1984 is a powerful claustrophobic novel that evokes an impression of a post war, brown-grey, totalitarian Britain where a national state of emergency is maintained to preserve the status quo. Everything about this book is original for its time, from the use of Newspeak, to the overwhelming sense of paranoia and fear that infects every thought and movement of the central characters, to the chilling reminder of just how frail the human spirit really is. 1984 can only be judged as a ground breaking literary event. Whether Orwell was writing to warn of the 'horrors' of communism, or the austerity of post war Britain is irrelevant. What he has single handedly achieved is to define the very essence of dystopian fiction. The date 1984 has become a brand term of description for mind control, totalitarianism and the police state. At the time Orwell wrote this, ‘no piece of fiction had been as brutal or as terrifying in its portrayal of ideas and the determination with which a ruling body could obliterate them’. It is hard to imagine the effect his novel could have had on its readers at the tail end of the 1940s.

Ignorance is Strength?
An essay inspired by George Orwell's 1984
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Penguin Group, 1981.

Knowledge is power; I've been hearing that every day for the past thirteen years. So when I hear the thought, "Ignorance is strength," my brain immediately stands up and begins to shout disagreements. Knowledge is power for the ones with the knowledge, but the ones with ignorance do not have the strength. Knowledge creates the awareness of power, and for some, this awareness develops into an addiction. Once power is obtained, life without it seems unbearable, useless, and worthless. Just as an alcoholic would sacrifice anything for just one more drink, a powerful person will abandon every moral and lesson he learned as a child, as long as his power remains stable and secure.

When the opportunity arises for a power hungry person to assure his supremacy over all people, he must pursue it, even if along with the possibility of complete power comes the probability that all humanity will be sacrificed. This powerful person cannot help but realize that anyone else with his knowledge has the ability to take away his control. His own self-doubt and greed, his strongest human qualities, are the downfall of the human world. If this powerful person was confident in his own ability to govern the world, there would be no need to destroy the possibility of intelligence and awareness among the public as to what he is doing. There would be no need to take away human rights if he was actually "qualified" to take over the world.

Knowledge is what I cherish most in my life. Emotions are flippant and misleading, but knowledge is the basis of reality. Without it, our lives mean nothing. The world could not make sense, and without sense, there cannot be anything else. What are emotions if we do not understand what they are? They would lose all meaning. Knowledge is what holds this universe together; it gives reason to a chaotic world. With knowledge, anything is possible. "…as long as it was intellegible, then it was alterable" (Orwell 168). As long as we have the understanding behind an action, we have the power to change the action.

The most important trait of being human is our capacity for knowledge and understanding of the world around us, as well as the right to change our surroundings to benefit the rest of mankind. When this is taken away from us, there is nothing left. We become merely machines in a world controlled by one mind. In 1984, written by George Orwell, the power of knowledge is taken away from the citizens of Oceania. They are forever doomed to live in a world of misery hidden under a false sense of patriotism to the one causing their discomfort. The few who eventually do see through this fog of deceit are immediately arrested and forced to believe Big Brother is their savior, even though he is their destruction. Their former knowledge is ripped away through pain, torture, and new lessons drilled into their heads until they can't remember the truth any longer. Big Brother knows the knowledge behind the human mind, and therefore is able to understand it in ways which allow him to twist and reform it into a helpless mass of nerves and suppressed instincts in order to maintain his position as the exalted one. "Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things" (Baker). Without knowledge, people are unable to realize this.

Big Brother has had years of experience, and he has the power to do whatever his warped heart desires due to his success in transforming the ignorant minds of a few people, who in turn transform more minds in an endless cycle that will eventually swallow the world. Because of the completeness of his dictatorship, all those who oppose him are insignificant in comparison to the millions of other people who do not have the ability to recognize the fact that they are many, and if they only had the knowledge, they would have the power to overcome Big Brother. Ignorance is not strength. Strength is the knowledge of one's surroundings and the ability to control them to some extent. Ignorance is being misled to believe one is strong.

Novel by E. A. Blair, writing as George Orwell.

