V Orwell's thoughts on Totalitarianism
A. From life experiences
B. From a writers point of view
"Orwell observed that every line of serious work that I have
written since 1936 has been written directly or indirectly,
against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I
understand it" ("George Orwell"). George Orwell has been a
major contributor to anticommunist literature around the World
War II period. Orwell lived in England during World War II, a
time when the totalitarianism state, Nazi Germany, was at war
with England and destroyed the city of London. " I know that
building' said Winston finally. Its a ruin now. It's in the
middle of the street outside the Palace of Justice.' That's
right. Outside the Law Courts. It was bombed in-oh many years
ago'" (Orwell 83). This reflects Orwell's own life experiences
as a citizen in war torn England and how he uses this in 1984.
George Orwell is famous for two major novels which attack
totalitarianism. The first is Animal Farm a satire describing
the leaders of the Soviet Union as animals on an animal farm. The second novel is 1984 a story of dictators who are in complete
control of a large part of the world after the Allies lost in
World War II . The government in this novel gives no freedoms to
its citizens. They live in fear because they are afraid of
having bad thoughts about the government of Oceania, a crime
punishable by death. This is the gem in Orwell's collection of
novels against totalitarianism. This paper will show how George
Orwell wrote 1984 as a political statement against
1984 is about life in a world where no personal freedoms
exist. Winston the main character, is a man of 39 who is not
extraordinary in either intelligence or character, but is
disgusted with the world he lives in. He works in the Ministry
of Truth, a place where history and the truth is rewritten to fit
the party's beliefs. Winston is aware of the untruths, because
he makes them true. This makes him very upset with the
government of Oceania, where Big Brother, a larger than life
figure, controls the people.
His dissatisfaction increases to a point where he rebels
against the government in small ways. Winston's first act of
rebellion is buying and writing in a diary. This act is known as
a thought crime and is punishable by death. A thought crime is
any bad thought against the government of Oceania. Winston
commits many thought crimes and becomes paranoid about being
caught, which he knows is inevitable (Greenblast 113). He
becomes paranoid because he is followed by a young woman who is
actively involved in many community groups. Winston is obsessed
with the past, a time before Oceania was under strict
dictatorship. He goes into an antique shop and buys a shell
covered in glass which is another crime punishable by death. He
sees the same woman following him. Many thoughts race through
his mind "I wanted to rape you and then murder you afterwards.
Two weeks ago I thought seriously of smashing your head in with a
cobblestone. If you really want to know, I imagined that you
had something to do with the Thought Police" (Orwell 101). The
girl who was following him slipped him a note while at work. The
note said "I love you"(90). They make plans to meet each other
and carry on an illegal love affair. This love affair is another
rebellion against the government. It goes on for some time.
Winston rents a room where he and Julia can be secluded from the
outside world. They meet a man named O'Brien who indicates that
he is another revolutionary. Winston and Julia go to his house
to meet with him. O'Brien gives than a seditious book to read.
Soon after that, they are caught by the Thought Police and never
see each other again.
O'Brien, becomes Winston's rehabilitator and torturer for
the next 9 months. O'Brien tortures Winston in stages. The
first two stages are to force the party's beliefs on him then
learn and understand what is expected of him. In the third
stage, Winston is made to face what he secretly fears most, rats
eating his face. After being completely rehabilitated by
O'Brien, Winston now loves the establishment and the government.
He is set free.
Big Brother is the figurehead of a government that has
total control. The Big Brother regime uses propaganda and puts
fear in its citizens to keep the general population in line.
"Big Brother is watching you"(Orwell 5) is just one example of
many party slogans that puts fear in its citizens. Big Brother
uses various ways to catch people guilty of bad thoughts "In the
world of 1984 the tyrant Big Brother does employ a vast army of
informers called thought police, who watch every citizen at all
times for the least signs of criminal deviation which may consist
simply of unorthodox thoughts"(112).
Winston Smith represents Orwell's view on totalitarianism.
Winston rebels against the government of Oceania by starting a
diary and constantly having bad thoughts against the government.
"Winston knows that he is doomed from the moment he has his first
heretical thought . The tensions of the novel concerns how long
he can stay alive and whether it is possible for Winston to die
without mentally betraying his rebellion" (Greenblast 115).
