Dystopian tradition in George Orwell’s
1. The protagonist versus the world of dystopia 6
1. The last freethinker in the world 7
2. Struggle against oppression 9
2. political aspect of Nineteen Eighty-Four 11
1. Government 11
2. Allusions to reality 12
The object of this course paper is to discuss and analyse the main aspects and elements of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four which retain the traditional construction and ideas of dystopian fiction novel, but at the same time distinguishes Nineteen Eighty-Four from other dystopian novels. Also, some new, groundbreaking concepts, at the time that the novel is written, will be looked at; namely, Big Brother, thoughtcrime, and newspeak.
Motivation basis of the research: Through seventy odd years with only two political novels ever written; Orwell has remained one of the most influential and most quoted novelist of the 21st century. Since the introduction of CCTV cameras in the United Kingdom and the never-ending Iraq war, Orwell’s vision of dystopian world has gained even more attention. As Becnel righty puts it into terms: “[Nineteen Eighty-Four] has become so well known as to have provided a sort of shorthand for critiques of overly intrusive and heavy-handed government.”(Becnel 2010, p. 73).
The question (adapted from 2014 HSC) Rebellion and revolution are ideas which connect Metropolis and Nineteen Eighty-Four. How do these two texts from different contexts reflect changing perspectives on this idea? What it requires Both texts are connected by an exploration of rebellion and revolution that have direct relevance to the composers and their audiences. Compare and contrast the ...
Director Michael Moore even quoted him in his controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Due to such increased popularity of Orwell’s works it is interesting and indeed useful to analyse and discuss this great, complex, and influential work.
The purpose of this course paper is to determine the aspects of George Orwell’s book that encompasses the elements of traditional dystopian novel and single out what distinguishes Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from other famous works, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We and others.
Tasks for achieving the purpose of the research:
• To distinguish the key aspects of the novel which helped popularise the novel;
• To give a rough comparison with other famous dystopian novels;
• To compare the book with the traditional structure and elements of dystopian novel.
Author and literature review. Eric Arthur Blair (better known by his pen name of George Orwell) was an English novelist, journalist and essayist of the twentieth century. Although he wrote for more than ten years, and has published six books and a number of essay collections, he is best remembered by his last two books: Animal Farm, published in 1945 and his best known novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, published right before his death in 1949. The latter one coined such terms and concepts as newspeak, Big Brother, and thoughtcrime. Both of Orwell’s novels pay a lot of attention to criticism of totalitarian state and government, particularly satirising Stalin’s era of Soviet Union. Through the years Orwell has gained a cult following by history buffs and readers alike for his subtle use of fable, satire and just plain ridicule of the hypocrisy and deceptiveness of dictatorship government system. Orwell did not belong to a particular literary movement or school, instead he, in a way, revived the spirit of Enlightenment epoch, mainly by mimicking Jonathan Swift’s use of political satire. Also, Orwell and Swift shared same views on writing; they concentrated on the deep meaning, which was created by using a veneer of fantastical, magical events or things, rather than realism of the story.
Winstons statement is vague and must be properly addressed before we can access its validity. The word hope in itself is deliberately ambiguous as Winston fails to mention what this hope is for. Winston may be talking about hope of revolution and the overthrow of government as a horse shaking flies. For this there is ultimately almost no hope in the proles due to the futility expressed in the ...
For example, in Orwell’s Animal Farm sheep, like humans, talk and can even read, but this animal is just a representation of a type of humans in real life, the naïve, spineless working class, who cannot stand up for themselves. That way the reader is always contested to spot the allusions and metaphors to real life. Nineteen Eighty-Four, on the other hand, is a totally different beast. There are no anthropomorphic animals, there is considerably less symbolism and the atmosphere of dystopia is grim to say the least. In his essay Why I Write, Orwell mentioned that he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, because he wanted to “try and show how political systems can surpass individual freedom”. More than analysis of a current situation in a particular country it was warning and prediction what could happen if socialism, or any authoritarian government for that matter, took absolute power and evolved into something grotesque and menacing.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is written from a first person narrator perspective. The reader follows the life and eventually downfall of a central character and narrator, Winston Smith, who seemingly is the last person who is capable of critical thought and doesn’t view The Party and Big Brother in good terms. Through secrecy Winston leads a secret rebellion of one man and tries at least in minor ways oppose the party and its forced social and political norms. Indeed, Orwell created such a world, where it is hard to pin point the exact; it is hard to tell who is Winston is fighting against, or who is the party and who opposite them. There is a mention about mythical Emanuel Goldstein (who George Orwell based on Trotsky) but it is unknown whether or not he really exists. He could be an invention of The Party to find and root out “enemies of the state”. Through new terms as newspeak, doublethink and thoughtcrime, Orwell has created the perfect totalitarian government, which no one can overthrow. By using language, as a weapon against its own people but disguising it as a tool, The Party shape shifts and changes the meaning of worlds, and by thoughtcrime it is prohibited even to think wrongfully about The Party. Something not even Stalin has achieved. But it is not only Stalinism or the Soviet Union that is being ridiculed and criticised in the book. As John Rodden explains: ”[…] a political treatise that suggest larger lessons about power, tyranny, and revolution in general” (Rodden 2003, p. 73).
