A.P. English 12
21 March 2011
Contemporary Society vs. 1984
In his dystopian novel 1984, Orwell expresses his vision of the nearing future through a fictional plot. Within the plot, Winston Smith, the novel's protagonist, lives a life controlled entirely by a manipulative and exploitative government. He, embodies the stereotypical personality of each citizen of Oceania—a person who abides by the laws of the ruling Big Brother government. Through the developing setting and characterization of our protagonist, the reader is able to witness the numerous aspects of control, manipulation and exploitation exercised by the Party and Big Brother. As his frustrations with the Party's control of history and longing desire to meet with a female co-worker increase, Winston begins to question the society he once aimlessly conformed to and the laws he once followed. Through Winston’s ordeal, Orwell expresses his concerns with an exponentially expanding American government. Such gross violations of personal liberties have played a prominent role in America's past as well as in its present. While writing the novel, Orwell recollected his childhood experiences in an oppressed India and began to draw comparisons to the then-current state of America. During the 1940s, America experienced increased military involvement, significant expansion of the federal bureaucracy and world dominance. In turn, Orwell’s writing of 1984 seemingly serves a cautionary and educational purpose. Honest government may expand into an oppressive one if its citizens do not vigilantly monitor its activity. In contemporary society, Americans face similar circumstances to those subject to the environment portrayed in 1984. The unfortunate happenings of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11th, 2001 still affect Americans presently. Consequently, Americans knowingly placed greater trust in their government and sacrificed certain liberties for superior security. Resulting legislation, such as the Patriot Act of 2001, allows the US government to bypass certain privacy rights in order to ensure safety within the nation. During the summer of 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by congress brought the United States closer to a "Big Brother" institution than ever before. The Alien Act "authorized the president to arrest and deport aliens suspected of 'treasonable' leanings" (Davidson 219). With no clear definition as to what actually constitutes a "treasonable leaning," the president could've forced someone out of the United States the instant they engaged in a form of anti-American protest. Surveillance cameras in most buildings and some public streets further demonstrates the constant and grim reality of governmental supervision. US troops are stationed throughout the Middle East in addition to their already inhabited locations. Similar to those subject to the omniscient Big Brother government in 1984, Americans are controlled by specific qualities and principles, social constraints, manipulated by a homogenous and monopolized society and exploited by the falsified allure of the “American Dream.” “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.” (Orwell, p81). Such a simplistic definition of freedom misleads those striving for absolute freedom. In fact, American and Oceanian citizens share ultimate freedom if freedom was solely confined to its previously stated definition. However, the reader knows that those within Oceania are enslaved by their own totalitarian government. Therefore, freedom's true definition is much more complex and often contradictory. The contradictory nature of freedom and democracy proves the similarities between America and Oceania. Although not as radical of their 1984 counterparts, Americans defer to an elitist society to maintain their “freedom.” “In a paradox for democratic theory, the masses express the greatest confidence in the most elitist,...
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