1984 by George Orwell is a classic work of dystopian fiction that brings forth a terrifying vision of a totalitarian state.He shows a grim world bereft of truth where humans have no control over their lives and people live in constant fear,misery and repression.It is often said that the regime of fascist Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet union led to creation of this classic by Orwell as he had been thinking of the dystopian world of 1984 as early as 1944 when he wrote a letter about Stalin and Hitler,mentioning “the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer.”(Michiko Kakutani, Why ‘1984’ Is a 2017 Must-Read) 1The story is set in a place called Oceania where people live under a cruel dictatorship ruled by “The Party” and its leader, “Big Brother”. People in Oceania are constantly observed by Telescreens that are installed everywhere possible,so that people don’t get any privacy.Oceania is always at war,either with Eastasia or Eurasia.The protagonist of the story,Winston Smith is a citizen in Oceania who is a member of the Outer Party and works in the Records Department in The Ministry Of Truth.The Ministry Of Truth issues and controls all the documents,information ,entertainment,news,education and fine arts.Winston’s job in The Ministry Of Truth is to rewrite,change and destroy history.So,none of the citizens remember the past because the party controls facts and changes history. This quote by Tom Baker,“You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common?They don’t alter their views to fit the facts ,they alter the facts to fit their views” holds so much of relevance in this context.(James F.Macgrath, Quote of the Day The Doctor).2 Winston is unhappy with the whole system of “The Party” and unable to express his disappointment and anger to others because there is nobody to trust and no real friends to lean on.Therefore,he starts writing what he thinks in his diary even though he knows that the penalty of doing this can be death.So,one day during the regular “Two Minutes Of Hate” which focuses on the treachery of Goldstein, a previous “Brotherhood” member, Winston notices an inner party member ,named O’ Brien and assumes that he is an alley working for “The Brotherhood”,an underground organization that’s aimed to bring the party down.At the same time,he also notices a girl with dark hair,Julia and assumes her to be a foe from the “Thought Police” and is assured that she is there to observe him.After a few days,Julia hands him a paper and confesses her love to him.Later,they manage to meet alone and gradually fall in love with each other.Julia like Winston is unorthodox and doesn’t believe in the system. They both believe that their loyalty to one another can never be destroyed.Then, Winston manages to find a room on rent which belongs to Mr. Charrington who doesn’t mind to lend it for some money.They spend their romantic time in that room as often as they can.Later,Winston and Julia meet O’Brien assuming that he is a member of “The Brotherhood” and confess to him their hatred towards the Party.O’Brien welcomes them to “The Brotherhood” and promises to deliver “The Book”(written by the enemy of the party i.e. Goldstein) to them to read.As he starts reading “The Book” in their rented room while Julia is napping next to him,they suddenly hear some noise coming from the wall,and find out that there is a telescreen behind the painting on the wall.They get caught and separated.Winston realizes that Mr.Charrington belongs to the “Thought Police”.After this incident,Winston is locked for days in “The Ministry Of Love”,which is responsible for law and order,in a room without windows.Finally,O’Brien comes in and Winston thinks that he also got caught but he realizes that O’Brien is there to torture him,make him confess his crimes and break his spirit.O’Brien has been watching Winston for the last 7 years and the Party is made aware of all his crimes.He continues to torture Winston for months together and tries hard to change his way of thinking and force “Doublethink” into his brain,which is the ability of holding two opposing ideas in one’s mind and believing in both of them.O’Brien finds it hard to change him until he takes Winston to “Room 101”,the room where people are made to face their worst fears.O’Brien threatens Winston to open the cage of rats.Since Winston fears rats,he loses control over himself and screams “do it to Julia” which shows a complete loss of loyalty and principles.
And at the end,Winston is a changed man who spends time at the “Chestnut Tree Café”,watching news on daily basis there through the Telescreen.One day,he meets Julia by accident and they talk for a while.She has also changed and is not as charming as before.She confesses to him that she betrayed him during the torture.Winston has changed so much that he finally comes to love “Big Brother”.
Orwell tries to draw a parallel between Big Brother who is The Party’s enigmatic leader and Stalin and Hitler because in the very first chapter he is described as “ a man of about forty-five with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features”.His face is described as “simply enormous”.The name “Big Brother” suggests a protective nature but at the same time he is very intimidating and threatening as his gaze cannot be avoided.This dichotomy of protection and intimidation created by The Party is used to instill a sense of fear and obedience in its citizens. One thing that is left unclear by Orwell for the readers is that whether Big Brother exists in reality or not.Winston says,“The story really began in the middle sixties, the period of the great purges in which the original leaders of the Revolution were wiped out once and for all. By 1970 none of them was left, except Big Brother himself. All the rest had by that time been exposed as traitors and counter- revolutionaries”.This sentence from the book supports the idea that Big Brother exists and is infact a literal figure and the dictator of Oceania.At the same time Winston’s monologue which goes as, "Nobody has ever seen Big Brother. He is a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. We may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already considerable uncertainty as to when he was born" suggests that Big Brother may not exist and is merely a character created for the purpose of propaganda.He elaborates further as to what may be the motive for creating a fictitious figurehead because if the party is represented by an individual or an image of an individual,then it is much easier for the masses to connect with the party.Also,Big Brother is accredited with all of the nation’s successes,no matter how trivial the success is and is never criticised.He is worshipped like a deity.Orwell writes "Every success, every achievement, every victory, every scientific discovery, all knowledge, all wisdom, all happiness, all virtue, are held to issue directly from his leadership and inspiration.During the "Two Minutes Hate" his image is prevalent and leaves such a lasting impression that even after his face has faded away,Winston says that his image “seemed to persist for several seconds on the screen”.
