“No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.” Bob Dylan said this probably not knowing its profound connection with George Orwell’s novel “1984”, but the as well could be in “1984”. Orwell depicts a totalitarian dystopian world where there is no freedom and citizens are being brainwashed constantly. Without any sense of individual fairness, people work for the party just like the gear wheels in a machine. In order to achieve this, the politicians in “1984” suppress people’s thinking and eliminate their freedom by creating fear through propaganda, strict laws and incessant surveillances.
In “1984”, lies, myths and false information controls the thinking of the citizens. The Party uses propaganda as the deadliest weapon of control. Propaganda increases the citizens’ morale and makes them think that what the party tells them to do is always right. There are mainly two types of propaganda, one changes truth, so-called doublethink, and another creates fear. “Doublespeak” can be seen frequently in the world of 1984. The party’s big slogan “WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” (George Orwell, 4) is an good example. The idea of the slogan is to convince the citizens that what they want, is what they already have. Only war can make peace and harmony, so peace is no longer peace, it becomes war; anyone who is slaved and wants freedom, he already has freedom; you can only strengthen yourself by not knowing things and being ignorant. The slogan changes truth and make the citizens believe that anything they want other than what their government wants can only make them unhappy, therefore, no one will consider rebellion because they believe the Party’s way of governing is the best and only way. “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” (George Orwell, 3) is another core slogan. It is nearly everywhere in the country and usually presented beneath the picture of Big Brother on a poster. It creates fear of obliterated privacy among citizens by alerting them that they are watched all the time. At the same time, the slogan also emphasizes Big Brother’s power to tells the citizens that they are indeed safe and protected. The party uses this to make them believe that within the party nothing can go wrong, and without Big Brother they will not have such lives. Everyone thinks he is safe in Oceania because of the Big Brother, but they are in fact in danger, all the time.
The laws is another powerful tool for politicians in “1984” to limit citizens freedom. No parties, no dates, no love, no citizens walk on street after curfew, laws are everywhere in Oceania. Although these are strictly implemented, they cannot be called laws theoretically because they are not written in a system. There is no written laws in 1984, there is no such thing as constitution or court, but that is exactly how fear is created, as citizens are always living in uncertainty. For example, “And yet it was a fact that if Syme grasped, even for three seconds, the nature of his, Winston’s, secret opinions, he would betray him instantly to the Thought Police” (George Orwell, 30). There is no law that defines thoughtcrime However, Winston could be arrested any time for committing thoughtcrime by even a tiny facial twitch suggesting struggle, and his nervous system literally becomes his biggest enemy. Since there is no written law, the Party can change and adjust the strictness of laws freely as it wants, citizens never know if they have committed any crime, therefore no one is brave enough to defy the Party by any level, so fear is created. In addition, “Newspeak” is another law that is enforced to solidify the Party’s control. Humans use language to express their ideas, by eliminating words and replacing emotional words such as “excellent”, “wonderful” and “fantastic” by a single word “good” and its comparative degrees “plusgood” and “plusplusgood”. Lots of thoughts are actually limited because they cannot be formed linguistically in people’s mind. Citizens then cannot have their own critical thinking, and only do what they are told to do, they work just as computers, which surprisingly only have two words.*
Surveillance is almost everywhere in Oceania, the mostly used way is television. There is a two-way screen, so-called television in every apartment and on street but they only serve the purpose of monitoring and propaganda, the Party gets simultaneous image of what its people are doing. Even facial expression can be detected. Only senior members of the Inner Party have the power to turn them off for a short period. Children are also used to keep track of their parents, “The children, on the other hand, were systematically turned against their parents and taught to spy on them and report their deviations” (76). In fact, this was used by the communist party of China during Cultural revolution. With extremely mighty surveillance, citizens cannot express their ideas towards the negative side of the Party at all, and even thoughts are controlled because the Party can “reeducate” people for an incorrect facial expression
By using language as a tool of control as well as the evidence for sentence, Orwell creates a world where language, a word or a sentence, can determine ones life. Through language plays the key role in the Party’s propaganda, strict laws and surveillance, total physical control as well as phycological manipulation is achieved. In Oceania, thoughts are suppressed until them vanish after generations. In this world, nothing is free, even a bird.
*0 and 1, Binary numeral system
Bibliography: Orwell, George. 1984. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. Print.
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1984: Government's Attempt to Control The Mind and Bodies of Its Citizens
The novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is an American classic which
explores the human mind when it comes to power, corruption, control, and the
ultimate utopian society. Orwell indirectly proposes that power given to the
government will ultimately become corrupt and they will attempt to force all to
conform to their one set standard. He also sets forth the idea that the
corrupted government will attempt to destroy any and all mental and physical
opposition to their beliefs, thus eliminating any opportunity for achieving an
The novel shows how the government attempts to control the minds and bodies
of it citizens, such as Winston Smith who does not subscribe to their beliefs,
through a variety of methods. The first obvious example arises with the large
posters with the caption of "Big Brother is Watching You" (page 5). These are
the first pieces of evidence that the government is watching over its people.
