George Orwell: Biography, Books & Facts

Instructor: Natarielle Powell
Do you know anyone who would volunteer to fight in a war? Or live in a slum and work as a dishwasher when he did not have to? George Orwell did both. Read on to learn how and why he chose these experiences.

Is that Your Real Name?

You might not think to ask a person named George Orwell if that is his real name. There doesn't seem to be anything different about it, but it is, in fact, a pseudonym (sue-do-nem, or false name)

George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair. He chose to write under the name George Orwell because he admired George, the patron saint of England and because the River Orwell in England was one of his favorites.

George Orwell

Early Life

George Orwell was born on June 25, 1903, in Bengal, India. His father, Richard, worked for the Civil Service. He had two sisters, Marjorie and Avril. His mother, whose name was Ida, moved him from India to England when he was a year old. He did not see his father until three years later. His father visited the family for a short while and then left again five years later.


George, or rather Eric, was a very smart boy. He began his education at a small parish school and later received a scholarship to attend one of the best schools in the area, St Cyprian's School, in Sussex. The scholarship didn't cover all of his tuition. His parents still had to pay for half of the fees.

After receiving another scholarship for college, he moved on to study at Eton. He made friends well and was a King's Scholar from 1917 to 1921.

From the Police Force to Poverty

After college, Orwell decided to become a police officer. He was a part of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma.

In 1927, he made a big change in his life when he quit the police force and began to live and work among the outcasts of society in London and France. Orwell worked as a dishwasher in hotels and restaurants. He chose to experience life this way because he wanted to connect with the people. He did not like how different people were treated simply because of their race or economic status.

He later wrote about many of his experiences living in the slums and working among society's outcasts.

Serving in the Spanish Civil War

There are very few people who would volunteer to fight in a war. Many think about their families and the danger that could come from getting involved. George Orwell thought about working to help a cause he believed in. He volunteered and fought for the Republicans against Franco's Nationalist faction in the Spanish Civil War. He was later shot during a battle in 1937.

Love and Marriage

Orwell married a woman named Eileen O'Shaughnessy. George and Eileen adopted a son and named him Richard Horatio Blair. In 1945, Eileen died while she was having an operation.

Would you remarry if your husband or wife died? George Orwell took some time to grieve over Eileen, but he did decide to remarry. In 1949, Sonia Brownell became his second wife a few short weeks before his death.

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