To my horror, in 1998 I read an AP news story which disclosed the fact that George Orwell himself was a snitch. He was turning in the names of communists to British state police.
This fact caused me no longer to revere Orwell, and to see his novel 1984 in an entirely different light. I think Orwell somewhat identified with the lead character Winston Smith, and was expressing his own darkest fears of what would happen to him if he didn't become a rat. Orwell had left-wing leanings, and therefore had reasons to fear repression. Smith, in retaliation for his own minor defiance against the regime, was tortured and later executed in the novel.
Another motive for Orwell was (I speculate) that he was attempting to clear his own conscience for having been a police state rat by writing a novel which would be seen as a warning and condemnation of police states.
As for me, I don't buy it. A rat is a rat, even though some rats might be talented writers.
-- Michael Wright
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