Shortly afterwards we learn of the "Thought Police", who "snoop in on
conversations, always watching your every move, controlling the minds and
thoughts of the people." (page 6). To the corrupted government, physical
control is not good enough, however. The only way to completely eliminate
physical opposition is to first eliminate any mental opposition. The government
is trying to control our minds, as it says "thought crime does not entail death;
thought crime is death." (page 27). Later in the novel the government tries
even more drastic methods of control. Big Brother's predictions in the Times
are changed. The government is lying about production figures (pages 35-37).
Even later in the novel, Syme's name was left out on the Chess Committee list.
He then essentially vanishes as though he had never truly existed (page 122).
Though the methods and activities of the government seem rather extreme in
Orwell's novel, they may not be entirely too false. "Nineteen Eighty-Four is to
the disorders of the twentieth century what Leviathan was to those of the
seventeenth." (Crick, 1980). In the novel, Winston Smith talks about the people
not being human. He says that "the only thing that can keep you human is to not
allow the government to get inside you." (page 137). The corruption is not the
only issue which Orwell presents, both directly and indirectly. He warns that
absolute power in the hands of any government can lead to the deprival of basic
freedoms and liberties for the people. Though he uses the Soviet Union as the
basis of the novel's example, he sets the story in England to show that any
absolute power, whether in a Communist state or a Democratic one, can result in
an autocratic and overbearing rule. When government lies become truths, and
nobody will oppose, anything can simply become a fact. Through the control of
the mind and body the government attempts, any hopes of achieving an utopian
society are dashed. The peoples' minds are essentially not theirs' anymore.
The government tells them how to think. Conformity and this unilateral thinking
throughout the entire population can have disastrous results. Orwell also tells
us it has become a "world of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons.
Warriors fighting, triumphing, persecuting... 3 million people all with the same
face." (page 64).
George Orwell was born in India and brought up with the British upper
class beliefs of superiority over the lower castes and in general class pride.
A theme very prevalent in his novels, Nineteen Eighty-Four certainly no
exception, is this separation in the classes. The masses are disregarded by the
Party. This is a theme which is "fundamental to the novel, but not demonstrated
as fully as the devastation of language and the elimination of the past." (Kazin,
1984). Kazin also states in his essay that:
"Orwell thought the problem of domination by class or caste or
race or political machine more atrocious than ever. It
demands solution. Because he was from the upper middle class and
knew from his own prejudices just how unreal the lower classes can
be to upper-class radicals, a central theme in all his work is
the separateness and loneliness of the upper-class observer, like
his beloved Swift among the oppressed Irish."
This feeling of superiority somewhat provokes and leads to the aforementioned
corruption of absolute power. As the saying goes, "absolute power corrupts
absolutely." It is not even so much that the rulers want to become corrupt, but
they cannot grasp the idea of an absolute rule. They, as Kazin stated, cannot
comprehend the differentiation within the system, and thus become corrupt. This
ultimately prevents achieving an utopian society where the upper class people
want to oppress and the lower class want to rebel.
Orwell had strong anti-totalitarianism points of view and greatly
satires Socialism, even though he still insisted he was a Socialist in its pure
form, in this novel and in Animal Farm. Many consider that Nineteen Eighty-Four
is actually an extension of Animal Farm. In Animal Farm, Orwell
"left out one element which occurs in all his other works of
fiction, the individual rebel caught up in the machinery of
the caste system. Not until Nineteen Eighty-Four did he
elaborate on the rebel's role in an Animal Farm carried to
its monstrously logical conclusion."
The two books primary connection is through the use of the totalitarian society
and the rebel, and as stated some believe Nineteen Eighty-Four to simply be an
extension of Animal Farm. Nineteen Eighty-Four, however, brings everything to
an even more extreme but even scarier is the fact that is more realistic, such
as in a Nazi Germany environment. Nineteen Eighty-Four is considered to have
great pessimistic undertones, Orwell's prophecy if you will. It is also not
known whether it was intended as a "last words", though it was his final work,
as he collapsed and was bed-ridden for two years before he died. He did marry
several months before his death saying it gave him new reason to live. Orwell's
creation of Winston Smith shows a character who is:
"in struggle against the system, occasionally against himself,
but rarely against other people. One thinks of Orwell's
having thrown his characters into a circular machine and
then noting their struggle against the machine, their
attempts to escape it or compromise themselves with it."
Orwell writes more about the struggle as a piece of advice than anything else.
This novel was widely considered prophetic, a warning of what could be to come
if we did not take care. Orwell's method was to introduce the questions, not
propose solutions. Most likely he did not have the solution, but it was his
"solution" to help bring about the awareness of the existing problem.
The corrupt government is trying to control the minds of their subjects,
which in turn translates to control of their body. Orwell warns that absolute
power in the hands of any government can deprive people of all basic freedoms.
There are similar references in another of Orwell's novels, Animal Farm,
supporting the ideas of corruption and an unattainable utopian society which
were presented here in Nineteen Eighty-Four. With this novel, Orwell also
introduced the genre of the dystopic novel into the world of literature.
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