December 15

This Day in History

Literary

Dec 15, 1936:

George Orwell delivers the manuscript for The Road to Wigan Pier

On this day in 1936, writer George Orwell delivers his manuscript for his book The Road to Wigan Pier, which chronicles the difficult life of the unemployed in northern England. Then he promptly sets off for the civil war in Spain.

George Orwell was the nom de plume for Eric Blair, who was born in India. The son of a British civil servant, Orwell attended school in London and won a scholarship to the elite prep school Eton, where most students came from wealthy upper-class backgrounds, unlike Orwell. Rather than going to college like most of his classmates, Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police and went to work in Burma in 1922. During his five years there, he developed a severe sense of class guilt, until, in 1927, he elected not to return to Burma while in England on a holiday.

Orwell, choosing to immerse himself in the experiences of the urban poor, went to Paris, where he worked menial jobs, and later spent time in England as a tramp. He wrote Down and Out in Paris and London in 1933, based on his observations of the poorer classes, and The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937. Meanwhile, he had published his first novel, Burmese Days, in 1934.

Orwell became increasingly liberal in his views, though he never committed himself to any specific political party. Although he fought with the Republicans in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, he later fled the country as communism gained an upper hand. His barnyard fable, Animal Farm (1945), shows how the noble ideals of egalitarian economies can easy be distorted. The book brought him his first taste of critical and financial success. Orwell's last novel, Nineteen Eighty-four, brought him lasting fame with its grim vision of a future where all citizens are watched constantly and language is twisted to aid in oppression. Orwell died of tuberculosis in 1950.

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