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					Lesson Two Marrakech
  Background Information

                  Marrakech, also Marrakesh city, western
                 Morocco, the traditional southern capital of the
                 sultans 苏丹 and a major trade center, industries
                 include the processing of fruit, vegetables, and
                 palms; tanning 制革法; and the manufacture of
                 wool, flour, building materials, and handicrafts,
                 notably leather goods and carpets. Marrakech
                 was an important Saharan trade center. After
                 the French occupation, the modern part of the
                 city was built in 1913. The city was also called
George Orwell, pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), British writer, whose brilliant reporting
and political conscience fashioned an impassioned picture of his life and times. Orwell was born in India,
and was educated in England at Eton College. From 1922 to 1927, he served with the Indian Imperial
Police in Burma. Later he returned to England. In poor health, and striving to become a writer, he lived
for several years in poverty, first in Paris and then in London. Out of this experience came his first book,
Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), an account of the sordid conditions of the homeless poor. In
1936 Orwell joined the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The description of his
experiences, in Homage to Catalonia (1938), forms one of the most moving accounts of this war ever
written. Orwell resolved to speak out against the domination of any person over another. His
condemnation of totalitarian 极权主义的 society is expressed in the brilliantly witty allegorical 讽喻的 fable
Animal Farm (1945) and in the satirical novel Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). The latter presents a
terrifying picture of life under the constant surveillance of “Big Brother.” Orwell's writings are all
basically autobiographical; some of his works are considered models of expository prose. He is famous
for his terse lucid prose style and is good at the appropriate use of simple but forceful words to describe
objectively the scenes before his eyes.

                                              Pre-text Questions
1. What is your general impression of this essay? Do you feel happy, thrilled, or depressed? Why?
2. What kind of writing is this essay: argumentation, exposition or narration?
The word “exposition” literally means “to put forth, expound”. The purpose of the writer of exposition is
to inform or explain. Exposition is applicable to the definition of a word, the structure of a plan, the
meaning of a historical event, the significance of a philosophical system, etc. Usu. the writer will appeal
to a reader’s understanding with verifiable facts and valid information. The central thought or the purpose
of the writer is sometimes called the “thesis”. The writing methods usu. employed are: comparison,
contrast, analogy, identification, illustration, analysis, definition, etc.
3. What is the thesis of this essay?
4. How many parts could this essay fall into? What is the main idea of each part?
Actually, Orwell vividly described several scenes in this essay, and these scenes form independent parts
by themselves. They are:

                                          Detailed Study of the Text
P1: This is. By reading this paragraph, we could get a glimpse of Orwell’s writing style; he is no wonder
    the master of a terse lucid prose style. In this opening sentence he uses very simple words to describe
    objectively the scene before his eyes.
§What does he write about? What is your first impression of these entities? Why the phrase “went past”
not “was carried past” is used?
There are corpse, flies and the restaurant table. The cloud of files flying to the corpse and then coming
back to the restaurant table shows the unsanitary condition of the place. The phrase “went past” could
unveil the scene more vividly, because the passive voice will remind the readers the agent of the act, the
carriers of the corpse, and thus weaken the imagery compact brought by “corpse” as the agent in an active
P2: this paragraph describes the funeral process, still we read the objective description of a funeral, yet
    the choice of the words Orwell uses implies much more than what appears on the surface.
§How is the funeral conducted? What can we infer from the detailed description of it?
The crowd of mourners wailing a chant, corpses wrapped in a piece of rag, carried on a rough wooden
bier, friends hacking a shallow hole, throwing the body in it, flinging some dried-up earth over it, no
grave stone…, all of these present us a vivid picture of the simplicity of the funeral and the poverty of the
§What is the market place look like?
The market place is rather chaotic with taxis and camels mingling with piles of goods. Taxis and camels, a
modern means of transportation alongside with the old and backward means of transportation is a strange
sight. It adds more to the poverty of the place.
§What verbs does Orwell use to illustrate the process of the funeral? What does Orwell’s choice of
words indicate?