Winston starts writing in a diary for two reasons. The first is
that he wants to be able to remember the daily occurrences in
the world. In 1984, the memory of individuals, is effectively
manipulated, programmed, and controlled from the outside by the
party (Kolakowski 127). People don't know what they are
consciously remembering and what is told to them. "The party had
invented airplanes" (Orwell 127) is just one example of the
party's propaganda and false statements that change every day.
The other reason for the diary is so that people in the future
will be able to read what went on during Winston's time and to
tell them about his daily reflections on his feelings about the
party. These are the same reasons why Orwell wrote 1984. He
wanted to expose a communist country (the Soviet Union) .
The specific political purpose that had aro used
Orwell's sense of urgency was his desire to explode the
myth of the Soviet Union as the paradigm of the socialist
state. He also wanted to expose the dangers of totalitarianism,
which the devaluation of objective truth, and the systematic
manipulation of the common people through propaganda ("George
O'Brien is an informant to Big Brother. He is not who he
seems to be. He appears to Winston as a fellow conspirator, but
actually becomes Winston's torturer and rehabilitator. O'Brien
and the party can't tolerate Winston's betrayal of the
O'Brien tells his victim : You are a flaw in the
pattern, Winston. You are a stain that must be wiped
out...It is intolerable that an erroneous thought should exist
anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may
In fact, the party can't comprehend his disbelief
and must change his thoughts through torture and brainwash. "You
will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall
fill you with ourselves" (Orwell 200). O'Brien represents the
core of communist or totalitarian rule, making the victims suffer
by using brainwashing to control them. O'Brien also tells
Winston what he should feel about Big Brother when Winston is at
his lowest point mentally and physically.
O'Brien's speeches to the broken Winsto n Smith in
the Thought Polices' torture chamber represents for Orwell
the core of our century's political
hideousness. Although O'Brien says that power seeks power and
needs no ideological excuse. he does in fact explain
to his victim what this power is ("George Orwell").
Julia is considered a sexual deviant in the oppressed world
of 1984. In a normal world sex is free, in 1984 it's a forbidden
act only allowed for reproduction purposes to keep the party's
numbers constant. Julia has been sexually active since her
teenage years. "She had had her first love affair when she was
sixteen, with a party member of sixty" (Orwell 109). Love and
sex is not allowed in this totalitarian state so Julia has to
look as pure as possible so that she does not show any guilt.
"You thought I was a good party member, pure in word and deed.
Banners, processions, slogans, games, community hikes all that
stuff. And you [Winston] thought that if I had a quarter of a
chance I'd denounce you as a thought criminal and get you killed
off " (101).
The owner of the antique shop is another example of someone
appearing to be what he is not. Orwell uses the shop owner to
illustrate a point. Orwell shows that no one can be trusted in a
totalitarian country. Someone who appears to be your friend will
actually turn you in and have you killed. The shop owner appears
to be an old widower who enjoys having conversations with Winston
Smith. Throughout the book it can be seen that looks can be
deceiving. He is actually a member of the Thought Police and
gets a good laugh when Winston and Julia getting caught. Now all
he can do is wait for his next victim to enter his store.
The Ministry of Truth is a place where history and
facts--significant and insignificant are rewritten to reflect the
party's utopian beliefs.
They thoroughly destroy the records of the
past; they print up new, up to-date editions of old
newspapers and books; and they know corrected versions will be
replaced by another, re-corrected one. Their goal is to make
people forget everything- facts, words, dead people, the names of
places. How far they succeed in obliterating the past is not
fully established in Orwell's description; clearly they try hard
and they score impressive results. The ideal of complete
oblivion may not have been reached,
yet further progress is to be expressed (Kolakowski 126).
Winston and Julia are workers at the Ministry of Truth. Winston
gets more mentally involved in his work than Julia. "Winston
Smith and his fellows at the Ministry of Truth spend their days
rewriting the past: Most of the material you were dealing with
had no connection with anything in the real world, not even the
kind of connection that is contained in a direct lie'" ("George
Orwell"). Winston is not as strong mentally as Julia. His
work affects him more.
