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Orwell's Gripe

             Commenting on and criticizing literature is a common practice. Indeed there are entire books, classes and even careers dedicated to this very purpose. To criticize language, particularly the contemporary lexicon, however, is a more risky endeavor. George Orwell has dared to do exactly this in his essay "Politics and the English Language". More surprising than the fact that Orwell took on this challenge is the striking passion and clarity with which he speaks. Orwell is very deliberate and careful with the diction and syntax he uses to buck muddled meaninglessness. This may be the most clear and straight-forward writing we've studied in this class.
             Before getting to meanings and functions of the essay, we should first observe the severity exhibited by Orwell. If a reader can't grasp Orwell's ideas themselves, he or she will still ascertain that Orwell is serious. He refers to the fight against the "abuse of language" as a struggle. A genuine concern for language and even society is evident. We've encountered such concerns already; studying the likes of Alexander Pope and Matthew Arnold. These authors also spoke out against ongoing trends in society that they found disagreeable much the way Orwell does. The parallels do not end there.
             Matthew Arnold wrote in a similar fashion about his feelings regarding societal trends in the "Sweetness and Light" portion of "Culture and Anarchy". In it he scrutinizes the middle and working class" lack of taste. He felt that all the freedom the commoner had had led him to be a part of a mass culture whose taste was lesser than that of the elite and the educated (perhaps one and the same). Orwell also chastises the trends of his society. His complaint is that people now embrace and practice a language that sells the involved parties (speaker, writer, listener, reader) short. Like Arnold, Orwell felt these flaws were repairable. Arnold felt that the spread of education, an education which employed a fixed cannon, dedicated to literature that was established and recognized as great art, would lead to acceptably cultured masses.

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