George Orwell

(Eric Arthur Blair), 1903 - 1950

portrait of George Orwell
Press card photo (1933)
George Orwell signature
Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950), better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language and a belief in democratic socialism.
Considered perhaps the 20th century's best chronicler of English culture, Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction and polemical journalism. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945), which together have sold more copies than any two books by any other 20th-century author.[5] His book Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, is widely acclaimed, as are his numerous essays on politics, literature, language and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked him second on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
Orwell's influence on popular and political culture endures, and several of his neologisms, along with the term Orwellian—a byword for totalitarian or manipulative social practices—have entered the vernacular.

George Orwell quotes :

“A dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.”

“A family with the wrong members in control; that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.”

“A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

“A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics". All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.”

“A normal human being does not want the Kingdom of Heaven: he wants life on earth to continue. This is not solely because he is "weak," "sinful" and anxious for a "good time." Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.”

George Orwell - "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool" Polemic (March 1947)

“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?”

“A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.”

George Orwell- "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool" Polemic (March 1947)

“Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.”

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

“All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”

“All propaganda is lies — even when it is telling the truth.”

“All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.”

“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”

“An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.”

George Orwell - "Benefit Of Clergy: Some Notes On Salvador Dal?," Dickens, Dali & Others: Studies in Popular Culture (1944)

“Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing.”

“As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.”

“At age 50, every man has the face he deserves.”

“By preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.”

George Orwell - "Some Thoughts on the Common Toad", Tribune (12 April 1946)

“Certainly we ought to be discontented, we ought not simply to find out ways of making the best of a bad job, and yet if we kill all pleasure in the actual process of life, what sort of future are we preparing for ourselves? If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be happy in a labour-saving Utopia? What will he do with the leisure that the machine will give him?”

George Orwell - "Some Thoughts on the Common Toad", Tribune (12 April 1946)

“Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.”

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

“During part of 1941 and 1942, when the Luftwaffe was busy in Russia, the German radio regaled its home audience with stories of devastating air raids on London. Now, we are aware that those raids did not happen. But what use would our knowledge be if the Germans conquered Britain? For the purpose of a future historian, did those raids happen, or didn't they? The answer is: If Hitler survives, they happened, and if he falls they didn't happen.”

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.”

“Either we all live in a decent world, or nobody does.”

“Enlightened people seldom or never possess a sense of responsibility.”

“Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.”

“Fate seemed to be playing a series of extraordinarily unamusing jokes.”

“For a creative writer possession of the "truth" is less important than emotional sincerity.”

“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable, what then?”

“For, when you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery which outweighs some of the others. You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future. Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry.”

“Four legs good, two legs bad.”

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

“Good novels are not written by orthodoxy-sniffers, nor by people who are conscience-stricken about their own orthodoxy. Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.”

“Good prose is like a windowpane.”

“Good writing is like a windowpane.”

“He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him), and took a sort of pleasure in thinking that human affairs would never improve.”

“He wondered, as he had many times wondered before, whether he himself was a lunatic. Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.”

“History is written by the winners.”

“Human beings were behaving as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.”

“Hunger reduces one to an utterly spineless, brainless condition, more like the after-effects of influenza than anything else. It is as though all one's blood had been pumped out and lukewarm water substituted.”

“I always disagree, however, when people end up saying that we can only combat Communism, Fascism or what not if we develop an equal fanaticism. It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one's intelligence.”

“I am well acquainted with all the arguments against freedom of thought and speech - the arguments which claim that it cannot exist, and the arguments which claim that it ought not to. I answer simply that they don't convince me and that our civilization over a period of four hundred years has been founded on the opposite notice.”

“I doubt whether classical education ever has been or can be successfully carried out without corporal punishment.”

“I have no particular love for the idealised 'worker' as he appears in the bourgeois Communist's mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.”

“I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards.”

“I sometimes think that the price of liberty is not so much eternal vigilance as eternal dirt.”

“If all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth.”

“If I had to make a list of six books which were to be preserved when all others were destroyed, I would certainly put Gulliver's Travels among them.”

George Orwell - "Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels" (1946)

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

“If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.”

“If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

“If you turn the other cheek, you will get a harder blow on it than you got on the first one. This does not always happen, but it is to be expected, and you ought not to complain if it does happen.”

George Orwell - "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool" Polemic (March 1947)

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.”

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

“In a Society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter of behaviour is public opinion. But public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.”

George Orwell - "Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels" (1946)

“In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people — the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.”

“In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

“In our time political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

“In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer.”

“Is the English press honest or dishonest? At normal times it is deeply dishonest. All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news. Yet I do not suppose there is one paper in England that can be straightforwardly bribed with hard cash. In the France of the Third Republic all but a very few of the newspapers could notoriously be bought over the counter like so many pounds of cheese.”

“It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it; consequently, the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning.”

“It is difficult for a statesman who still has a political future to reveal everything that he knows: and in a profession in which one is a baby at 50 and middle-aged at seventy-five, it is natural that anyone who has not actually been disgraced should feel that he still has a future.”

George Orwell - Review of Churchill's Their Finest HourNew Leader (14 May 1949)

“It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.”

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

“Liberal: a power worshipper without power.”

“Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery.”

George Orwell - "You and the Atom Bomb", Tribune (19 October 1945)

“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals.”