The verbs Orwell uses are: hack, dump and fling. These words indicate the unceremonious way in which
a funeral is conducted. In a poor country like Morocco, life is cheap.
The burying-ground…building-lot.
The burying-ground is nothing more than a huge piece of wasteland full of mounds of earth looking like a
deserted and abandoned piece of land on which a building was going to be put up.
§Why after a month or two even one’s own relatives can not find the graves?
Because there is no gravestone, no name or identifying mark, it’s natural after some time for people not to
find the burying place.
hack v. : to cut or chop with repeated and irregular blows
dump v.: to empty (material) out of a container or vehicle 卸下
fling v.: to throw with violence
P3: the rags they stood up in: the rags which they were wearing as they stood there
All colonial empire…this fact.
All the imperialists build up their empires by treating the people in the colonies like animals.
this fact: the fact that people in the colonies are not treated as human beings
Orwell asks a string of rhetorical questions to add force to his denunciation to the fact that people living
there are not treated as human beings like you and me, but like bees or insects.
undifferentiated brown stuff: sth. brown in color with no individual or distinguishable characteristics
stuff n.: unspecified material
They rise out…of the graveyard.
They are born. Then for a few years they work, toil and starve. Finally they die and are buried in graves
without a name.
§Why verbs sweat and starve are put side by side with each other? What effect does Orwell intend to
It is a kind of contrast. It indicates that although these people work very hard and toil all their life, they
can not make their stomach full. Earnest work can not bring sufficient food for them. In another word,
they are exploited without mercy.
And even the graves…into the soil.
Nameless and with no identifying marks, graves soon become indistinguishable for an ordinary piece of
§Why doesn’t Orwell stop here, instead, he goes on writing in much detail about the somewhat
unexpected discovery of human skeletons while taking a walk? Is this narration redundant?
It enhances the cheapness of life there and reveals the indifferent attitude of the white rulers towards the
life or death of these people.
Sometimes, … walking over skeletons.
When out for a walk picking your way through the prickly pear, you might find that the ground is bumpy.
You realize that you are walking over skeletons. You know they are graves only because the bumps
appear in an even pattern.
P 4-5: §This paragraph and the following one show a, rather unexpectedly. Why? What for?
It’s so easy for the white to establish an understanding with an animal, but it’s very difficult to do so
between the white and the black. can hardly look…a mint sauce.
…as soon as you look at the hind legs of gazelles, you will think of the delicious mint sauce that you
would want to dip it in when eating it.
P 6 : sidle slowly: to move slowly sideways, esp. in a shy or stealthy way
I could eat some of that bread.
This is an indirect request and expresses a desire to eat some of that bread. “Could” suggests politeness
and uncertainty.
stow: to put or hide away in a safe place
§Why did the navy hide a piece of bread?
It’s very precious to him and he is afraid of losing it. Probably he saves it for his family, maybe his
This man is an employee of the municipality.
§Why does Orwell mention the man’s identity in the last sentence? Is it necessary?
Orwell uses a very simple statement to convey a deeper meaning. That is, even an employed laborer goes
starving, so the readers could imagine the plight of the poorer people.
P 8: The Jews are an oppressed minority in a colonial country. Their fate could be worse than the natives.
ghetto: a part of a city in which a group of people live who are poor and not accepted as full citizens, so
that people in it are restricted only to that area and are not permitted to live elsewhere. A ghetto of the
Middle Ages is very old, over-crowded and unsanitary. 不卫生的
after centuries…about overcrowding
the people have been made to live in such crowded places for so long that they have become used to this
kind of overcrowding, they no longer bother about it.
§Is it possible for people to get used to this kind of living condition? Then why does Orwell say so?
Because they can expect nothing better, they are powerless to change anything under the depression of the
white rulers. Orwell’s matter-of-fact tone makes these Jews more pathetic.
Sore-eyed children…clouds of flies.
This is a simile, comparing clusters of children to cloud of flies.
§What is the usual picture of children in our minds? What makes these Jewish children so different?
Why is there a little river of urine running in the street?
