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Analyzing 1984 as a Reflection of Orwell's Philosophy George Orwell's 1984 is a book about Winston Smith, a low-ranking member of The Party which rules the nation of Oceania. The province of Oceania in London is the place where our first and main character Winston Smith lives. There are signs reminding citizens that Big Brother is always watching. Big Brother is the leader of the party in which Winston is a part of as well as all the people of Oceania. The Party watches him everywhere through devices, which are seemingly a combination of televisions, spewing mind-numbing propaganda twenty-four hours a day, and security cameras, which watch the populace constantly. These are known as screens and are never able to be turned off, only down, except for special models possessed only by members of the Inner Party.
He is surrounded on all sides by images of the leader of The Party, the seemingly omnipresent Big Brother. The Party is the ruling power of a supposedly communist state, but in reality is more if a dictatorship in the form of an oligarchy. George Orwell in his book creates a society in which decency, individuality, and consciousness have all been abolished to obtain a utopia. Utopia in this sense means an imaginary political and social system in which relationships between individuals and the state are perfectly adjusted. Orwell's intention of writing the novel was not to show the reader what the society of his time might become, but rather to give a warning that humans should resist and become conscious of the totalitarian states that governed his world. In 1984, George Orwell describes a totalitarian society in which the government has complete control over its people through means such as the widespread use of propaganda and the unfathomable power of their leaders.
Nineteen Eighty-fours government named Big Brother controls all forms of information much like how our channels of information are controlled. By doing this our dominator's hold more power over society. There are media barons that exist in our world who are very similar to Big Brother, and this small group of people controls what the rest of us get to hear, read, or watch. These few individuals have an incalculable influence in many lives.
The purpose of controlling the flow of information is to gain power over the population. Knowing that political leaders seek control over us should not surprise us, for governments this is an evolutionary thing, and it has only one direction to evolve: towards more control. (Smith 424) In the first chapter of 1984, the reader is open to two of Orwell's themes, poverty and politics. Together, the two lead to oppression. As soon as a child is born, the Party begins its first attempt to control society. The child is given a uniform, which eliminates contrast and creates unity. People, like robots, are born to serve their masters, the Party.
Signs of Big Brother, which say, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, constantly haunt the main character, Winston. Thought and actions found as threats by the Party are taken care of by such devices as the tele screen and people such as the Thought Police. Tele screen is used to monitor the conduct of the population. The tele screen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision, which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. (Orwell 4) Winston lives in a society shadowing the depression of war. Poverty is not the result of war, but rather the intention of war.
In order to achieve an old Buddhist virtue, nothing in excess, the Party is at a constant war. Society is kept at having things only to a minimum to create equality while not raising the standard of living. The Partys attempt to oppress its people is the attempt to control the society and prevent them from rebellion or rise in power. (McDowell 17) Another technique the Party uses to make a person unhuman is through propaganda and brainwashing. One aim of the Party is to replace all of mans inmost desires of love, decency, and consciousness with its own ideas. This is like re-programming a robot to do a different job that better suites the persons needs.
George Orwell thought cruelty, when divorced from love, can become the strongest human impulse. (Ranald 546) Organized riots by the Party, such as those during Hate Week, replaced love for one another with hate your enemy. Children who were spies for the Thought Police betrayed their parents who they suspected of criminal thoughts against the Party. This took over all forms of decency. The Party obliterated consciousness by providing humans with an imposed reality.
Slogans that plastered the walls such as, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength, brainwashed society. The Party used its robots to ratify all past documents so they were always coherent with what the Party said to be true. In this way, humans were made to be robots because the Party could program truth and reality into humans minds and make them believe whatever they wanted them to, which caused the destruction of an individuals power to think. (Hollis 207) Winston worked in the Ministry of Truth and changed newspapers to represent Big Brother and if people said they remembered something, it was considered Thought Crime and was punishable by death. Orwell shows us that people who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it.
