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Who Was George Orwell? Close

Sarah Grochala | Sept. 16, 2013

George Orwell's Burmese Passport Photograph

 

Childhood

George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari in North East India on the 25 June 1903. India was under British rule at the time and Eric’s father, Richard Walmesley Blair, worked for the Indian Civil Service. His mother Ida was born in England but grew up in Burma, which was then a province of British India. Eric had two sisters: Marjorie who was five years older than him and Avril who was five years younger. When Eric was three, Ida moved back to England with her her children. Eric’s father remained in India. He visited the family in 1907, when he was given three months leave, and finally returned to live in England on his retirement from the civil service in 1912.

Orwell later described his family as ‘upper-middle class without money’. Eric attended the local school until he managed to gain part-scholarship to a fashionable prep school called St. Cyprian’s. The rest of his fees were paid by his mother’s brother. At St. Cyprian’s, Eric met Cyril Connolly who would later publish some of his work. In ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’, Orwell paints a bleak picture of his school days, portraying school as a cruel and oppressive regime, but there is some question over how much of this account is fact and how much is fiction.

Eric worked hard at prep school and managed to win a scholarship to Eton. Once he got to Eton , however, he lost interest in his academic work. He failed to gain a scholarship to Oxford or Cambridge, much to the frustration of his teachers.

Burmese Days

Finding himself at a bit of dead end, Eric decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the Indian Civil Service. In 1921, he became an assistant superintendent in the Burma police. He was not popular with his colleagues and was given poor postings. He drew on his experiences to write Burmese Days. In the novel, he paints a picture of British rule as plagued with corruption and imperial bigotry.

Whilst on leave in England in the summer of 1927, Eric resigned from his post in the Burma police. He resolved to become a writer.

To find out more about George Orwell, download the 1984 Digital Double App.