George Orwell’s memoir, Homage to Catalonia, draws the reader into action right from the beginning. I believe this is because of the writer’s ability to give his readers a first-hand account of his experience in the Spanish Civil War. In actuality, Orwell immediately implies to his readers that this is not an objectively historical essay, but, rather, an evocative interpretation of his own involvement in the Spanish Civil War as a foreigner, which, in turn, gives the reader the sensation of being in the driver’s seat, in the majestic city of Barcelona with Orwell himself. I found Orwell’s writing style is clean, by way of articulating his message emphatically. In addition, Orwell’s stylistic representation of his account portrays a dichotomous perspective, as Orwell writes his memories and emotions that he felt throughout his journey of the Spanish Civil War, which change profoundly as his excursion ends.
We see this from the beginning, and respectively to the end of his memoir. In hindsight, Orwell decides to pay close attention in emphasizing his sensations, which include the marvels and noises of Barcelona, highlighting the detail that for him, this war, is in fact, made of intense emotions and recollections. As the story begins, Orwell draws the reader to an anecdote about a stranger, who he conversed with for a short period. Immediately, Orwell drops traces of wonder and awe for the stranger, both of whom are foreigners, and he quickly expresses his feeling of being scared out of his wits in this new world of his. Much like Orwell, I believe the reader is intended to be absorbed and enthusiast to recognize the greater context of the conversation between Orwell and the stranger, as the interaction carried on for a few seconds, yet it introduces the notion that, in times of war, suddenly individuals come and go. However, the sense of lasting impressions are established in a matter of seconds.
Furthermore, we come to the realization that, the social struggle of the Spanish revolution is not like anything Orwell had experienced, in turn; it paves the way for a deeper impression on Orwell. In due course, this convinces Orwell that, the idea of a possible change for a society to grow into a fair-minded, a more equal place, quickly dissolve. I believe that Orwell’s initial impressions and reactions to uprising are evidently motivated by his romantic view of the Spanish Civil War itself, as a societal-moral struggle, which was destined to create a more just society. As Orwell enters Barcelona, we can assume that his eagerness to begin his journey in the revolution were driven initially by his primary reactions, but at the time, the revolution was at its early stages and the people of Barcelona were still motivated by the notion of hope for a radical social change under their government’s tyrannical regime.
Orwell emphasizes that he spends time in the barracks, where he discovers an underlying issue in the organization of the revolutionary movement. He appears to be shocked by the absence of punctuality and by the revolutionist’s lack of knowledge of their environments and their attitude, which he later defines them as undignified, and consequently, unprepared to the honorable cause for which they are combatting. From his writing, I sense that Orwell did not take the revolutionary movement very serious, in particular the militia aspect of it. We can assume that this is caused by the lack of combatting experience in his fellow militiamen, which ultimately saw the men playing a game of war. I found that the lack of knowledge and capabilities by the revolutionary militia were triggered by the mercenaries political motives, and consequently made the revolutionist’s inefficient. I agree with Orwell when he articulates that in order for the movement to be successful, it would have to concentrate on a more political agenda, whereas fight the Spanish regime, as the militia’s lack of resources made it almost impossible to secure a victory against the current government.
On one hand, a vis-à-vis battle between the revolutionist’s and regime, would ultimately secure a victory for the regime, but on the other hand, if the militia had concentrated its energy and resources on a political agenda it could have achieved a prosperous revolution. In addition, the focus on trench warfare dramatizes the life of the soldiers, as it becomes a fight for survival, especially when they were frantically in search for fuel. Nevertheless, Orwell’s knowledge of the mercenary’s efficiency grows over time, and in the end, his sense of democratic organization benefit the militia enormously, since he adds a theoretical approach to the movement.
In chapter four, the situation at the front reaches its peak, where fighting seemed to be a far-fetched idea, it was replaced by shouting. The shouting is understood to serve the aspect of the military, but it also serves as the political objective. Hence, the militia is not a group of men whom are fighting the tyrannical government, but rather, fighting for the good of the people, for the working class, and for the Fascist soldier’s as well. I believe this was a turning point in the Spanish Civil War, as Orwell in the past saw the megaphone technique negative, but it reality it suggested that the Republican ideology was not solely based on military use, but also politically. The Republican Party had possibilities of uniting all citizens of the working class, disregarding any background. This episode sees Orwell reflect on his opinions and biases, as he develops a trust in his fellow soldiers.
Furthermore, in chapter five we can see how the mercenaries are completely isolated by the concerns of the population. They seem to entertain themselves with anything they find, even if it was a deadly or dangerous activity. It creates a distinction between the militiamen and life outside of war. I found that the ideological divisions between the revolutionary party and the Fascist regime relied on the Catholic Church. Particularly in chapter five, as the revolutionary party strongly opposes the Catholic Church, which might have had little to no meaning to the peasants, but I contradict what Orwell mentions about the peasants. He states that the peasants were indifferent about the war and politics, and carried on their daily routine of work, yet the Fascist party was concentrating on the peasant’s future, creating plans, which saw the Fascist regime grow in popularity through the peasant’s, but why didn’t the revolutionary movement reach out to those peasants? He states that he lied to the press for political purposes, yet I find it intriguing that the revolutionary party could not have represented the voice of the peasant’s.
At the end of his memoirs, George Orwell acknowledges that his outset of the Spanish Civil War is entirely flawed. He realized that the Republic party are not emphasizing on the notion of democracy, but are rather, dismantling it for military and political reasons. However, Orwell seemed to have accepted the Republican’s lies in order to defeat the tyrannical regime. Orwell’s state of mind suggest that he has become disillusioned. He starts by comparing his own party, the Republican leftists to the rightwing, Fascist opponent. He loses hope in democracy, and begins to believe that democracy will vanish. Ultimately, I believe his hopelessness establishes an end to his simple-minded knowldegement of the war, as a means to fight for the name of the middle class and democracy. He realizes that all of his initial impressions of Spain were portrayed by the intense life of a soldier.
In the end, this suggests that Orwell’s narrative, which he witnessed at a particular time and location, is not a picture-perfect reflection of the truth, but rather, a misleading impression, that faded over time. In addition, Orwell’s explanation of himself as a traveler, proposes the same idea, specifically that his observation is undeniably motivated by his sense of foreignness. His anger against the Spanish tyrannical regime spring from both personal (he moves to Spain due to irritation and anger) and ideological (anti-democratic). Nonetheless, upon the return to his homeland, Orwell returns with a much better understanding of himself and political life. I believe he realized that his time in Spain was fogged by that of a life of a foreigner and a soldier.
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