Eric Blair, better known to the world as George Orwell, was a curious figure altogether. Born into the lower echelons of the British imperial civil service, he grew up to repudiate the values of the empire, to lay his life on the line in the struggle against European Fascism, and to win worldwide acclaim for warning the world of the danger of totalitarianism in his most famous works, Animal Farm (1946) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). He was an unlikely candidate for the job. His heritage was that of the “Little Englander, ” embodying values of patriotism, thrift, and conservatism. Although he would reject none of these values, he went beyond them to explore other cultures and political ideas out of which grew his great contributions to Western literature.
He was born in Bengal, where his father worked in the Opium Department of the Government of India. Like many English boys born overseas, he was taken back to his homeland to be educated. Working hard at what he called (with the Britons' superb sensitivity to class hierarchy) a “lower-upper-middle-class” prep school, he won a scholarship to England's most prestigious grammar school, Eton. That he did not take the usual route to Oxford afterwards was as much a consequence of his family's genteel penury as of his own disinclination. Instead, he joined the Imperial Indian Police and was stationed for five years in Burma. He returned to England in 1927, not able to bear police work any longer. There he found that he could not fit back comfortably into his class. Thus began a stretch of his life when his long-suffering family tolerated its peculiar son's aspirations to become a writer. But too proud to live on others' handouts, he began the life of a tramp, roaming throughout the English countryside and as far away as Paris, inhabiting the underworld of the dispossessed, discovering the futureless life of those whose energy is entirely consumed by their search for food and shelter. Out of this experience came Down and Out in Paris and