With Regards To Totalitarianism Essay, Research Paper
George Orwell: The Callous Nature of TotalitarianismThe establishment of an elite power in a society produces feelings of hopelessness and fear. George Orwell, a world-renowned poet and author is known for his politically influenced works regarding socialism. In Animal Farm, Orwell creates a satire based on the communist regime in Russia from 1917?1943. The animals seeking freedom under their liberators the Pigs?, revolt against their oppressive owner, Farmer Jones. Ironically, after the revolution the Pigs?, lead by Napoleon become the oppressors. Orwell?s most influential novel Nineteen Eighty-Four describes a society under totalitarian control. The dictatorship of Big Brother and his Party in Oceania rule over the population with rigid laws and a distinct hierarchy of social position. Winston Smith, a blue-collar Outer Party member is secretly discontent with his life. When he begins to rebel against the Party he is found out, brutally forced to rehabilitate and required to conform to their ideals. In both novels, the authorities use their power to gain their own prestige at the expense of others; the government control of the population, poor treatment of the working class and the disallowance of basic needs illustrate the destructiveness of totalitarian government.
The government control of the population on Animal Farm is manipulative and brutal. For instance, the Pigs? use songs to control the thoughts of the other animals. The Pigs? teach, ?all the humbler animals?the maxim FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD?the sheep developed a great liking for the maxim and would start bleating?for hours on end? (Orwell a 22). Initially, the Pigs? lead all the animals to believe that anything on four legs is a friend and anything on two, namely humans are the enemy. However, later on when the Pigs? gain more power, they inform the animals that they will start trading with humans and change the song to, ?Four legs good, two legs better?by the time the sheep had quieted down the chance to utter any protest had passed? (Orwell a 89). The animals are angry that the Pigs? want to start trading with the supposed enemy but the Pigs? take advantage of the stupidity of the sheep and use their over whelming singing and bleating to drown out any opposition. The Pigs? use songs to negatively influence the thoughts of the other animals. Moreover, the Pigs? establish basic slogans that are the basis of the original rebellion against Farmer Jones. These seven commandments serve as a reminder of what the animals fought for; they also serve to enforce morals and values amongst the community. Sadly, the Pigs? begin to change the commandments as they acquire further dominance. Northrop Frye comments,
At each stage of this receding revolution, one of the seven principles of the original rebellion becomes corrupted, so that ?no animal shall kill any other animal? has added to it the words ?without cause??Eventually there is only one principle left, modified to ?all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,? as Animal Farm, its name has changed back to Manor Farm, and is welcomed into the community of human farms again after its neighbors have realized that it makes its ?lower? animals work harder on less food than any other farm, so that the model workers? republic becomes a model of exploited labor. (Bloom 9)
Frye imparts the degradation of the once promising revolution. The principles that once distinguish the animals on Animal Farm from those on neighboring farms have been tainted. The Pigs? change the commandments according to their needs and when the animals realize this, it is too late and the Pigs? join the domineering humans, further enslaving the animals. Furthermore, when keeping order on Animal Farm became increasingly difficult, the leader of the Pigs?, Napoleon trained young dogs to become a vicious disciplinary force. At a meeting where Napoleon abolishes the animal anthem ?Beasts of England?, four young porkers begin to protests and, ?suddenly the dogs sitting round Napoleon let out deep, menacing growls, and then the Pigs? fell silent and sat down again? (Orwell a 36). Napoleon uses the dogs to intimidate those with opinions contrary to his own. Eventually, the four young Pigs? are mangled by the dogs because Napoleon declares them traitors. Napoleon uses the dogs to instill his laws and if the other animals do not agree, they are executed. The animals eventually disregard the idea of gaining freedom as they become further restrained by the Pigs? lies and abuses.
Likewise, the government control of the population in Oceania is heavily influenced by propaganda and ill treatment. Similarly, instead of songs, the government introduces a new language called Newspeak to influence the thoughts of its population. Roy Harris notes, ?The Newspeak of Nineteen Eighty-Four is a deliberately distorted language, designed to ensure the political enslavement of its speakers. Its aim, as Orwell describes it, is that thoughts not approved by the Party ?should be literally unthinkable?? (Bloom 114). Harris communicates Orwell?s central message of Newspeak, which is to ultimately control the thoughts of the population. By controlling language, Newspeak limits the usage of many words in the English language. In essence purging a persons choice of words eliminates an individuals thoughts and feelings. The government of Oceania uses newspeak to eliminate any thoughts of rebellion amongst its population. In contrast, the slogans of the Party are already corrupt. The slogan of the government?s Ministry of Truth, where all government and public documents are modified is, ?WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH? (Orwell b 29). Unlike the Pigs? who alter their principles to suit their wishes, the fundamentally corrupt principles of the Party remain unchanged. The government masks their corruption as the norm and the population accepts it as the truth because they have no other basis of comparison. Similarly, the disciplinary force also controls the behavior of the population right down to their thoughts. The Thought Police keeps the citizens in a constant state of fear. Winston Smith holds a great fear of the Thought Police,
Only the thought Police mattered?there was no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate, they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. 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. (Orwell b 4)
The reputation of the Thought Police and the possibility of being watched at all times keeps the population of Oceania in check. The sincerity of the Oceania government is slanderous and results in the brainwashing of the population.
