1984 Analysis Essay, Research Paper
1984, written by George Orwell, is a fictional account of a futuristic society controlled by the Inner Party, an elite minority of individuals dictating control over the lives of its citizens. This control is more than political. The world is divided into three superpowers constantly at war. Oceania is the country where the primary focus of the novel takes place. Big Brother is the mythical ruler of its government. The government exercises more than political control over its citizens. Its control is total, with the objective of destroying all personal freedom and free enterprise. The government restricts all social, economic, intellectual, and emotional aspects of society. The main character, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party and a second class citizen. He is employed by the Ministry of Truth to fabricate lies about the history of his country, Oceania. He secretly rebels against Big Brother by writing in a diary and thereby becoming a Thoughtcriminal. Winston then has an affair with Julia, risking everything by speaking with her about his personal objection to Big Brother ideology. He becomes friendly with a person named O Brien, whom he believes is part of the rebellious forces called the Brotherhood. In actuality, O Brien is an Inner Party undercover spy who eventually exposes Winston and reports him as a Thoughtcriminal. O Brien is responsible for reforming Winston. He personally interrogates, brainwashes, tortures and eventually breaks Winston emotionally when he forces Winston s head into a cage of rats. Winston loses every shred of human feeling, swears allegiance to Big Brother and lives out the conclusion of his life as an emotionless pawn of the government. The novel ends as a victory for the Inner Party because it has reformed another Thoughtcriminal.
The tone of the novel is one that presents the characters with a lack of redeeming human qualities. It shows a world where peoples emotions are suppressed and where individuals are shown in a very dark, sinister manner. The hatred, fear, loneliness and alienation of the characters in the novel make them all appear to be drown-like creatures. It is a dream-like nightmare where no one can live or even think without the fear of being watched, reported, and persecuted. The psychological oppression represented in the novel affects all characters in a way turns everyone into robots. The main character, Winston Smith, lives alone, has no friends, and has only unhappy memories of his family. Even when Winston meets Julia, and they become lovers, he appears downtrodden and uninspiring. Julia has no joy in her life. She may be rebelling against the difficult living conditions, but she doesn t aspire to Winston s more lofty political goals. O Brien characterizes man s worst human qualities by demonstrating the need for power and the hatred for nonconformity.
Orwell developed these drone-like characters to establish a non-human society that shocks the reader into believing that such conditions, although unlikely, could in some ways become a reality in the world.
After Winston s arrest, O Brien asks the following question; How does one man assert his power over another, Winston? Winston thought. By making him suffer, said Winston. Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is inflicting pain and humiliation. (p. 219) O Brien is an emotionless character who epitomizes the government s ideology and desire for total control. O Brien first appeared to be friendly but turned out, in the end, to demonstrate man s worst qualities. He contributed to the author s objective of warning the reader about the effects of too much control by government.
The novel creates an example of conflict between individual freedom and government control. It demonstrates what can occur when the power exercised by a few (Inner Party) is used to control society. Winston fights back and is crushed in spirit. The government maintains a steady state of confusion by dictating what people should believe. This is a government that wants to control the thoughts of its citizens and must crush any resistance that threatens its power. History is distorted and the news is fabricated. Friendship and intimate relations are forbidden. Everyone feels alone because their movement in being watched by the symbolic head of government, Big Brother. Unfortunately, the novel doesn t appear to have a satisfactory conclusion. Winston Smith rebels against Big Brother, but is eventually arrested, convicted without a trial, and tortured into submission by O Brien, a representative of the Inner Party.
Orwell wrote this novel several years after World War II, when countries like China and Russia were restricting individual freedom. In one sense, he was cautioning the world about the spread of communism. In another sense, he was cautioning people in democratic societies to not allow their government to limit individual freedom.
The conflict does not reach suitable ending. The reader may support Winston, but he doesn t prevail. The author gets the reader s attention by letting the worse happen; Winston gives in and submits to the Party. It is the author s hope that this unhappy ending will make the reader determined never to let such powerful oppression happen in the world.
On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures, which was so contrived that the eyes followed you about when you move. Big Brother Is Watching You, the caption beneath it ran. (p. 5) The conflict between individual freedom and too much control by the government is clearly illustrated by the notice that citizens are being spied upon. This warning, that everyone is being watched, is intentional and represents a display of power by the Party. The message strikes fear in the hearts of the citizens of the novel. Few individuals have the character to resist the oppression and those that do are crushed. The famous phrase Big Brother Is Watching You is even now recognizable by democratic societies as a forewarning against government control. Those words have delivered the message that Orwell intended in his novel; more government control means less individual freedom.
Betrayal is one of the major themes of the novel. The government is organized with secret Thought Police to watch and report on rebellious citizens. No one knows whom to trust. Winston s rebellion is know about from the beginning, since he is constantly being followed and observed by the Thought Police. O Brien was one of the people whom Winston thought was a friend and he turned out to be his greatest enemy. O Brien betrays Winston and in the end is responsible for ultimately destroying him. Winston and Julia were lovers who eventually betrayed each other. In their final meeting after Winston s torture they acted like strangers because of the guilt their betrayal created in them. Betrayal played an important part in the government s control over its citizens and was instilled at an early age. The Parson s children demonstrated their inclination to report on any activity as though it was a part of their lives.
The theme of betrayal contributes to the overall hopelessness and emptiness of characters in the novel. It contributes to the stark possibility of what ultimately can occur in society if there is too much power and control exercised by the government.
They sat down on two iron chairs, side by side but not too close together. He saw that she was about to speak I betrayed you, she said baldly. I betrayed you, he said. She gave him another quick look of dislike. Sometimes, she said, they threaten you with something-something you can t stand up to (p.240) This quotation describes a meeting between Winston and Julia after both had been interrogated and broken into submission by the Party. After confessing that they betrayed each other, they realized that they had no close feelings for each other and departed as strangers. This lack of emotion by former lovers was the ultimate indication.