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George Orwell’s 1984 is a keenly constructed satire in which the author considered his wording carefully to enhance the impact they would have on his audiences. Written between 1946 and 1949, the futuristic novel employs the structure of science fiction in containing and presenting political satire. The novel’s main character Winston Smith provides a view of the new political system in the nation of Ocean entrenched by the ruling party in London. The ruling party succeeds in creating a dictatorial order in which the by the help of technology. George Orwell thus used the book to warn the society of the danger that totalitarianism poses to the community.
Orwell goes to a great length to demonstrate the terrifying degrees of both control and power that totalitarian regimes can acquire and maintain. The depiction resonates with the claim that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Martha, 2014). The ruling party in London rose to power through democratic processes. Orwell provides signs of an ideal democratic society that existed before the dictatorial government took over control of the nation of Oceania. Smith, the novel’s main character works in the ministry of Truth where his crucial duty is to alter truth by doctoring books of history. The alterations of such critical historical accounts of the country demonstrate how the power of the government and its desires to acquire additional power by controlling the information that the populace accesses.
After rising to power, any government gains control of all the instruments of governance and can utilise them to acquire additional power. Orwell uses his novel to warn against the insatiable desire for power especially by authoritarian regimes. The ruling party employs all the government resources including government ministries to grow its power. While the ministry of truth distorts the information the government allows the people to access, the ministry of love manipulates the thoughts and beliefs of people using torture among other unorthodox means to ensure compliances and support for the dictatorial regime (Zennure, 2016). Power thus remains central to the interests of tyrannical governments. Any form of opposition threatens the government hence the growing need to use any means to safeguard the power.
Technology is yet another practical source of power in the novel. Orwell shows that technology would become a central part of the future society. However, the government retains the power over technology. As such, a totalitarian government would utilise such essential resources to safeguard its interests while trampling on the rights of the populace. The autocratic regime in Oceania has deployed an elaborate technology designed to monitor the activities of every citizen. The government has an omnipresent feel through the figure known as “Big brother” who utilises technologies like cameras to maintain a dedicated surveillance of the people at every time. By controlling and improving the technology, the autocratic regime sustains its hold on power by developing docile people who cannot attempt to resist or oppose any government directive (Galan, 2015).
Psychological manipulation through propaganda is key to the success of totalitarian regimes. The government in the nation of Oceania invests in strategic resources of mental manipulation to control and even inhibit independent thought. The government has installed giant television screens in the bedrooms of every citizen to blast a constant stream of meticulously designed propaganda. The propaganda helps portray the shortcomings and failures of the government as tremendous successes. The omnipresent Big Brother is watching you” sign further demonstrates that the televisions sets monitor the behaviour of the people with the view to identifying dissidents (Dilworth, 2013). Furthermore, the government undermines family structure. The party recruits children and induces them in system entitled junior spies. The children thus have the power to spy and report their parents among other members of the society.
Besides psychological manipulation, the party also managed an expansive program that uses physical control to ensure loyalty. The government maintains a dedicated surveillance on the people to monitor for signs of disloyalty. Winston observes that even facial twitches could result in the arrest of a citizen since the government recognises such as signs of infidelity. The party compels the citizens to undergo daily mass exercises in the mornings known as Physical Jerks after which the people go to work for long and gruelling hours in various government agencies. The activities are planned strategies to keep the people in a constant state of physical exhaustion thus discouraging any form of resistance. Anyone who succeeds in defying the nation undergoes a system called “re-education” characterised by brutal torture. Winston underwent the re-education and came back obedient enough to supplant his interest in romantic relationships.
While the picture Orwell paints in the novel appears fictional, it sends a practical message that warns against autocratic regimes and the extensive reliance on technology. Orwell wrote the book in his final days when he was in the final stages of his tuberculosis. He provides strategic similarities between Winston and himself including Winston’s constant cough. The similarity served to bring the message closer to his audience. He envisioned the development of a society that would facilitate the advent of an autocratic regime. The United States and the United Kingdom among other developed countries have embraced technology in enhancing homeland security. Extensive surveillance of the people through cameras installed in airports, streets, malls and neighbourhoods has denied Americans the fundamental right to privacy. Thomas (2017) explains that the American system resonates with the state of affairs in the nation of Oceania where the people supplanted their right to privacy to public safety.
The book is a creative political satire in which Orwell criticises global regimes. The plot portrays a government determined to remain in power. The administration tramples on the fundamental rights of its citizens thus developing a fearful populace that follows instructions and maintains the status quo. The names of ministries in the country are ironical. Winston works in the ministry of truth. However, instead of safeguarding the truth, the ministry’s principal responsibility is to doctor historical accounts to ensure that the people access information that portrays the totalitarian regime favourably (Mohammad, Golnar & Sayed, 2017). The ministry does not allow people to have free and independent thought thereby influencing the truth the people believe. The same is the case with the ministry of love. Instead of demonstrating love among other favourable values, the ministry is mandated with brutalising people through torture as a weapon to ensure loyalty to the government.
In retrospect, George Orwell constructed a novel that envisioned the future of technology while warning the people about the dangers of a totalitarian regime in the age of such advanced technologies. The impact of the book lies in most of his words and concepts that have become part of the contemporary vocabulary. Words like newspeak, big brother and doublethink have become commonplace in the modern society thus demonstrating that the realisation of Orwell’s hypothetical world. Most political commentators often use the words and concepts when portraying a government negatively. Orwell indicates that technology is a powerful resource that requires the people to remain vigilant. An autocratic regime can efficiently use the power of technology to improve its control thereby squashing the fundamental rights and privileges of the people.
- Dilworth, T. (2013). Erotic Dream to Nightmare: Ominous Problems and Subliminal Suggestion in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. Papers on Language & Literature, 49(3): 296-326.
- Galan, P. (2015). A Nightmarish Tomorrow: Orwellian Methods of Social Control in Contemporary Dystopian Literature. Journal of Media & Cultural studies, 23(6): 1-39.
- Martha, C. (2014). The “Dark Power of Destiny” in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, 47(1): 179-194.
- Mohammad, H., Golnar, M. & Sayed, M. (2017). Orwell’s Satirical View of Romantic Love in the Terrorized World of Nineteen Eighty-Four. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, Vol 6, Iss 6, Pp 78-82 (2017), (6), 78.
- Orwell, G. (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four, a novel. London: Secker & Warburg.
- Thomas, R. (2017). We are (still) living in an Orwellian world: surveillance, drones, and never-ending wars have given new global resonance to the works of George Orwell. Foreign Policy, July-August, 2017, Issue 225, p80.
- Zennure, K. (2016). Psychoanalytic Outlook for Orwell’s Coming Up for Air, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Gaziantep University Journal of Social Sciences, Vol 15, Iss 3, Pp 867-880 (2016), (3), 867.