conditions, and everything was controlled by hatred.
novel, its meaning and the author Orwell himself, to truly understand it.
The set up of the political system in the novel, 1984 is reminiscent of
the world order which arose out of World War II. In the novel, the world is
broken into three different super-countries: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia.
These countries were in a constant state of war with one another. One
country was always allied to another, while at war with the third. This kept
Even though wars were constantly raging, the fighting itself never
affected the heartland of any of the countries. It always took place in an out
?super-countries? is strong enough to defeat any of the others, so the balance
On top of all the turmoil, there was never really a clear reason for the
countries would join either side based on their own political doctrines. This
formed two of the ?super-countries?. Unlike the book, which portrayed
imaginary countries constantly changing allegiances, the new ?super
countries? were bound together by treaty (Warsaw Pact and NATO). The
third state in the novel could be said to be the communist countries of Asia,
communist doctrine as the USSR, and formed their own defense plan.
heartland?s of any of these treaty groups. The wars which broke out took
?super-countries? to take part in such wars was unclear to us, as it was for the
characters in the novel. Many Americans did not, and still do not, believe
that Vietnam should ever have been fought, and many Russians were not in
these ?superpowers? could have completely destroyed any of the others.
Each had their own strengths, similar to those displayed by the different
countries in 1984, which made them unconquerable. Instead of trying to
conquer strongholds, the powers fought in places of little importance,
attempting to force their political doctrines on countries in Africa and Asia.
For the most part, there was always a threat of war during the Cold War.
Events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis allow us to see how close we did
indeed come to all out nuclear warfare.
The governments in Orwell?s 1984 contrast the governments found in
our world in 1948, when the book was written. Orwell seems to deal more
wonder how much Orwell was satirizing the post World War II world.
Oceania and the other two states were governed by an elite few. ?Big
Brother? is the supposed leader of Oceania, yet many doubt whether he even
exists. As such true authority within Oceania is held by the Inner Party. The
controlled most of the countries wealth and power. Inner Party members
were given food and materials which the other groups could only dream
Communism under Stalin was much the same as the society of
Oceania. A small portion of the population held the power within Russia and
the rest of the communist world. This small proportion controlled most
aspects of their countrymen?s daily lives. They controlled their pay,
employment, and moreover, their lives. The members of the upper wing of
the communist party were also given expensive gifts to guarantee loyalty to
food, while the men in the upper ranks grew wealthy.
The similarities between the governments found in 1984 and the
communist governments found in our own world serve as a warning to the
spread of the doctrine. The reasons for this concern can be found with
Orwell himself. Orwell was a very strong believer in Socialism and fought in
he would later put in 1984. Orwell would later become a ?beatnik?, and by
the time he wrote 1984 he had already developed many anti-establishment
ideals. These beliefs in turn, were the likely cause of Orwell?s fear of the rise
the television. Orwell?s fear of the rise of ?super powers? came out in this
book as well (www.newspeak.com/1984.html, 1). As such, his portrayal of
the government as a dominating force, which desired to control the lives of
it?s citizens, was likely sparked by these fears. Orwell attempted to warn us
that through the use of technology, the government would be able to keep all
the members of society in line. To an extent he was correct as we may soon
As well as satirizing the political organization of this ?New and Brave
World?, Orwell satirized the social classes and presented them in a manner
Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles. Big Brother sat atop the social scale,
though it was never really mentioned whether Big Brother did truly exist. He
His word was law, and he controlled the lives of the people of Oceania. Big
who arose out of World War II, as well as the President of the United States.
The President of the United States and the dictator of Russia were both the
most recognized people in their political parties, and as such were in control.
As well as being in control, both of these positions had the power of veto.
Therefore, like Big Brother, these men can control the happenings of the
Big Brother can also be seen as a warning. Orwell seems to be trying to warn
the reader of the potential abuses of power which could result from the
mistreatment of the wide array of powers given to the leaders of the world at
The next level of the social scale are the members of the Inner Party.
These persons were the true administrators of the INGSOC government.
