Memorable Lines: George Orwell

“Good-bye,” Bingo’s parting smile seemed to say; “it’s not worth quarrelling now. You haven’t made much of a success of your time at Crossgates, have you? And I don’t suppose you’ll get on awfully well at a public school either. We made a mistake, really, in wasting our time and money on you. This kind of education hasn’t much to offer to a boy with your background and outlook. Oh, don’t think we don’t understand you! We know all about those ideas you have at the back of your head, we know you disbelieve in everything we’ve taught you, and we know you aren’t in the least grateful for all we’ve done for you. But there’s no use in bringing it all up now. We aren’t responsible for you any longer, and we shan’t be seeing you again. Let’s just admit that you’re one of our failures and part without ill feeling. And so, good-bye.”

That at least was what I read into her face. And yet how happy I was, that winter morning, as the train bore me away with the gleaming new silk tie round my neck! The world was opening before me, just a little, like a grey sky which exhibits a narrow crack of blue. A public school would be better fun than Crossgates but at bottom equally alien. In a world where the prime necessitities were money, titled relatives, athleticism, tailor-made clothes, neatly brushed hair, a charming smile, I was no good. All I had gained was breathing-space. A little quietude, a little self-indulgence, a little respite from cramming – and then, ruin. What kind of ruin I did not know: perhaps the colonies or an office stool, perhaps prison or an early death. But first a year or two in which one could “slack off” and get the benefit of one’s sins, like Doctor Faustus. It is the advantage of being thirteen that you can not only live in the moment, but do so with full consciousness, foreseeing the future and yet not caring about it.

– George Orwell, from “Such, Such Were the Joys.”

George Orwell, National Union of Journalists photo

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