George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

however great the pains expended upon it, the idea of Room 101 and the rats will always remain comic rather than horrific.

But the last word about this book must be one of thanks, rather than of criticism: thanks for a writer who deals with the problems of the world rather than the ingrowing pains of individuals, and who is able to speak seriously and with originality of the nature of reality and the terrors of power.


79.

Harold Nicolson, Observer

12 June 1949, p. 7

Sir Harold Nicolson (1886-1968), diplomat, diarist, historian and biographer of King George V (1952).

Mr George Orwell’s latest book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, can be approached either as a novel embodying a political argument or as an indictment of materialism cast in fictional form. As a novel, it is straightforward. The hero, Winston Smith, is a civil servant verging upon middle age who is unable to adjust himself to the totalitarian system under which he works. He falls in love with a clerk in his office, is arrested for holding subversive views, and after much physical and mental suffering repudiates both his opinions and his girl. Winston Smith himself is portrayed with convincing detail; the girl, Julia, is not intended to be much more than a lay figure; and the remaining characters loom as gigantic thunder-clouds of terror or drift past the narrative, whimpering in trails of mist. The Inferno atmosphere of the story is cunningly created and well maintained.

Mr Orwell’s purpose, however, was not to compose a romance with an unhappy ending. He set out to write a cautionary tale, by which to convince us of the terrible results which will follow if through inattention we allow our humanistic heritage to be submerged in a flood of materialism.

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