The impression I get from rereading this tome is that Orwell was more than a bit of a whiner. One of the reasons why this book played so well for teens in my day, I believe was the fact that the poor fellow never, ever seemed to have a nice day, and everything is always held to fall short of an unspoken, but unrealistic ideal. Music is inevitably "tinny", "sentimental", and "trite", anything at all from the radio grates on his nerves, and, while he's always hungry, never seems to enjoy his food: it's always described as "metallic", or "inedible". He doesn't like excercise, yelling insults at Goldstein, putting together fuses, or anything else the Party tells him to do -- it's a wonder that no one's noticed how listless he is towards everything. The furniture is beat-up, the decor is uninspiring, and everyone rats on everyone else (irony intended). Every woman is inevitably described as being morbidly obese, run-down, weary, 25-going-on-40, or just plain distasteful, and the one that isn't, he initially wants to beat with a rubber truncheon for being good-looking and unavailable, kind of like a cheerleader with a "True Love Waits" T-shirt. At her best, she wears makeup badly, looks like a female impersonator, and wears perfume reminiscent of an overaged whore. Any man who's not physically repulsive is repulsively physically fit and smells like sweat. Sound familiar, folks? It's high school!

In real life, Russians I know seem to have gone through almost all the indignities (except being bombed at and arrested) that Winston Smith did, except that mostly, their reaction seems to have been that life was well, not that bad. People DO have good and bad days, even in hellish conditions, get attached to things, people, and places, even under the worst possible circumstances ("Stockholm Syndrome", anyone?), and tend to be nice to people that have been nice to them and contrariwise. It's possible to like SPAM, not because it's somehow patriotic to eat it, but because it's Sunday supper at the commissary, when that cool guy Wayne is on duty who does that funny thing (no one else notices but you, you're sure) with the spatula. It's a quieter life, certainly...a simpler one, but not necessarily a a bad one.

And then there is Newspeak. It's kind of strange that the Party encourages everyone to speak in an affected jargon, and even to write articles in it, but no one in the whole book uses more than one or two words of it at a time in everyday conversation. Coming, as I do, from a profession where people often sound like they're talking in code (even when they aren't specifically talking about programming, security, or encryption), it's a wonder that those in the Ingsoc Party duckspeak Newspeak so ungoodly...and so rarely.

Another problem is that while you can assign words and symbols all you like, meaning is outside any outside force whatsoever. Think of all the contradictions in modern slang, where you can "feel super bad" (and be on top of the world), describe something splendid as "dope", "sick", "killer", or even "mad sick", decry being treated like a "special child", or declare an enthusiasm for a particular musical genre by proclaiming "Punk Rock Rules!". You can even "be down with" a political figure or hero, perhaps even Big Brother. It would be difficult for anyone but a highly trained observer to explain what is being meant by "real soon now", "life is hard", or "copious free time". Calling general horizontal tomfoolery "sexcrime" isn't going to deter huggermugging, any more than the words "crave", "addiction", and "decadent" make White Castle hamburgers, Macintosh computers, or chocolate less appealing.

The fact is that people just aren't that malleable, and neither are they predictable. A kind of Goedel's proof obtains when dealing with actual human beings, rather than the facile abstractions of Orwell's fantasy: no set of rules devised by human beings can adequately account for all human dealings. It was more than apparent, at least to me, that Goldstein is just as much a construct as Big Brother...I mean, come on, looking and sounding like a sheep? What if someone doesn't particularly like the government, but doesn't like Trotsky...er, Goldstein, either? What if BB had groupies, stalkers, fans? In Orwell's world, groupies don't exist, neither do garage bands, sarcasm, graffiti, wise-ass teenagers, babies, office politics and/or gossip, or any kind of individual preference, even if it's the equivalent of arguing 98° vs The Backstreet Boys. While we're told that speeches and music go on constantly in the background, in the entire book, no speeches are ever quoted at length, and only one new song, "It Was Just a Passing Fancy", is given with its lyrics. Party members, he repeatedly reminds us, don't voluntarily sing, which undercuts the gung-ho atmosphere considerably. The whole novel is full of these tell-you-not-show-you details that inevitably have a negative slant -- he doesn't much like Communism, but he doesn't much like the alternatives, either.

