Human Vulnerability in 1984

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For centuries, the fear of a cruel tyrannical society has lingered deep in the agitated minds of man. The idea that an oppressive government could threaten human individualism, freedom, and natural rights is definitely a scary concept. George Orwell illustrates this dystopian world in his novel 1984, which depicts a society where a totalitarian government has complete control over its subjects’ actions, feelings, and even thoughts. While most people are aware that Orwell’s 1984 serves as a warning against totalitarian government, many are unaware of the novel’s message regarding mankind. A critical analyst of 1984 states, “The question is… can human nature be changed in such a way that man will forget he is human?” (Fromm 2-3). In other words, could man be forced to surrender all human qualities under certain oppressive means? According to Orwell, the answer is yes. In George Orwell’s 1984, the vulnerability of humanity is exposed through his depictions of betrayal, contradictory elements, and the denial of reality.

Despite the faith that the characters of 1984 put in their courage, this confidence is proven false as numerous betrayals occur in the text due to relentless torture performed by the Party, the tyrannical government in the novel. The best example of betrayal can be seen in the love relationship between the protagonist, Winston Smith, and a rebellious young woman, Julia. In Orwell’s world, love is not allowed and sex is for reproductive purposes only, so the relationship of Winston and Julia is considered a horrid crime. At first, both Winston and Julia believe that even if the Party catches the two in their love affair and tortures them for their crime, their feelings would still remain the same for each other: ‘Confession is not betrayal… only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving – that would be the real betrayal.’ ‘They can’t do that… They can make you say anything… but they can’t make you believe it. They can’t get inside you.’ (Orwell 166) Clearly, Winston and Julia have hope in their courage; however, this confidence in human willpower is utterly misplaced.

Near the end of the book, Julia and Winston are both caught in the act. It turns out that O’Brien, a man that they thought to be their ally, was actually a leader of the Party who specializes in the Ministry of Love, the department where the Party tortures rebels. Based on his experience at the Ministry of Love, O’Brien makes a point to Winston that humans can only endure so much, but there is always a specific fear that one cannot even apprehend; it is a fear that no amount of courage can overcome. “By itself… pain is not always enough. There are occasions when a human being will stand out against pain, even to the point of death. But for everyone there is something unendurable – something that cannot be contemplated. Courage and cowardice are not involved.” (Orwell 284). Fundamentally, a human’s will can be broken down through his/her most unimaginable greatest fear.

One’s worst fear is embodied in Room 101, the final and most effective torture chamber. This room symbolizes the ultimate betrayal because of its ability to make any person betray another. ‘Room 101’ said the officer. The man looked frantically around at the other prisoners as though with some idea that he could put another victim in his own place… ‘That’s the one you ought to be taking, not me! ...He’s the one against the Party! …Take him, not me!’ (Orwell 237) Despite all strength or endurance, every man is vulnerable to the terror of Room 101 and any person could betray another, even one that he/she loves.

After months of torture, Winston and Julia both go through Room 101. Unlike what they believed would happen, the two betray each other and lose all love that they had previously felt. After their traumatizing experience, the two see each other on the streets and discuss the aftermath of Room 101. Julia says,”Sometimes… they threaten you with… Something you...
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