Skip to content

George Orwell Essay Reflections On Gandhi

Reflections of Gandhi by George Orwell

Gandhi is a man who is often considered a saint, and even though he made enemies, "I believe that even Gandhi's  worst enemies would admit he was an interesting and unusual man who enriched the world simply by being alive." This is a commentary on George Orwell's "Reflections of Gandhi", which will analyze and discuss the text and the commentators reactions to the piece. Not only does this essay give some back ground on Gandhi's life, but also shows the contradictory feelings his message could incite in a person. While it seems that Gandhi did naught but promote peace, the measures from which this peace was to come from makes a person wonder if he truly cared for people, if this radical approach to peaceful resistance was only to please a god, or if Orwell is imposing some new information on the "saint" which has questionable truth (which, he himself states he originally found the autobiography "...in the ill-printed pages of some Indian newspaper.")

From what can be gathered from the essay it seems that Orwell had mixed feeling about Gandhi; For example, he talks about Gandhi's life quite a bit through out the essay, and from this we can deduce that Orwell did not see Gandhi as a bad man, but perhaps it would be more apt to describe his character as detached, and unwilling to become to close to anyone, as "Close friendships, Gandhi say, are dangerous...." Though this is true, and often a friends will stick up for another friend even isn't in the right for sake of loyalty, "To an ordinary human being, love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more then others." This is also true. As humans are not omnipresent, they would run into some difficulties attempting to love everyone equally, because while it is all fine and dandy to say "I love everyone", if you have no possible way to show this by, how can it be fully true? Almost undoubtedly there is one person in existence, who will exist or who has at some point existed whom you would not be able to sincerely say this about. Another point that would make you question his kindness is that "on three occasions he was willing to let his wife or a child die rather than administer the animal food prescribed by the doctor." This, in itself, from my view point is ridiculous, and though I am a vegetarian, if it were essential to my health I would force down something I would not have regularly eaten (though I would disguise it as something more edible), and while these deaths never occurred, this does demonstrate the extreme viewpoint which Gandhi held.

Orwell, though show that Gandhi had may have meant well, does show many or the more extreme points of his ideology. For example, though most western pacifists at the time avoided such questions, when asked about the dilemma the Jews faced in Nazi occupied territory, His answer (according to Mr. Fischer) is along the lines of that "the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide," which, according to Gandhi, would "arouse the world." This answer is strange. As Orwell points out, Gandhi obviously "did not understand the nature of totalitarianism." He also points out "Without a frees press and the right of assembly, it is impossible to merely appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to to your adversary." This is true, and it is plausible to say that even if the Jewish population had managed to organize a movement like that, The government likely would have gone merrily along, happy that a large portion had been shaved off of it's "problem." In the same paragraph, Orwell also states "is it not possible for one whole culture to be insane by the standards of another?" This is one of the truest things I have ever seen on paper. This question is wholly relevant, not just to this paper but also to the world at large. One must wonder if Gandhi had ever realized this in his life, and if he had, did it change his perception of the world? This statement is what separates many cultures, and causes never ending conflict. The inability of the human race to put aside such differences in a constant desire to change and assimilate others into their own way of life drives wars and will drive the race to its destruction. However, some people seem to have realized that detachment from this reality also alleviates all responsibility for this, and the deep beliefs that are formed when one reaches this state is commonly called religion. The belief that another, greater being drives these desires, and from there the human ability to morally decide, and to make rational judgments declines. while this is not true for all, those who are deeply seated in their ideology often act in this manner, a manner which prevents and actively opposes  logic which should be commonplace. Alas, this society is nonexistent, for the very least on the planet on which we reside, as even the most free thinking of nations will often have a cluster of "Moral Guardians" present. Being steeped in his belief that one must live for "god", Gandhi seems to have become detached from basic human nature, and therefore, while some of his teachings can be considered beneficial, for example vegetarianism and abstinence from alcohol, drugs and tobacco, because he dissuaded others from even being somewhat fond of another individual, his methods could be seen as "anti human and reactionary."However, Orwell does do a job of explaining Gandhi's decent job in regards to politics. Having beliefs such as his, he was (obviously) opposed to fighting, and without much (if any) bias, unlike other politicians of the time. This stance,  as Orwell says, "disinfected the political air." Therefore, although there are qualms regarding his spiritual stance, and perhaps his motivations for entering into the political realm, "Compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a small he has managed to leave behind."
Mahatma Gandhi

"Reflection on Gandhi" was an essay written by George Orwell. In this essay he analyse Gandhi's life. The essay is a reflection on Gandhi's life.

Orwell tried to understand Gandhi by reading his autobiography called "My Experiments with Truth". The book impressed him but Gandhi was not not an impressive person to him. He pointed out some reasons for his dislike of Gandhi;

  1. Gandhi believed in mind power.
  2. Gandhi supported vegetarian food.
  3. Gandhi believed in the Khadi or homemade clothes.
  4. Gandhi believed in the old fashioned village-based economics, which is not suitable for a big country like India. 
  5. Gandhi was not a saint but a very shrewd person.

However, Orwell did not consider Gandhi as a bad person. He says "even Gandhi's worst enemy would also admit that he is an interesting and unusual man, who enriched the world simply being alive".

Orwell observes that Gandhi had an outstanding physical courage. Nobody ever suggested that he is corrupted or ambitious in a vulgar way. In spite of being the leader of great political movement, he had no personal security. Anyone could walk into his ashram and attack him; and that happened in 1948 when he was assassinated with a gun.

Orwell observes that Gandhi lived a very simple life. Gandhi was a man of great honesty and he openly admitted that he had done some crimes such as smoking a few cigarettes, eating some meat etc in his young days.

Orwell found some of Gandhi's principles ridiculous, because they look foolish from the European viewpoint. Some of these include avoiding alcohol, sex, spices in food and animal food. Gandhi followed all his principles very strictly. He was not ready to break his principles even to protect his wife or child; "On three occasions Gandhi was willing to let his wife or child die rather than administering animal food prescribed by the doctor." According to Orwell this is a point which questions the kindness of Gandhi.

Orwell also is surprised to see that Gandhi was against personal relationship. According to Gandhi close friendships are dangerous. He says "Friends react on one another" and through loyalty to friend, one can be led into wrong doing. 

Gandhi was successful in reaching his goal of life when India got independence in 1947. But Orwell thinks that India was given independence, because of the Soft Labour Party came to power in England. If hardliners like Winston Churchill were in power, Gandhi's non-violent methods could have never reached any success. 

Orwell doesn't think Gandhi as a saint. He also feels that Gandhi's basic aim were anti-human and reactionary. At the same time Orwell admitted that Gandhi was much cleaner than most of the politicians of his time.