Oceania is a society where life is dictated by a small group of violent and overbearing men. Privacy is forbidden and surveillance is promoted, as every word, every movement, and every breath are monitored. People live in fear of becoming "vaporized" (20) and having all traces of their life eradicated. Every evidence and remains of their presence would become erased. People also live in a constant state of propaganda. That is, the small group is able to force them to accept any beliefs or events that it claims to be true.
This is the world that George Orwell creates in 1984. It is obvious that the criterion of this novel is to warn and display the detrimental effects of a totalitarian government that existed in Soviet-Union, the Nazis, and China; however, 1984 also makes an subtle attempt to show how Western countries such as England and the United States, countries which are eminent for possessing ideas of democracy and capitalism, retain notions and characteristics of totalitarianism as well. The society that Orwell has created simply displays the obvious totalitarian government. The Party, which is composed of a small group of domineering men, envisions to breakdown the independence of an individual.
All aspects of individualism such as thoughts, expressions, and dreams that are different from what the Party has set for the people are prohibited and considered rebellious. If someone were to disagree with the Party in any aspect, the Party was determined to either kill him or convert him back by coercing physical pain. Things such as diaries were forbidden. The Party believed that diaries are forms of self-expression and rationality. Even dictionaries are to be abridged and shortened every year because the Party believes that if there are no words in a language that are capable of expressing independent and rebellious thoughts, no one will be able to rebel or even conceive the idea of rebelling. Sex, in Oceania, is considered a duty and nothing else.
Sex, which is an act of individualism from its emotional and physical pleasure, is prohibited. As the novel progresses, the timid but rebellious Winston Smith rises to challenge this authority. He dislikes the whole notion of this totalitarian government, which forbids him from doing things that he enjoys and desires. Winston longs to write in his diary freely, have sex whenever he wants to, and think and feel independently. During his attempt to fight the Party and its totalitarian government, he meets Julia, who possesses and supports Winston's attack on the Party, and he immediately falls in love with her.
By falling in love, Winston and Julia position themselves in a dangerous position, for love is prohibited in Oceania. These two attempt to replace totalitarianism with democracy, but fail when both are captured by the Thought Police and are taken to jail. And during this time, the Party inflicts Winston with tremendous beating and starvation to have him become one of the Party members again. Although he knows that his determination to maintain his hate for the Party will lead the Party to torture him even more, he realizes that it is his deep desire to continue rebelling against the Party. Winston tells him that "[he] hates Big Brother" (232) O'Brien, one of the Party members, then instructs the guards to take Winston to Room 101 where he will experience his greatest fear, rats. As soon as rats are "about to leap onto [His] face and bore straight into it" (235), Winston screams out "Do it to Julia! Not me! I don't care what you do to her" (236).
The physical pain that is to take place is too painful for Winston; as a result, he desires that this punishment will occur even to someone he once loved, Julia. This shows Winston's give up on his principles, will, mind, and spirit. Surveillance is also a characteristic of a totalitarian government. Orwell argues that Western countries as well can be considered or on the verge of becoming totalitarian countries. In 1984, a giant tele screen is placed in every citizen's room and is used to monitor his / her behavior such as rebellious schemes, thoughts, and expressions. Everywhere the citizens go, they are constantly reminded by the poster that says, "Big Brother is Watching You" to display that the Party authorities are always inspecting them.
Little boys and girls are brainwashed to become Junior Spies. That is, they are trained and forced to spy on their parents and report on any instances of disloyalty to the Party. Orwell fears that besides the obvious totalitarian government in Russia and Germany after the World War II, the Western countries, too, have become or is threatened to become totalitarian societies. Although those countries might not possess the harsh and brutal characteristics described earlier in the essay, they retain the idea of surveillance that connects to totalitarianism.
Today, many of the things that we do are kept under surveillance. And day-by-day, the privacy that we possess seems to diminish. Cameras are common and even required in banks, stores, houses, and offices. People are curious to see what is happening, to see whether their bank is being robbed, or whether their employees are working appropriately in office. Similar to how the tele screens and microphones are set up to monitor rebellious behaviors in 1984, we, too, have cameras and tape recorders to track down criminal or rule-breaking movements.
And these features today, Orwell states, contribute to the declination of democracy and rise of a totalitarian society. In addition to surveillance, spread of propaganda is another feature of totalitarianism. In 1984, propaganda is embedded. The Party controls every source of information, managing and rewriting the contents of all newspapers and documents for its own ends. The records of the past such as documents and photographs are not to be kept by the citizens.
As a result, the memories of the past have become more bewildered and forgotten. In the novel, Winston reflects that the alleged increase in the chocolate ration to twenty grams was actually a reduction from the day before, but since the party enforced this act, "those around him seem to accept it joyfully" (68). The party claims that it also increased the literary rate and reduced mortality rate; however, Winston "suspected that these claims are untrue, but he had no way to know for sure since history has been written entirely by the party." The Party even enforces to its citizens that "in the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it." As Orwell indirectly relates today's surveillance as a decline of democracy, the propaganda that has been taking place also demonstrates the Western societies' inclination towards totalitarianism. Today, the media is the primary source for information.
And people rely tremendously on the media through television, radio, or newspapers. However, because the government has an immense impact and powered over the media, it is capable of changing, censoring, or misrepresenting certain news. Today's governments, like the Party, have the capabilities to show only what they want to show and render people to believe what they want. The Enron scandal and their ties with the government is a perfect example of propaganda.
The government attempted to conceal all evidence and their ties in the Enron scandal by delaying trials, shredding all of the evidence, and denying charges of allegation. Orwell is extremely pessimistic about the future. It is safe to say that Orwell through Winston, displays his giving up on his will, mind, and emotions in fighting against the established totalitarian governments such as Soviet-Union and what used to be the Nazis. He claims that there are no cures to win back democracy in totalitarian governments. He reluctantly states that many other countries as well are under process of becoming a totalitarian society because they retain notions of propaganda and surveillance. And this trend will continue until all of the countries reach a state of totalitarianism.
Perhaps, his pessimistic prediction about the future is right. What do you think? web.