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1984 Essay, Research Paper

Jean-Marie Lauria

Professor Rednour

Western Enlightenment

April 20, 2001

Tyrants, Communism, Big Brother, Stalin, and 1984

In George Orwell?s, ?1984?, no individual freedoms are present. It mirrors mid twentieth century Europe during World War II and its affects. Winston the main character who is a 39-year-old man, was neither remarkable in intelligence nor character, but is disgusted with the world he lives in. He works in the Ministry of Truth, where history and the truth are rewritten to fit the party’s beliefs. This is an example of the use of propaganda to fit the need of the government during World War Two. Winston is aware of the falsehoods, because it is his job to make them true. Causing him to be very disheartened with the government of Oceania, where Big Brother, a larger than life figure who controls the people of the country.

Winston?s dissatisfaction causes him to rebel against the government in small ways. His first act of rebelling was buying and writing in a diary. This act is considered to be a ?thought crime,? and is punishable by death. A ?thought crime? is any thought that goes against the Oceania government. Winston commits many thought crimes, and becomes paranoid about being caught. He believes it was to be expected, and becomes worried because a young woman who is actively involved in many community groups follows him.

Winston is fixated with the past, looking back on a time when Oceania was free of this authoritarian dictatorship. It is made apparent when he goes into an antique shop and buys a shell covered in glass. This too was a 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 when he was working. The note said, “I love you”(Orwell 90). They make plans to meet each other, and carried on an illegal love affair. This love affair is another example of rebellion against the government. It goes on for some time. Winston rents a room where he and Julia can be secluded from the ?utopian? community called Oceania.

They meet a man named O’Brien who reveals that he too is a revolutionary. Winston and Julia go to his house to meet with him. O’Brien gives them a treasonable book to read. Soon after it was given to them the Thought Police caught them. Leading to them unable to 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, and 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 head of a government, which has total control over the people of Oceania. The Big Brother regime uses propaganda to puts fear in the minds of its citizens, in order to keep the people of Oceania in line and under their ?control.? ?Big Brother is watching you,?(Orwell 5) is just an example of one of the many party slogans, which puts fear in minds of its citizens.

O’Brien is an informer for Big Brother, he is not who he appears to be to Winston. Who believes he is a fellow conspirator, but who in reality becomes Winston’s torturer and ?rehabilitator.? Neither O’Brien nor the party can tolerate Winston’s betrayal of the government. 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 be.? The party can’t understand his disbelief, and believes that they must change his thoughts through torture and brainwashing. “You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves” (Orwell 200).

O’Brien represents the essence of communist or totalitarian rule. He makes his victims suffer by brainwashing them in order to control them. O’Brien also tells Winston how he should feel about Big Brother when Winston is at his lowest point both mentally and physically. O’Brien’s lecturing of the defeated Winston Smith, in the Thought Polices’ torture chamber represents for Orwell, the core of our century’s political repulsiveness.

Julia is considered to be abnormal because she is comfortable with her sexuality, and enjoys what is forbidden. In a normal world sex is free, in 1984 it’s forbidden act accept for reproduction because it is necessary in order to keep the party’s numbers unvarying. Julia has been sexually active since she was a teenager. ?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 look guilty of this crime. ?You thought I was a good party member, pure in word and deed. Banners, processions, slogans, games, and 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 ” (Orwell 101).

The owner of the antique shop is another example of someone appearing to be what they are not. Orwell uses the shop owner to show that no one can be trusted in a totalitarian country, even someone who appears to be your friend will turn you in, and have you killed. The shop owner is a perfect example of this. He appears to be an old widower who likes having conversations with Winston Smith. Orwell also points out that appearances can be misleading. In reality the storekeeper is actually a member of the Thought Police. He laughs when Winston and Julia get caught, awaiting the next victim who will enter his store, and end up in the same position as Winston and Julia.

Big Brother uses various ways to catch people who are guilty of non-party ideas. In the world of 1984 the tyrant Big Brother make use of a vast army of informers called thought police, who are always watching the people of Oceania looking for government violations, and criminal acts. An example of a criminal act could simply be, an ?unorthodox? thought. Winston Smith, represents Orwell’s view on totalitarianism.

Winston rebels against the government of Oceania by writing a diary, and by constantly having unorthodox 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 writes a diary for two reasons. The first reason is so that he will be able to remember what ?really? occurs in the Oceania 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 truly remembering, and what is ?told ? to them. Showing how serious the manipulation of the government is, and the results it has on the community. “The party had invented airplanes” (Orwell 127) is an example of the party’s propaganda, and false statements that change every day. The other reason for the diary is so that in the future, people will be able to read what really, and to inform them about beliefs on the party. Like Winston, I believe George Orwell wrote ?1984? in order to allow a communist country to be revealed, the Soviet Union. Orwell?s goal was to expose the falsehoods of the Soviet Union as the model of a socialist state. He also wanted to reveal the dangers of totalitarianism, the deterioration of objective truth, and the well thought-out manipulation of Oceania?s common peoples through propaganda.