The reason why the climax just doesn't work for me is that the betrayal isn't at all concrete: we only have the say-so of O'Brian that she betrayed him and Winston's incongruous protestation that they ought to feed Julia to the rat, not him....it would be more fitting (I think) if they'd just put the two of them in the same cell and watched them go from "We're in this together, love." to "I wish you were dead." and then give them a turn in Room 101. Apparently, Orwell was more conversant on dealings with prostitutes than girlfriends: even at her best, Julia behaves like a walking sex toy rather than a human -- about the most perceptive thing she gets to say is that she thinks the Government is probably lobbing bombs at them instead of Eur- or East- Asia.

It's interesting, because just as the novel is an expression of Theory X, Apple Computer was concieved as the apotheosis of Theory Y. What has been considered the greatest commercial ever made, by Ridley Scott, for Apple Computer's Macintosh. It parodies IBM's hegemony of the computer industry with its huge mainframes by likening IBM to a dictatorship. Notable for a busty athlete throwing a hammer through a movie screen and footage of 100 skinheads, it's supposed to signify the end of faceless, corporate computing, and the beginning of a new era when people had the power. Steve Jobs, of course, is a "cult of personality" all to himself. Plus ca change....

George Orwell's satire of society is very well written, thoughtful, and potentially scary to those of us convinced that the world we live in is but a copy wherein the government has a somewhat better developed sense of subtlety. However, the one thing it is sadly not is original. Orwell's society was one obsessed with the menace of fascism, but this was not a world first. Their radical ideas about society had, in fact, already occured to others.

Russians, in the post-Tzarist period, were conditioned to believe that absolute rule was the greatest of all evils, and that only by following the principles of the bolshevik revolution could they be saved. However, all, or most, of the population knew that perfect socialism was a myth.

From this idea sprung a great book: We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin. This book, published in the twenties, re-emerged in the thirties and forties, to be toyed with by intellectuals who believed in the communist ideal. Both Orwell and Huxley based their dystopias (dystopiae?) on Zamyatin's idea of a pseudo-communist society which was inherently fascist. This turned out to be stunningly prophetic about both the communism of Russia and the so-called-democracies of the West.

<RANT>

Nineteen Eighty-Four is not meant to be realistic- it's written as a warning, not a prophecy.

How could they jail so many people? (Cletus the foetus mentions that they didn't jail all those people- they killed them.) People aren't that malleable? (I beg to differ on that point anyways- people will believe and do anything if the right buttons are pushed- see: the Holocaust, White Supremacy, slavery...) Why is everyone so ugly? People only ever sing one song? (Dear god, do you want Orwell to publish the 1984 singalong book or something?) The extreme dystopia of 1984 is an example of hyperbole: exaggeration for effect. True, realism and depth of character are lost in this method, but the power of the work as a whole is magnified. Of course Orwell couldn't write about every facet of life in Oceania- the book comes from the perspective of a single character, and a woefully uninformed one, at that.

"It would take a real tard, someone mental, not to notice that dubbing nonreproductive sex (of all sorts) "sexcrime" would simply make it more alluring..." The theme of repressing instinct runs throughout the novel. What's frightening is not the idea of sexcrime- it's the idea that people don't rebel against it. Complacency with lives which should be intolerable is a danger that Orwell tries to expose. The attitude of, "It's a quieter life, certainly...a simpler one, but not necessarily a a bad one" is the attitude that allows oppression to be slipped over people's heads. Orwell saw this attitude destroy the freedom of the people of Spain, he saw it as the Nazis invaded France, and he saw it in England during both the Spanish Civil War and World War Two. This complacent attitude is in reality a supression of the human spirit, which refuses to be crushed.

To call Orwell a "whiner" shows a misunderstanding of his work. Orwell's work was inspired in part by his experience in the Spanish Civil War, which he joined to fight against the forces of fascism in Spain. Orwell personally saw events approximating those outlined in 1984- he saw ideology sacrificed for the pursuit of power in Spain, he saw people cruelly exploited and dominated in British India, he saw death and brutal opression. He was shot through the throat in the Spanish Civil War. He died slowly of tuberculosis- he was already in ill health by the time he wrote 1984. Yet throughout all this he kept an optimistic spirit. It may not be apparent in 1984, but it's there in his other writings. He commited most of his life to fighting against injustice wherever he saw it. He was an ardent proponent of democratic socialism, even as he saw his ideals corrupted by Communism.

