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Defining the Spirit of the Intellectual Individual

Sigmund Freud’s “Civilization and its Discontents” and George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” both center around the theme of the intellectual individual and the dawning of a social revolution. Each work is told from a different perspective, and each follows a different subject matter, yet, both works demonstrate the value of the human mind when infused into diversified situations. With that said, a close look will be taken into both Freud and Orwell’s works to determine which best emotes the spirit of the intellectual individual of a pre-World War II nation.

To begin with, Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” is written in first person narrative and is, essentially, an account of Orwell’s personal experiences during the Spanish Civil War, which occurred in the decade before World War II began. Orwell takes a powerful position against Communism and, at times, his narrative of boys being conscripted into war, and their brutal deaths while he stood looking upon them with pen in hand, is so nonchalant that Orwell’s theme pales in comparison.

The very moment his narrative begins, Orwell speaks of taking notice of an Italian militiaman, noting that he looked to be “a man who would commit murder and throw away his life for a friend…there were both candor and ferocity in it; also the pathetic reverence that illiterate people have for their supposed superiors . ” Orwell’s attitude from the beginning is strikingly judgmental and his manner towards any who do not share his beliefs follows this same vein.

However, it is in Orwell’s harsh judgments on the “evils of communism ” and explicitly casual narrative that his main theme emerges; following the ideal that “no matter how decent and honorable an individual’s intentions may be as he strives to achieve a better society, he will inevitably be betrayed by groups of amoral opportunists who will not hesitate to stoop to do what his principles forbid .

” Indeed, this theme begins to resound when Orwell, in an almost unguarded moment, comments that “it is not a nice thing to see a Spanish boy of fifteen carried down the line on a stretcher, with a dazed white face looking out from among the blankets, and to think of the sleek persons in London and Paris who are writing pamphlets to prove that this boy is a Fascist in disguise . ” Orwell, in this, strikes upon the profound notion of death as an “ideological struggle ,” a struggle in which even people of intelligence fail to understand the significance behind a repressing and chastising government.

Freud’s “Civilization and its Discontents” was written in 1929, about ten years before Orwell’s work and serves, in true Freudian form, as a comment upon the nature of civilization by making the comparison of civilization’s evolution to that of a sexually active individual. Freud begins with the assertion that “after primal man had discovered that it lay in his own hands, literally, to improve his lot on earth by working, it cannot have been a matter of indifference to him whether another man worked with or against him .

” From this, Freud moves into his deeper argument that “restricting the individual’s powers and possibilities of satisfaction were necessary steps in the process of civilization . ” Indeed, Freud’s theories focus on the ideal that, for a civilization to flourish, it first must have non-flourishing, non-sexually active hard-working individuals. More, “replacement of the power of the individual by the power of a community constitutes the decisive step of civilization .

” For an individual to choose to work hard for the sake of others, means the betterment of all—while, on the other hand, if an individual focuses on personal pleasure, too much of their energy is diverted from helping civilization as a whole, and everyone suffers. For Freud, “a man does not have unlimited quantities of physical energy at his disposal, [and] he has to accomplish his tasks by making an expedient distribution of his libido, [whereas] women represent the interests of the family and of sexual life .

” In this, Freud is asserting the notion that sexual energy (at least that of men) is best spent by modifying that energy into something valuable for the evolution of a culture. Overall, of the two works, Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” manages to best capture the spirit of the intellectual individual in a pre-war society. Where Orwell understands the need for an intellectual individual to make change in the world, Freud relegates man to, essentially, the role of a mindless, lascivious worker and nothing more.

Freud’s theme of social revolution comes merely from the essence that women, at least, will become hostile towards the progress of their civilization, whereas Orwell’s social revolution comes from the rising up of individuals to overthrow a repressive situation and live their lives as they see fit. Bibliography. Brunsdale, Mitzi M. Student Companion to George Orwell. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. Daniels, Anthony.

“Orwell’s ‘Catalonia’ Revisited. ” New Criterion, 58 no 6 (February 2007): 11+. Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. New York: W. W. Norton, 1961. Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia, translated by James Strachey. New York: Penguin Books, 1977. Wickstrom, Stefanie. “The Politics of Forbidden Liaisons: Civilization, Miscegenation, and Other Perversions. ” Frontiers – A Journal of Women’s Studies, 26 no 3 (2005): 168+.

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