1984 By Orwell Essay, Research Paper
Pain from knowledge in Orwell’s 1984
George Orwell’s 1984 is a hauntingly prophetic novel that addresses the concerns of an individual born into a Totalitarian regime. This regime, named “The Party,” is ruled by a semi-fictitious omniscient leader termed “Big Brother.” The Party controls the minds of its members through Crimethink, the telescreens and Newspeak. Winston Smith recognizes this control and rebels against it through his diary and his escapades with Julia in an attempt to regain his identity. He is caught, however, and his identity is destroyed. Nineteen Eighty-Four’s message is mimicked in Ecclesiastes’ closing comment: “in much wisdom is much grief, and increase of knowledge is increase of sorrow” (1:18).
Smith manufactures lies in the Record Department in the Ministry of Truth. As an outer party member, he rewrites the history books to flatter the current administration. The futility of his job discourages him. He especially hates “the most bigoted adherents of the party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers-out of unorthodoxy” (11). He sees true knowledge and thought as freedom from the oppression of the Party. The narrator states, “With the feeling that?he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: ‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows’” (69).
Most people within Oceania act as human soundtracks, spouting out the Party’s propaganda with perfect ease. Smith lived with the knowledge that their words were merely manufactured slogans: he knew this because he wrote them. He existed on a higher intellectual level than the masses he catered to. This knowledge, however, brought misery to his life because he objected to his organization’s philosophies. The mentality that the knowledge evoked caused him to scream “I hate purity, I hate goodness! I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones” (132). Even Smith’s love with Julia was false. The narrator states, “No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act” (133). Smith’s rebellion caused him to lose his pride, his intelligence and his identity. He was taken to the Ministry of Love, where O’Brien asked,
“What is your first question? ‘What have you done with Julia’ said Winston. O’Brien smiled again. ‘She betrayed you, Winston. Immediately-unreservedly. I have seldom seen anyone come over to us promptly. You would hardly recognize her if you saw her. All her rebelliousness, her deceit, her folly, her dirty-mindedness-everything has been burned out of her’” (271).
In the Ministry of Love, Smith and Julia were both tortured. O’Brien commented, “‘You have whimpered for mercy, you have betrayed everybody and everything. Can you think of a single degradation that has not happened to you?’ Winston had stopped weeping, though tears were still oozing out of his eyes. He looked up at O’Brien ‘I have not betrayed Julia,’ he said” (286). Throughout his imprisonment, Smith clung to his dignity and belief that his knowledge would save him. Eventually, however, he cried, “Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!” (300).
After Smith regressed, he was released into society as another slogan-spurring individual. His pursuit of knowledge and freedom only brought him further from it. Thus, Smith’s desire for increased knowledge only magnified his pain. Nineteen Eighty-Four supports Ecclesiastes’ interpretation: pain is an intrinsic part of knowledge. In Oceania, the law, the entertainment, even the language prevents individuality and the attainment of true knowledge