Science Fiction or Reality?
?On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran?(Page 3). The novel 1984 follows Winston Smith, a worker at the Ministry of Truth, who lives in a world where the government watches every move you make and attempts to control all your thoughts. Winston?s job is to change the past so his government can hold a tighter grip over the present and eventually the future. The government even has the ability to make its citizens believe that 2+2=5. Though all this may seem purely science fiction, 1984 cleverly represents our reality in many ways.
In 1984 the government was able to watch every move their citizens made by the use of telescreens, helicopters and spies. ?In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a blue bottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol snooping into people?s windows?(Page 4). However unlikely it may seem, our government has the capability to watch us just as ?the party? watches the people of Oceania.
As we speak, hundreds of satellites orbit our planet, each able to watch everything we do outside. This machinery is very similar to the telescreens in 1984. If our government wished, it could use helicopters to look into our windows just as ?the party? did in the novel. ??I didn?t want to say anything in the lane,? she went on, ?in case there?s a mike hidden there??(Page 125). The mikes that can hear your conversation are much like the cellular phones in our society. Cell phones have become very popular but maybe that was not by chance. A cell phone works by sending signals through the air, which could very easily be picked up by an outside source.? If they wanted, the government could listen to every conversation made on a cell phone. Technology,
rather than helping to keep our privacy, actually takes it away.
Many references are made to the three different classes of Oceania, the Inner Party, the Outer Party and the Proles. These three classes resemble our class system of the rich, the middle class and the poor. The only differences between these classes are that in the novel power separates the people while in our world money separates us. The actions of these classes resemble each other as well. ?The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the middle is to change places with the high. The aim of the low, when they have an aim?is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal?(Page 210). These aims also take place in our society. The rich want to stay rich, the middle class want to be rich and the poor want everyone to be equal.
?We produced a definitive edition of the poems of Kipling. I allowed the word ?God? to remain at the end of a line?(Page 242). This quote explains the reason why a friend of Winston was arrested. In the novel, religion does not exist and specking of it can result in death. Though our society still accepts organized religion, our government cleverly, and sometimes not so cleverly, denounces it. Laws are in place to keep religion out of public schools as well as other government bodies. The next step is for them to ban religion entirely, as ?the party? did in 1984.
The methods used to capture Winston are similar to the methods that the government agency, such as the FBI, might use to catch a suspect. Like the Thought Police of 1984, the FBI uses hidden cameras and microphones to find incriminating evidence to arrest a suspect. Similarly, hidden cameras are commonly placed in households who use a babysitter or even in office washrooms. These types of invasions of privacy are described in the novel. ?For a moment he was tempted to take it into one of the water-closets and read it at once. But that would be shocking folly, as he well knew. There was no place where you could be more certain that the telescreens were watching continuously?(Page 112). In the novel, the spies were the Thought Police. In our society, the same people exist, except we call them the FBI, the CIA.
1984 was not written as a prediction of the future, but rather a warning of what was to come if man did not change. Man has, apparently, not changed because our world parallels that of the novel. ??Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past??(Page 260). As technology advances, it becomes easier and easier to control the thoughts and actions of others and, therefore, the present. If George Page was correct, then he who controls the present controls the past and he who controls the past controls the future. We must never let that much power fall into the hands of a single man or group. We must always be able to do what we want to do and think independently and we should always be free to know that 2+2=4.