Having studied George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', I intend to discuss the type of Government envisaged by Orwell and to what extent his totalitarian Party, 'Ingsoc', satirises past regimes. I will also discuss Orwell's motive in writing such a piece and how his writing style helps it become clear. The main theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four concerns the restrictions imposed on individual freedom ...
Orwell with Nineteen Eighty-Four has achieved something not every literary writer can achieve. It seems Orwell has achieved similar public focus and status as Sir Winston Churchill, Orwell has coined several colloquialism namely doublethink, thoughtcrime, newspeak, and later did it arose, Orwellian, and has become a household must-know name when discussing dystopia, totalitarian government, or politics in general.
Research methods: Analytical method will be applied throughout this course paper to show the underlying purpose and character features of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Also, to some extent comparative method will be used to compare and show how and where exactly Orwell’s novel is placed in the world of dystopian literature.
The structure of the research: Presently the course paper consists of two main parts and is further divided into four subcategories: part one discusses orthodox structure of dystopian novel where the main protagonist is put in a struggle against the dystopian world. First part is then divided into two subcategories; first being the analysis of main characters traits and personality, and the second subcategory analyses more in depth the struggle that the main character finds himself in. In part two the ever-present political aspect of dystopian fiction will be looked through. The first subcategory will discuss government of Oceania as well as the real life equivalent of the government and where from Orwell got his inspiration for the oligarchical collectivism that is Oceania.
The protagonist versus the world of dystopia
Before discussing Orwell’s dystopian view of the grim future, one should point out the history of dystopian literature and the very definition of “dystopia”. According to Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms the literary genre dystopia is: “Dystopia, a modern term invented as the opposite of utopia, and applied to any alarmingly unpleasant imaginary world, usually of the projected future.”. As M. H. Abrams puts it in more simple terms: “a very unpleasant imaginary world in which ominous tendencies of our present social, political, and technological order are projected in some disastrous future culmination” (Abrams 1993, p. 218).
Winston Churchill was made Prime Minster of Great Britain on May 10, 1940. Historians have analyzed Churchill's impact on the Second World War, especially from his appointment in 1940 until 1941. This period of the war is seen as being a crucial time for Britain, a time when they had to fight the war alone against Germany. Churchill's appointment was not well received by everyone, as many people ...
Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms further lists such works as dystopian novels; Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.
Although it is not known for a fact who wrote the first dystopian novel, the traditional style and structure of such story is well employed by contemporary writers of the genre. An orthodox dystopian story will follow a life and usually demise of an individual who sees the wrongdoings of his society and out of selflessness tries at least in minor ways change or opposite it. As noted in article by Janet Witalec, “Dystopias in Contemporary Literature – Introduction” some common themes can be identified, such as “[…] mastery of nature, —to the point that it becomes barren, or turns against humankind; technological advances that enslave humans or regiment their lives; the mandatory division of people in society into castes or groups with specialized functions; and a collective loss of memory and history making mankind easier to manipulate psychologically and ultimately leading to dehumanization.” (Witalec, p. 22).
Witalec further explains that some historical events helped to flourish the dystopian works, namely Nazi Germany, Stalin era in Soviet Union, and other totalitarian regimes.
That is the case with Orwell as well. He drew inspiration from voluntary service in the Spanish Civil War, having seen how degraded socialist principles became when power was usurped, he wanted to warn and prevent such thing happening on a worldwide scale. Thus Nineteen Eighty-Four was born, capturing world’s imagination with fictional totalitarian government and one man’s attempt to oppose it.
