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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The ambivalent Orwell : patterns of ambiguity in his thought and its expression Gobin, Bernard F.


This thesis is devoted to exploring the contention that there exists in the writing of George Orwell a strong element of ambiguity or ambivalence, and that this is manifest not only in the way he thinks about issues and problems, but also in the way he employs artistic forms to express himself. Orwell's often inconsistent views on religion, nature, the past, and society (which for Orwell invariably involves politics) are accordingly treated as aspects of his ambivalent response to two different problems that provide two slightly different, albeit related, perspectives on his thought. In Chapters II and III the main causes of this ambivalence in Orwell's thought are traced to a dislike of abstraction coupled with a tendency to confuse questions of morality (normative considerations) with questions of fact (empirical considerations), and in Chapter IV these features of his outlook are related to the modes and forms of expression which he employs in the writing of Homage to Catalonia, Coming Up for Air, Animal Farm, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, his last four major works. What emerges from this is a sense of Orwell's increasing control over the complexities of aesthetic distance involved in writing fiction. At the same time there is a move from vague ambiguity to a more clearly defined formal tension, which though never resolved, is articulated so forcefully as to be instrumental in the making of Orwell's popular reputation and of his significance as a literary figure. Throughout, the thesis develops a view of the critical difficulties involved in trying to deal with Orwell's work, and provides some commentary on the efforts of various critics in the field to overcome those difficulties. Though it is not a primary, purpose of this thesis, there is therefore some indication of the implications which a study of Orwell has for critical methodology.

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