[I was without a doubt what is commonly referred to as a “nerd” in high school. I spent my lunch hours in the library and woe be it to me if it was arbitrarily closed and I had to wander the halls of my rural Michigan school dodging the bullies, cliques, and budding sadists and sociopaths who were “looking for a little fun” which I might provide them. (I had to keep moving to prevent getting cornered). Thus, spending time in the library was actually a healthy choice for me, mentally and bodily. And it was in the library that I discovered the likes of George Orwell. I remember really enjoying his short novel, “Keep the Aspidistra Flying.” I haven’t read it for many years, but I distinctly recall being impressed by his descriptions of the beginnings of commercialization/propaganda and its effect upon the mind of the hapless consumer. I thought, wow he really nailed it: don’t people realize that most of the things they think they want are products they have been told (in various ways by various methods) they need? Although he was British and long dead, he was a kindred spirit (when you are a loner – forced or otherwise – you are grateful when you come across a kindred spirit). He was attempting to find the truth (ugly though it may sometimes be) and express it, not unlike his character Winston Smith in his novel “1984.” (By the way, I love that “1984” is suddenly popular again. I hope its renewed reading will prompt readers to ask questions, seek answers and apply them to the present.)  jbm 3/25/2017]

“…a sense of desolate loneliness and helplessness, of being locked up not only in a hostile world but in a world of good and evil where the rules were such that it was actually not possible for me to keep them.”

“Sin was not necessarily something that you did: it might be something that happened to you…I was in a world where it was not possible for me to be good.”

“A child may be a mass of egoism and rebelliousness, but it has not accumulated experience to give it confidence in its own judgments.”

“I hated Bingo and Sim, with a sort of shamefaced, remorseful hatred, but it did not occur to me to doubt their judgement.”

“If I contrived to seem callous and defiant, it was only a thin cover over a mass of shame and dismay.”

“…because I lived among laws which were absolute, like the law of gravity, but which it was not possible for me to keep.”

“Most of the good memories of my childhood, and up to the age of about twenty, are in some way connected to animals.”

“The overcrowded, underfed, underwashed life that we led was disgusting, as I recall it.”

“…since to do so would have been to admit yourself unhappy and unpopular, which a boy will never do…misfortune is disgraceful and must be concealed at all costs.”

“Whenever one had the chance to suck up, one did suck up, and at the first smile one’s hatred turned into a sort of cringing love.”

“And yet all the while, at the middle of one’s heart, there seemed to stand an incorruptible inner self who knew that whatever one did – whether one laughed or sniveled or went into frenzies of gratitude for small favors – one’s only true feeling was hatred.”

“The various codes which were presented to you at Crossgates – religious, moral, social and intellectual – contradicted one another if you worked out their implications…Broadly, you were bidden to be at once a Christian and a social success, which is impossible.”

“But even if you climbed to the highest niche that was open to you, you could still only be an underling, a hanger-on of the people who really counted.”

“There never was, I suppose, in the history of the world a time when the sheer vulgar fatness of wealth, without any kind of aristocratic elegance to redeem it was so obtrusive as in those years before 1914.”

“From the whole decade before 1914, there seems to breathe forth a smell of the more vulgar, un-grown-up kinds of luxury, a smell of brilliantine and creme de methe and soft centered chocolates – an atmosphere, as it were, of eating everlasting strawberry ices on green lawns to the tune of the Eton Boating Song.”

“Before the war the worship of money was entirely reflected and untroubled by any pang of conscience.  The goodness of money was as unmistakable as the goodness of health or beauty, and a glittering car, a title or a horde of servants was mixed up in people’s minds with the idea of actual moral virtue.”

“And the pretended belief in Scottish superiority was a cover for the bad conscience of the occupying English, who had pushed the Highland peasantry off their farms to make way for the deer forests and then compensated them by turning them into servants.”

“Life was hierarchical and whatever happened was right.”

“I hated him, just as I hated Jesus and the Hebrew patriarchs.”

“But the whole business of religion seemed to be strewn with psychological impossibilities.”

“What you ought to feel was usually clear enough, but the appropriate emotion could not be commanded.”

“The good and the possible never seemed to coincide.”

“I had no money, I was weak, I was ugly, I was unpopular, I had a chronic cough, I was cowardly, I smelt.  This picture, I should add, was not altogether fanciful.  I was an unattractive boy.  Crossgates soon made me so, even if I had not been so before.”

“I could not invert the existing scale of values, or turn myself into a success but I could accept my failure and make the best of it.”

“To survive, or at least to preserve any kind of independence, was essentially criminal, since its meant breaking rules which you yourself recognized.”

“Take away God, Latin, the cane, class distinctions and sexual taboos and the fear, the hatred, the snobbery, and the misunderstanding might still all be there.  It will have been seen that my own main trouble was an utter lack of any sense of proportion or probability.”


Copyright: 1946 by George Orwell
Copyright:  1945, 1946, 1949, 1950 1952, 1953 by Sonia Brownell Orwell
You will find 50 George Orwell essays here: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300011h.html
author bio:  https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Orwell

[photo credit: Granta]