December 22, 2009
Language: The Ultimate Weapon for Absolute Control
The ultimate goal of a totalitarian regime is achieving the complete deterioration of the independence and strength of the people in its society, as well as regulating every aspect of their lives. Accomplishing complete control through brute force is undoubtedly an effective means of obtaining the results desired. However, the pervasion and adulteration of language is one of the most primary and effective tools used by totalitarian regimes in an effort to abolish individualism and gain power and control over a society. We are able to examine how totalitarian systems were able to establish dominance through the use of language in George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. In doing so, we are also able to examine several essays in The Orwell Reader and discover how a series of related totalitarian-like events led to his writings. Very early in Animal Farm, we get a glimpse at the usage of language as a tool used to obtain dominance, albeit revolutionary, in an extensive speech given by Major. It is obvious to the reader that Major is a character of importance because not everyone can call a gathering and has all invited in attendance. George Orwell describes Major as “so highly regarded on the farm that everyone was quite ready to lose an hour’s sleep in order to hear what he had to say” (Orwell, “Animal Farm” 3). With this in mind, it is fairly understandable why his ‘fellow comrades’ would lend him their ears. In his address to the other animals, Major engaged them in a depiction of what their world was presently like when he says, “…what is this nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious and short… The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth” (Orwell, “Animal Farm” 5). Major goes on to reveal what monstrosity that world would eventually become if they continued to live in their present conditions under the rule of human beings, “But no animal escapes the cruel knife in the end” (Orwell, “Animal Farm” 6). Orwell allows us to see that evidently in order to live a new, better life, the old life would have to be eliminated. By doing so, Orwell has managed to help us understand the intense dissatisfaction in living under totalitarian rule. As a result, we realize how Major is able to use language to convince the others that the attack against man was imminent and a revolution was necessary to control their destinies. In the report, “Language as Theme in Animal Farm”, Samir Elbarbary conveys an interesting characterization of Major’s speech. He writes, “His general prescription that getting rid of man will bring an overnight change is delivered as gospel” (Elbarbary, “Language as Theme in Animal Farm” 32). Amazingly, Major is able to gain the conformity of the animals through the use of this prophetic-like language, thus making it effortless to formulate his ideology.
As readers, we are able to distinguish that Major was able to use his creative linguistic aptitude to make it possible for the animals to visualize an existence they did not desire. It was only a matter of time when all of the animals became united, formed camaraderie, and were in agreement that Man was the enemy. Shortly thereafter, Major dies, but his words of wisdom and revolution would remain in their souls. The animals are left to pursue their new outlook on life without him. We learn through Orwell that undoubtedly, this is what Major anticipated would occur in his absence. Elbarbary’s also stated in his report, “Major's control over language, over others, builds anticipation for further makers of words, for whom the play of tyrannical power is wordplay. The uncontested owners of language and its resources use their talent to serve strategies, with foregrounding attention to the teaching process,...