According to the letter sent by Orwell to his agent, the original title of Nineteen Eighty-Four was supposed to be The Last Man in Europe, which perhaps would have been the superlative title for this particular book. It would have not only inspire sheer pessimism, which is felt from the very first paragraph of the book, but quite accurately give a general overview what is to be expected. In these terms Orwell surpasses his contemporaries of dystopian literature in originality and despair, creating such a grim warning of what might happen that it stands out from the rest.
Most people don't question the authority that their own government has, but should they? This is the question that George Orwell asks his readers in his Novel 1984. In this novel Orwell describes a totalitarian government with explicit detail, ever revealing its true evil. This novel makes the reader see that our society is not far from the world of Oceania. The novel begins with a brief ...
1. The last freethinker in the world
Nineteen Eighty-Four’s main character, Winston Smith, is perhaps the classical example of the dystopian hero. He embodies not only the virtues of humankind such as critical thought, rebellion against oppression, and strife for better life, which are essential for dystopian literature genre. Literary critic Moustaki describes Smith’s character: “Readers identify so closely with Winston because he has individuality and undying self-determination. Winston embodies the values of a civilized society: democracy, peace, freedom, love, and decency.” (Moustaki, p. 53).
Winston’s character also can be placed in Aristotelian tragic terms. According to Aristotle in his work entitled Poetics, tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods. The tragic hero’s powerful wish to achieve some goal inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty (flaws in reason, hubris, society), the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or nature. Aristotle says that the tragic hero should have a flaw and/or make some mistake. The hero need not die at the end, but he/she must undergo a change in fortune. In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods (Leitch, p. 88).
Though not a play and most usually not placed under the genre of tragedy, the dystopian novel, and Orwell’s grim view of the future indeed encompasses the aspects of tragic tale. Namely, the main character’s demise and failure to produce a result or change the world which he lives in. This struggle, ultimately, wears down the protagonist and he gets destroyed by the society and environment he lives in. Even though tragic plays of Hellenistic times share some similarities with dystopian genre they are different in one essential way; the protagonist of dystopian genre, and of course Nineteen Eighty-Four, is utterly alone in a hostile environment, whereas, for example, Oedipus, although a tragic hero, shares some human connection with other like minded people. That is not the case in dystopian or, indeed, Orwell’s world. Winston Smith is utterly alone in the world ruled by Big Brother. Not just alone in a sense that has no allies, Winston it seems is the last person, who is capable of developing his own thoughts concerning the totalitarian government of Oceania. Winston’s lover Julia is somewhat similar to him in terms of critical though and not just believing what Party propaganda tells them. However Julia’s choice of rebellion is not as subtle and intellectual as Winston’s. Winston ponders the future; how can the Party be dissolved, what should it take to overthrow them, Julia’s approach is straightforward – to sleep with as many Party members as possible and get pleasure along the way. Winston even jokingly says to Julia that she is “[…] rebel from the waist downwards.” (Orwell, p. 196).
There are all types of information including lesson plans, articles and news. BBC origin is a British Broadcasting Corporation. Established in 1922,London. The founders of BBC are John Reith and George Villers. BBC purpose is to “enrich peopleʼs lives with programs and services that inform, educate and entertain.” The values of the source are that it has beneﬁts of hindsight; this is because they ...
This just show how utterly grim the situation is for Winston, when he decides to start a diary (a punishable offence by “vaporisation”), not only he is basically alone in the struggle but the one person that he can make connection with is deceived by her own flaws and worldview. This situation can be compared to another dystopian novel, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, where the main protagonist, Guy Montag is virtually alone. Though he has and lives with his wife, their love and passion has gone out years ago and he is faced to fight for his beliefs alone. This eventually happens to Winston too. In the Room 101, he faces O’Brien alone, without Julia. O’Brien is a personification of Oceanian government. He is the antipode of Winston; embodies the absolute opposite what Smith stands for, and is there largely to bring the reader into inner chambers of the Party so that its mechanism can be revealed (Moustaki, p. 55).
O’Brien serves another great role in the novel as the judge, jury and executioner of Winston Smith. When O’Brien finally destroys Winston virtues that he represents is destroyed with him, and so goes the reader’s faith that these values are undying and natural part of being human. Winston represents the struggle between good and bad forces, and there is no mistaking where the lines are drawn (Moustaki, p. 53).
Of course, the solitude in which Smith lives is not chosen by him. It is created by the government to lessen the positive human aspect in its citizens, as Becnel explains: “While this lifestyle would certainly not be considered solitude in the traditional sense, it is designed to reinforce certain behaviours and ideas that the party wants to cultivate rather than to foster true interpersonal interaction.”(Becnel, p. 75).