1984 may not be the most well written or realistic book ever, but its enduring relevance and power should not be dismissed offhand. It should be read in the context of Orwell's life and its time, not as a work of science fiction.

</RANT>


I realize that Teleny's writeup (at which this is directed) was somewhat tongue in cheek, but I feel that some of the attitudes expressed within were examples of the very ones Orwell's work was meant to combat. I don't think that a novel that has so much to say about politics and society should be criticized so harshly for attributes that (IMHO) only increase its power.

Jesus that's some self-righteous sheez I just wrote there...

Literary Analysis of 1984

Government control over specific parts in the lives of the civilian population should be handled very cautiously or grave consequences are to be had. The overlying principle of 1984, by George Orwell, is that if government control is not regulated somehow, then several years down the road, privacy will be non-existent to the average person. Winston Smith finds himself in a country where the government controls all aspects of his daily life. His journey from hating “The Party” to loving it shows how dangerous this type of control could be.

Although many other ideas of varying subjects could be taken from this book, the most prevalent is the idea of total control of a country over its citizens. Everyone in the country works for the party and has to deal with poor living conditions, disgusting food and the constant fear of being convicted of “thought-crime.” This gravest of all criminal acts is punished by torture and quite often death. The actual crime is committed when party officials think that by ones actions, movements, or habits that might point to a disloyalty to the party. Every citizen fears it. Winston is in constant worry of being taken away in the night. He explains that if you think you might be convicted of thought-crime that it is inevitable that you will eventually be caught. Winston begins talking with a woman about a possible overthrowing of the party. They are with one another as much as possible. They use clever means of covering up their relationship, but the two agree that they will eventually be convicted.

It is difficult to think of a place where relationships and hobbies are almost certainly eliminated. Propaganda is everywhere. There are television type screens at all places, and banners of an almost enigmatic figure named “Big Brother” everywhere. A popular phrase on some of the posters is “Big Brother is watching.” He is made out to be some kind of friend that is always watching over your shoulder. The party uses propaganda in all aspects of life. The country is always at war, and it seems as if increases of chocolate and cigarette rations are always being increased. Winston knows better, as he can recognize that only a few minutes after a broadcast tells of a decrease in 5 grams of chocolate, that another broadcast comes on telling of how thousands of people are marching in other cities thanking Big Brother for the recent increase in chocolate rations. The party brainwashes its citizens constantly with disregard to their value of life.

The entire time I read this book, I couldn’t help but to think of some kind of communistic nation and how they are run. For instance, it is illegal to write anything that is derogatory to the party. It is interesting to also note that the party has complete control over what is read, watching and listened by every citizen of the country. The idea of the government running all businesses is an idea made popular by communism. For this reason, I believe that of the chances of a government described in this book ever happening in this world are greater in that of a country ruled by communists. This idea also reinforces my support of America’s policy towards communism. Some would argue that America is more prone to have total control over a civilian’s life. This probably won’t happen in my lifetime, but the possibility will always be there. Also, in most forms of communism, the common people suffer while high members of the party live in relative luxury. They have better cars, food and drink. This is the same in 1984. The resemblance of communism and “The Party” are conclusive and very apparent.

As the world progresses as a society, it is important to keep in mind the lessons taught in this book. While moving forward, we must try to not also move backwards at the same time. The first move towards a government such as described in this book might consist of the formation of a singular party instead of Democrats, Republicans and other Independents. It would be followed by the ousting of the President and the abolishing of the constitution and Congress simultaneously. The citizens of the United States have an obligation to be aware of our government’s actions. If we continue to teach the youth of our nation about such matters, our legacy as a democratic nation will live on.

Although this is a truly fanatastic book it does not, in my opinion, lend itself to the stage. This is because one of the fundamental aspects of the world Orwell creates is that it lacks the colour, movement and variety that is the key to a good play. Also all the action in the plot is not easily adapted for the theater: both the sex and the torture and violence would run the risk of looking ridiculous rather than serious in a play.

