George Orwell vs. Raymond Chandler

orwell essaysI’ve found two ways to connect the random stories I drew for this round of the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge: theme and style.  While not particularly specific to the two “stories” I drew this time, one thing Orwell and Raymond Chandler have in common is that both seek to expose what’s really going on in the society they observe.

With a Chandler short story this almost always has to do with the secrets respectable society people try to keep  “Trouble is My Business,” the title story from the collection I’ve bee reading is no different.  Our detective hero, hired by a wealthy man to perform one task, soon discovers that his client really has a second job in mind, keeping a secret from surfacing.  Philip Marlowe is just a pawn in someone else’s game, until he manages to turn the tables and take control of the situation.  Chandler does this story very well.

Orwell’s essay “Marrakech” which I drew this time is about exposing the parts of the city wealthy tourists avoid and about exposing the true nature of those tourists especially their willingness to deny personhood to those whose countryside they visit as needed to keep their vacations enjoyable.

Neither writer is very nice about this, either, though Orwell is the angrier voice.

The second thing both writers have in common is the way their writing celebrates style.  Chandler is all about style.  His detectives are famous for their witty, acerbic asides.  Some would argue that Chandler created the trope with some considerable help from Dashell Hammett and a dash of James M. Cain.  Reading a Chandler story while tweeting the best lines is lots of fun.  Some lines I tweeted this time around:

I could feel the sore place on my jaw all right, but it wasn’t important enough to write in my diary.

He had an idea and he was holding it like a sick baby.

What’s not to like?  That Chandler makes these lines emerge naturally in a darn good entertaining story is just icing on the cake.  Many of his fans would read him anyway.

You could argue that Orwell’s style is heavy-handed, certainly that it suffers some from the weight of his political argument, but his styles packs a punch none-the-less.  This passage from “Marrakech” illustrates this and illustrates the importance of his theme as well:

All people who work with their hands are partly invisible, and the more important the work they do, the less visible they are.  Still, a white skin is always fairly conspicuous. In northern Europe, when you see a labourer ploughing a field, you probably give him a second glance. In a hot country, anywhere south of Gibraltar or east of Suez, the chances are that you don’t even see im.  I have noticed this again and again. in a tropical landscape one’s eye takes in everything except the human beings. It takes in the dried-up soil, the prickly pear, the palm tree and the distant mountain, but it always misses the peasant hoeing at his patch. He is the same colour as the earth, and a great deal less interesting to look at.

Chandler is playing with words, having fun with them while Orwell is using words to drive home a point, to force his readers to see something unappealing in themselves.  It’s a shame to realize how true Orwell’s words are in 2014 when they were written in 1939.  Don’t believe me, compare how many people take pictures of Amish farmers in the fields with how many take pictures of the people doing the same work in California’s Central Valley.  Both groups still pick crops by hand. Only one is featured on local postcards.


You’ll notice in the photo above that my copy of George Orwell’s essays has been chewed on.  This was done by Dakota, my Bassett hound who used to eat lots of my books.  As of this post, Dakota is still having A-level days.  She stopped eating books a few years ago; we’re still hoping for more A-level days.


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