Nineteen Eighty-Four: An Examination Of Totalitarian Rule In Oceania Essay, Research Paper
Having studied George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, I intend to discuss the type of Government envisaged by Orwell and to what extent his totalitarian Party, ‘Ingsoc’, satirises past regimes. I will also discuss Orwell’s motive in writing such a piece and how his writing style helps it become clear.The main theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four concerns the restrictions imposed on individual freedom by a totalitarian regime. Orwell shows how such a system can impose its will on the people through manipulation of the press, the elimination of democracy, constant supervision (courtesy of the Telescreens) and more. Orwell also shows how the state has more subtle methods for imposing its authority, such as the manipulation of language and control of the media. Propaganda also plays a central role within the Party’s infrastructure and it is used to gain support for Big Brother, stir patriotism and induce hate towards the chosen “enemy” country. Workers in the Ministry of Truth work to change the past, making Big Brother seem to have always been right. Also, the Party seeks to stifle any individual or “potentially revolutionary” thought by introducing a new language, Newspeak, the eradication of English and the deployment of “Thought Police” who terrorize Party members by accusing them of “Thought Crime” (ie. to think a crime is to commit a crime). The introduction of this new language means that eventually, no-one is able to commit thought-crime due to the lack of words to express it. This is a frightening concept ? the restriction of your thought could destroy your personality if the ability to think for oneself was erased.Words are a weapon as far as the Party are concerned, but the war is not physical; it is a war against truth – The Ministry of Truth, minitrue, re-writes history and falsifies documents, the Ministry of Peace, minipax, makes war,”It’s a beautiful thing, destruction of words… You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston… Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we will make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” (Syme to Winston -p46)Nineteen Eighty-Four may not be known to everyone, but there are certain phrases and expressions that have actually gained common usage in the English Language. Examples of this would be Newspeak, thought-crime, Big Brother, unperson and doublethink. All of which relate to the State’s frightening power to alter reality. Possibly the most interesting of these is doublethink, defined as ‘the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them’. This, of course, sounds ludicrous until one considers the fact that this is evident within modern politics.There are many parallels between ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and other real-life examples. It has been said that it can be compared to both Stalinist Russia and National Socialist Germany. The fact that the Party can be compared to two supposedly diametrically opposed political systems does, at first, seem paradoxical, but yet the Party, the NSDAP and The Communist Party share a common thread: totalitarian rule. This is a point that Orwell was well aware of. However, this story was probably much more an attack on Stalinism, or at least autocracy in general. Renowned internationally as a forthright speaker against Stalin, Orwell was, however, an ardent Socialist and was keen to distance himself from Russian totalitarianism. His Socialist beliefs, coupled with his experience in the Spanish Civil War as a member of the revolutionary POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificaci?n Marxista) militia, led him to realise the threat of fascist, or at least autocratic, rule. It was this realisation that led him to pen his greatest novels – ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ (the latter was almost titled “The Last Man in Europe”, but Orwell favoured ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’).The fact that Oceania, the country envisaged by Orwell, is ruled by Ingsoc, Newspeak for English Socialism, and Ingsoc itself is by no means a socialist Party, is brutally ironic to say the least. Possibly the best example of doublethink is that ‘the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement ever stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism’. Another symbolic parallel in ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is that of the Roman Catholic Church. It can be said that Big Brother is not dissimilar to God and the Inner party could indeed be equated with his Priesthood. It is then possible to interpret Winston’s role as one who has lost his faith and O’Brien’s concern that he should return to the thinking of the party could be seen as the Priest’s desire to convert one who has lapsed from the faith. This is an interesting interpretation, but not one of the more obvious ones that it is almost certain Orwell intended.Orwell’s writing style paints a bleak picture of man’s future, although ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is not a prophecy. The vivid horror depicted in his work can be attributed, says he, to his ill health while authoring this book (he had severe Tuberculosis). This is evident when Winston is introduced to Room 101. Perhaps the book is so bleak because the events in the book are a somewhat logical projection of the events in the recent past at the time of the writing of the novel. The portrayal of the ordinary, non-Party civilians is also somewhat unsettling because they have even lost the title of ‘civilian’. They are know known as ‘proletarians’ – a term which I feel dehumanises the ordinary man and strips him of any apparent individuality whatsoever. Their label makes them seem almost robotic. Yet their role is not minor because if there is any hope left in Oceania, Winston is certain it lies with the proles. But these simple working-class drones are not free, despite the relative freedom they apparently possess, because this ‘freedom’ is just a symptom of the utter contempt in which they are held by the Party. This ?freedom? means nothing because they have no mind in which to free. Even Emmanuel Goldstein, the Trotsky-like enemy of Big Brother, tells the Party that ‘nothing is to be feared [from the proletarians]. They can be granted intellectual liberty,’ he adds ‘because they have no intellect’.The subject of the Party holds an interesting theme. Its quest for absolute power is reminiscent of Lord Acton?s famous apothegm, ?power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely?. The Party seems to be in a constant drive to control every aspect of the proletarians? and the lower Party members? lives. This is exemplified by the complete psychological and physical surveillance provided by the Telescreens and the Thought Police. Even in unpopulated countrysides, the Thought Police have microphones disguised as flowers.Oceania, it is said, can be seen as to be beyond totalitarianism; an extreme even by extremist standards. Even in the death camps of the Third Reich, the Jewish community could continue to exist and heroic behaviour, of sorts, was still possible. But in Oceania, heroism is a dead concept because it cannot exist when there is no-one to save in the first place. Ben Pilmot states in the introduction, “it’s like spitting in the wind”. Indeed it is.No other book has been known to inspire people with such a love of liberty and hatred of tyranny. The individual has a basic desire to be free from restraint and control, and Orwell recognised this. Nineteen Eighty-Four is an expression of Orwell?s irritation at many of the facets of English Socialism, as well as Russian Communism. It is also a reflection of his own ideas about the nature of political corruption and, to be specific, Stalinist Russia.Whatever his motivation, over fifty years after its publication, Nineteen Eighty-Four remains one of the greatest novels of our time.
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