The treatment of the animals on Animal Farm is degrading and unfair. For instance, the animals that are not pigs or dogs are labeled manual laborers. ?The elite of the Pigs? immediately arrogate privileges to themselves. They become supervisors, while the other animals, with the sole anticollectivist, the cat, do the work. The Pigs? are united against the other animals in defending their rights? (Woodcock 196). Woodcock conveys that after the revolution the Pigs? establish themselves as the leaders, which allows them certain privileges. The Pigs? are responsible for creating ideas while the rest of the animals are obliged to make the ideas happen. The lives of the animals are not their own; they are told of changes that will be made but their input is not welcome. The animals know of all the atrocities committed by the Pigs? yet are unable to do anything about it. In the end, the Pigs? are no better then the human owners that the animals fought to be liberated. Moreover, the Pigs? in Napoleon?s Party do not have to work hard to gain power and maintain his regime. It was often assumed that the Pigs?, ?were so clever that they could think of a way round every difficulty?the pigs directed and supervised the others. With their superior knowledge it was natural that they should assume the leadership? (Orwell a 17). The animals accept that the Pigs? are the smartest, which easily allows the Pigs? to take advantage of them. Since it is natural that the Pigs? possess the most intelligence, the animals never mount viable opposition to contest against the Pigs? rule. In effect, the Pigs? are escalated to an undeserving superior position. Furthermore, the Pigs? encourage the animals to become literate, but many do not have the ability to remember the alphabet. However, the young Pigs? are given instruction while the few animals that can read are not allowed to develop the skill. ?It was announced that?a school room would be built for the young pigs and given instruction by Napoleon himself?they were discouraged from playing with the other young animals? (Orwell a 76). The Pigs? no matter if they can read or write are given the opportunity to better themselves with the building of a schoolhouse while the other animals are left in ignorance. With the education of the piglet?s the Pigs? are preparing a new generation to rule over the rest of the farm animals. The Pigs? use the animals for their own benefit and dispel any chance of a prosperous future.
Comparably, the government of Oceania has no regard for the interests of its working class. Unlike the lesser animals, the Proletarian class holds the manual labor jobs in Oceania but still enjoys some minor liberties. Philip Rahv explains the proletariat as, a role that puts it outside politics. ?In Oceania the workers, known as the Proles, are assigned to the task of production, deprived of all political rights, but unlike the Party members, are otherwise left alone and even permitted to lead private lives in accordance with their own choice? (Bloom 18). In contrast to the animals on Animal Farm, meetings are not held between the different social classes. The vast majority of the working class is not aware that they have political rights and only knows of the propaganda the government provides for them. The working class is allowed to live their own lives as long as they remain oblivious to the governments daily communications. By contrast, the Outer Party of Big Brother?s administration is required to work hours on end. Winston Smith,
had no spare time and was never left alone in bed. It was assumed that when he was not working, eating or sleeping he would be taking part in some kind of communal recreation: to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous. (Orwell b 85).
Unlike Napoleon?s Party, Big Brother?s Party was required work around the clock. No member has time to themselves; everyone?s time is Big Brother?s time. The government enforces a hectic schedule on Outer Party members to ensure that the intelligent members do not have the time to fester traitorous thoughts. Similarly, the government of Oceania keeps its working class in a state of ignorance to avoid revolt.
A few agents of the Thought Police moved always among them [Proletarians], spreading false rumors?no attempts was made to indoctrinate them with the ideology of the Party. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism, which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. (Orwell b 75)
Much like Napoleon, Big Brother keeps the working class in ignorance and only educates those in his own Party. By keeping the working class in ignorance, Big Brother ensures the future of his government. The Party uses the working class to earn a profit while keeping its citizens in a constant state of unawareness.
The disallowance of basic needs on Animal Farm burdens the animals but ensures their good behavior for the Pigs?. For example, the animals are deprived of food while the Pigs? have an abundance of nourishment. The Pigs? decide that their well-being takes precedence over the rest of the animals and, ?the milk and the windfall apples (and also the main crop of apples when they ripened) should be reserved for the pigs alone? (Orwell a 23). The Pigs? ploy of allotting themselves proper sustenance gives them advantage over the other animals who eventually become decrepit and are willing to do anything for food. In addition, the animals are given the right to procreate, but once their children are born, they are expected given them up. After a harsh winter, Napoleon declares that the hens are to lay one hundred eggs and these eggs are to be sold to sustain the farm. When the hens, ?heard this they raised a terrible outcry. They had been warned earlier that this sacrifice might be necessary, but had not believed that it would really happen. They were just getting their clutches ready for the spring sitting, and they protested that to take the eggs away now was murder? (Orwell a 51). The hens did not want to be denied the right of rearing their young and as a result, Napoleon stops their rations and the hens are starved into submission. The Pigs? maltreat the hens and use them as an example of what could happen if any animal should defy their wishes. Furthermore, the animals have to endure exceptionally severe living conditions whereas the Pigs? live in lavish luxury. During the harsh winter, the animals live outside in the bitter cold and are exposed to disease, while the Pigs?, ?moved into the farmhouse and took up residency there?the pigs not only took their meals in the kitchen and used the drawing room as a recreation room, but also slept in the beds!? (Orwell a 45). The Pigs? broke the commandment of not sleeping in a bed; they also separated themselves physically from the rest of the farm animals by moving into the house. The Pigs? live in comfort while the rest of the animals suffer the cold in confusion becoming frail and dying of disease. The lack of fundamental necessities causes the animals? poor mental and physical health.
