12 April 2012
Oppression and Dehumanization of Society in George Orwell’s 1984: The Manipulation of Technology, Language, Media and History
George Orwell uses his novel 1984 to convey that human beings, as a species, are extremely susceptible to dehumanization and oppression in society. Orwell demonstrates how a government’s manipulation of technology, language, media, and history can oppress and degrade its citizens. In 1984 the political manipulation of technology oppresses the people of Oceania and leads to the downfall of individuality and of the qualities that define humanity. Telescreens and the Internet are used not for entertainment purposes but to monitor people’s lives. “In Orwell's case, Pynchon cites media technologies such as interactive flat-screen TVs and the Internet as instruments of surveillance’” (Deery). The impact of spying via the telescreens reduces people’s opportunities to behave freely. Therefore invasion of privacy happens daily and widespread paranoia sets in. “There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to” (Orwell 2). The never-ending surveillance by law enforcement invades personal privacy. Without privacy, the freedoms and rights of individuals are demolished. By distorting technology the Party subjugates the people of Oceania. To maintain their totalitarian hold, the Party directly limits free speech and free thought by manipulating language itself. In a democratic society equality allows citizens to be different yet enjoy equal rights. Repression of equality destroys people’s ability to act independently from one another. “In ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946) Orwell lists ‘equality’ as one of those ‘words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly.’ (5) In 1984 he reveals even sharper anxieties about the term: Here not only has the ideal of equality as understood by the best political thinkers been totally abandoned, but the actual word itself has been reduced by ‘Newspeak’ to mean no more than ‘identical’” (Kearney). In 1984 politicians consciously manipulate concepts and ideas. This paralyzes the human ability to express feelings and emotions, which is exactly what the totalitarian government desires.“We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back. Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves” (Orwell 148). By manipulating language the Party replaces individual feeling with Party propaganda. To broadcast their dehumanizing propaganda, the government in 1984 manipulates the media and exposure to it. People are unable to form their own opinions and therefore must rely on the media to do so for them. The people of Oceania are unable to think critically, for example, about public figures. “But what was strange was that although Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were, in spite of all this, his influence never seemed to grow less” (Orwell 7). Through only allowing exposure to their propaganda the Party is able to control the minds of its citizens. Citizens are only exposed to propaganda glorifying the Party. News...