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To Remain Human: George Orwell on Henry Miller\'s Tropic of Cancer
There is a skill that all literary critics ought to possess - a skill of “seeing the bigger picture”. In his essay Inside the Whale, which functions as a review of Henry Miller\'s The Tropic of Cancer, George Orwell demonstrates his mastery of this ability by using Miller\'s book as a tool to make a broader statement. His main thesis appears several times, most clearly in the third part of the text, where he claims “... there is no question that Miller himself is inside the whale,”1 (a reference to the biblical story of Jonah, who was swallowed by a big fish and accepted his fate without attempting to change it). Yet the way he goes about proving his point is what makes this essay exceptional – he first puts Miller\'s work into the overall historical context and only when the reader understands it, he tells the verdict. Ingeniously, the journey that the reader experiences begins and ends at the same spot - Miller\'s acceptance of the world.
In the first part Orwell focuses on a curiosity of Miller\'s book. He tries to uncover whether a publication that refuses to take a political stand in a world moving rapidly towards World War II, can actually be a “good” book. After comparing it with several other authors with similar style (e.g. Whitman, Joyce), Orwell finds its main quality in the way it focuses on an ordinary human being. He states: “... the whole atmosphere is deeply familiar, because you have a...