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Orwell’s Thoughts On Totalitarianism Essay, Research Paper

V Orwell’s thoughts on Totalitarianism

A. From life experiences

B. From a writers point of view

VI Conclusion

Introduction

“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

totalitarianism.

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

Orwell”).

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

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.

(”George Orwell”).

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

arrest” (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 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

8).

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

Hate.

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.

1984,

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A1+.

Black, David. “Wider Still and Wider” European 25 October 1991:

8-9.

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

Society. Charlottesville: Samhar Press, 1974.

Deutscher, Isaac. “1984-The Mysticsm of Cruelty.” George Orwell,

A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Raymond Williams.

Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974. 119- 132.

“George Orwell” Discovering Authors. 1993 ed. Gale Research

Inc., 1993.

Greenblast, Stephen J. “Orwell as Satirist.” George Orwell, ACollection Of Critical Essays. Ed. Raymond

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

Huber, Peter. “Bye -Bye, Big Brother.” National Review 15 August

1994: 48-50.

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.

Leyden, Peter. “On the Digital Age: Dawn of a Second Renaissance”

Star Tribune 25 June 1995: 1t+.

Orwell, George. 1984. New York: The New American Library Inc.,

1983.

Reilly, Patrick. Nineteen Eighty-Four, Past, Present, and Future.

Boston G.K. Hall and Co., 1989.

Stansky, Peter and William Abrahams. Orwell: The Transformation.

London: Gramala Publishing Limited, 1981.

Tucker, Robert C. “Does Big Brother Really Exist?” 1984

Revisited, Totalitarianism In Your Century. Ed. Irving Howe,

New York: Harper and Row, 1983. 89-103.

Verity, John W. “Why Big Brother Isn’t Watching You.” Business

Week 9 January, 1995: 15- 16.

Weight, Richard. “Return To Albion, Intellectuals in Wartime

Britain.” History Today. December 1994: 37-43.

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