Orwell's Influence in 1984

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Anthony Bernard-Sasges
5 May 2012
Orwell’s Influence in 1984
Influence--from the day one is born to the day one dies, this constantly affects people in their lives. All of this experience is then reflected in everything that they do. One will never forget the most powerful memories he or she has, they will be forever ingrained in their minds. George Orwell, a British writer during the twentieth century, wrote his famous novel in the wake of the World Wars that had rocked the entire globe. In 1949, he published 1984 . This novel is about a future in Oceania, where the citizens are ruled by a totalitarian government called The Party. Winston Smith, the main character, works for Big Brother, the government, but secretly hates The Party and dreams of rebelling against Big Brother. Orwell introduces the ideas of total government control, such as thoughtcrimes, which are illegal thoughts. Not only does the government control its citizens’ actions and words, it also controls their thoughts in 1984. This novel was influenced by many of Orwell’s previous experiences. This influence came from a few books written during Orwell’s time. For example, when writing 1984, Orwell was influenced greatly by We, a satire depicting the destruction of a totalitarian state, and by the exile of its writer, Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (Frodsham 143). Just like We, 1984 is a satire about the destruction of a totalitarian government. In addition to We, Orwell's book bears a similarity to Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, which had been published a few years prior to 1984. Similar to Orwell’s, Koestler's book depicts the horrors of a totalitarian state (Rehnquist 986). The characters share similarities as well. The relationship between Winston and O'Brien in 1984 is very complex and the only human interaction between two characters in Orwell's novel. This relationship can be compared to the one between Rubashov and Gletin in Koestler's Darkness at Noon, written a decade before 1984 (Ranald 251-2). Both We and Darkness at Noon helped mold 1984 into the satirical, totalitarian novel that it is. While both these novels influenced Orwell deeply, another novel, Brideshead by Evelyn Waugh, played an even bigger role when Orwell wrote 1984. In 1945, Waugh published her book as a wartime fiction novel (DeCoste 458). There are multiple striking similarities between Brideshead and 1984. Orwell followed Waugh’s lead in settings, characters, language, and many common themes. Many similarities show that Orwell may have had Brideshead in mind when he composed 1984. Through fiction, both authors explored common themes, such as alienation, memory, marriage, social class, suffering, faith, betrayal, and conversion (Wilson 4). Another similarity is that both novels include characters that resemble each other. The heroes are the same age: thirty-nine. Both fall in love with dark-haired heroines named Julia (Wilson 7). Thought to be the most influential novel to Orwell, Brideshead was key in the creation of 1984. Although some novels influenced Orwell when writing 1984, events in his own life were much more meaningful. During WWII, Orwell’s job was to create propaganda to support the British war effort. Tyner believes that Winston’s actions in 1984 resemble Orwell’s own work: “Winston’s job is to rewrite history. During the Second World War, for example, Orwell was to produce news commentaries and cultural, educational and political programmes that would persuade intellectual Indians and other South-East Asians to support the British in the war effort.” Orwell was also changed by his experiences while in Spain. Frodsham writes that “His own harrowing experiences in Spain, combined with his careful observations of Soviet actions both at home and abroad, especially since the rise of Stalin, had convinced him that the Soviet Union was an epicenter of evil that had betrayed its own and every other revolution” (Frodsham 143). Orwell saw all of the irrationalities of...
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