Smith in fact longs for human contact, whether it would be pleasant or offensive – it did not matter to him. This shows his hatred for Julia when he first saw her, he reflects on his emotions: “I wanted to rape you and then murder you afterwards. Two weeks ago I thought seriously of smashing your head in with a cobblestone.” (Orwell, p. 152).
Furthermore, the Party may have well defeated Winston even from the start of the novel, when he felt so utterly alone as though even trust O’Brien and follow him to the fictional Brotherhood thus resulting to his re-education to love Big Brother. Because elimination of different and unorthodox ideas is not acceptable for the Party, only true control comes from bringing it down to its knees, forcing a submission. To quote T. S. Eliot, for Winston April was indeed a cruel month.
2. Struggle against oppression
Another distinctive feature of dystopian novels is the struggle against oppression, the main conflict of two opposing worlds. In Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston applies a sort of pacifistic insurrection against the totalitarian government, pacifistic in a sense that he doesn’t commit violence against the Party members or, indeed, population of Oceania, and just starts to write a diary, recording his day to day thoughts concerning life and events. Though, before joining the semi-mythical rebel alliance of Brotherhood he swears to commit any actions that would resolve in deaths or terrorist actions. But if one would compare Winston’s rebellion to that of Julia’s, the methods, that Julia applies for her rebellion, would appear temporary; they benefit only her own needs and won’t bring about any future consequences, maybe even resulting in the fall of the Party. Winston’s methods, on the other hand, are aimed to preserve the memory of a free thought, even though he uses such a fragile item as a diary, he believes future people will somehow find it, as Moustaki compares their uprisings: “She [Julia] does not do this to destroy the Party but to quench her own desires, and that is the fundamental difference between Winston and Julia. His rebellion is as much for future generations as it is for himself; her rebellion is purely incidental to her own desires.” (Moustaki, p. 54).
On the other hand, though Julia’s aims for fulfilment of her own agendas, she manages to survive longer than Winston. As Leitch notes; Julia is a true survivalist, she represent the human side which is cunning, deceitful, and pure sexual (Leitch, p. 95).
Winston, in retrospect, just survives by hiding his true intentions, not keeping real connections with other citizens of Oceania. That is to say that only other people from his environment didn’t notice his “thoughtcrimes”, Winston himself knew from the very beginning of the novel that one way or the other he will be neutralised, as Orwell explains, whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same (Orwell, p. 14).
So, in a sense, Winston went with a prolonged suicide, there was no escaping the Party. Big Brother’s strength and omniscience is such strong that not a single though can be left or will be left “unorthodox”, as O’Brien puts it. But there is a reason beyond the plot why Orwell did such a thing, why he created perhaps what is might be called an ultimate leader, and it is to warn that Winston’s fate could happen to anyone. It is for that exact reason Orwell destroys Winston in the end (Moustaki, p. 54).
Political aspect of Nineteen Eighty-Four
Political aspect dominates every dystopian novel. From relatively benign government in Huxley’s Brave New World to twisted and ever-present Zamyatin’s We, politics and, indeed, government is key aspect without which dystopian novels would lose their impact and creative force. Orwell is not an exception from the rule either. His view on future government has been discussed and analysed by many literary critics and politicians alike. Take for example Soviet Union’s propaganda newspaper Pravda, it has reviewed Nineteen Eighty-Four upon its publishing and called it “a filthy book”, one of many books written by “a whole army of venal writers […] on the orders and instigation of Wall Street (Quinn, p. 251).
The dissatisfaction with a book by communist propaganda machine is well understandable; the idea for Big Brother was partly influenced by the ruthless Stalin.
Government in Nineteen Eighty-Four is the pinnacle and the most important aspect of the novel. Also, it is the most original. Orwell created not only frightening view of perverted socialist principles but devised a whole history and future of fictional world. Much like J.R.R. Tolkien he created not only fictional and impressive characters but set up a new language through which the government expects to control its citizens. Control not through invention of words, but the opposite, deletion and decrying word meaning. It is appears that Orwell was as much a linguist as he was a socialist or an essayist. His insights to word and meaning, connotation and denotation is surprising, to say the least. In addition, the vision that future leaders will use words to shift and twist the real meaning is prophetic to say the least. For example, the modern usage of euphemism of “collateral damage” by the United States military to mean “civilian casualties”. Indeed, some observations of Orwell amazed even the Polish intellectuals, living under Soviet rule few years after the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four. As Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish poet and writer, wrote in 1953 in his Captive Mind, having only recently defected from the Communist Party: “Those who know Orwell only by hearsay are amazed that a writer who never lived in Russia should have understood the functioning of the unusually constructed machine of which they are themselves a part. Orwell’s grasp of their world astounds them and argues against the ‘stupidity’ of the West.” (Milosz, p. 40).
