Sensational 1984 Essay Research Paper George Orwells

Sensational 1984 Essay, Research Paper

George Orwell?s View Of Totalitarianism Through The Novel 1984

James Hawkins 1

?Few novels written in this generation have obtained a popularity as great as that of George Orwell?s 1984.? George Orwell?s popular and powerful novel was not just a figment of his imagination, it was spawned from many experiences from childhood to early adulthood, as well as from events circa World War II. At age eight, he was shipped off to boarding school where he was the only scholarship student among aristocrats. This was Orwell?s first taste of dictatorship, of being helpless under the rule of an absolute power. Unlike his classmates, Orwell was unable to afford to go to Oxford or Cambridge and his grades kept him from winning any more scholarships (Scott-Kilvert, 98). Therefore, he decided to join the Imperial Police in Burma, India. He wrote of the experience, ?In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people…? (Reed, 3). Orwell hated the police and everything they stood for; he often hated the people he was supposed to help. The events that took place in his life and the rise of Fascism in the early 1930s made Orwell a committed anti-Fascist. Ever serious line of work he wrote as of 1936 was, whether indirectly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism. (Elements of Lit., 1057)

Orwell?s purpose for writing 1984 dictates the major theme. He wants to warn people what can happen when the government is given too much power. He wants to show how such governments can develop, and what methods they use to keep the people they are

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governing in their power (Bryfonski, 1057). The party in Orwell?s novel is all-powerful because it is run by a group whose major purpose is to gain and keep power. They crush anybody who tries to commit an independent act. Their methods are harsh and efficient.

One of the methods used in the novel to deliver the government?s propaganda was the use of television (?telescreens? in the novel). Back in Orwell?s time the use of television was strictly limited to the very affluent and for use in labs at colleges and universities. In the novel, televisions are in most homes and all over the streets. The use of telescreens is an important physical element. It watches citizens, gives war news, music, political speeches and messages from Big Brother. This may have not be a big deal today, but back then no one would have thought of television as a means of sending and receiving information. (Reed, 34)

To demonstrate the totalitarian ways of the government, Orwell creates a sublanguage that is used throughout the story. ?Newspeak? is used to stress connections between language, thought and power. Orwell tells us that nobody will be able to commit unwanted acts or think bad thoughts because actions cannot exist without language to describe or define them. For example, free would mean ?without?. A dog could be free of fleas, but people would no longer hanker for freedom. It includes words for everyday activities like eating, drinking, working. It contains simple nouns and verbs with clear meanings. Any shades of meaning have been eliminated. The grammar is designed so that any word can be used as a verb, noun, adjective or adverb. Anything difficult to pronounce has been

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eliminated. Words are deliberately constructed for political purposes. They are designed to promote ?right? thoughts. Words such as justice, democracy and religion have been abolished, or reduced to either crimethink or oldthink (Reed, 94). Once

?Oldspeak? is altogether overthrown, the last link with the history and literature of the past will be broken.

Orwell also uses an omniscient character, Big Brother, to show how powerful the government is. Although he is seen on telescreens and his pictures glare out on huge posters that say ?BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU,? nobody actually sees him in person. Orwell based this character on the totalitarian dictators of the World War II era, including Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco, and even Adolph Hitler. He may have also been basing Big Brother on religious figures: a mysterious, powerful, God-like figure who sees and knows all, but is never seen in person.

Some critics think the fact that Orwell was dying while he finished this novel accounts for the pessimistic view of society and its future, while others think he was using every weapon in his arsenal to wake up his readers to the threat of totalitarianism. ?Today such terms as ?doublethink? and ?thoughtcrime? have passed into accepted usage and for a generation of readers the book has come to be regarded as a standard essay on the growth and influence on totalitarian trends.? (Magill, 1417)


Bryfonski, Dedria. Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Volume2. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1979.

Magill, Frank N., ed. Magill?s Survey of World Literature, Volume 4. New York, New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1993.

Scott-Kilvert, Ian, ed. British Writers, Volume 7. New York, New York: Charle?s Scribner?s Sons, 1984.

Reed, Kit, ed. Barron?s Book Notes, 1984. New York, New York: Barron?s Educational Series, Inc., 1984.

Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Elements of Literature, Sixth Course. Austin, Texas: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

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