Danger of Totalitarian Systems

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The threat to individual freedom posed by growing governmental influence in all areas of life and the immense power of the media are issues that concern us to this day. Orwell's examination of propaganda also remains relevant in our age of "spin". Many labelled 1984 a prophetic novel. It outlined many characteristics of Cold War society, such as the impact of national security concerns on people's lives. Winston Smith's pursuit of justice and love and his ultimate betrayal mirror the experiences of many under strict government control -- whether in communist regimes or elsewhere. In the post-9/11 world, Orwell's critique of the use of torture, the political stereotyping of people, and the political impact of fear and bigotry has renewed relevance. The effect of 24-hour surveillance and public scrutiny of people's private lives on society is summed up in the ironic popularity of reality TV's Big Brother. Orwell integrates political critique with the story of Winston's rebellion and betrayal by using the special language Ingsoc, and by including the book within a book that tells the history of 1984's new, terrible England. His integration of futuristic and historical elements make his scenario more believable. It has been said that 1984 would fall flat on its face without its political foundations. This may be justified. Few characters besides Winston are developed to any degree. Winston's internal world is examined in detail, with the story being told from his perspective. Other characters, such as Julia, are portrayed more superficially. This seems a weakness in a novel that critiques stereotyping and the lack of individuality. The discontinuity in Julia's character -- moving from asexual but attractive young woman to passionate lover, to defeated slave -- seems unconvincing. This unbalanced characterisation also seems sexist to many -- underlined by Winston's initial hate of Julia, and his sexual caution in the face of her sexual potency. But Julia's experience...
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