“No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.” Bob Dylan said this probably not knowing its profound connection with George Orwell’s novel “1984”, but the as well could be in “1984”. Orwell depicts a totalitarian dystopian world where there is no freedom and citizens are being brainwashed constantly. Without any sense of individual fairness, people work for the party just like the gear wheels in a machine. In order to achieve this, the politicians in “1984” suppress people’s thinking and eliminate their freedom by creating fear through propaganda, strict laws and incessant surveillances.
In “1984”, lies, myths and false information controls the thinking of the citizens. The Party uses propaganda as the deadliest weapon of control. Propaganda increases the citizens’ morale and makes them think that what the party tells them to do is always right. There are mainly two types of propaganda, one changes truth, so-called doublethink, and another creates fear. “Doublespeak” can be seen frequently in the world of 1984. The party’s big slogan “WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” (George Orwell, 4) is an good example. The idea of the slogan is to convince the citizens that what they want, is what they already have. Only war can make peace and harmony, so peace is no longer peace, it becomes war; anyone who is slaved and wants freedom, he already has freedom; you can only strengthen yourself by not knowing things and being ignorant. The slogan changes truth and make the citizens believe that anything they want other than what their government wants can only make them unhappy, therefore, no one will consider rebellion because they believe the Party’s way of governing is the best and only way. “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” (George Orwell, 3) is another core slogan. It is nearly everywhere in the country and usually presented beneath the picture of Big Brother on a poster. It creates fear of obliterated privacy among citizens by alerting them that they are watched all the time. At the same time, the slogan also emphasizes Big Brother’s power to tells the citizens that they are indeed safe and protected. The party uses this to make them believe that within the party nothing can go wrong, and without Big Brother they will not have such lives. Everyone thinks he is safe in Oceania because of the Big Brother, but they are in fact in danger, all the time.
The laws is another powerful tool for politicians in “1984” to limit citizens freedom. No parties, no dates, no love, no citizens walk on street after curfew, laws are everywhere in Oceania. Although these are strictly implemented, they cannot be called laws theoretically because they are not written in a system. There is no written laws in 1984, there is no such thing as constitution or court, but that is exactly how fear is created, as citizens are always living in uncertainty. For example, “And yet it was a fact that if Syme grasped, even for three seconds, the nature of his, Winston’s, secret opinions, he would betray him instantly to the Thought Police” (George Orwell, 30). There is no law that defines thoughtcrime However, Winston could be arrested any time for committing thoughtcrime by even a tiny facial twitch suggesting struggle, and his nervous system literally becomes his biggest enemy. Since there is no written law, the Party can change and adjust the strictness of laws freely as it wants, citizens never know if they have committed any crime, therefore no one is brave enough to defy the Party by any level, so fear is created. In addition, “Newspeak” is another law that is enforced to solidify the Party’s control. Humans use language to express their ideas, by eliminating words and replacing emotional words such as “excellent”, “wonderful” and “fantastic” by a single word “good” and its comparative degrees “plusgood” and “plusplusgood”. Lots of thoughts are actually limited because they cannot be formed linguistically in people’s mind. Citizens then cannot have their own critical thinking, and only do what they are told to do, they work just as computers, which surprisingly only have two words.*
Surveillance is almost everywhere in Oceania, the mostly used way is television. There is a two-way screen, so-called television in every apartment and on street but they only serve the purpose of monitoring and propaganda, the Party gets simultaneous image of what its people are doing. Even facial expression can be detected. Only senior members of the Inner Party have the power to turn them off for a short period. Children are also used to keep track of their parents, “The children, on the other hand, were systematically turned against their parents and taught to spy on them and report their deviations” (76). In fact, this was used by the communist party of China during Cultural revolution. With extremely mighty surveillance, citizens cannot express their ideas towards the negative side of the Party at all, and even thoughts are controlled because the Party can “reeducate” people for an incorrect facial expression
By using language as a tool of control as well as the evidence for sentence, Orwell creates a world where language, a word or a sentence, can determine ones life. Through language plays the key role in the Party’s propaganda, strict laws and surveillance, total physical control as well as phycological manipulation is achieved. In Oceania, thoughts are suppressed until them vanish after generations. In this world, nothing is free, even a bird.
