The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology

The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology

The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology

The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology

Synopsis

Examines all of Orwell's major novels, essays, and journalism and argues that his reputation for moral authority is undercut by condescending attitude toward women.

Excerpt

One day in the early stages of working on this book I was asked by a friend what it was that drew me to Orwell. I remember answering: "His passion and his honesty." Given the enormous changes in my understanding of Orwell over the past several years, I have often recollected this scene and wondered how it was that, at one time in any case, I was in such agreement with majority opinion about Orwell. I have a few ideas about this now, and possibly they will help explain certain aspects of the Orwell mystique.

First of all, I think my answer reflected a general assent to received opinion about Orwell. The extent to which our presumably personal, subjective, "authentic" responses to a given writer are shaped by prevailing ideas seems to me to be a largely unexplored and undiscussed issue. As readers, we tend not only to repeat what others have said, but also to have our own vision fundamentally altered, deflected, or constricted by a chorus of consensus. I have reread earlier drafts of this book and note that I was often, at that point, still writing in what I now call the "honorific," carefully couching criticism in words of praise and general agreement with the gist of the Orwell myth. As a result of continued rereadings of Orwell's work, however, I came to see that a passion for appearing honest and actually being honest are very different things, and that saying what one thinks can be as much an act of aggression as a display of lofty principles. Something else struck me as well: that the critic who praises Orwell . . .

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