It shows there is practically no public sanitary arrangement in the area. So the whole street is a public
P 9: skull-cap: according to Judaism, there must be some piece of cloth between man and God, so the
Jews are never supposed to have their heads bared.
dark fly-infested…caves: small cell-like rooms that were dark like caves and full of flies.
infest: to inhabit or overrun in numbers large enough to be harmful, threatening/obnoxious 大批出没于
A carpenter…lightening speed.
Sitting with his legs crossed and using a very old-fashioned lathe, a carpenter quickly gives a round shape
to the chair-legs he is making.
thanks to …out of shape: because of sitting in fixed position over the years and because of using his left
foot to control the chisel while turning chair-leg, his left leg has become deformed.
§What does “thanks to” mean? Why does Orwell use the phrase “thanks to”?
thanks to: on account of; because of, usu. sth. good or beneficial happens; it could be used ironically
eg. Thanks to your timely help, we passed the crisis.
It is an irony.
P 10: Instantly, from the dark holes…rush of Jews.
Immediately from their dark hole-like cells everywhere a great number of Jews rushed out wildly excited.
frenzied rush: it is a transferred epithet, sth. similar to the Chinese rhetoric device—通感. The Jews were
in a frenzy not the “rush”. Similar expression is “sleepless pillow”.
frenzy n. : A state of violent mental agitation or wild excitement 狂乱
§The present tense is used in paras 8, 9 and 11, but the past tense is used in para 10, 12, 13 and 14. Why
Orwell switches the tense he uses?
The present tense is used for some general descriptions, driving home the point that these conditions still
exist. And the past tense relates to some specific personal experiences.
§Why does Orwell describe a blind man specifically? Why does he put this man under spotlight?
To intensify the strong desires of the Jews for a cigarette.
everyone…impossible luxury: every one of these poor Jews looks on the cigarette as a piece of luxury
which they could not possibly afford
P 11: What does Orwell mean by saying “A good job Hitler wasn’t here.” ?
Because if Hitler had come to this place, the Jews would have been exterminated as they were in Poland
and other European countries. And because they live in such an over-crowded way, it would have been
just a piece of cake for Hitler and his army to have them slaughtered.
that’s only for show: the Jew only pretend to work as a poor laborer. He is in reality very rich for the
Jews control everything.
P 15: In just the same way, … a square meal.
§What kind of function does this para perform?
This objective comment on this issue is more convincing, more revealing than any direct statement. The
analogy between the Jews and the poor old women shows that the Jews were being condemned by
prejudice and ignorance as some poor old women who could not even get themselves a decent mean were
condemned and burned alive for witchcraft.
P 16: ﹡Still, a whit skin is always fairly conspicuous.
conspicuous adj.: easy to notice; obvious
However, a white-skinned European is always quite noticeable. However, people always notice any one
with a white skin.
take a second glance: to look back and examine; to look twice to satisfy one’s curiosity
In northern Europe…a second glance: laborers, farmers in northern Europe are white complexioned so
people take notice of them.
the chances are: (infml) it is likely that
eg. The chances are that she’ll be coming.
§What makes a laborer ploughing in a hot country invisible?
His complexion is not white but brown, the same color as the soil, besides, he is not interesting to look at,
that’s what makes him invisible.
take in: to note sth. with the eyes; observe
eg. He took in every detail of her appearance.
﹡In a tropical landscape one’s eye takes in everything except the human beings.
If you take a look at the natural scenery in a tropical region, you see everything but the human beings.
miss: to fail to notice/see
P 17: §What does “this” stand for?
“This” stands for the fact mentioned in the earlier para, that is people always miss the peasants laboring in
the fields, so that their misery and poverty will not ruin their trips.
﹡No one would think…Distressed Areas.
No one would think of organizing cheap trips for the tourists to visit the poor slum areas, some area
where there is widespread unemployment and poverty.
§But why places like Morocco becomes tourist resorts? What’s the reason behind this?
