Appeared in Spring 2003, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1
Scholars have frequently pointed up the differences in political views that separated two literary giants of twentieth-century Britain, G. K. Chesterton and George Orwell. Orwell was a singular breed of socialist whose mission was to battle dogma, especially what he saw to be the communist, fascist, and Catholic varieties. Orwell once explained to his fellow Etonian Christopher Hollis why he read the Catholic press: “I like to see what they enemy is up to.”1 Chesterton, on the other hand, was Britain’s best-known anti-socialist who assailed the evils of his day through the dogma of orthodox Christianity. These two writers selected different paths to engage the troubles of their times-hence their contrasting politics-but what has not been adequately appreciated is the similarity of world view from which they arrived at their opposing political positions. A close reading of Chesterton’s and Orwell’s cultural criticisms reveals that their political commitments conceal a shared social vision that is perhaps greater and more significant than their political differences.
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