George Orwell Quotes 1–30 of 304 Quotes

George Orwell (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950) was the pen name of British novelist, essayist, and journalist Eric Arthur Blair, whose work is characterised by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and strong support of democratic socialism.

Below are 30 of 304 sourced George Orwell quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“Spending the night out of doors has nothing attractive about it in London, especially for a poor, ragged, undernourished wretch. Moreover sleeping in the open is only allowed in one thoroughfare in London. If the policeman on his beat finds you asleep, it is his duty to wake you up. That is because it has been found that a sleeping man succumbs to the cold more easily than a man who is awake, and England could not let one of her sons die in the street. So you are at liberty to spend the night in the street, providing it is a sleepless night. But there is one road where the homeless are allowed to sleep. Strangely, it is the Thames Embankment, not far from the Houses of Parliament. We advise all those visitors to England who would like to see the reverse side of our apparent prosperity to go and look at those who habitually sleep on the Embankment, with their filthy tattered clothes, their bodies wasted by disease, a living reprimand to the Parliament in whose shadow they lie.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: "Beggars in London", in Le Progrès Civique (12 January 1929), translated into English by Janet Percival and Ian Willison

“This means no more than vae victis - woe to the creed that is not backed by machine-guns!”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Review of The Two Carlyles by Osbert Burdett, in The Adelphi (March 1931)

“To the well-fed it seems cowardly to complain of tight boots, because the well-fed live in a different world-a world where, if your boots are tight, you can change them; their minds are not warped by petty discomfort. But below a certain income the petty crowds the large out of existence; one's preoccupation is not with art or religion, but with bad food, hard beds, drudgery and the sack. Serenity is impossible to a poor man in a cold country and even his active thoughts will go in more or less sterile complaint.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Review of Hunger and Love by Lionel Britton, in The Adelphi (April 1931)

“And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path. It is curious, but till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working – bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming – all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned – reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: "A Hanging", in The Adelphi (August 1931)

“In England, a century of strong government has developed what O. Henry called the stern and rugged fear of the police to a point where any public protest seems an indecency. But in France everyone can remember a certain amount of civil disturbance, and even the workmen in the bistros talk of la revolution — meaning the next revolution, not the last one. The highly socialised modern mind, which makes a kind of composite god out of the rich, the government, the police and the larger newspapers, has not been developed — at least not yet.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Review of The Civilization of France by Ernst Robert Curtius; translated by Olive Wyon, in The Adelphi (May 1932)

“As to a pseudonym, a name I always use when tramping etc is P. S. Burton, but if you don't think this sounds a probable kind of name, what about Kenneth Miles, George Orwell, H. Lewis Allways. I rather favour George Orwell.”

— George Orwell

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More on this quote: Letter to Leonard Moore (19 November 1932)
The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: An Age Like This, 1920–1940, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p. 106.

“Man is not a Yahoo, but he is rather like a Yahoo and needs to be reminded of it from time to time.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Review of Tropic of Cancer, in New English Weekly (14 November 1935)

“Think of life as it really is, think of the details of life; and then think that there is no meaning in it, no purpose, no goal except the grave. Surely only fools or self-deceivers, or those whose lives are exceptionally fortunate, can face that thought without flinching?”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: A Clergyman's Daughter, Ch. 2 (1935)

“It is a mysterious thing, the loss of faith-as mysterious as faith itself. Like faith, it is ultimately not rooted in logic; it is a change in the climate of the mind.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: A Clergyman's Daughter, Ch. 5

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“I am struck again by the fact that as soon as a working man gets an official post in the Trade Union or goes into Labour politics, he becomes middle-class whether he will or no. ie. by fighting against the bourgeoisie he becomes a bourgeois. The fact is that you cannot help living in the manner appropriate and developing the ideology appropriate to your income.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: The Road to Wigan Pier Diary 6-10 February (1936)

“For the dreadful thing about the kind of brutalities here described, is that they are quite unavoidable. When a subject population rises in revolt you have got to suppress it, and you can only do so by methods which make nonsense of any claim for the superiority of western civilisation. In order to rule over barbarians, you have got to become a barbarian yourself.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Review of Zest for Life by Johann Wöller, in Time and Tide (17 October 1936)

“In a town like London there are always plenty of not quite certifiable lunatics walking the streets, and they tend to gravitate towards bookshops, because a bookshop is one of the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: “Bookshop Memories” in Fortnightly (November 1936)

“In addition to this there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) - Full text online

“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.”

