While looking through a collection of magazines, I recently stumbled upon an essay titled Marrakech, a text describing the precarious environment, to say the least in Marrakech, a part of French colony of Morocco. The author, George Orwell wrote the essay in 1939. The historical context in which the writer was submerged was brutally ironic for European countries in relations to their African colonies. The outbreak of WWII was fragmenting Europe, and indirectly the world.
Fear was spreading throughout the minds of those affected by the global conflict; and such fear is exactly what I feel in Orwell’s voice: the fear of the white man losing its supremacy in Africa. However Orwell attempts to conceal this fear all along the essay through the use of various linguistic tools. First of all, he takes a very detached tone all throughout the essay, “I am not commenting, merely stating a fact”. Secondly, Orwell’s text is purely descriptive.
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He portrays the events in a scientific way: “In the bazaar huge families of Jews, all dressed in the long black robe and little black skull-cap are working in dark, fly infested booths that look like caves” Neither does he center his story on any kind of character, nor does he include dialogue throughout the description. In addition, the author completely dehumanizes the person. He gives no sense of individuality to the inhabitants of the colony and barely recognizes them as human but rather gives them animalistic attributes. Are they really the same flesh as yourself? Do they even have names? Or are they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown, about as individual as bees or coral insects? ” The following characteristics of Orwell’s essay made me reach the conclusion that he was a racist white supremacist, rooting for traditional values that constitute the essence Imperialism. However, there is one characteristic that sets him apart from other authors associated with the Imperialist context, authors such as Joseph Conrad or Rudyard Kipling.
While most writers boasted hypocritically about the humanitarian and moral qualities of Imperialism, Orwell acknowledged the desperate situation that people lived in: “[…] a town like this-two hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom at least twenty thousands own literally nothing except the rags they stand up in. ” He was aware of that, but yet, he did not seem to be affected in any way by the condition these people were in. To me this is even worse than any of the behaviors of other authors. They were fooled into thinking they were improving the general conditions of their respective colonies by fulfilling heir duty; such as Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden. On the contrary Orwell realized the true implications of Imperialism, but still did not seem to recognize the inhuman repercussions of such actions. To worsen such brutal insensitivity, the only time where Orwell accords emotional sympathy and infuriation towards the miserable conditions of the environment is not towards an individual but to an animal. “Then for the first time I noticed the poor old earth-coloured bodies, […] bent double under the crushing weight.
Yet I supposed I had not been five minutes on Moroccan soil before I noticed the overloading of the donkeys and was infuriated by it. ” Not only is it the only occurrence of emotion and anger, but Orwell acknowledges that fact, and seems to accept it as merely another fact of reality: “This kind of thing makes one’s blood boil, whereas-on the whole-the plight of the human being does not. ” I asked myself if such behavior was caused because of various prejudices. The preset social norms of that time greatly influenced the way individuals thought. However a detail struck me.
Maybe it was the deep-rooted fear that the imperialist era of Europe was coming to an end? The quote “But there is a thought which every white man […] thinks when he sees a black army marching past. ‘How much longer can we go on kidding these people? How much longer until they turn their guns in the other direction? ‘ “, seems to support that theory. Once again, Orwell presents this fear in a very detached manner, merely as a curiosity. He ends his essay by degrading African soldiers on an intellectual level, as is if to say that the White man will never lose its imperialist supremacy.
Orwell’s essay seems to be a clear representation of the Imperialist’s point of view. Nevertheless, there is an interesting difference between him and some other of the most influencing figures of that era. Orwell faithfully acknowledges and presents to us as readers, the environments of the colonies. This could be considered honorable on his part. However, he stays motionless to such horrific conditions, making him in my point of view, the most important reminder of mankind’s (me included) foolishness, and reminds me of the dangerous implications of prejudices.