Politics and the English Language

by

George Orwell

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The author of the first of five passages that Orwell lists to illustrate what he later describes as “inflated style.” Laski’s short passage appears to compare English writers Shelley and Milton. However, it’s difficult to determine exactly what conclusion Laski is attempting to draw. That Laski’s point is so difficult to discern is part of Orwell’s argument. Orwell specifically notes that the wordiness in Laski’s passage make it difficult to understand, accusing Laski of using “several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness,” including “superfluous” words that amount to “nonsense.” Further, Laski’s passage represents a piece of literary criticism, a genre in which it is “normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.” During the time Orwell wrote this essay, Laski was chair of the Labor party and famously political; as such, it’s likely that readers during Orwell’s time were familiar with Laski as a politician. Yet in this essay, Orwell makes no mention of Laski’s political work, and the passage from Laski himself does not make explicit reference to politics. Thus, by attaching a name his audience likely associated with politics with a seemingly apolitical passage, Orwell subtly reinforces his argument that nothing exists outside of politics.
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Professor Harold Laski Character Timeline in Politics and the English Language

The timeline below shows where the character Professor Harold Laski appears in Politics and the English Language. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Politics and the English Language
Style as a Political Issue Theme Icon
...describes as especially representative of bad writing. The first two passages come from academics (Professors Harold Laski and Lancelot Hogben). The last three passages cite only the publication (that is, they do... (full context)