*0 and 1, Binary numeral system
Bibliography: Orwell, George. 1984. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. Print.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the keenest pieces of satire to be written in the twentieth century. It was George Orwell’s last novel, written between 1946 and 1949 and published less than one year before his death. If took him more than two years to write, considerably more time than he spent on any of his other novels. Orwell was seriously ill with tuberculosis during the writing of this novel. He said that his sickness might have crept into the work and added to the novel’s dark and disturbing nature. Indeed, the protagonist, Winston Smith, suffers from horrible coughing fits that sometimes leave him paralyzed.
This novel’s deepest impact lies in the many Orwellian words and concepts that have become a part of English vocabulary, especially the political vocabulary. The terms “newspeak,” “doublethink,” and “Big Brother” were all coined by Orwell. Political commentators often draw from these words when they need a negative phrase to describe a government.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is part of a small group of important futuristic novels that use the structure of science fiction to contain political satire. These have been called anti-Utopia novels. Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) are the best known in English, but both of these draw from an earlier novel, We (1924), written by the little-known Russian novelist Yevgeny Zamyatin.
The central theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four is the state’s imposition of will upon thought and truth. Winston wants to keep the few cubic centimeters inside his skull to himself. He wants to be ruler of his own thoughts, but the state is powerful enough to rule even those. He wants the freedom to believe that two plus two equals four, that the past is fixed, and that love is private.
Orwell saw privacy as one of the most necessary elements in a human’s life. The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four does not allow privacy for the individual and does not allow the individual to have a personal identity. Everyone must think in the collective way, exactly as everyone else thinks. Thought control is executed through the falsification of history. Winston’s job is to falsify history, often rewriting the same event many times, making something different happen each time. Oceania was at war with Eastasia, then Eurasia, and then Eastasia again, and history had to change every time to show that Oceania had always been at war with the present enemy. People learned not to trust their own memories and learned, through doublethink, not to have memories at all, beyond what was told to them.
This depiction of thought control may be Orwell’s notice on the concept of history. Different people might recount the same experience in different ways. School books of one country, for example, may reconstruct events differently from history books of another country, each set presenting its country in a positive light.
Another theme came from the propaganda that circulated during the world wars. Enemies were depicted as less than human. This mind manipulation by governments helped their own populations to believe that fighting and killing the enemy was not immoral in any way, because the enemy was a scourge of the planet and should be annihilated. Here again, the futuristic disguise of Nineteen Eighty-Four is only a device to magnify a situation that Orwell had witnessed throughout his life, the flagrant deception by governments of their peoples on a regular basis. Orwell gives exemplary cases in mind control, showing how easily a government can divert the attention of its populace by creating an enemy for everyone to hate together.
The severe brutality of Nineteen Eighty-Four is a direct link from the post-World War II era to a fierce exaggeration of the possible future. After living through the atrocities of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and knowing of concentration camps and of mental and physical tortures, Orwell painted a picture of what the year 1984 could be like if the principles of achieving and retaining power were extended in the same vein as in the past.
The setting for Nineteen Eighty-Four is not a contrived high-technology world but instead a World War II-era rotting London with dilapidated nineteenth century buildings, their windows broken and covered with cardboard, insufficient heat, and strictly rationed food. Living conditions are miserable for everyone but the elite. The reason is the war, which does not progress or decrease but continues forever. Because most industry is working toward the war effort, the citizens of Oceania receive few benefits from their work. The proletariat is occupied but is never able to gain even the simplest of luxuries. Citizens are utterly dependent on the small scraps the Party gives them. The “proles” are always wanting, and they are successfully held in a position of servitude and powerlessness.
Orwell did not write Nineteen Eighty-Four as a prophecy of that date. It was a warning and an effort to attract people’s attention to the atrocities of their own governmental bodies, and the title date was chosen as a partial inversion of 1948, during which he was writing the novel. Orwell knew that most of the people who would read his book would still be alive in 1984. The ideas in this book are overwhelming and incredibly powerful. Although it may not deserve its acclaim as being a masterwork in literature, the novel is a creative effort in leading people to question the power structures and motives behind their governments, war, and economic class distinctions.