Totalitarianism: The Government of the Future

Topics: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, Nineteen Eighty-Four Pages: 8 (2893 words) Published: April 29, 2008
The Government of the Future?

In both novels, 1984 by George Orwell and Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood, the world in which the main characters live in is a totalitarian nation looking for utopia. Both main characters are presented as rebels against their governments but both worlds are very different. Winston Smith and Offred are looking for a way to beat their governments, and their rebellion leads them to similar situations. They both gain friends and information to help their rebellion, but their outcomes are very different.

“Reviewers of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale invariably hailed it as a "feminist 1984,"1 and, like many handy tags, this one conceals a partial truth. A closer look, however, reveals not only the similarities between the two novels' totalitarian societies, but the ways in which Atwood's work goes beyond Orwell's, in matters of style that become matters of substance as well as in the feminist debate over "essentialism" that Atwood brings to the dystopian tradition.” (Feuer The calculus) The modes of oppression used in The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 serve the same purpose, but the implementation is different. Both novels present the reader with a world dominated by government which is trying to reach a utopia when in fact they are living in dystopia. “But should we try too hard to enforce Utopia, Dystopia rapidly follows; because if enough people disagree with us we’ll have to eliminate or suppress or terrorize or manipulate them, and then we’ve got 1984.”(Atwood Writing with Intent) The governments have overtaken society and placed fear in their people. Large wars are supported by the governments, but the actual fighting of these wars are questionable. Both societies are laced with fear, which is the ultimate power. In 1984, Winston Smith’s totalitarianism government is run by “the man”. Big Brother is watching everything that happens in the nation of Oceania. Large posters are around the city in order to remind people to stay in line and respect the government. Quotes are everywhere and ingrained in society, as a constant reminder of the power of the government. Police patrols constantly walk the streets, and check people houses, but the Thought Police are the most feared. Thought Police could be anyone, even children. Children have given their parents to the Thought Police without hesitation. Winston cannot trust a single person, for fear they are the Thought Police known as Spies. "Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it… It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children."(Orwell 24) Everywhere Winston goes he is monitored. Inside houses, or buildings there are telescreens which transmit constant news and record the video and audio of that room. Although the telescreens cannot be turned off, the volume can be lowered. At any one point, Winston does not know if he is being monitored, and even a whisper could be picked up. Anything, such as a thought, phrase, or even expression can be viewed as rebellion which is called Thoughtcrimes. "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death."(Orwell 27) The Handmaid’s Tale is very similar, in the fact that no one can be trusted. Offred is taught to not think for herself, not to look at other people, and especially not to talk to them at length. The Republic of Gilead is run by a powerful government, but the exact ruler is never defined. We are led to believe Offred’s society is run by males because of the treatment of women. The Aunts, “The sadistic, self-righteous prison guard-like supervisors of the prospective handmaids at the Red Center.”...
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