Politics and The English Language Analysis
Truth starts with language. Since language is the medium for meaning, using assertive clear language delivers an accurate meaning. When language becomes the medium for politics, using the most accurate language conveys a truthful practice of communication in politics governed by lucid meaning. George Orwell, in his essay “Politics in the English Language,” wanted his audience to grasp the current state of the English language, specifically in politics, so that he could teach them the best way to improve clarity.
Orwell believes that improving clarity in the English language would mend the communication between a government and its people that at the time was inexistent. Orwell made his purpose clear and concise in this essay by using a selective audience, establishing a warm informal tone, expressing his thoughts through vivid figures of speech, and committing to a persuasive style. Orwell’s essay was published in the literary magazine Horizon. This specific magazine targets an elite audience that includes politicians. His topic was specifically on the language used by these politicians to carry out important acts and movements within people.
In his essay, though, he addresses everyone who speaks English as well because he thinks that bad language isn’t, “…due simply to the bad influences of this or that individual writer;” it’s a collective effect that roots from passing on the usage of a language that is not based on clear thinking. He strengthens this point by saying that it is just, “not the exclusive concern of professional writers,” to care about thinking clearly because language is used by everyone not just professionals.
Establishing these audiences allows Orwell not only to have the largest audience possible, but enables his ideas to have strong nodes of diffusion by targeting people that are in power; By using a warm informal tone, Orwell compels his audience to read his essay which is emotionally appealing. He effectively does this by using the first person pronoun ‘I’, second person pronoun ‘you’ and the determiners ‘your’ and ‘our’ to be inclusive. Being inclusive is crucial because the use of language is a personal matter. Having this friendlessness makes his suggestions plausible and honest. An informal tone’s function is to captivate and induce action.
He also does this to strengthen his clarity. By directly addressing the reader, Orwell draws the attention of the reader straightforwardly which promotes attention to the instructions given. Orwell did so in the beginning by saying, “I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer.” His meaning in no way is being distorted. It sounds honest because of his tone’s use of first person pronouns.
“I number them so I can refer back to them.” He used ‘I’ here to instructively lead the reader through his deconstruction of what he deems ‘bad’ English. After he is finished deconstructing the excerpts he marks a transition with ‘I’ again, to hold the reader’s hand tightly to not confuse the reader with a harsh transition. Orwell is always conversationally moving throughout his essay which, again, promotes the withdrawal of attention form the reader. To involve and call the reader even more, he uses ‘our’.
This instinctively creates resonance within the reader because ‘our’ is used to create a consensus between the speaker and reader. ‘Our civilization,’ ‘our language,’ ‘our own purposes,’ ‘our thoughts,’ ‘our time,’ ‘our age.’ He also gives the reader autonomy to own their usage of English by using ‘your.’ ‘Your ‘sentences,’ ‘your meaning,’ ‘your reader,’ ‘your mind,’ ‘your thoughts.’ All these parts of speech function in his informal tone to keep the reader captivated and, overall, emotionally invested in his critiques and his teachings. Along with his informal tone, Orwell utilizes vibrant figures of speech to demonstrate firsthand what clear and clever thinking looks like when applied to language which is logically and emotionally appealing.
Decayed, trite metaphors, similes, personifications are a bad usage of English because it discards the potential ‘homemade’ figures of speech that prove to be more effective at painting a picture. Orwell weaves these homemade figures of speech to exemplify his advice as colorfully as he can to prove to his audience the effectiveness of his advice. “A man may take to drink because he thinks he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.” He metaphorically makes bad English into a drink which correlates with the idea that the more a person uses bad English the more a person fails to speak better English. “.
..an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink.” Orwell uses this simile to make the reader see the damage that overused phrases do to a person who uses them. They choke him, like leaves do to a sink to represent the blocking of meaning.
“… like a cuttlefish spurting out ink,” This simile represents someone who uses insincerity to speak, and like a cuttlefish squirts out ink, a person squirts ‘long words and exhausted idioms’ that makes a gulf between what he’s saying and what he really wants to say, but can’t because his language misrepresents him. “..
. a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one’s elbow.” The ‘aspirins’ in this metaphor represent the convenience of phraseology, but mostly importantly embodies the aspirin’s function as a potent suppressor of thought. Orwell’s figures of speech did their job well in constructing a bright picture of what bad English did to meaning. It marred it.
The figures of speech serve as a logical appeal and emotional by providing evidence through bright and ironic examples that convey meaning accurately. By keeping an eloquent style, Orwell has established an authority as a writer that takes meaning seriously. The fact that Orwell uses all rhetorical appeals explicitly, and also concedes to the contrarian opinion of his argument tailored for a broad audience shows authority. Ethically, his values are well supported with the evidence present in his essay which in turn makes him a credible author that establishes control in the language he strives to better. The authority in his prose are the deconstructing, definition like clauses that show a large amount of sincerity because they serve as live evidence. The reader finds himself being deciphered by someone they don’t even know.
The clauses function like high frequency alarm clocks to induce the audience to think. “Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air… the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification.
” “…peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than what they carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers.” His ending clauses emphasize his points and leave the reader with ringing in their ears as if the frequency broke into unknown depths of the brain.
Making the audience question themselves is ideally what only a good writer can exhibit. His long list of examples allowed his audience to press play and record the poetry-like rhythm seeping out of his essay to create the chorus from a catchy song that everyone remembers. “When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases—bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained, tyranny, free the peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder—” This rhythm is something Orwell interlaces purposely to divulge his control on language. Proving countless times that his advice isn’t pretentious, but truthful and worthy of being followed because he has examples that show a knowledgeable disposition. Even after showing his knowledge with great depth he conceded to the opinion that fashionable language can serve as a means for clear meaning. “6.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.” Which shows he is not one-sided to just writing the way he suggests, but accepting that clarity is tied to other form of colloquial English. This shows Orwell is a fair writer that embraces all aspects of an argument. Orwell wanted to be succinct when he wrote this essay to help the current state of English through utilizing what he knew of audience, tone, and style. At the time George Orwell wrote this essay, the Second World War was taking place.
His essay was targeting the obscure language used in propaganda. He stressed that this obscure conventional wording and euphemism failed to deliver accurate meaning. The only way to stand against this way of thinking and speaking was to be aware and to start thinking clearly by practicing the advice he had given in his essay. If language begins to represent the truth accurately, people would begin to understand the needs and wants of each other and hopefully come to a consensus that leads to a stable practice in politics and humanity.