Another distinctive aspect of Orwellian government and the insight which he made into politics in general, is the usage of slogans. Such examples as: ”WAR IS PEACE/FREEDOM IS SLAVERY/IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH” (Orwell, p. 6) or “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” (Orwell, p. 3) has been stamped into conscious mind of popular culture. As oppose to big, friendly letters written on the back of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, reading “DON’T PANIC”, Orwellian slogans are designed to achieve quite the opposite effect. They are meant to depress, demotivate, and warn citizens that they are always under surveillance. In state of perpetual war, which Oceania is in, slogan “WAR IS PEACE” acquires quite a meaning. It encompasses the suggestion that the war will never be won, and it is not the aim. Through means of constant combat the Party controls the emotions of proles and outer party members. In engaging an enemy they bring themselves closer to the people thus synthetically creating a feeling of union and common goal, united by under the banner of Big Brother, which in turn represents the benevolent but at the same time merciless leader. Moustaki suggests that even Big Brother is an example for doublethink; name of trust, protection, affection, as well as ruthlessness, punishment, and power (Moustaki, p. 56).
John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton, in his letter to Mandell Creighton has said “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Beck, p. 750).
That is precisely what Oceanian government aims at – absolute power. Although from the view of liberal thought such power that is held upon the citizens of Oceania is perversion of human ideals, but it is not how Party sees it. In every moral positive though, every virtue is twisted and turned upside down. Nothing can be pin pointed or told to be true or fact in Orwellian world, as stated above, through means of newspeak and language change Party confuses human mind, and could win every debate through misdirection, just like illusionist, creates a semblance which distorts the image of reality and places Party ideology as superior. They are not corrupted; they have changed the reality and are righteous.
3. Allusions to reality
As much as his own creation, Orwell was highly influenced by the past 20th century events, namely, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and the Spanish civil War in which he participated himself. In his essay entitled “Looking back on the Spanish Civil War he expressed a genuine fear that the modern totalitarian slave state might be here to stay since “civilizations founded on slavery have lasted for such periods as four thousand years”. We desperately want to believe that “a regime founded on slavery must collapse”, but the “utter silence” of ancient slaves-and the failure of ancient slave rebellions do not inspire hope (Burton, p. 66).
That is why he wrote his dystopian novel, his main goal was to warn humanity of the dangers of worldwide totalitarian government.
Just like Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four is largely based on the Soviet Union during the times after the Second World War. The figure of Big Brother has been obviously modelled after Stalin, and his counterpart, Goldstein after Trotsky, although, another opinion is that Goldstein could be modelled based on Andres Nin, the leader of POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista or Worker’s Party of Marxist Unifiation) in Spain (Roberts).
The influence of the Second World War is actually felt throughout the novel, especially if one starts to deeper analyse it. For example, the way in which the leaders of the nations who had won World War II met after the war to divide the world into zones of influence also finds an echo in Nineteen Eighty-Four (Roberts).
Main character’s name also draws some reference to post-war times. Winston, being the name of British Prime Minister during the war and some time after it, is clear indication of that. Thought Police is reminiscent and mixture of the Gestapo of Nazi Germany, Stasi of German Democratic Republic, and KBG of U.S.S.R. The ministries of Oceania (Ministry of Love, Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Plenty, and Ministry of Peace) were influenced by the BBC detachment of propaganda during the war in which Orwell has worked as a journalist.
In this research paper Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four has been analysed and compared to other works from dystopian genre. Such conclusions were drawn:
1. Through use of satire and vivid writing Orwell has managed to make Nineteen Eighty-Four one of the benchmarks of dystopian literature genre;
2. Orwell has created a novel which even after sixty years remains a very relevant, and perhaps will remain the same for another sixty years;
3. Such terms as newspeak, thoughtcrime, and Big Brother and others are now frequently used in popular culture which only shows the power and influence of the novel;
4. To further analyse the novel, it would be interesting to research more exhaustively into the topic of newspeak; how it changes the political aspect, what does it mean, etc. Also,
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