The fact that I felt that cramming all of this great book in to a few hours on stage was all but impossible ment that when I saw the play advertised in the Theater Royal in Winchester I was somewhat surprised.

I still feel that the main reason the play was not a complete disaster was that "they" had also recognised the near impossiblity of staging this book. So rather than try to make it a traditional play and hope for the best they took a radically different approach.

The secret was in the set which consisted simply of two huge white walls on wheels. These could be placed next to each other to form one fifteen foot wall that spanned the whole stage or they could be arranged as a corridor, corner or two walls of a room. Each wall also had a door in it which when closed disapeared completely into the walls.

These walls were not however purely bits of scenery but could also serve as cinema screens. So that rather than have a crowd of proles on stage they simply projected a video clip of a crowd onto one or both of the panels.

This also meant that the cast could be kept a minimum with only six players.

Although when I first saw the video clips being projected onto the sceens I was unconvinced the idea grew on me throughout the performance as it allowed import features ot the book like Winston's diary and the way he writes in the dust to be shown clearly and easily.

While the idea was, as far as I was concerned, a good one the play was by no means perfect "they" fell into the fatal trap of relying too heavily on the special effects. At the beginning for example in a vague attempt to build up the atmosphere of the book the audience were subjected to a good twenty minutes of random clips of old people wandering around in a snow storm.

The ministry of love was also a bit overdone. The book managed to imply the horror and violence on Winstons torture without spending too long actually describing it. The play on the other hand went all out on the visual side and most of the torture scenes were so graphic that most of the people I asked couldn't watch all of them.

One other thing which I felt was detrimental to the play was the way in which the video was almost always running so that when the actors were on stage they were constantly competing with the video clips for the audience's attention.

The video was a little over used but the actual acting was all very good particularly O'Brian who was terrifing!

The script was also fairly good but the huge time limitations meant that some aspects of the story could not really be discussed in depth and this meant that the people I asked who hadn't read the book found the story a little hard to follow at times.

This writeup is perhaps a little on the negative side but I did enjoy the play and I would recommened it so long as you don't go expecting too much.

My recent novel is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party, of which I am a supporter, but as a show of the perversions to which a centralized economy is liable and which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism. (Orwell's Letter 509)

George Orwell's novel 1984 is recognized as a work of communist satire, influenced by a contemporary of Orwell's, Stalin, and his actions in regard to the Soviet Union. Orwell himself was a socialist, and extremely pessimistic about the future of world society. Socialists before him "had not despaired because they had their Socialism. Orwell's despair was based on the knowledge that much of this 'Socialism' had in practice become debased and corrupted." (Atkins 37) 1984 was Orwell's response to the corruption of Socialism by the Soviet Union, and made clear Orwell's own anti-Totalitarianism, which is a term encompassing both Communism and Fascism. (Atkins 31) The influence of Stalin's Soviet Union upon 1984 is clear in the similarities present between Stalin and Big Brother, the society of Oceania's clear connections to that of Russia at the time, and the hierarchical and family conceptions in both Oceania and the Soviet Union.

The character of Big Brother was Orwell's fictional representation of Stalin, with everything from Stalin's slogans to secret police working their way into 1984. Even Big Brother's facial features are reminiscent of those of Stalin. (Freedman 98) Like Big Brother, after Stalin ascended to high rank he "concentrated all power, material and spiritual, in his hands." (Heller 247) His power and words altered the entire makeup of the country. Short slogans, such as those Big Brother supposedly coined for the three ministries- the ministries of peace, love, and truth- dictated the policies and ideology of the country. The three phrases for the ministries were "War is peace", "Freedom is slavery", and "Ignorance is Strength". (Orwell 7) Similarly, Stalin would, within the course of a few years, use a series of sayings such as "Technology decides everything," "Tempos decide everything," and "Cadres decide everything." With each new phrase, the government would change, sometimes subtly; sometimes drastically. (Deutscher (Stalin) 350-370) Stalin could also make unrealistic proclamations and they would still be accepted; for example he said "life has become more joyous," and the citizens, whose comrades were being eliminated and killed for betraying the homeland, had to rejoice. (Heller 247) The power of words was reflected by Big Brother, for when he announced that the chocolate ration had been raised to 20 grams- only a day after it had been reduced to 20 grams- there were "demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to 20 grams a week. Was it possible that they (the citizens) could swallow that, after only 24 hours? Yes, they swallowed it." (Orwell 51).

