Animal Farm: About the Author; Overview; Setting; Themes and Characters; Literary Technique; Historical and Social Context; Topics for Discussion; Questions; Related Titles and Adaptations

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Animal Farm

Born Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari, Bengal, India, on June 25, 1903, George Orwell was the son of a British civil servant and belonged to what he considered "the lower-upper-middle class". He returned to England with his mother in 1905 and attended preparatory school before winning a scholarship to Eton College, where he first demonstrated an apparent animosity towards convention and authority. Orwell decided against continuing his studies at either Oxford or Cambridge and instead enlisted with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, a decision that would permanently affect his philosophical perspective, political consciousness, and creative legacy.

Orwell returned to Britain in 1927, ostensibly on leave after serving overseas for five years. Within a month of his arrival he had resigned from his post, announcing to his parents his intention of becoming a writer. Attracted to a bohemian, artistic lifestyle, he travelled to Paris in 1928, where he lived for 18 months. He started a career in journalism in Paris, but did not fully realize his literary potential until after his return to Britain. His work began to appear in the journal Adelphi, most notably with the publication in 1931 of his enduring and masterful essay "A Hanging". His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, was rejected by several publishers, including T. S. Eliot of Faber and Faber, before it was accepted by Victor Gollancz and released under the pen name of George Orwell in January 1933. As a result, Orwell continued to use this pen name for the remainder of his life and literary career, although he never legally changed his given name.

As a work by a relatively unknown author, the book received unusually high praise from critics, but it was commercially unsuccessful and Orwell found the experience disheartening. Undaunted, he earned his livelihood as a journalist while continuing to publish both fiction and non-fiction. At this point Orwell left Britain to observe and fight in the Spanish Civil War, where he was later seriously wounded, necessitating his return home in 1938. That year, Orwell wrote about the experience with horrific realism and perception in Homage to Catalonia.

In 1939 Orwell published Coming Up for Air, the first of his novels to attain commercial success. This personal triumph, however, was soon overshadowed by the outbreak of World War II. Excluded from military service for health reasons, Orwell was nonetheless active in civil defence.

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During the war years Orwell came up with the idea for Animal Farm, a novel that was initially rejected by British and American publishers, who feared the repercussions of promoting a work critical of the Soviet Union, then a military ally. When Animal Farm finally appeared in May 1945, however, it met with unprecedented public attention. As a result, Orwell achieved overnight recognition and financial independence.

In 1947 Orwell settled on the island of Jura off the west coast of Scotland. Here, although physically ill and increasingly pessimistic about the state of the world, he completed Nineteen Eighty-Four, a work of ...

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