Many of the methods that the Party in 1984 uses to sustain its absolute power, such as the rewriting of history and the use of political icons, were actually employed in Communist nations around the world (Big Brother is similar to Lenin in the Soviet Union and Mao in China). Every day Winston hears on the tele screen the Two Minutes of Hate which came on every day. This was usually to test the people to see if they believed in the party. The person usually giving this speech is the former leader of the party Emmanuel Goldstein who is the enemy of the people.
Winston could not talk to any of his co-workers. He was not allowed to possess memories and if you were caught some, how it was all punishable by the Thought Police. Everyone was living in horrible conditions. George Orwell described the provinces of Oceania, Decaying, dingy cities where underfed people shuffled to and fro in leaky shoes, in patched-up nineteenth century houses that smelt always of cabbage and bad lavatories. To me this sentence gave me a good mental picture of where and how these people were living. (Orwell 77) Oceania is at war with Eurasia and had an alliance with Eastasia. Later on in the book, this changes as Oceania denies ever having an alliance with Eurasia.
The territory of these three nations was constantly being captured or recaptured as each nation was really at war with each other. There were no alliances. All three super-states are permanently at war, and have been for over 25 years. (Orwell 193) They have been fighting each other for so long because there is no one who has the power to do so and they are at war for no specific reason. It seems as though they are fighting just for the fun of it. It was one way of keeping the people of Oceania involved in the Party. If they were to win the war eventually the citizens would support the party for eternity but if they were to lose the people would most likely revolt.
The balance of power between these three nations always seems to be even as the war goes on as each nation has its on protection by its geography. Due to the nature of the ruling faction, and the political system that perpetuates it, the theme of power is very important to the story. The Partys very existence is based on the pursuit of power. (Philmus 62) They use this power to maintain that which they already have, and in the attempt to gain more power; e. g.
the near constant warring with both Eastasia and Eurasia. When Winston has been noticing that a girl that has been following him lately, he was afraid to talk to her because of the telescreen's and the Thought Police. He could not trust her. Then after a few weeks this girl ends of handing him a note and on it, she says that she loves him. Winston is shocked by this and does not know what to do because he is still married but has not seen his wife in 20 years. She is presumed dead.
Winston then agrees to meet with her at a secret spot, which she gave him directions to. He finds out her name is Julia. Because of this meeting, Winston became horrified of the Thought Police thinking he might be caught and punished. He thought the only way to escape this was to commit suicide but he ended up changing his mind as he began to love Julia. Instead, he smoked his Victory Cigarettes and drank his Victory Gin. If Winston and Julia were to get married, it would have to be approved by a committee and would be denied if they were thought to be physically attracted to one another.
The only purpose for marriage was so party members could have children for the service of the party. The party had been trying for years to get rid of attraction of the opposite sex. Smith realizes that he is dissatisfied with such a society and so decides to do something, anything, to rebel. He does this through purchasing an (illegal) diary, merely thinking negatively about The Party and finally falling in love with a beautiful co-worker named Julia. After falling in love and briefly experiencing happiness they attempt to join what is known as The Brotherhood. Winston and Julia kept meeting in secret places and then found a perfect spot to live above an old antique shop where there were no telescreen's in their apartment.
Winston and Julia then started to become less careful and started to meet in the public. Winston's friend, OBrien invited Winston to come over to his house. When Winston went to his house, OBrien had told him to be careful, as he knew what was going on. Winston then became scared and told him he had to go home. He went straight home to tell Julia. They both decided they did not care and that they would stay together for as long as they could.
It had become too late, that night. The Thought Police had raided their apartment. Winston and Julia were taken to a jail. The Brotherhood being merely a ruse created by The Party to trap disloyal members of society into revealing themselves. It works supremely on both Smith and Julia with both being arrested and taken to The Ministry of Love (ironically responsible for torture) for punishment and brainwashing.