Similarly, the government of Oceania disallows all basic needs of its? population to maintain order. Likewise, the citizens of Oceania endure drastic food rations, which damages heir health. Winston Smith describes the daily meal of an Outer Party member, ?the regulation lunch ? a metal pannikin of pinkish-gray stew, a hunk of bread, a cube of cheese, a mug of milkless Victory Coffee, and one saccharine tablet?the cubes of pinkish stuff which was probably a preparation of meat?? (Orwell b 53). The food that an average citizen of Oceania ingests is revolting and lacks any benefit but only to fill the person up. In contrast, on Animal Farm where sex is encouraged, in Oceania wanton sex is considered a crime. Herbert Read outlines the belief that,
?the greatest enemies of the totalitarian State are not the ideas (which can be dealt with dialectically) but aesthetic and erotic sensations. In the love of objective beauty, and in the love of an individual of the opposite sex, the most oppressed slave can escape to a free world? (Bloom 26). By making sex a crime, the government eliminates the possibility of constructive thought because people are denied the joy of loving another person. Without the ability to think fruitfully, people are not inclined to demand for their rights because they have no need for anything further than what the government provides. The elimination of sex from Oceania?s society serves to keep the population obedient. Additionally, the living conditions in Oceania are extremely destitute. Winston Smith describes his Victory Mansion lodging as,
plaster flaked ceilings and walls, the pipes burst in every hard frost, the roof leaked whenever there was snow, the heating system was usually running at half steam when it was not closed down all together from motives of the economy. Repairs except for what you could do for yourself, had to be sanctioned by the remote committees, which were liable to hold up even the mending of a window-pane for two years. (Orwell b 23).
The lack of high-quality housing is an excuse for the government to rob the population of its deserved privileges. The Party recognizes that people living in impoverished dwellings have the drive to work harder in order to reach a better living. Unfortunately, the regime of Big Brother strives to keep everyone at the same level of poverty, eliminating the possibility of a promising future. The deprived living conditions ensure loyalty to the government because people have lost all hope and are willing to follow any guidance that may bring a better life. The governments practice of depriving its population of human necessities causes depression and lost hope.
Orwell?s literature reveals that the destruction resulting from Totalitarian rule is evident in the government rule of the population, treatment of the working class, and the disallowance of basic needs. In Animal Farm, Orwell?s tale of the animals that rebel against their domineering human ruler only to be further exploited by their new rulers the Pigs? has parallels with modern day totalitarian governments. Animal Farm was written shortly after the Soviet revolt and is intended to be a satire based on Joseph Stalin?s communist rule of Russia. Stalin much like Napoleon keeps the population in ignorance to the outer world, oppresses the people by depriving them of food and viciously infringes on their rights. Animal Farm is written as a simplistic fictional novel to ensure that individuals at different levels of literacy will be able to understand the central meaning. Orwell imparts the message that once an individual is given absolute power over a majority, that majority will suffer severe consequences. The purpose of Nineteen Eighty-Four is to ?change the way people think? (Ferrell 162). In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell describes a society where the basic rights of human beings are denied by the totalitarian government. Many speculate the central message behind Orwell?s most successful and controversial novel but Orwell himself says that, ?it is a criticism of my life in the twentieth century as I have experienced it in Burma, Paris, London, Wigan, Barcelona and elsewhere.? In essence, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a result George Orwell?s personal experience with different types of governments. By living in many different countries with different governments, Orwell gains perspective on what may come in the future. Orwell expresses a fear that mankinds obsession with perfection and increased technological advances will eventually cause the annihilation of basic human rights. Like Animal Farm, one ruler, Big Brother dictates the activities of an entire population. Big Brother represents the early obsession of man in creating a Utopian society, which is evidently impossible because the fundamental ideal of humanity is freedom of rights. The underlying message of both novels is to not accept everything at face value, for it could be oppression in the making.
Works CitedFerrel, Keith. George Orwell: The Political Pen. New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc, 1985.
Harris, Roy. ?The Misunderstanding of Newspeak?. Modern Critical Views:
George Orwell. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 114-119.
Northrop, Frye. ?Orwell and Marxism?. Modern Critical Views: George Orwell.
Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 9-11.
Orwell, George a. Animal Farm. Toronto: Penguin, 1945.
Orwell, George b. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Toronto: Penguin, 1949.
Rahv, Phillip. ?The Unfuture of Utopia?. Modern Critical Views: George Orwell.
Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 13-20.
Read, Herbert. ?1984?. Modern Critical Views: George Orwell.
Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 25-27.
Woodcock, George. The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell. Montreal: Book Centre Inc, 1966.