An author needs to know his purpose in writing. Why is he writing, what’s his motto behind that, does he want fame or money, is there anything that stitches together all the authors, Orwell has answered their questions in his essay “Why I Write.”
Here in this essay, Orwell describes every incident where his literary self was motivated or triggered, how his creativity got the fuel which was needed. He boldly announces that childhood taste and emotion a vital role behind making up a great writer.
Orwell has been a robust democratic socialist for his whole life, and his hate for totalitarianism is visible in his works. Besides these things, there are imagery, clarity, and flow, which makes this essay very rich. He also discusses his life and career and even the desire he felt for writing in his childhood.
Table of Contents
Why I Write Analysis
Orwell started his “Why I write essay” by making a bold announcement that it was evident in his childhood he wanted to be a writer. Unexpectedly he gave up this very idea of writing when he was in his late adolescence period. But he goes on to say that, “I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I would have settled down and written books.”
It is quite clear that some dire circumstances forced Orwell to abandon this idea of writing, but the longing for writing remained the same, and it won’t get satisfied until Orwell becomes a writer. It won’t be superficial if we say that Orwell was born to be a writer.
Orwell then goes on to say that he was the middle child in his family. It is universally acknowledged that the eldest child and the youngest child in a family gets more attention than the middle ones. The elder and younger children are regarded as the “apple of the eye”; everyone often neglects the middle ones. Orwell wrote down this pain significantly, ” for this and for other reasons, I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms…”.
This type of severe loneliness led Orwell to create his imaginary world where he could control things. In that world, he was able to create situations that would lead him to his catharsis. Conversations with imaginary friends were the path of “escape” from the reality for Orwell. The truth was so harsh for Orwell that “he barely saw his father” in it.
Orwell describes his condition in his own words, ” I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons.”
It is relatively straightforward, like crystal, that Orwell was lonely and isolated from the outer world. It worked as an advantage for Orwell because he got the power of imagination from the very childhood. A good writer must be the owner of a fantastic and robust vision, which was already there in Orwell.
Whenever he had to face something terrible in the real world, he just used to dive into the imaginary world; that’s how he used to counter “the unpleasant facts.” The strange thing is that instead of having such mighty imagination power from childhood, Orwell couldn’t produce many writings then.
He says that ” nevertheless, the volume of seriously intended writing that I produced throughout my childhood would not amount to half a dozen pages.”
The reason is he was severely ‘undervalued’ and overlooked, which caused harm to his self-confidence. He was never looked after or motivated during his early days of writing. He couldn’t manage to gather so much courage to produce writings then.
The non-violent nature of Orwell reflected in his early writings, which were mainly based on nature. He described his hands as “bad and usually unfinished nature poem.”
When he grew up, he got engaged in literary activities to sharpen his potential, but his soul was without any peace in this work. He never got connected to his works, like writing for school magazines or writing for a job. He describes this dilemma in his own words like, “these magazines were the most pitiful burlesque stuff you could imagine, and I took far less trouble with them than I now would with the cheapest journalism.”
The main reason why he couldn’t find in literary activities is that he was still in search of the real purpose of writing, which kept the hunger alive in him.
The transformation of Orwell from adolescence to adulthood was pretty straightforward. He got this beautiful habit of making up endless stories that only exist in his mind. It’s the kind of practice that can be seen in every writer at their young. Orwell considered himself to be a “narcissist”.
He meant it in a sarcastic way though. His stature was very high in his own look, like a ‘Robinhood’, who is ought to save the world. But then he got the taste of adulthood and all those fascinating thoughts were washed away slowly but suddenly. He describes this situation like this, ” but quite soon my story ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw.”
In this way, Orwell describes how he was approaching the threshold of adulthood. He gives a vivid description of how his nature was changing, how the approach towards nature, environment, the smell got changed. It shows that his “obsession with himself” got vanished all of a sudden. His obsession was replaced by a more meticulous and broader perception of everything.
If you see his early writings,” he pushed the door open and entered the room, a yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains…” we will find it more aesthetic cause the words have been chosen very carefully to describe a scene.
Though Orwell was already writing beyond his age still, he searched for the real purpose of writing. Orwell remarked that “Although I had to search and did a search for the right words…”.
All of a sudden, Orwell discovered the beauty of writing, hidden in the form of poetry. He describes this like, “I suddenly discovered the joy of mere words.” He felt the words, and their effect on people, how they lefts everyone spell-bound.
