Panning back to Henry Miller in the last section of this chapter, we look at writing in terms of why and what. Why write at all? What does writing accomplish? Miller's fatalism prescribes that writing about the decay of civilization will neither mean or change anything until the whole system is washed away. He doesn't ignore civilization, he continues to stare straight at it, but it produces this content quietism which Orwell describes as a different kind of irresponsibility. That's why the chapter title was chosen. Miller is Jonah, who was swallowed up by the giant fish, commonly known as a whale, and completely insulated from the world by warm, thick blubber. No matter what happened outside of himself, he just shook his head, unsurprised and apathetic. He was beyond the point of caring because civilization was beyond the point of saving.
The perception of writing's function has altered through time. In the previous section we read that the leading European writers in the early 20th century evaded politics in favor of less practical yet more refined ideals. Miller likely would not have a problem with them due to the fact that wavering politics and the war games they produced were a large part of our civilization's breakdown. He'd probably say they were saving energy and staying alive. Point is, writing about something isn't universal literary value. Orwell actually spends a lot of time here quoting authors with similar points of view as Miller, though in different degrees.
Orwell says one barometer of good writing is its survival through time. I'm not so sure I agree with this, because the Bible has survived (in its many, many editions), not because of uniqueness of allegory or explicit meaning, but because of the religious hysteria and communal momentum it's generated over two thousand years. Plus the guilt, fear and coercive mechanisms used to maintain old members and snare new ones. What we can draw from this is that we have social mechanisms that can either support writing, or mutate it in a way in which its message isn't perhaps what the author intended. Which brings us right back to Henry Miller. No matter how good or bad your writing is, humans are still reading it, capable of misinterpreting it and using it to propel their own selfish and destructive ideals. The sicker the civilization is, the more it misinterprets, using its subjectivity inappropriately rather than appropriately.
Literature is about affect, as much as, if not more than, effect. It's a mixture of subjective and objective truths. Audiences use their minds to read but their emotions to fathom and connect with characters and their often-murky situations. Page 244-5: "When, for instance, the drunkard seizes the black cat and cuts its eye out with his penknife, one know exactly why he did it, even to the point of feeling that one would have done the same oneself. It seems therefore that for a creative writer in possession of the 'truth' is less important than emotional sincerity...He also needs talent. But talent, apparently, is a matter of being able to care, of really believing in your beliefs, whether they are true or false...And with this there goes another consideration which is perhaps less obvious: that there are occasions when an 'untrue' belief is more likely to be sincerely held than a 'true' one." Sitting inside the warm, cozy whale, insulated from the world clings to un-reality, rather than the stark, ugly truth of the real thing. Miller's not necessarily unique in his pacifism, however, he is impressive in how he continues to look at civilization. Most people would simply ignore everything altogether at that point, forever sleeping inside the whale, but he cared just enough to stay awake and look, though shrug his shoulders indifferently upon seeing. Ironically, in order to do the mental gymnastics of being more effected than affected, he had to care a little bit. I suppose that's his writing compulsion surfacing behaviorally.
Orwell calls Miller an anachronism because in how war was at that time pushing for totalitarianism rather than democracy, based in the false belief that Socialism would "enlarge the atmosphere of liberalism." This effects literature in that it constrains it, because "the autonomous individual is going to be stamped out of existence. But this means that literature, in the form in which we know it, must suffer at least a temporary death. The literature of liberalism is coming to an end and the literature of totalitarianism has not yet appeared and is barely imaginable." (p. 247) Miller (and Orwell) know that the era for writer's is coming to a close, and the only valid paradigm left is a quietism until the system is replaced.
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