To Orwell Today,

Dear Jackie,

A very interesting site. But why the constant references to God (eg. WINSTON DIES INSIDE, where the end of the novel is described in God-only terms)?

Orwell was C of E if he was anything, and has the classic C of E tone of mild amusement at anything stronger: “old maids cycling to holy communion through the morning mist” is about his mark. It seems somewhat odd to me to invoke God at all with this atheistic writer from the most atheistic background possible; Eton, pre-1914 boyhood, middle-class, anti-intellectual, all-round rebel – surely more akin to Cyril Connolly rather than Evelyn Waugh? The organised religion of empire that was in Orwell’s childhood was a central pillar of the Establishment he rebelled against. I’ve always thought one could claim that it is precisely the old God of free-will that Winston represents, and this God that finally admits defeat against the pre-ordained and foreknown future represented by Big Brother.

Also, on the question of his choice of pen-name: an equally valid explanation is that George was the name of the king, just as Winston was the name of the Prime Minister. Even better, George was just a very common name.

I’d be interested to know what your thinking is on this!

-Huw Bell

Greetings Huw,

You seem to be mistaking religion for God, or assuming that religion is the only way people relate to God, and that therefore, because Orwell rejected organized, "establishment" religion - like Church of England (C of E) for example - then he must be an atheist, which he wasn't. Nor is Eton an atheistic institution. Orwell, while a student there, was confirmed in the Anglican church and attended chapel every day to pray for the soul of King Henry VI. See LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON.

I've written my opinions on Orwell's God in several essays on the website, including the one you quoted above. See ORWELL ON RELIGION and THE SPIRIT OF MAN and ORWELL SAW GOD IN MAN and ORWELL'S GRAVE.

Actually, Orwell wasn't very much like Cyril Connolly at all, other than that they were best friends and top scholars at boarding school and then both went on to Eton. Connolly is quoted as saying that he himself was a PRETEND rebel while Orwell was a REAL rebel. At Eton and after they both went in different directions, until after Orwell came back from five years in Burma and was a published author of DOWN AND OUT, BURMESE DAYS, CLERGYMAN'S DAUGHTER and was working on KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING. By that time Connolly was established in literary circles and was in the process of forming his own magazine - HORIZON. Their friendship resumed at this time, 1935, which was also when Orwell met his first wife, Sonia. See 77 PARLIAMENT HILL. But as a person, Orwell considered Connolly to be without social conscience, living a self-indulgent, kind of hedonistic way of life, the opposite of how Orwell lived. See ORWELL'S PERSONA.

But you are right that Orwell was more akin to Connolly than he was to Evelyn Waugh, who he had nothing in common with on a personal level but did occassionally review his books.

Regarding Orwell's choice of names, there are many people who believe, as you do, that he chose "Winston" after Churchill and "George" after King George, although it wouldn't have been King George V. More likely it would have been King George III who visited Weymouth, Dorset, nearby to Orwell's ancestral home. See ORWELL'S WHITE HORSE and The White Horse of Osmington.

I ascribe to the theory that he chose "Orwell" after the village and river and "George" after St George who slew the dragon. See VISITING ORWELL'S ORWELL and GEORGE ORWELL'S PEN NAME and SAINT GEORGE ORWELL DAY

All the best,
Jackie Jura

~ discussion continues

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~
website: www.orwelltoday.com & email: orwelltoday@orwelltoday.com

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