Wednesday, May 19, 2010

George Orwell: Banned Author (Dystopian Novels, Part Two)

In all honesty, I suppose you could call this Part Three, seeing as another, perhaps more juvenile but certainly fitting part of this book sect is The Giver by Lois Lowry. (Not to mention Fahrenheit 451, so perhaps Part Four.) I've realized this perhaps a bit too late, but I'll make up for it when I write about Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (which I WILL read sometime along the way, even though I'm dreading it).
Anyway, on with the show. George Orwell's one of those writers which you fully expect to be on a banned list, just because he brushes elbows, literature-wise, with "taboo" topics such as communism and censorship. These two topics are the main focuses (foci?) of Animal Farm and 1984, respectively. The former is an allegory to the Stalin regime, in the form of- what else?- a farm; the latter is a glimpse into a world where one who thinks for him- or herself will be arrested. Needless to say, certain governments would not be pleased- or parents, for that matter.

Animal Farm was banned by the Soviet government because of its political content (background: Orwell was in fact a critic of Stalin during his regime), as well as Kenya and Yugoslavia, among other countries. In 1982, Dekalb County, Georgia challenged the book. As for 1984, there's been some debate over what it actually stands for. When it was first reviewed, critics thought of the book as a veiled attack against Stalin; however, parents in Jackson County, Florida would later want it removed from classrooms on the grounds that it is pro-communist. (Source: According to, Orwell has also been accused of writing 1984 with an anti-Semitist slant based on the character of Goldstein, the "Enemy of the Party."

I first read Animal Farm on my own in my sophomore year of high school because I was curious about a book I had heard of for a couple of years now. I also read 1984 twice- once in my fall semester of senior year for pleasure reading, then again in my spring semester for my Lit of Censorship class. My teacher was beyond enthusiastic about teaching us the finer points of Orwell's prose, and while it left much to be desired- very dry, very bleak- it was also somewhat enlightening, and it left me with the warning it intended: never take anything at face value from your government, and fight for your freedoms. A cynical message, perhaps, but truthful enough.

Altogether, I guess Orwell's won out- his books have been translated into many languages, and there are millions of copies in print, not to mention he is still being taught in high school English courses. At least our society (partially) knows the value of his work, and though the kids may be bored to death with it, I would hope they learn something from reading both of these books.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Animal Farm. Maybe it was the dryness but it just struck something inside me and I was completely sucked in by it.

    The same thing happened when I read Brave New World, but I cannot finish it. It really bothers me (in an emotional way, not a literary way) way too much. I've seen faithful movie adaptations of it, so I'm at least aware of the ending, but I haven't been able to bring myself to read the last thirty or so pages. I don't know what it is.