Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Response to Totalitarian Rule
“The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it,” – Adolf Hitler. The concept of totalitarianism is a political system where the government ceases to recognize any limits to its authority, and in turn, successfully regulates every aspect of public and private life of the population. This type of regime is considered extremely undemocratic and fundamentally a dictatorship, where a sole party or leader controls the entire welfare of a nation. The idea of totalitarianism was first developed and practiced in the 1920s by the Italian fascists and the theory soon became popular in the Western political discourse during the Cold War era. The most popular example of this dystopian practice is Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany. The repressive authoritarian governments intended to stay in power through all-encompassing propaganda communicated through the control of mass media, total dominance over the economy and society, mass surveillance of the population and the widespread use of terror to keep the populace in submission and under control. Orwell, being a realistic socialist, viewed the high-handed government as a cultism of people who were solely hungry for power and to whom the welfare of the population ceased to matter. George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is considered a response against the practice of such a tyrannical and oppressive political point of view, where he sought to portray the result within a society if such a domineering regime would succeed. Although considered a futuristic fictional novel, Nineteen Eight-Four not only gives a response to the political endeavors of Orwell’s time but also attempts to display a prediction of the future, in which many aspects of the novel such as the elements of constant warfare and the panoptical practices of Big Brother, are just a few of the particular predictions existent in society today.
To begin to understand the ideas behind George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eight-Four, one must understand the political background and ideology of Orwell. Eric Arthur Blair, later known as George Orwell, was born in 1903 in the Indian Village of Motihari, which is near the border of Nepal. Orwell’s family was considered lower-upper-middle class and was like many English families of the time, totally dependent of the British Empire for their livelihood and means of support. In 1907 Orwell and his family returned to England, where he won a scholarship to Eton, a famous public school. In 1922, after he finished at Eton, Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police, as opposed to furthering his education by carrying on to Oxford or Cambridge, like most of his fellow classmates would have done. In 1927 he resigned from the police force because he wished to “escape from… every form of man’s dominion over man,” and the social structure of English Imperialism, of which he had become dependent upon (Pittock). Orwell turned his back on his inherited values of the English Imperialism, by taking a drastic step to live among the poor and working class in East London. During such time, he placed himself among those who he felt would hold the power of a community, and should be treated equally and with more significance. Orwell thus adopted the socialist principle of the distribution of goods, which was intended to create an equal playing field for all citizens, eliminating social classes, and using a proportionate system of wealth distribution. It bases its principles on the idea that the middle working class, being the class that produces the majority of wealth and production into the economy, should be the ones in charge to run things collectively and democratically, for the benefit of the majority. In 1936, during his stay in Spain, he witnessed the conflict between the Fascist tyrannical military rebellion and the socialist Republic. Wishing to lend a hand to help the citizens of Spain, Orwell enlisted...
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