Homage to Catalonia


George Orwell

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Homage to Catalonia Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of George Orwell

Eric Blair was born and spent his youth in India. He was educated at Eton in England. From 1922-27 he served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. Through his autobiographical writing about his experiences with poverty (Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933), in colonial Burma (Burmese Days, 1934), and in the Spanish Civil War (Homage to Catalonia, 1938), and the plight of unemployed coal miners in England (The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937), Blair (who wrote under the name George Orwell) exposed and critiqued the human tendency to oppress others politically and economically. Homage to Catalonia marked a clear shift in Orwell’s political thinking. His experience in the Spanish Civil War convinced him of the value of revolutionary socialism and led him to become a vocal critic of the Communist Party, controlled by the USSR, as well as of any form of political persecution. In 1947, a lung infection he contracted in Burma worsened, and in 1950 Orwell succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 46.
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Historical Context of Homage to Catalonia

The Spanish Civil War began in 1936, at a time when two other European countries were already under brutal, anti-democratic regimes: Fascist Italy, under the rule of Benito Mussolini since 1922, and Nazi Germany, controlled by Adolf Hitler since 1933. The Spanish Civil War exacerbated political divisions across Europe. On the right, it intensified fears of Communism, while, on the left, it bolstered opposition to Fascism. Many non-Spanish citizens joined the Republican cause voluntarily, fighting in the Communist-run International Brigades. However, the Nationalists ultimately won the war in 1939 and Francisco Franco ruled Spain as a military dictator until his death in 1975. The war became famous for the atrocities that were committed on both sides. Today, the Spanish Civil War is often seen as setting the stage for the Second World War, as various fascist, nationalistic political regimes were taking power across Europe.

Other Books Related to Homage to Catalonia

Orwell cites as inspiration for Homage to Catalonia Franz Borkenau’s The Spanish Cockpit, another eye-witness account of the Civil War. His later novels were marked by his strong political convictions; the dystopian, satirical works Animal Farm (1944) and 1984 (1949) condemn totalitarianism and the political persecution to which it gives rise. George Orwell is not the only author to have written about the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans. American novelist and Nobel-prize winner Ernest Hemingway left for Spain in 1937 to cover the war as a journalist and to help with the filming of a pro-Republican movie. This experience inspired him to write one of his most famous works, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), which tells the story of a young American in the International Brigades.
Key Facts about Homage to Catalonia
  • Full Title: Homage to Catalonia
  • When Written: 1937-1938
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 25 April 1938
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Memoir, non-fiction, political writing
  • Setting: Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1937)
  • Climax: Orwell witnesses the Barcelona street fighting in May 1937
  • Antagonist: The Communist Party
  • Point of View: First-person narration

Extra Credit for Homage to Catalonia

The Orwells on Trial. After the Orwells’ escape to England, both George and his wife were charged in Spain with Trostskyism and being agents of the POUM. The trial took place in their absence in 1938.

Critical Reception. Homage to Catalonia was a commercial failure when it was published in 1938 in Britain. It was not until the success of Orwell’s novels in the 1950s that the book received greater attention and, in 1952, was published in the United States to critical acclaim.