Explore the ideas expressed in George Orwell's Essays through analyzing its construction, content and language. Examine how particular features of the text contribute to textual integrity.

Essay by [w]ilson.[s]High School, 12th gradeA, May 2009

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Politics and the English Language:"Politics and the English Language" (1946) is an essay by George Orwell criticizing "ugly and inaccurate" contemporary written English.

Orwell said that political prose was formed "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind". Orwell believed that, because this writing was intended to hide the truth rather than express it, the language used was necessarily vague or meaningless. This unclear prose was a "contagion" which had spread even to those who had no intent to hide the truth, and it concealed a writer's thoughts from himself and others.

Orwell criticises bad writing habits which spread by imitation. He argues that it is necessary for writers to get rid of these habits and think more clearly about what they say, because thinking clearly is a necessary step toward political regeneration.

Orwell choses five specimen pieces of text, by Harold Laski ("five negatives in 53 words"), Lancelot Hogben (mixed metaphors) , an essay on psychology in Politics (magazine) ("simply meaningless"), a communist pamphlet ("an accumulation of stale phrases") and a reader's letter in Tribune (magazine) ("words and meaning have parted company").

From these he identifies a "catalog of swindles and perversions which he classifies as "Dying Metaphors", "Operators, or Verbal false limbs", Pretentious Diction" and "Meaningless Words". (see cliches, prolixity, peacock terms and weasel words).

Orwell notes that writers of modern prose tend not to write in concrete terms but use a "pretentious latinized style", and he compares an original biblical text with a parody in "modern English" to show what he means. Writers find it is easier to gum together long strings of words than to pick words specifically for their meaning. This is particularly the case in political writing, where orthodoxy leads to...