Telescreens were the devices used for distributing propaganda to the masses and helped in creating a climate of constant fear through psychological manipulation.Orwell says that they are two-way devices as it not only makes the viewer see what is on the screen but at the same time viewers can also be viewed by the party officials.Therefore, by creating a climate of fear in which the individual is never sure as to whether or not his/her actions are being analysed,the citizens of Oceania learn to “morally”police their own selves. The telescreen is also a device that delivers the majority of the Party's propaganda to an individual. Orwell also presents the reader with a few examples of the type of shows that are being screened. The citizens are constantly made to hear patriotic songs and shown racist images of whoever happens to be the enemy at any given time. In addition to this Big Brother's achievements are constantly lauded. The reference given to "three year plans" and how they have all been massively over-fulfilled is clearly symbolic of the five year plans of Stalin's Soviet Union. This is one of a number of references to the actual political climate of that era in the novel.
Newspeak is the official language of Oceania and Orwell explains the principles of Newspeak in great detail in the appendix.The aim of Newspeak is to perpetuate the doctrine of Ingsoc . As Orwell writes in his appendix, "It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought-that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc-should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words."So,through this element of Newspeak,Orwell tries to shed light on the power of language and the damage that can be caused when it is misused.One important feature of Newspeak is that there are no negative words. The Newspeak word for bad is "ungood" and if something is really atrocious then it would be said, "double plus ungood". This would instill a sense of optimism in the general populace as they would not have the means to express any negative feeling and at the same time would help in destroying creative art or expression.Therefore,he serves a warning to the world as what could happen if language is allowed to become corrupted and is not sufficiently cherished and protected.
The law is a powerful tool in “1984” to limit the freedom of citizens. No parties, no dates, no love, no citizens walk on street after curfew, laws are everywhere in Oceania. But they cannot be called laws theoretically because there are no written laws in 1984.This is exactly how fear is created, as citizens are always living in uncertainty. "Hate Week" and "Two Minutes Hate" are two important tools in the Party's arsenal of psychological weaponry.On the one hand, "Hate Week" is a large scale, annual event where the population is incited into a condition of extreme loathing towards the enemies of Oceania while on the other hand the "Two Minutes Hate" is a daily dose of emotionally charged propaganda and is held on a smaller scale. The "Two Minutes Hate" has a profound impact on the members of the Party as the reader is allowed a glimpse into one of these shows. Winston says, "Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room." Here Orwell is emphasising the power that propaganda can hold over people and the potentially damaging consequences of such widespread ignorance.He also says that Goldstein's hateful speech is set to a backdrop of marching soldiers with "expressionless Asiatic faces". Much like Big Brother, Orwell does not explain whether or not Goldstein or “the book” exists. It is highly plausible that he is merely a construct of the Party's propaganda machine and "the book" may have been published by the Party to identify the dissenters in Oceania. Another extremely effective manner by which the Party dominates its citizens is through the psychological manipulation of impressionable children.Orwell presents this point through Winston's neighbour, the Parsons family. The family comprises of Mr. and Mrs. Parsons and their two children, who remain unnamed throughout the novel. When Winston comes to their flat in order to mend a broken sink the boy calls him a "traitor" and a "thought-criminal" and makes violent threats to "shoot" or "vaporise" him. He compares these awful children to "tiger cubs which will soon grow up into man-eaters." Such is their commitment to the Party's cause that one doubts whether their loyalties lie more with their parents or with the Party. Orwell emphasises that these children have been so successfully manipulated that, in reality, they are the children of the Party much more than they are the children of their biological parents.This reiterates how deeply entrenched the brainwashing is and sends a strong warning about the susceptibility of children to brainwashing and propaganda.
As V.S. Pritchett clearly stated while reviewing the novel, "I do not think I have ever read a novel more frightening and depressing; and yet, such are the originality, the suspense, the speed of writing and withering indignation that it is impossible to put the book down”. With 1984,Orwell created a truly classic piece of literature with a strong moral message that is still as relevant today as the time in which he wrote it. The most striking feature of 1984 is certainly the realization that regimes do not stand on violence and coercion but by the thousand tiny actions forced on a person each day and while it was written in a very different age,it is still relevant as one Michigan teacher, Mike Becker says, “A lot of students came up to me in the last few weeks and said stuff along the lines of We’re living in 1984.”(Rebecca Klein, High School Students Reading ‘1984’ See A Mirror, Not Science Fiction)3.His narrative carries stark warnings for the future about the horrors that can ensue if power is allowed to run unchecked. His portrayal of the dangers of propaganda and psychological manipulation is truly expert and his warning is clear about the need for a society to preserve its civil liberties and the harm that falsifying history and fabricated propaganda can cause.