What does home mean to you? A physical space? A person? A memory? A town or country? Our planet? Or a dream?

And above all, it is your civilisation, it is you.”

George Orwell, ‘England Your England’

At a time when our idea of home seems under pressure, from the cost-of-living crisis and the housing crisis, to the plight of refugees and the climate crisis, we want to read about what home means to you.

The idea of home recurs throughout George Orwell’s novels, essays and non-fiction – whether it be a place from childhood in Coming Up For Air; a country and sense of patriotism in ‘England Your England’; what it means to be without a home or to struggle for a home in Down and Out in Paris and London; the very idea of home being threatened by surveillance in Nineteen Eighty-Four; or our home in the natural world in ‘Some Thoughts on the Common Toad’.

Inspired by Orwell, we want you to think about ideas of home today. What does it feel like to be at home? What happens when our sense of a safe and secure home comes under threat? What does home mean in an ever-moving world? And how can we make our homes the places we want them to be – be this a household, town, city, country, or the world?

Here we’ve put together some prompts inspired by Orwell’s writing, including his essays and journalism, to help you to start thinking about the theme. When you’re ready to start researching, click here to browse our list of potential reading, watching and listening about what home means today.

“And above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time… Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you.”
– ‘England Your England’


How much do you feel that your home country (or town, city or village) has impacted who you are, your identity? Would you ever be happy living anywhere else? Do you feel you ‘belong to’ a country, like Orwell did? What does it mean to be ‘at home’?

“It is the liberty to have a home of your own, to do what you like in your spare time, to choose your own amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above.”
– ‘England Your England’

How is home connected to freedom and choice? Are we free to choose our own home?

“I have spoken all the while of ‘the nation’, ‘England’, ‘Britain’, as though forty-five million souls could somehow be treated as a unit. But is not England notoriously two nations, the rich and the poor?”
– ‘England Your England’

What unites a population, and what divides them? Do you recognise Orwell’s idea of ‘two nations, the rich and the poor’? How does this affect ideas of home?

“It is commonly said, even by the English themselves, that English cooking is the worst in the world.”‘In Defence of English Cooking’

What is your home country famous for – good or bad? What sort of reputation does it have abroad, and how could it be improved? What makes you proud, or ashamed, of your home country?

“Now that they had a secure hiding-place, almost a home, it did not even seem a hardship that they could only meet infrequently and for a couple of hours at a time. What mattered was that the room over the junk-shop should exist.”
Nineteen Eighty-Four

What makes a place feel like home – even if you/your characters don’t live there all the time, like Winston and Julia? Can knowing this homeplace exists give hope/security, even when you’re away from it?

“It was as though the countryside had been buried by a kind of volcanic eruption from the outer suburbs…The Mill Farm had vanished, the cow-pond where I caught my first fish had been drained and filled up and built over…”
Coming Up For Air

Returning to his hometown in Coming Up For Air, the protagonist George Bowling realises his childhood hometown has been changed almost beyond recognition. Have you ever returned to home/an old home after a long time and found things changed? Or can you imagine what that might feel like?

“There must be some hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of birds living inside the four-mile radius, and it is rather a pleasing thought that none of them pays a halfpenny of rent.”
‘Some Thoughts on the Common Toad’

The earth is our home – but it is also the home of birds, animals, plants – none of whom, as Orwell puts it, ‘pays a halfpenny rent’. How do we and how should we coexist with the natural world, and share our home? Can we learn anything from the animals who share our home?

“Finally the tramp, who has not committed any crime, and who is…simply a victim of unemployment, is condemned to live more wretchedly than the worst criminal.  He is a slave with a semblance of liberty which is worse than the most cruel slavery.”
‘A Day in the Life of a Tramp’

In the UK today, hundreds of thousands of people continue to be affected by homelessness, from street poverty to insecure housing. What does homelessness look like in contemporary Britain? Like Orwell, you might want to do some detailed research, and explore different forms of homelessness today. How can we work together for a future without homelessness?

“So he had learned to live inwardly, secretly, in books and secret thoughts that could not be uttered.”
Burmese Days

What does it mean to ‘live inwardly’? Can ‘books and secret thoughts’, dreams and imaginings, be a kind of home?

“…this country which he hated was now his native country, his home. He had lived here ten years, and every particle of his body was compounded of Burmese soil… He had sent deep roots, perhaps his deepest, into a foreign country.”
Burmese Days


Home isn’t always the place we live, or the place we’re from. Like Flory in Burmese Days, people can establish ‘deep roots’ in a new place. What does it mean to be between two homes? What happens if you ‘hate’ the place you call home?

“Some of the lodgers in our hotel lived lives that were curious beyond words.”
Down and Out in Paris and London

How does where you live affect who you meet? Try starting from a particular place, as Orwell does – real or imaginary, a single building, street or neighbourhood. What kind of characters call this place home – and what might their lives be like?

“It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty. You have thought so much about poverty—it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it, is all so utterly and prosaically different…”
 – Down and Out in Paris and London

How might you help someone who has never experienced a different way of living before understand what it’s really like?

Feeling inspired? Head on to the Research page for some tips on researching your entry – and to explore how writers and journalists are tackling our theme today.