— George Orwell

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Source: Wikiquote: "George Orwell" (Quotes)

“Every war, when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defence against a homicidal maniac.”

— George Orwell

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Source: Wikiquote: "George Orwell" (Quotes)

“The essential job is to get people to recognise war propaganda when they see it, especially when it is disguised as peace propaganda.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Review of The Men I Killed by Brigadier-General F. P. Crozier, CB, CMG, DSO, in New Statesman and Nation (28 August 1937)

“One is almost driven to the cynical conclusion that men are only decent when they are powerless.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Review of The Freedom of the Streets by Jack Common, June 1938, pp. 335-6

“If there are certain pages of Mr Bertrand Russell's book, Power, which seem rather empty, that is merely to say that we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. It is not merely that at present the rule of naked force obtains almost everywhere. Probably that has always been the case. Where this age differs from those immediately preceding it is that a liberal intelligentsia is lacking. Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion, and such truisms as that a machine-gun is still a machine-gun even when a "good" man is squeezing the trigger — and that in effect is what Mr Russell is saying — have turned into heresies which it is actually becoming dangerous to utter.”

— George Orwell

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Source: Wikiquote: "George Orwell" (Quotes)

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“Acceptance of the Catholic position implies a certain willingness to see the present injustices of society continue... Individual salvation implies liberty, which is always extended by Catholic writers to include the right to private property. But in the stage of industrial development which we have now reached, the right to private property means the right to exploit and torture millions of one's fellow creatures. The Socialist would argue, therefore, that one can only defend property if one is more or less indifferent to economic justice.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Review of Communism and Man by F. J. Sheed in Peace News (27 January 1939)

“Has it ever struck you that there's a thin man inside every fat man, just as they say there's a statue inside every block of stone?”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Coming Up for Air, Part 1, Ch. 3

“The past is a curious thing. It's with you all the time. I suppose an hour never passes without your thinking of things that happened ten or twenty years ago, and yet most of the time it's got no reality, it's just a set of facts that you've learned, like a lot of stuff in a history book. Then some chance sight or sound or smell, especially smell, sets you going, and the past doesn't merely come back to you, you're actually in the past.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Coming Up for Air, Part I, Ch. 4 (1939)

“Perhaps a man really dies when his brain stops, when he loses the power to take in a new idea.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Coming Up for Air, Part 3, Ch. 1

“It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: "Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party", New Leader (24 June 1939)

“Mr Auden’s brand of amoralism is only possible if you are the kind of person who is always somewhere else when the trigger is pulled. So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: Inside the Whale (1940) http://orwell.ru/library/essays/whale/english/e_itw

“[Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all "progressive" thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people "I offer you a good time," Hitler has said to them "I offer you struggle, danger and death," and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: From a review of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, New English Weekly (21 March 1940)

“....I should say that it is a good rule of thumb never to mention religion if you can possibly avoid it.”

— George Orwell

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More on this quote: Letter to Humphrey House (11 April 1940)
The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: An Age Like This, 1920–1940, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p. 530.

“It is all very well to be "advanced" and "enlightened," to snigger at Colonel Blimp and proclaim your emancipation from all traditional loyalties, but a time comes when the sand of the desert is sodden red and what have I done for thee, England, my England? As I was brought up in this tradition myself I can recognise it under strange disguises, and also sympathise with it, for even at its stupidest and most sentimental it is a comelier thing than the shallow self-righteousness of the left-wing intelligentsia.”

— George Orwell

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Quote source: From a review of Malcolm Muggeridge's The Thirties, in New English Weekly (25 April 1940)

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