What kind of picture containing of “camels, castles, palm trees and so on” it will be in An English man’s
Camels, castles and so on are the romantic bits planted in his mind by the novels, that is a picture of
romance and mystery.
for nine-tenths…of an eroded soil: life is very hard for ninety percent of the people. They can produce a
little food on the poor soil only with hard backbreaking toil.
       Orwell is extremely bitter and ironical in paras. 16 and 17. Instead of openly blaming the white
colonialists who don’t pay the least attention to the people who suffer from poverty and hunger, he
pretends that they have a sound reason to ignore such people. The people simply cannot be seen because
they are of the color of earth. He is very cleverly revealing in these two paragraphs the real inner
workings of the colonialists’ mentality. Such people take their own presumed superiority so much for
granted and it’s so deep within them that they literally don’t even see the wretched people of the third
world and are so insensitive that they actually treat those countries as tourist resorts where they vacation
and enjoy themselves oblivious to the suffering all around them.
P 18: live on: to depend on sth. for financial support; to have sth. as one’s food
bent double like inverted capital Ls: it’s a simile, the upper part of the body formed an angle of 90 with
the legs, showing the backbreaking job of the women.
reap: to cut (grain or pulse) for harvest with a scythe, sickle 镰刀, or reaper 收割机
§Why does Orwell take so much trouble in describing how the peasants work in the fields?
They have to tear up the weeds with their hands because they can’t afford tools; they pull up each stalk
laboriously so as to save an inch or two in stalk in hope of increasing their fodder harvest somewhat.
Even their most important farm implement, the plough, was fragile and of poor quality. The animals
yoked to the plough have just enough strength to plough the soil to a depth of about four inches. They are
too poor to afford two cows because that will cost a little more to feed them. They are too poor to possess
harrows. The description of the primitive way of farming in Marrakech presents the readers another
picture of poverty and backwardness of the place.
get at: to reach
subsoil: the layer of soil beneath the surface soil
P 19: All of them…are tiny.
mummified: thin and withered, looking like a mummy.
Years of hard life and heat of the tropical sun have dried up the old women here, so that they look like
mummies. They shrink to the size of children.
a shrill wail: a thin loud piercing cry
§What kind of emotion does the old woman show by uttering such a cry? Why did the old woman think
a white man giving her a little sum of money violating a law of nature?
The cry expressed a bit of gratitude but mainly showed her surprise. Because the old woman was fully
accustomed to her miserable existence and to not being taken notice of by any one, so she almost
considered the author to be doing sth. unnatural by giving her the money.
﹡She accepted her status…beast of burden.
She took it for granted that as an old woman she was the lowest in the community, that she was only fit
for doing heavy work like an animal.
P 20: The first sentence brings back the theme of “invisibility” again. What will Orwell talk about in the
following para.s?
and though they had registered themselves on my eyeballs I cannot truly say that I had seen them
although my eyes had recorded the scene, I did not consciously observe what was happening.
§In Orwell’s subjective description of the physical appearance of the old women we could detect his
anger and bitterness through his choice of words. Which words convey Orwell’s anger and bitterness?
The words are: poor, old, reduced to bones, leathery skin, bent double, crushing weight
Yet I suppose…infuriated by it.
As soon as I landed in Morocco I noticed the donkeys were being overloaded. This made me very angry.
§The following sentences are the expatiated narration on the miserable fate of the donkeys. Is it to
arouse the sympathy and anger of the readers for the donkeys only?
No, actually Orwell makes a string of comparisons between the fate of the donkeys and that of the old
women: the donkeys are small so are the poor old women; the donkeys are overloaded so are the women
carrying firewood; the donkey is a willing creature, though ill treated, it still follows its master like a dog
so do the colonial people though cruelly treated they still obey their husbands and white masters; when
the donkey dies it is thrown to the dogs, when a Moroccan dies she is thrown into a nameless grave.
P 21: This kind of thing…does not.
The cruel treatment of the donkey makes one very angry but the sufferings of the human beings do not.
﹡People with brown skins…invisible.
People with brown skins are almost invisible.
next door to: close to
eg. Such ideas are next door to madness.