They ran all of their country?s daily happenings, and enforced the rules. In
many regards they were like the members of the communist party in post war
Russia and the senators and state representatives/ members of parliament in
total rule upon the people in their area. The men in charge of the daily
running of the communist party could be seen as being as much to blame for
the totalitarian regime as the dictator himself. The MP?s and Senators in the
democracies can be compared to the Inner Party members as well. These
were also in charge of creating the laws which govern and control society.
For this reason, they held the true power in the country. The final tie between
all of these groups was their living standards. It can be said that the high
ranking members of the communist party and democratic parties enjoyed the
same luxuries as the members of the Inner Party. All of these groups were
made up of rich beaurocrats. They were able to enjoy luxuries which the
The third tier of citizens in 1984 were the members of the Outer Party.
These people seemed to represent the middle class of society. In the late
made up a much smaller percentage of the population than it does today and
was not as well off. In these regards they are clearly similar to the Outer
Party members. The jobs that both were forced to do show a distinct
resemblance as well. Middle class people hold such jobs as journalists,
doctors, teachers, and many others, which comprise most of the jobs done by
people in the Outer Party. Orwell satirizes the middle class by showing the
to better the lives of the people ahead of them in the social scale, while living
in poor conditions themselves. The work the Outer Party members did was
monotonous and never ending. With these sentiments, Orwell was trying to
show the middle class how the upper classes were using them to further their
The last group was the Proles. These people played an interesting role
in the life of Oceania. Unlike the Inner and Outer Party members, the Proles
were not watched over by the telescreens or spied on in any way. Their lives
were simple- they worked, raised families, and did the little things, such as
watch sports and go to bars. Their lives were very similar to the lower, and
lower middle classes of the post war world, and of today. The Proles were
the poorest of the groups, but in most regards were the most cheerful and
optimistic. The Proles were also the most free of all the groups. Proles could
regards the lower to lower middle classes were afforded the same privileges,
for the same reasons. The higher classes did not put much thought into what
enough to worry about.
Through his portrayal of the Proles, Orwell gave a strong impression of
what he felt the role of the lower classes was. ?They were born, they grew
up in the gutters, they went to work at twelve, they passed through a brief
blossoming period of beauty and sexual desire, they married at twenty, they
were middle aged at thirty, they died, for the most part at sixty? (p74). He
also describes the Proles lives as, ?heavy physical work, the care of home and
Through these sentiments we can see that Orwell thought that the
lower class was, as the book said of the Proles, poor and pre-occupied with
small things to the point that they missed the true problems within society.
contained within this group. At several points in the book, Winston, the hero,
made a point of mentioning that the Proles were the hope for the future and
the only ones who could end Big Brother?s tyranny, since they were the only
group still allowed to have feelings and opinions. Orwell, through Winston,
said that the lower classes were the only ones capable of creating change,
since they were the only ones who have the vision to do so.
Orwell also gave a warning to the lower classes. He said that the
government controlled them through such devices as the lottery, the spreading
of rumours, and the elimination of the trouble makers from amongst them.
The real control the government had over these people was that they
controlled their futures. The Proles, like the lower classes of our society,
wanted to move up in the world, but to retain power the governments needed
them to stay where they were. Orwell, through his portrayal, seemed to be
warning the lower classes that they were being controlled, and that they
feeling a form of ?fake patriotism? toward them, which allowed the cycle to
The destruction of the past plays a large part in the oppression within
Oceania as well. In the novel, the history of the world is destroyed or altered
by the government in order to make them look good, and give them credit for
all of the major accomplishments which have occurred in the past. As such,
the government was looked upon as having given the people all that they
have, which made it unlikely that there would ever be a revolt. Orwell,
himself, has always had strong feelings that the past could be altered. In an
article he wrote in The Tribune in February of 1944, Orwell expressed much
of the same uneasiness about the altering of the past as he did in his novel,
1984. In that article he said, ?During part of 1941 and 1942, when the
with stories of devastating air raids on London. Now, we are aware that
those raids did not happen. But what use would our knowledge be if the
Germans conquer Britain? For the purposes of the future historian, did those
raids happen, or didn?t they? The answer is: If Hitler survives they did, and if
he falls they didn?t happen? (Orwell, 1). He adds to this later, ?History is
written by the winners? (Orwell, 1).