Both the citizens of Oceania and those of the Soviet Union were extremely susceptible to such government propaganda. The Party members under Stalin "closed their eyes to Stalin's machinations and willingly accepted black as white in order to stay in 'the stream of history.'" (Heller 289) The Soviet Government wished to proclaim a truth about everything, and that "truth was Marxism, and only the party and its leader knew it for certain." (Heller 290) Similarly, the citizens of Oceania could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding, they remained sane.

In defiance of such parallels existing right before their eyes, some sought to deny the reality of Orwell's depiction. Their views are summarized by one critic, Atkins:

However, the use of fear and oppression to maintain power was common during the time when Orwell wrote 1984. Stalin's reign had entered the period known as The Great Terror, which lasted from 1936-1938. No one was safe during this time, for even mere personal ties with those branded the enemies of the people was sufficient reason to arrest someone. (Heller 303) Stalin warned that the enemy was everywhere, and anyone could be an informant and a traitor. Betrayal of the homeland was a crime punishable by imprisonment, then death. "Purge Trials" were held in which artists, historians, writers, and many others were killed. (Deutscher 1 369) In the society of 1984, this is echoed, with everyone under constant surveillance for any sign of traitorous notions. Those who showed the slightest idiocincracy or unusual tendency would be imprisioned by the Ministry of Love and "re-educated" or killed. (Orwell 8)

The members of society in 1984 most at risk of being targeted by such extreme measures were the lower class, those outside the "Inner Party." Orwell portrays a definite class system in his work, for "though membership in the Party and Inner Party is not hereditary, both groups might be considered classes on account of the definite hierarchy in economic standard of living." (Freedman 100) This reflects the class system under Stalin, in which those who worked their way into his favor were given enough privileges to separate them from the lower, unfavored classes. These privileges ranged from better food to good positions and apartments. Yet even the favored groups were but a step away from the general proverty and famine among the population, as the a man who fell from favor would quickly lose those benefits. (Heller 263) This is echoed in 1984, when shortages of needed items were common even among the favored, for "at any given moment there was some necessary article which the Party shops were unable to supply. Sometimes it was buttons, sometimes it was shoelaces, at present it was razor blades. You could only get ahold of them, if at all, by scrounging more or less furtively on the 'free' market." (Orwell 43-44) The free market was run by the proles, who were considered almost a sub class of humanity and overlooked by most policies and social purges.

It was in these overlooked classes that Orwell placed his faith:

Stalin and the Communist Party, like Big Brother and the Inner Party, ignored the prole laborers except as an excuse for the revolution. (Heller 242) According to one of Orwell's orthodox characters, Syme, "the proles are not human beings." If the proles had stood up and rebelled against the government, it is quite possible that the government might have been overthrown in both the case of Stalin and that of Big Brother. As the diplomat S. Dmitrievsky recognized, there was a potential threat to Stalin arising from the peasants, as "the victory of the peasantry within the country would be a victory for the West, for its fundamental conception of the individualism and liberalism in political life." However, the same principles that held true in the 1984 society were true in the time of Stalin- the proles did not think of rebellion, for they were not yet "conscious." Any notion they might have had involving betrayal of the homeland was squelched by the laws of the land.

