interesting to look at. People with brown skins are next door to invisible.” “Anyone can be sorry for the donkey with its galled back, but it is generally owing to some kind of accident if one even notices the old woman under her load of sticks.” In a final twist of irony, a young man from a procession of Senegalese soldiers looks at the narrator with respect, thus suggesting that the natives, in spite of all the mistreatment, still feel respect for their oppressors. [...]
[...] People with brown skins are next door to invisible.” “Marrakech” “Anyone can be sorry for the donkey with its galled back, but it is generally owing to some kind of accident if one even notices the old woman under her load of sticks.”- “Marrakech” Works cited: Ingle, Stephen. (1996). The anti-imperialism of George Orwell. In J. Horton and A. T. Baumeister Literature and the Political Imagination. New York: Routledge. [...]
[...] ( . ) They rise out of the earth, they sweat and starve for a few years, and then they sink back into the nameless mounds of the graveyard and nobody notices that they are gone. And even the graves themselves soon fade back into the soil.” “Marrakech” a tropical landscape one's eye takes in everything except the human beings. ( . ) He is the same colour as the earth, and a great deal less interesting to look at. [...]
[...] In conclusion, all five essays reveal something of Orwell's views on imperialism, albeit in different ways. While “Shooting an Elephant” and Hanging” draw on Orwell's years in Burma and in part express his opposition to imperialism through metaphors, “Marrakesh” uses explicit imagery to call attention to the degradation and suffering of the natives caused by the imperialistic reign. References to Orwell's views on imperialism can also be found in his essays on writing and language, “Politics and the English Language” and I Write”. [...]
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