The message Orwell is trying to get across is simple: though we think
of history as being concrete, it is constantly being altered to serve the
purposes of the leaders of the day in which it occurred. His idea is intriguing.
Chinese who first discovered the continent. Orwell warned that the past can
novel, 1984, he showed what could occur if a government chose to abuse
their power, and altered history.
The invasion of personal privacy is the last way in which the
government kept its control over the people in 1984. Telescreens and the
Thought Police kept a 24 hour watch over the people of the society to ensure
that they did not do anything which could threaten the government?s power.
The way this control was shown in the book seems preposterous to the
average person, especially in our ?free? society. We see this as being totally
unacceptable, as do Winston and Julia. However, Orwell used this invasion
of privacy to make a bold statement about the path in which his society of the
late 1940?s was heading. During, and after World War II, many spy and
suppressed the radical thinking which ran contrary to the political theories of
the government, especially in the case of the KGB. These groups limited the
ideas which were allowed to be presented, and often suppressed political and
personal freedom. As such, they were, and still are, very much like the
To prove this, we need to look no further than a phenomenon of the
late forties and early fifties called ?McCarthyism?. Simply put, the people
within the democratic countries were encouraged to spy upon everyone
to round up the communists who lived amongst them. This is no different
than what the people of Oceania did to one another. Many people were
innocently accused of crimes and destroyed because of the fear which arose
out of this modern day witch hunt.
With the technology of today, we are facing the problem of a lack of
privacy more than ever. In some US cities, video cameras line the streets,
programmed to look into a person?s house at any given time? Computers
keep most of our lives on file, accessible to anyone with authorization, and
Satellites have the capability of following a person from deep within outer
space. In the late 1940?s, and up to the 1980?s and early 1990?s, government
sensors controlled most of what we watched and had the power to suppress
material? to ever be presented to the public. As much as we like to pride
ourselves on our freedom and liberty, our society is not far from the one
presented in 1984. Though we are guaranteed freedoms, we are constantly
being watched and monitored by the government, or our own ?Big Brother?.
Orwell warned the reader that the balance between the oppressive state of
Oceania and the free state we live in today is not as stable as we might
believe it is, and that we should fight to keep our freedoms.
The telescreen is another interesting aspect of the novel. In the book,
the telescreens, which were basically large TVs, were used to spy on people.
The telescreen seems to be a satirization of the television for a couple of
reasons. When the novel was written, television was just beginning to break
into the homes of many Americans, British, and Canadian families. In one
part of the novel, Winston says that the telescreens continually give out
figures which would suggest that the quality of life is going up, and that the
government is doing a great job. This goes on even today. Commercials
sponsored by the government are used to persuade the viewer that the
government is doing the right thing. Even television sitcoms help to create a
sense that the viewer is living in a world which is better than their own by
forget their worries. Television is the top media of our current era, and as
such is instrumental in influencing our decisions.
The second factor is Orwell himself. Orwell held many beliefs which
would later make him a ?beatnik?, and was very anti-establishment. He had a
fear of technology which made him see the television as an intrusive force
which kept an eye on the people, and kept them out of trouble with its mere
presence. He felt that the television forced people to stay in their homes
more, and to lose the personal interaction between friends, family, and
countrymen. In this regard he was absolutely correct. He warned the reader
that after all of the intercommunication within society was destroyed, the
government would need only to control the airwaves, which by then everyone
had grown reliant upon, to control, and monitor their every move.
At first glance 1984 would appear to be a novel about a world without
rights, and of complete societal oppression. However, when one looks
further into the novel it can be seen for what it truly is; a clever satirization of
the society in which we live, and the one in which Orwell himself lived. The
devices of oppression featured in the book are all prevalent in our society
today. We just do not think of them as being oppressive devices. Orwell
attempted to share with us his own beliefs, on both personal and political
levels, in order to warn us of the dangers of not realizing the limits which are
placed on our freedoms everyday. Through this book he has created a world
which would appear to be the complete opposite of our own, but which, in
reality, is not far off from the one in which he and ourselves reside.
Unauthored; ?About Orwell?s NINTEEN EIGHTY FOUR?;