I thought Nineteen Eighty-Four was a unique vision, written in the period just after W.W. II. It details the life of one man, Winston Smith, and his struggles with an undoubtedly fascist government. The book is set approximately in the year 1984, in which Winston's society is ruled by a governing force known as "The Party'. At the head of this government is a fictional figure known as Big Brother, to whom all citizens must love and respect.
In this society, privacy and freedom do not exist. People are constantly monitored by telescreens, and subjected to a constant barrage of propaganda. Any devious thought or action is dealt with by cruel and deadly punishment. Winston is a worker in one of the government agencies. His job: to rewrite the past so that The Party, specifically Big Brother, appears to be omnipotent. From as long as he can remember, he has despised The Party and what it stood for, although he doesn't reveal his true feelings to anyone around him.
When Winston begins a torrid love affair with one of the young women in his agency named Julia, he finds someone else who shares in his beliefs. The two have several meetings throughout the book, in which they discuss their hatred for the government. They join a secret alliance called The Brotherhood, who's specific purpose is the end of The Party. Through the literature of The Brotherhood, they learn about the inner workings of The Party and how it accomplishes its stronghold on the people. The world as Winston knows it comes crashing down when he and Julia are arrested by the thought police, a faction of the government which deals with those who do not agree and abide by the ways of The Party. They are taken to a prison unlike any other.
Winston is constantly tortured and beaten, until he confesses to crimes which he didn't commit or never even happened. If the party just killed Winston right away, they might run the risk of making a martyr out of him. Instead they re-educate him with the morals of The Party, using such techniques as pain, starvation, and using Winston's greatest fear against him. Once re-educated, he is introduced back into society. But he is not the same person, just a hollow shell. Winston had once said in the novel that if he could die hating Big Brother, then he would have won.
But when Winston is finally killed, the only thing he can think is that he loves Big Brother. As this book was written just after the reign of Hitler in W.W. II, one can easily guess where Orwell got the basis for it. The world was in a general state of disbelief and panic after the atrocities that Hitler had committed. It was hoped that nothing like this would ever happen again.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a good reason why. The novel shows what could have happened if Hitler was able to continue upon his quest for power. The novel can also apply to the present era, as the novel was actually set in more modern times. Not only does the novel apply to Hitler's way of thinking, but also to Stalin. Even though both are at opposite sides of the political spectrum, they both established totalitarian governments. The Party also ran a totalitarian government but on a much larger scale.
A large part of the novel deals with the relationship between The Party and society. Many of the techniques used by The Party are similar to those used by Hitler or any controlling government for that matter. One of these ways is by propaganda. With telescreens in everyone's homes, it was very easy to broadcast the views and beliefs of The Party. Also, as this was the only form of broadcasted media, the government could easily control what the people watched and listened to. Another form of propaganda was by means of posters and slogans.
In this society it was impossible to go anywhere without seeing a poster of Big Brother and reading slogans such as "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU' and "War is Peace Freedom is Slavery Ignorance is Strength. ' Hitler was a big fan of propaganda and used it a great deal. Also, The Party controlled all written media, and therefore could write and re-write anything it chooses to. During his reign, Hitler realized that he needed to get younger people involved in his conquest. He set up youth camps and youth organizations. This made the younger generations of Nazi Germans feel like part of the struggle.
In the book, youths are also involved in various governmental groups. The mind of a child is a very easy thing to manipulate. If the government can convince a child, even reward them for turning in family members and loved ones, they will have succeeded in corrupting one of the basic units in society, the family. One thing you can count on is that your family is usually there to support you, and not be more loyal to a dictatorial leader than yourself. When establishing a society in which you plan on oppressing the people, you must make sure of one thing: they do not think they are being oppressed. The only was in which you can do this is to withhold information and blatantly lie to them.
One way that this is done in the novel is by re-writing history as time progresses. By doing this, people can look back on the past and will only see whatever the governing party wishes. Although Hitler did not go to such extreme measures, he had no problem lying to the general population to give them a false sense of security. Back in the 1930's and 1940's, the population of Germany probably thought they were better off than they actually were. When one of the key governmental figures in the novel is discussing the motives behind the rule of The Party, he mentions that its main purpose is to watch over and guide the people, as they are frail and cowardly, and cannot do it by themselves. This is very similar to what the English political philosopher Hobbes thought.
He believed that man was self-destructive and needed a powerful government to control them. Many people today despise the views of Hobbes as they are very insulting to us as humans. We like to believe that we can be responsible for our own destiny, and do not need an all-knowing government to take charge and run our lives. One interesting point in the novel was that the chief enemy of The Party was a Jewish man named Emmanuel Goldstein. Goldstein was a political figure who had vanished into the underground and was rumoured to have started the group called The Brotherhood. Since The Party was an extreme version of Hitler and the totalitarian movements in the earlier part of the twentieth century, it was ironic that the crusade for freedom was led by a Jewish man.
This also relates to W.W. II, as the Jews were the principle group of people persecuted by the Nazis. On a whole, this novel was a very interesting piece of reading. It really makes one think how lucky we are to live in a society in which we have the freedom to live as we choose. If many of the fundamental freedoms which we sometimes take for granted were taken away, we might find life to be like it is in the novel.
I could not imagine living when anything I believed which deviated from "normal' paths of thought could result in my death. Many of the greatest changes in society have been made by those people who stray from the well-beaten path in search of a greater truth. The novel also caused myself to reflect upon how important it was that such tyrannical dictators such as Hitler have been stopped, sometimes with great costs, from making life unbearable. Reading this novel gave me a great sense of hope for human kind, as we have been able to keep totalitarian movements under control. Maybe sometimes people can get carried away with a lust for power, but it will always come back to living in a society that is tolerable to everyone. It is safe to say that a Utopian society will never exist, but we must make an effort to get as close as we can.