P 22 As the storks…or iron wheels.
§What do the storks symbolize? What is deeper meaning beneath?
The white storks symbolize the white masters of the negroes. The passive plodding earth-bound blacks
are contrasted with the glittering white birds so great, pure and lofty who sail above them in the sky.
While the former are weighed down by heavy packs, are sweating and uncomfortably hot, the latter are
free to soar unfettered in the cool sky above.
clumping, clatter: they are two onomatopoeic words describing the sound of boots and iron wheels as
the moved over the road
P 23: ﹡Their splendid bodies…uniforms.
The Senegales soldiers were wearing ready-made khaki uniforms which hid their beautiful well-built
their feet…too small.
their feet were squeezed into boots that were too small and were flat and square like blocks of wood and
their heads were also squeezed into tin hats which seemed to be a couple of sizes too small for them.
P 24: §What does “but” indicate when Orwell describes the scene a black soldier’s look? What kind of
look does he expect? What does Orwell plan to reveal by saying what kind of look the soldier gives him?
Orwell expects the black oppressed people in the colonies to look at the white colonialists in a hostile,
contemptuous or sullen manner, so when a black soldier looked at him in respect he was surprised, that’s
why “But” is used. Orwell wants to reveal the mentality of the colonized through the look of a black
§Could the adj.s that Orwell uses: “hostile”, “contemptuous”, “sullen” be rearranged in different order?
Why does Orwell put these words in that particular order?
The adj.s “sullen”, “contemptuous”, “hostile” are in a step-up sequence, showing more and more
intensified feelings. The reversed sequence of them actually strengthens the degree of Orwell’s surprise.
This wretched boy…a white skin.
This miserable black boy is, as a result of the colonization of his country, a French citizen. Therefore he
has been forced to leave his home in the forest to come to a garrison town where he has to do hard labor
such as scrubbing floors for the whites and where he will catch syphilis. However, this black boy, instead
of hating the white colonialists who make him suffer, has deep respect for them.
P 25:in this connection: while speaking of such things
it doesn’t matter twopence: it doesn’t matter a bit
in this connection…a socialist: every white man, even those who call themselves socialists can’t help but
think this thought when he see a black army marching past.
﹡How long before they turn their guns in the other direction?
How much longer can we go on fooling these people? How long it will be before they fight against us?
P 26: ﹡Every white man…in his mind.
Every white man living there had this thought hidden somewhere or other in his mind.
§The last sentence of this essay contains one simile and one metaphor, what are they? What similarities
do these entities possess that make them sound? What does Orwell mean by saying that the flying white
birds are like scraps of paper?
Soldiers marching peacefully are like a flock of cattle because cattle don’t think, don’t ask questions, but
follow their masters blindly. The metaphor is the white colonists are white birds. White paper flying, no
matter how high they are, is doomed to fall. So will the white colonists, their fate of being overthrown is
also doomed.
                                            Post-class questions
§Could paras 4-7 just as well come after 8-15 as before? Why or why not? What give the essay
coherence? What makes this essay an exposition?
Paras 4-7 and 8-15 are examples and illustrations of the people’s poverty and suffering. They are used to
support the central thought of this essay. Since they are independent and loosely connected, so they could
be rearranged in sequence without doing any serious damage to the wholeness of this writing.
The central theme gives unity and cohesion to the whole essay for the separate examples all illustrate the
poverty and misery of the colonial people. All the narrations and descriptions and comments of the living
poor in the colonies serve as the illustration and examples of the central theme of this essay, that makes
this one an exposition.
§Orwell is outraged at the miserable condition of the colonial people, but he manages to show that
without say it directly. How does he convey his feeling?
Orwell succeeds in imparting this feeling to his readers, first, through the clever choice of the scenes he
describes; second, through the appropriate use of words; third, through the subjective tone in which he
describes these scenes; and finally, by effective rhetorical devices such as contrast, similes, metaphor like
the instance of contrasting the indignation at the cruel handling of the donkey with the unconcern towards
the fate of the human beings.

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