1984 Essay, Research Paper
In 1984 George Orwell suggests that the repression of family bonds, human individuality, and artistic expression in order to attain a stable environment makes the achievement of a perfect state unrealistic. A perfect state in this situation refers to epitomized, idealistic, utopian society. This is a place where not only does the community run smoothly, but each member of the society is content and well. It is shown that the society examined, Oceania, does not possess family values nor attempts to practice them. It is not passionate or creative in factors such as love, language, history, and literature. Being that these are rudimentary components of what the average ideal society consists of, it proves that the “perfect state of well-being” cannot be accomplished through the rigid control and uniformity described in the aforementioned novel.
“?there seemed to be no color in anything except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The black mustacio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner, ?BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU? the caption said?” (6) This quote symbolizes the view of family life that is in the novel 1984. The ways in which the familial bonds are broken in 1984 are through the advent of large families (The Inner and Outer Party), and the way the smaller individual families are run. In the society of Oceania, there is one large, dominant family headed by Big brother, who is nothing more
than a logo of the Inner party. Orwell’s choice in the Party’s leader “Big Brother” gives the reader the impression that Oceania is one huge family, since the word brother is the name one would use in a family. In the book however, through using Big Brother’s name and face so habitually, takes away from the family ideal and begins to weaken family bonds. Although Big Brother is the commanding figure in Oceania, there are also small nuclear families that in some ways function as a “normal” family would. Just like in a typical society, the parents in Oceania have their children through live birth and were encouraged to dote and show affection to their children. Beyond those few aspects are where the similarities end. The responsibilities of the children in 1984 are much different than the responsibilities children have in society today. “The children?were systematically turned against their parents and taught to spy on them and report their deviations. The family had become in fact an extension of the Thought Police. It was a device by means of which everyone could be surrounded day and night by informers who knew him intimately.” (111) As you can see, the family structure in 1984 lends itself to stability and order, and the melancholy and discomfort portrayed throughout the book opposes the notion of Oceania being a utopian society.
Authority, in 1984 has an immense effect over one’s identity and individualism, leading to a dystopic state. This great lack of individuality is due to the powerful control exerted by the Inner Party in order to sustain a stable environment. Stability can be looked upon as minimizing conflict, risk and change, and without these, Utopia is realistic. The lack of these is fundamental to the book. All the Outer Party members, or comrades as they are called, are all identical, not in how they look, but in how they act.
Anything less is intolerable. There are many instruments used to ensure that “thought-crime”, which is thought that strays from the overall principles of the Party. There were telescreens and Thought Police who detect and apprehend the inhabitants when they commit a crime against the Party. The following quote shows how they control the population: “The telescreen 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?it was even conceivable that they (Thought Police), watched everybody all the time?You had to live-did live, from habit that became instinct-in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized”. (6) If a member of the Party were to be caught by the thought police, they were eliminated- COMPLETELY. Their existence was deleted entirely; it was as if they were never born. All the fellow comrades accept this as truth and after one day, all is forgotten and they go on with their lives. This is all due to the control and brainwashing of the Party. Individualism is not only frowned upon, but it is forbidden and fatalistic.
The third aspect that is lacking completely from 1984 is that of artistic and creative expression. Everyone has the need to express him or herself; whether it is through poetry, music, writing, or painting; it should be a wonderful passion people enjoy. With a ban of creative or artistic activity, a change in society is inevitable. You cannot have a lasting society, much less a utopian one, without plenty of pleasant vices. Language and history are slowly being erased from Oceania. Newspeak, the local news
station on the telescreen, aims to reduce the number of words in the English language. The plan continues with the reporters using less and less words to decrease thinking in the brain, eventually dissolving one’s imagination. “In the end we shall make thought crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it” (46) If the environment in which 1984 is situated continued, then there would soon be no need for the Thought Police, because there would be a diminutive amount of words left in the English language. History, and the control thereof also contribute to the development of a stable society. Winston works for the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to modify history constantly so that “?day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date.” (36) There was no way of proving this wrong either, because all the records were changed, there is no written proof that a certain event occurred. Everyday, through control and brainwashing, the people living in Oceania changed their perception of their history and re-wrote it in their memories.
In conclusion, the perfect state that Orwell wrote about (whether it satirical or not) remains dystopic when a lack of familial bonds, the sacrifice of human identity, and the lack of creative and artistic desires try to create stability in the society. The main, if the only thing holding this society together is stability. It reinforces the control and power of the elite class, and allows them to manipulate the lower classes. The Outer party in 1984 paid the price of their family bonds, their human individualism, and their creativity and ability to think for the good of the whole community. But through the loss of these things, through the loss of all that makes us who we are, both societies remain dystopic.