After various terrible punishments both are finally broken, body and spirit and Smith (assumedly along with Julia) are released to live with their newfound love for Big Brother, which makes this ending is one of the more depressing found in any literature. We later find out it is the Ministry of Love. OBrien now had to re-teach Winston to become a believer in the party. OBrien and the party were teaching Winston things that were not true and they knew it themselves. They were also teaching him things that people said a long time ago that was proven wrong, The earth is the center of our universe. (Orwell 218) This is known as geocentric. They were trying to get Winston to believe all of this but it was only a matter of time before he did.
This was because he could not stand the amount of pain and torture they were putting him through. Winston was trying to do everything to get out of there. He was confessing to everything he did wrong and everything he knew of other people doing something wrong. This was not working. They kept him in there.
Finally, he thought of what could get him out of there and it worked. He turned on Julia saying he did not love her and he told them to kill Julia and not him. After saying this, Winston is eventually let back into the world to work and life. They gave him a new look and a new job. Winston looked different because of all the scars and bruises he had suffered from being beaten in the jail. Winston then begins to love his new life and enjoys every minute of it.
He is also now a good member of the party, doing everything he is supposed to, and not thinking for himself. He is thinking just as if the party had taught him. He had found Julia at a restaurant, and they went to the park to talk. They both had turned against each other and decided it was best for them not to be involved anymore. It was mostly because they did not have the physical attraction to each other anymore as they used to. They both had changed because of the system.
Winston was a rebel against the government policy. This was due to his rare individuality. He did not like the government policies so he decided to go against it. His loneliness also helped express his individuality. Winston had memories of a happier past.
Since he had independent thoughts, it was much easier for him to be against the Party. What he was doing was thought crime, which was thinking anything not approved by the Party. The role that Winston plays, a different individual compared to the rest of the people around him makes the reader relate to him, since he presumes to have independent thoughts. Unfortunately, his independent acts led him to his downfall.
Orwell's hidden theme of 1984 was that humans must be aware of their surroundings and retaliate against anything that threatens human existence. In the society of 1984, man has become more and more like an instrument and less and less human. (Dooley 35) Through oppression, society has lost all individuality and integrity. Through brainwashing, society has been taught to value cruelty over love. Altogether, society wants to preserve the power of the Party and the everlasting war. In this way, George Orwell proves that men can be made to forget that they are human and that with it, they become more and more like machines. Orwell did not create the theme 1984 by himself; society at his time created it.
He simply predicted what the outcome would be if another fascist party took control and exacted their power. Both current society's and the 1984 society's fear of opposing thought is an aspect of life that must be conquered in order that all individuals can live a healthy and meaningful life. Contrasting thoughts are the factors that keep life worth living. In 1984, while there was some character development present, the majority of the story focused on how the proliferation of surveillance technology allowed the Inner party complete control over the rest of the population in conjunction with propaganda and mind control techniques. (Barnsley 239) This in turn led to Winston Smith adapting to this new environment and attempting to overthrow The Party through the eventually fraudulent Brotherhood. While Winston was not successful in his endeavor, it gives the reader hope that there are others in the world of 1984 that will see that something is wrong and will not decide to adapt, just as Winston did. Bibliography: Barnsley, John H.
The Last Man in Europe: A Comment on George Orwell's 1984. Contemporary Review. (1981). Dooley, D. J. The Freudian Critics of 1984. Triumph. 1 (1974) Hollis, Christopher. 1984 and the Necessity of Doublethink.
Horizon. 20 (1949) McDowell, Jennifer. 1984 and Soviet Reality. University of California Graduate Journal (1962) Philmus, Robert. The Language of Utopia. Studies in the Literary Imagination. 6 (1973) Ranald, Ralph. George Orwell and the Mad World: The Anti-Universe of 1984. South Atlantic Quarterly. (1967) Smith, Marcus.
The Wall of Blackness: A Psychological Approach to 1984. Modern Fiction Studies. (1968 - 69)
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