Collective action was even more hindered by the fact that in the society of the Soviet Union, betrayal was a family matter. Policy dictated that the members of a family became "collectively responsible for any flagrantly criminal deed committed by one of them." Obstinately such polices existed to demonstrate that "the state was interested in reviving a strong family." (Wolfe 103) However, each Soviet family had to accept a new member- the Soviet state, a watchful older brother acting to keep the family in line. This is reflected in the pattern of Oceania's society, where citizens feared even their children were spying on them for some sign of disloyalty to Big Brother, as "hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak- 'child hero' was the phrase generally used- had overheard some compromising remark and denounced his parents to the thought police." (Orwell 26) Yet the 1984 society was not interested in strong families, as they felt "the only recognized purpose of marriage was to beget children for the service of the Party." (Orwell 57)

Stalin's reign of terror lasted until 1963, when he passed away after World War II was fought. This was years after the publication of 1984, which had its first edition in 1949. In Orwell's work, Winston despaired that there was no way of knowing that the rule of the Party would not endure eternally. (Orwell 25) Perhaps if the novel had been written after the rule of Stalin, then Orwell would have taken a more positive outlook. As it was, 1984 ended on a depressing note, with the last resistance to the domination of the Party swept away and replaced with devotion to Big Brother, the fictional Stalin. One difference between the fictional Big Brother and Stalin is that Stalin was but a man, doomed to die eventually. Big Brother probably was not even alive during the time of the story, for the only way anyone would know of his death was through the Inner Party informing them. And with Big Brother the symbol for the power of the Inner Party, they were not likely to inform anyone of his death.



Works Consulted

Atkins, John. "Orwell in 1984." In Critical Essays on George Orwell. Ed. Oldsey, Bernard and Joseph Browne. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co, 1986, pp 30-38
Bloom's Notes: George Orwell's 1984. Ed. Bloom, Harold. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin: A Political Biography. New York: Vintage Books, 1960.
- - -. The Prophet Outcast, Trotsky: 1929-1940. New York: Vintage Books, 1963.
Heller, Mikhail and Aleksandr M. Nekrich. Utopia in Power: The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present. Translated from the Russian by Phyllis B. Carlos. New York: Summit Books, 1986.
Modern Critical Views: George Orwell. Ed. Bloom, Harold. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc, 1941.
- - -. Letter to Francis A. Henson, June 16, 1949. Collected Essays, Journalism and letters of George Orwell. Ed. Orwell, Sonia and Ian Angus. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968. Vol. 4.
Shelden, Michael. Orwell. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.
Slater, Ian. Orwell: The Road to Airstrip One. New York: WW Norton and Company, 1985.
Stansky, Peter and William Abrahams. Orwell: The Transformation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.
Weatherly, Joan. "The Death of Big Sister: Orwell's Tragic Message." In Critical Essays on George Orwell. Ed. Oldsey, Bernard and Joseph Browne. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co, 1986, pp 80-99
Wolfe, Bertam D. Three Who Made a Revolution. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1964.
Node your homework .

It is sometimes said that a novel tells as much about the times in which it was produced as about the subject matter. Assess the validity of this statement.

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is widely recognized as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Many regard it as a prophecy (which has yet to come true, thankfully). The novel is not a description of the inevitable, but a warning to those who may find their government, or even themselves, treading on the dangerous path towards what has become the classic anti-utopia. The world Orwell grimly paints in Nineteen Eighty-Four is, due to the zeitgeist of the time, not unforeseeable even so close as thirty-five years away.

Orwell, who suffered from poor health for the majority of his life, wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four from a gloomy hospital island, which no doubt contributed to the book's dark atmosphere. At the time of writing, 1948, the world, and Great Britain in particular, was recovering from the bloodshed and economic consequences of World War II. The American nuclear detonations above Hiroshima and Nagasaki ushered the world into the nuclear age; although the cold war was not in full swing, the extinction of the human race at the hands of men emerged as an all too possible scenario.

Many of the themes explored in the novel have clear correlations to Orwell's personal experience, as well as the zeitgeist of the time. One of the primary themes of the book, contempt for overbearing authority, was one which resonated within Orwell's life. As a young boy, he attended a number of English schools. All most all of these he found suffocating; he become outraged at what he saw as attempts to strip him of his humanity; uniforms and strict schedules bred conformity - making Orwell feel as if he was no longer human, but rather a cog in an infernal machine.

