George Orwell, the author of ”The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius,” wrote this essay during the British leadership crisis in the beginnings of World War II. Wanting to unify the English, he reminds them of their past and how it makes them stand out as a nation. While writing to the elite intellectuals, he also worked to unify the middle and working classes. He writes to the English people to relate to them through maintaining their tradition, culture, and faith in the government by using culture and customs that both are familiar to and will unite the country. In this way, he reminds the people that although they may be different they all live in the same country. Though Orwell strongly was against some of the things his country did, he believed he always had a duty to her. Many people thought he was anti-war and military, but, in fact, he said he would always fight for his country no matter what the battle. He even tried reenlisting on September 9th, 1939 (Rossi, p128).
To fully understand the content, knowledge of Orwell’s personal history, Britain’s history, customs and culture are necessities. At this time, Britain was about to go into war. Germany and Italy had led their countries by dictators and totalitarianism. Orwell hated totalitarianism because it supported the intellectuals and upper class. He also did not see much of a difference between fascism and capitalism. He believed that both gave too much power to too few and that would corrupt the English. Orwell’s goal was not only to educate and bring together Britain’s people, but almost threaten the intellectuals. He tries to show England that they are unique in comparison to other countries because they do not need communism, capitalism, or fascism.
About England he says, “the beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener… mild knobby faces, their bad teeth, and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd (Orwell p57).” In this quotation, Orwell explains to his fellow countrymen what makes them English and why they should be proud. He wanted to join them nationally into socialism because the people “are in the fields and the streets, in the factories and the armed forces, in the four ale bar and suburban back garden (Orwell p 59).” He told the Partisan Review in January 1941 that the “bulk of the middle class are just as anti-Hitler as the working class, and their morale is probably more reliable (Rossi p128).” He wanted to make the point that the middle class was essential in the changing England.
Historians use “The Lion and the Unicorn” as a great source to show what a cross road England was at before the war. It is also a source as to the beginnings of socialism in mid-twentieth century Britain. England had so many different directions to go and not many intellectuals agreed on just one. Orwell was often compared to two other socialists, William Morris and H.G. Wells. Orwell often had conflicts with H.G. Wells who wrote such novels as War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man. Wells was also considered a socialist claiming democracy to be inefficient. Wells believes that putting power in the hands of the ignorant lower class would be a disaster.
He also thought nationalism was unrealistic because no country could be independently powerful. Their biggest difference was Orwell believed that man would evolve better by law whereas Wells believed he would improve by science and technology (Partington p50). Orwell and William Morris show more similarities to each other. Morris, a poet and artist, is one of the fathers of socialism in England and lived in the nineteenth century. He is best known for his works The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End. Many historians believe his ideas are parallel to Orwell’s because they both write romantically about their country and the liberty and justice of it (Vaninskaya p19).
Orwell’s main purpose in writing “The Lion and the Unicorn” is to convince the people the importance of a social revolution. Orwell’s work is used in reference to the history of socialism, patriotism, and nationalism. Today parts of socialism, capitalism, communism, and fascism are all still thriving. Even though socialism doesn’t run Britain, it did bring about a lot of changes. Because of it Britain has public healthcare, housing for the poor and affordable universities for the working class. Many people feel that Orwell’s arguments were empty and accomplished nothing, but they cannot deny the results of socialist democratic influence. He believed the only way to accomplish this was an England united by a deep sense of patriotism.
Orwell, George. “The Lion and the Unicorn; Socialism and the English Genius” London 1941Partington, S. John. ”The Pen as Sword: George Orwell, H.G. Wells and Journalistic Parricide Journal of Contemporary” January 01, 2004, Vol. 39 Number 1 p45-56, 12pRossi, John P. “George Orwell’s Concept of Patriotism.” Spring 2001, Vol. 43 Issue 2, p128, 5pVaninskaya, Anna. “The bugle of justice: the romantic socialism of William Morris and George Orwell.” Contemporary Justice Review, March 2005, Vol. 8 Number 1 p7-23, 17p