Primary Source Analysis- George Orwell’s the Lion and the Unicorn

Essay by Marlowe12University, Bachelor'sB+, April 2013

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Primary Source Analysis- George Orwell's the Lion and the Unicorn

The England of 1941 has as much in common with the England of 2013 as the England of 1840 had with the one of 1941; maybe even less. An empire has fallen, a National Health Service adopted. Yet there are still some identifiable characteristics that define the English people. To what extent do these national characteristics define us, and define our politics? George Orwell's 1941 essay The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius (and its opening sub-essay England, Your England) argues that socialism and Englishness (for Orwell refers exclusively to England, rather than Britain) as a concept need not necessarily contradict each other, and the two ideologies can peacefully coexist.

Despite his obvious national pride, Orwell is very quick to point out the hypocrisies and the negativities of the English national characteristic. We're all hypocrites- owning an empire spanning a quarter of the globe, whilst claiming to oppose imperialism and fascism.

The only real difference between our empire and Nazi Germany's, Orwell argues is that the British Empire is a Naval Dictatorship as opposed to a Military one. This point in particular, ties in with Orwell's observation of the anti-militarist view of the English people; whilst we abhor armies and regard anything vaguely militarist with a sense of pessimism, the navy is held in high regard in the English national consciousness. We are an island nation after all. Orwell's view of the English as a pessimistic, navy-loving country can be seen in Lord Horatio Nelson, then figure standing tall over Trafalgar Square. One of the few victory songs in the common repertoire is 'Rule Britannia' and its lyric about 'ruling the waves'. It is worth noting that Orwell himself did not necessarily hold these anti-militarist views:...