The Ministry of Truth is where history and facts both significant and insignificant are rewritten to reflect the party’s ?utopian? beliefs. They thoroughly destroy the records which will one day be corrected, and replace the older editions. Their goal is to make people forget everything: facts, words, dead people, and places names. ?How far they succeed in destroying the past is not fully established in Orwell’s description; clearly they try hard and have 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 becomes more mentally concerned in his work than Julia has become. “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’” (Daley 118). Winston is not mentally as strong as Julia is. His work has a greater influence on him.

The Ministry of Truth is like a totalitarian country, because it has ways to scare its citizens. People guilty of crimes are erased from ever existing. “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 arrest” (Orwell 19). 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 disappeared. 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 control methods were used by totalitarian nations who wanted to control their citizens in Europe during and after World War II.

The many different ministries are paradox to the ?real? definitions of the words. The Ministry of Truth is a complete contradiction of itself. A Ministry of Truth should not change history or say people never existed. It should represent the truth, and should not erase records of the existence of people. The Ministry of Love is where all criminals are tortured, rehabilitated, and then set free or killed. As soon as Winston is captured he thinks he is going to the Ministry of Love. The Ministry of Love was incredibly alarming; it has no windows. Winston was never inside the Ministry of Love, or within half a kilometer of it. It is impossible to go into unless you have official business, and then only by going through a maze of barbed wire, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun. In 1984 Winston tells us that, ?Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons (Orwell 8). In a totalitarian state something resembling a Ministry of Love has existed, where the government inflicts pain on its citizens for crimes both big and small. This is how totalitarian nations keep power over their citizens, by putting fear of pain into their minds. This too was a common practice in both Germany and Italy during WWII. It was not uncommon for citizens to be forced to drink castor oil as punishment for minor ?crimes.? 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 more fitting name for The Ministry of Love would be the Ministry of Hate.

George Orwell lived in Europe when they were rebuilding after World War II. During this time Soviets gained six nations as satellites. England was helpless and was forced to worry about their own problems while they had to watch the Soviet Union take control over half of Germany. The leader of the Soviet Union, Stalin closely resembles Big Brother. They were both larger than life figures in their respective countries. In the Soviet Union you could easily have found large posters with Stalin’s face on them. The same is true in 1984 where Big Brother’s face is everywhere. A classic saying from ?1984? is, “Big Brother is watching you,” (Orwell 5) if the Thought Police don’t catch you, the telescreens and hidden microphones would. In the Soviet Union, Stalin’s KGB looked for criminals who were conspiring 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 was the new broadcast TVs and mainframe computers. Orwell believed both Big Brother and communist countries like the Soviet Union used new technologies in order to have control over citizens. It is from the new technology of the 1940?s where Orwell’s most likely got the idea for adding telescreens and hidden microphones in his book ?1984.?

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. Causing him leave the army, during which time he decided to become a writer. Orwell took the unrest and injustices which occurred during the Mid 20th Century, in order to get people’s attention about the problems in the their society. “Orwell’s primary purpose is to distort disturbing conditions tendencies and habits of thought that he saw existing in the world”(Stansky 105). Orwell believed the domino affect could cause the world to fall to communism. He felt nothing could stop its enormous progress. ?1984,? was created to aid the prevention of this and make it apparent the harmful nature of communist rule.

In ?1984?, Orwell reveals his point of view through Winston. In O?Brien and Big Brother he portrays a totalitarian leader, while Julia?s the desire and lust of the human being is expressed. George Orwell has a strong dislike for totalitarianism and what it stands for. He experienced the problems of totalitarianism, understanding how the problem could become worse. Seeing how unstable the economy was in Europe after World War II the domino affect of communism could be tangible Orwell wanted to reveal to people the truth about totalitarianism and Communism.

Work Cited

Daley, Alan L. George Orwell, Writer and Critic of Modern Society.Charlottesville:

Samhar Press, 1974.

Greenblast, Stephen J. “Orwell as Satirist.” George Orwell, A Collection of Critical

Essays. Ed. Raymond Williams. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974. 103-118.

Kolakowski, Leszek. “Totalitarianism and the virtue of the Lie.” 1984 Revisited,

Totalitarianism In Our Century. Ed. Irving Howe. New York: Harper and Row, 1983. 122-136.

Stansky, Peter and William Abrahams. Orwell: The Transformation. London: Gramala Publishing Limited, 1981.

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