Orwell's personal experience with a major historical period also manifests itself within the novel. After finishing schooling, he joined the British Imperial Guard and was stationed at British Burma. Much to his dismay, Orwell was required to enforce strict laws, infringing upon the freedoms of many Burmese citizens. Orwell literally had a street-level view of British Imperialism, and found himself a part of the system whose ambitions often conflicted with his principles; the central tenet of Winston's character in the novel.

The mid-20th century collapse of European imperialism saw one of the most spectacular struggles for independence. Mahatma Gandhi led a campaign against British colonial rulers, eventually achieving independence in 1947. During the struggle, however, British forces employed a variety of forceful tactics and severely restricted the freedoms of Indian citizens within their own country. Orwell notes that, both during his time in Burma and other colonial hotspots, newspapers at home reported a significantly distorted (unrealistically optimistic) picture of British possessions, when in reality little or no progress was being made. Orwell explores the ramifications of similar propaganda within his novel; progress is reported on the fronts with Eastasia and Eurasia regardless of the actual circumstances.

The postwar geopolitical world stage was a significantly different beast than it had been before. The United States asserted itself as a world power, joining the Allies in the Great War on the European continent and ending the war in the Pacific. The Soviet Union's troops were the first to reach Berlin, finding the body of the once-formidable Nazi dictator. With Europe bankrupt and in shambles, the contest for world power was now between the Soviets and Americans.

It was no secret that the two superpowers would soon become bitter rivals, and a future under the shadow of yet another global war was none-too comforting. Orwell understood the very real possibility of his government to turn from a democratic and free institution to a secretive, all-powerful, and ultimately evil one. Nineteen Eighty-Four was written in an era where, due to a variety of vast changes in the geopolitical balance of power, the future no longer seemed promising, but threatening.

1984 as a metaphor for consumer culture in 2004

Note: This is probably the most contrived excuse for reading into a piece of literature that the world has ever seen. Considering that consumer culture in 2004 was obviously not around in 1948 or indeed 1984, Orwell could blatantly not be connecting the two.

Anyway, we all know 1984 is about Communists.

In this writeup, I will try to explain how the book Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell could be seen as a metaphor for cultural homogeny and brainwashing through the media and consumerism.

The principal item of note in this metaphor is the omnipresent telescreen, which is present on at least one wall of every house in the Nineteen Eighty-Four world, maybe more. It constantly broadcasts government propaganda into every living room, and cannot be silenced.
The telescreen could therefore be seen as a metaphor for the MTVs and CNNs of the world in 2004, broadcasting images of the world filtered through large corporations which we must believe lest we be seen as unknowing, and forcing upon us new definitions of "style", to which we must all conform otherwise we will be seen as "uncool" and out of touch. The telescreen's inability to be silenced could be seen as a comment upon the pervasiveness of the media in our everyday lives and our inability to be seperated and barred from experiencing it, and how it is always around us and influencing us subconsciously.

The figurehead of the Nineteen Eighty-Four world is Big Brother, the most likely non-existant leader of the Party and he who must be worshipped by all in society. His analog in my metaphor is the unattainable definition of cool that is forced upon us by the media and if strayed from will be punished by ostracism, or death in the 1984 universe. This idea of death=ostracism also highlights the need for us to be accepted within "cool" society to feel good within ourselves and to feel "alive".

The Party in the Nineteen Eighty-Four world corresponds to the mass media in the 2004 world, influencing our daily lives in many ways and controlling the world and our perceptions of it, indeed sometimes misleading and brainwashing us, blinding us from the truth and subverting us.

The "Prole Song" is yet another way of conveying the idea of a massive homogenised force of "cool". The proles all sing the same lines of the same song: the "cool" people now all listen to the same music, watch the same movies, read the same books, surf the same websites. In this way, the Prole Song is a metaphor for cultural homogenisation.

Emmanuel Goldstein, in the book, plays the role opposite to Big Brother-that of the reviled and hated underdog, reviled and hated despite wanting only the best. He is anologous to the anti-commercialists in 2004, attacking the mass media, calling a spade a spade (referring to it as wrong and biased) and making sense, though regarded as wrong by the "cool" people. He is seen as the definition of uncool.

In the ways outlined above, 1984 can be seen as a metaphor and critique of the mass media and its power, as well as increasing cultural homogenisation around the world.

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