Many disputes which occur today are because of petty differences between people. Although there are some flaws in human nature, we have always been able to keep from digging a grave too deep to climb out of. It is scary to think how close the world could have come to having a society like the one in Nineteen Eighty Four, and know that we as humans have to gain a better understanding of one another. I enjoyed reading this book because not only did it give the reader something exciting to read, but it also was able to put an interesting perspective on life itself.
Nineteen Eighty-Four was written between the years of 1945 and 1948. Orwell got the title from switching the last two numbers of the publication date. In Orwell's criticism of a perfect society, his book became known as one of the greatest anti-utopian novels of all time. The book's message is so powerful that some say it went so far as to prevent the sinister future from realizing itself. Although the book starts out as the story of a neurotic, paranoid man, it quickly turns into a protest against a quasi-utopian society and a totalitarian government. The book appears to be a satire at the start, similar to books such as "Gulliver's Travels', or Huxley's "Brave New World', but all too quickly the reader will "discover, quite unpleasantly, that it is not a satire at all.
' Nineteen Eighty-four is not simply a criticism of what Orwell saw happening in his national government with the coming of English Socialism, but a warning of the consequences of contemporary governmental practices, and what they where threatening to bring about. Perhaps the book seems so bleak because the events in the book are a somewhat logical projection from current conditions and historical environment that Orwell observed in 1948. Perhaps people would be more comfortable with the book if they could rule out in their minds the possibility of the prophecy becoming a reality. In a critique of his own work, Orwell called Nineteen Eighty-Four "A work of a future terrible [sic] because it rests on a fiction and can not be substantiated by reality or truth. ' But perhaps this future is realizing itself more than Orwell thought it would. Orwell, more than likely, would have made note of, but wouldn't be astonished by, the fact that in 1983 the average American household spent over 7 hours in front of the television every night.
The number is even greater for those households which currently subscribe to a cable service. Those families watch television for more that 58 hours a week. That is more that 2 days straight without sleeping, eating, or going to the bathroom. He also wouldn't have passed by this magazine advertisement that could be seen in 1984: Is Big Brother watching?
If you are tired of Government, tired of big business, tired of everyone telling you who you are and what you should be, then now is the time to speak out. Display your disgust and exhibit your independence, Wear a "Big Brother Is Watching' tee-shirt. $10, Canadians remit us dollars. Big Brother is Watching LTD. Neenah, WI.
This advertisement makes one wonder if there is really a group dedicated to the rise to power of someone called "Big Brother'. No true reader could ever pass off Winston experience with indifference. You have to have some kind of sympathy for a man, even if fictional, who can not remember his childhood, or for that matter, even his mother. That is certain to strike a nerve with almost anyone. In addition to this constant pain of loss, the reader will also have to vicariously live through lengthy episodes of of other psychological pains, and physical pain. The reader will also be forced to endure the pains of society as "The Party' turns children against parents, friends against friends, and although ther reader will discover the beauty of a love between a man and a woman, "The Party' will eventually destroy that too.
While "The Party' is an important theme, two other themes are far more important. The first is the destruction of language. By eliminating more and more words from people's vocabularies, "The Party' eliminates the ability of people to unite or conspire against the government. However, they are also eliminating the possibility of conceiving original thought, which has catastrophic effects. The ultimate goal of "The Party' is to reduce the language to only one word thereby eliminating any thought at all. The second important theme is the elimination of the past.
This is the main character, Winston's, job in the ministry of truth, to make sure that "The Party' always looks right about every decision it has made in the past. This quest for total power by "The Party' is an excellent dramatization of Lord Acton's famous apothegm, "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ' "The Party's e ems like it won't stop until it controls the minds of everyone under it's power, and has complete physical and psychological surveillance on all people at all time. This is exemplified in the fact that the government can look back at you through your television, or telescreens as it is called in the book, and the government has set up telescreens almost anywhere you can go. While they don't have telescreens in unpopulated country sides, they have gone through the trouble to place hidden microphones disguised as flowers in those areas. and while there are real no laws, the thought police can spy on your thoughts at anytime, and can arrest and kill you on a whim. This policy is mythical.
It is not really used for punishment, but to scare everyone else into being good citizens. No other work of this century has inspired people with such love of liberty and hatred of tyranny. Humans have a basic desire to be free and not controlled. Therefore, to Orwell as to the Utopian reformers, the adoption of the governmental doctrine, socialism, was less an economic decision and more a moral decision. Nineteen Eighty-Four is an expression of Mr. Orwell's irritation at many of the facets of English socialism.
It is also an expression of his moral and intellectual indignation at the concept of totalitarianism, where a country is ruled utterly and completely by a group of few. Another critic says that the book is not a criticism of English socialism at all, but a warning of the consequences of the contemporary political paths we are following, or were at the time the book was written. The bombs in Nineteen Eighty-Four symbolize Orwell's pent up rage about everything in the political world from the disasterous state of unemployment of the 1930's, to the ignorance of the leftist intelligentsia, stupidly justifying Stalinism. Some literary critics have attributed the book's extreme grimness to Orwell's declining Health, and surmise that his pessimistic views illustrate his collapsing spirit. Whatever his inspiration or motivation, almost fifty years after its first publication, Nineteen Eighty-Four remains one of the great novels of this century.