The Ministry of Truth is like a totalitarian country,
because it has ways to scare its citizens. People guilty of
crimes are erased from having ever existed. "Your name was
removed from the registers, every record of your existence was
denied and then forgotten" (Orwell 19). Again people were taken
away without any rights. "...there was no trial no report of
The actual purpose of the Ministry of Truth is to
spread lies and to have control over its citizens using
memory erasing techniques. "...the distinction between true
and false in their usual meaning has disappea red. This is
the great cognitive triumph of totalitarianism: it cannot be
accused of lying any longer since it has succeeded in abrogating
the very idea of truth (Kolakowski 127).
These same control techniques are used by totalitarian nations
that seek control over there citizens.
The Ministry of Truth is a complete contradiction of
itself. A Ministry of Truth should not change past occurrences
or say people never existed. It should exemplify the truth and
not erase records of the existence of people.
The Ministry of Love is where all criminals are tortured,
rehabilitated, then set free or killed. As soon as Winston is
captured he knows he is going to the Ministry of Love.
The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one.
There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never
been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a
kilometer of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on
offical business, and then only by penetrating throu gh a
maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden
machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer
barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms,
armed with jointed truncheons (Orwell
In a totalitarian state something resembling a Ministry of Love
is common place. It's a place where the government can inflict
pain on its subjects for crimes big and small. That is how
totalitarian nations keep, power over their citizens-- by fear of
pain. The name Ministry of Love is a contradiction of itself.
Its name shows a feeling of love and warmth, but in actuality
it's the complete opposite. It's a place of hate and pain and is
cold and dark. A better name for it would be the Ministry of
George Orwell lived during a time when Europe was in a
period of rebuilding after World War II. During that time
Soviets gained six nations as satellites. England was helpless
and had to worry about their own problems and had to watch the
Soviet Union take control of half of Germany. The leader of the
Soviet Union, Stalin, closely resembles Big Brother. They were
both larger than life figures in there respective countries. In
the Soviet Union you could easily have found large posters with
Stalin's face on them. The same holds true in 1984; Big
Brother's face is everywhere. A famous quote from 1984 is "Big
Brother is watching you" (Orwell 5). Meaning if his Thought
Police don't catch you, his telescreens and hidden microphones
would. In the Soviet Union, Stalin's K.G.B. sought criminals who
plotted against the government. In Stalin's regime over 10
million people were killed. In 1984 hundreds of criminals were
killed daily. Another aspect of the 1940's were the new
broadcast T.V.'s and mainframe computers. The new technologies
could be used for means of control. Orwell saw communist
countries using these technologies for control ("George Orwell").
This is where Orwell's idea of telescreens and hidden microphones
came from. Before World War II, Orwell had his worst encounter
with communists. While Orwell was in the Spanish Civil War, he
was running away from Soviet communists who were trying to kill
him. After that experience he got out of the army and became a
writer full time. "Another shock to Orwell was when the
Nazi-Soviet pact signaled the breakdown and the beginning of the
mental and emotional state out of which grew Animal Farm and
1984"(Greenblast 105). Orwell may of have extracted what he saw
in his world while writing but it was done to get people's
attention of problems in the existing world. "Orwell's primary
purpose is to distort disturbing conditions tendencies and habits
of thought that he saw existing in the world"("George Orwell").
Orwell saw, the whole world steadily moving toward a vast
ruthless tyranny. He felt nothing could stop it's monstrous
progress. 1984, in spite of its setting in the future, is not
primarily a utopian fantasy prophesying what the world will be
like in thirty or forty years but a novel about what the world is
like now (Greenblast 112). Orwell always relates characters in
his books to points of view and real people. In Animal Farm
every farm animal represents a person in the Soviet Union. In
1984, Orwell represents his point of view in Winston. He shows a
totalitarian leader, in O'Brien and Big Brother, while Julia is
the desire and lust in every human being.
George Orwell had deep resentment against totalitarianism
and what it stood for. He saw the problem of totalitarianism in
his existing world. He also understood how the problem could
fester and become larger due to instability in Europe's economy
after World War II. He purposely makes the story, 1984,
unrealistic and blown out of proportion to capture people's
attention and make them think maybe it wouldn't be unrealistic in
the near future. With his deep resentment toward totalitarianism
it became the focal point of his novels. George Orwell's, novels
were directed toward against totalitarianism and for Socialism
and what it stood for.
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