“Man's greatest drive is not love or hate but to change another person's writing.”

“Mankind is not likely to salvage civilization unless he can evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell.”

“Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is possible that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never had much temptation to be human beings.”

“Men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be.”

“Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.”

“Myths which are believed in tend to become true.”

“Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.”

“Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache.”

George Orwell - "Why Socialists Don't Believe in Fun", Tribune (20 December 1943)

“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

“No advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer.”

“No one can look back on his schooldays and say with truth that they were altogether unhappy.”

“Not to expose your true feelings to an adult seems to be instinctive from the age of seven or eight onwards.”

“On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good and not quite all the time.”

“One can love a child, perhaps, more deeply than one can love another adult, but it is rash to assume that the child feels any love in return.”

“One cannot really be a Catholic and grown up.”

“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish a dictatorship.”

“Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

“Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults, in a child's eyes, is that the child is usually looking upwards, and few faces are at their best when seen from below.”

“People sleep peacably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

“People talk about the horrors of war, but what weapon has man invented that even approaches in cruelty to some of the commoner diseases? "Natural" death, almost by definition, means something slow, smelly and painful.”

“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.”

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”

“Political chaos is connected with the decay of language.... One can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”

“Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

“Power is inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together in new shapes of our own choosing.”

“Power is not a means, it is an end.”

“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

“Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there.”

“Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing.”

“Prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books is a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job. It not only involves praising trash but constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feeling whatever.”

“Roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it.... Dirtiness is inherent in hotels and restaurants, because sound food is sacrificed to punctuality and smartness.”

“Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent.”

“Sanity is not statistical.”

“Scientific education for the masses will do little good, and probably a lot of harm, if it simply boils down to more physics, more chemistry, more biology, etc to the detriment of literature and history. Its probable effect on the average human being would be to narrow the range of his thoughts and make him more than ever contemptuous of such knowledge as he did not possess.”

George Orwell - "What is Science?" Tribune (26 October 1945)

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules, and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.”

George Orwell - "The Sporting Spirit" Tribune (14 December 1945)

“So far as I can see, all political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”

“So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the Earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.”

“So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot.”

“Society has always seemed to demand a little more from human beings than it will get in practice.”

“Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer— except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.”

“Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.”

“That rifle on the wall of the labourer's cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”

“The aim of a joke is not to degrade the human being, but to remind him that he is already degraded.”

“The atmosphere of orthodoxy is always damaging to prose, and above all it is completely ruinous to the novel, the most anarchical of all forms of literature.”

“The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.”

George Orwell - "Some Thoughts on the Common Toad", Tribune (12 April 1946)

“The best books ... are those that tell you what you know already.”

“The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent.”

“The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth is as far as possible kept in the background.”

George Orwell - "The Prevention of Literature" Polemic (January 1946)

“The English are not happy unless they are miserable, the Irish are not at peace unless they are at war, and the Scots are not at home unless they are abroad.”

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals.”

George Orwell - "Reflections on Gandhi" Partisan Review (January 1949)

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”

“The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor.”

“The existence of good bad literature - the fact that one can be amused or excited or even moved by a book that one's intellect simply refuses to take seriously - is a reminder that art is not the same thing as cerebration.”

“The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside”

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.”

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”

“The intellectual is different from the ordinary man, but only in certain sections of his personality, and even then not all the time.”

“The machine has got to be accepted, but it is probably better to accept it rather as one accepts a drug — that is, grudgingly and suspiciously. Like a drug, the machine is useful, dangerous, and habit-forming. The oftener one surrenders to it the tighter its grip becomes.”

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

“The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

George Orwell - "In Front of Your Nose", Tribune (22 March 1946)

“The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.”

“The Spanish war and other events in 1936-7 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I know it.”

“There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.”

“There is hardly such a thing as a war in which it makes no difference who wins. Nearly always one side stands more of less for progress, the other side more or less for reaction.”

“There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher's daughter.”

“There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

“They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket.”

“This business of making people conscious of what is happening outside their own small circle is one of the major problems of our time, and a new literary technique will have to be evolved to meet it. Considering that the people of this country are not having a very comfortable time, you can't perhaps, blame them for being somewhat callous about suffering elsewhere, but the remarkable thing is the extent to which they manage to be unaware of it.”

“Those who abjure violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.”

“Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.”

George Orwell - "The Freedom Defence Committee" The Socialist Leader (18 September 1948)

“Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows, and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.”

George Orwell - "You and the Atom Bomb", Tribune (19 October 1945)

“To a surprising extent the war-lords in shining armour, the apostles of the martial virtues, tend not to die fighting when the time comes. History is full of ignominious getaways by the great and famous.”

“To an ordinary human being, love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more than others.”

“To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.”

George Orwell - "In Front of Your Nose", Tribune (22 March 1946)

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.”

“War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.”

“War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil.”

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

“We are in a strange period of history in which a revolutionary has to be a patriot and a patriot has to be a revolutionary.”

“We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.”

“We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don't take the sword perish by smelly diseases.”

“We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine-gun.”

“What can you do against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?”

“What does it matter to be laughed at? The big public, in any case, usually doesn't see the joke, and if you state your principles clearly and stick to them, it's wonderful how people come around to you in the end.”

“Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie,... a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.”

“When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.”

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

“Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.”

“Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.”

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”