Though this kind of beauty got the attention of Orwell, the purpose of Orwell’s writing was still different. He wanted to write,”…naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes and also full of purple passages…”. His tendency to writing was to awestruck readers by capturing beautiful, enthralling, and captivated incidents.
Orwell thinks it is essential to know every single about the writer before reading his works. First, you have to get familiar with the psychological, social, and emotional background of the writer to grasp the tone of the writing. It will take you deeper into the work.
Orwell then goes on to say,” …in tumultuous revolutionary ages like our own…”. It means that Orwell was aware that even his age has got some revolutionary aspects that will leave a significant impact on every people.
Orwell remarks that he will never be able to overcome the memories of his childhood like upbringing, family, environment, homeland, etc. It has developed a particular perception in him, which is necessary though for a writer to goes on the career of writing. That specific attitude will remain with him till he goes to the west.
Orwell then makes a contradictory statement by saying that it is essential for a writer to be punctual, to get over the childhood emotions. Otherwise, he or she won’t be versatile. It is necessary to get matured with time, but it is also essential to keep alive the natural self.
Motives Of Writing
After explaining the childhood and transformation of emotions beautifully, Orwell goes on to clarify the motives which someone to write. There are four motives for every writer. These motives are Sheer Egoism, Aesthetic Enthusiasm, Historical Impulse and Political Impulse.
There is not a single writer to be found without these four motives even they exist in different proportions. The difference can be seen because the writers write from different perspectives and environments.
Why I Write Sheer Egoism
This is the first motive that Orwell talks about. It means the inner desire to be famous, to be seen as competent. Every writer wants to leave their footmarks in the golden history so that people can remember them. This particular motive exists in every human being no matter what their profession is; everyone wants to be remembered beyond their earthly days.
Though this looks like to be a selfish kind of person, it is still not what Orwell meant. When you live so chiefly, basically for others, you transcend beyond your own life. In that way, a self-loving, self-esteemed person can be considered as selfless too.
Why I Write Aesthetic Enthusiasm
Aesthetic Enthusiasm is the second motive that Orwell talks about in his essay. This means the joy of writing. It a divine duty of a writer to appreciate the beauty he sees in the world around him. The solidity of prose and also the rhythm amuses the readers with a different kind of pleasure.
The urge to share beautiful experiences in words with others also motivates a writer to keep going. The aesthetic might not be a concern for most of the writers, but ultimately that’s the main thing a writer needs to possess to seek more and more attention.
Literature is considered to be the mirror of society. One can know everything there is to learn by just reading the contemporary writings. The third motive that Orwell discusses in his essay is Historical Impulse, which is basically to see things as they are and find out the truth.
The writers record things as they are them so that the coming generation gets the ultimate benefit. Every passing moment becomes history in the next moment, and it is the writers who the count of every moment.
Why I Write Political Impulse
Getting rid of the current socio-political situation is not a writer’s duty. He must push and educate people to move towards what is best. A writer always tries to enlighten society through his writings. For the sake of the mass, a writer is not allowed to remain politically uninfluenced. Orwell boldly announces that art and politics can not remain disengaged for an extended period.
Evaluation Of The Motives
After making us familiar with the four motives of a writer, Orwell goes on to evaluate them. He says that at times one motive can get stronger upon another motive. They are continually oscillating from person to person and from time to time. No one can ever have a balanced proportion of these motives. Orwell states this condition in his own words, ” I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth…”.
Orwell talks about the possibility that if he had lived in a peaceful age, unlike the one slaughtered by world war, his writings would have been different. He would have written romantic novels, but the demand of the era was something different. Later in his essay, he says how he became a democratic socialist and remained that for the rest of his life.
Orwell makes it clear that it was essential to merge aesthetic enthusiasm with a political motive. For him, it is crucial to writing with a political condition in mind.
George Orwell always wrote for the benefit of the mass, “…my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited”. Orwell has adopted a critical time towards other writers in the last lap of his essay. He thinks all the writers are traitors as they present every incident superficially in front of the public.
Lastly, in his essay, he makes a firm stand by saying that you can write well only you keep alive your natural self. Otherwise, slowly you will lose all your essence and get lost in the crowded world. For him, writing without purpose is subjected to be considered as “lifeless.”