English IV AP
November 17, 2011
A Literary Analysis of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451
The two novels, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and 1984 by George Orwell, are similar in that both authors express the message that the loss of individual knowledge results in the destruction of individual freedom. Both novels depict dystopian, futuristic societies in which the citizens’ freedom is destroyed by the governments' psychological manipulation and control of information. The authors present similar characters who play similar roles to illustrate this theme. The stories also have parallel plotlines; the climaxes of the novels occur when the main characters are caught rebelling against the laws and standards of their respective societies. 1984 develops the character of Winston Smith in the year 1984 in the city of London in the nation of Oceania. One of Orwell’s themes is that destruction of knowledge leads to the destruction of freedom. The high-ranking members of the ruling Party decide what information is true and what isn't by deleting or altering every single document ever written. Winston is one of the many people employed by the ironically named “Ministry of Truth” to modify or destroy the documents needing revision. The manipulation and control of information form the foundation for the power of the Party. Winston realizes that he can change history, and therefore reality, simply by lying about it. And if all the others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” (32)
The Party is headed by Big Brother, whose face is posted on almost every flat surface in the district where the party members live. The people in this future society have never seen Big Brother, but they blindly follow his orders, ignoring their own common sense. When Big Brother tells the citizens of Oceania that they’ve always been at war with Eurasia, and then tells them it's always been Eastasia, the people just accept it as truth. A good citizen of Oceania never disagrees with the Party, and if one does, even in thought, that person is captured by the Thought Police. “Thoughtcrime” is punishable by “trials and executions in the cellars of the Ministry of Love” (44). Winston is not a good citizen. He follows the Party's regime and is a respected employee in the Ministry of Truth, doing his part to promote the mass “Reality control” (32) of the Party, but he knows that the documents he is forced to forge every day are not the truth. He secretly hates the Party and commits thoughtcrime by thinking rebellious thoughts about the regime. He speculates that if the Party is to be defeated, the common people, the “proles,” must band together and oppose the government. The problem is that the proles, who make up 85 percent of the population, are unaware of the nature of the Party and intellectually unable to understand that they are oppressed. Thus, the paradox: “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious”(61). George Orwell uses Winston to show how the Party controls its citizens. Winston is almost constantly watched by "telescreens" and Party members, yet somehow he finds ways to rebel. Actually, Winston is slightly more intelligent than the average Party member. He has to be, because he has to be smart enough to rewrite history in creative ways at his job in the Ministry of Truth. Because of his intelligence, he is more able to keep a clear mind and resist the mind-control efforts of the Party. However, Winston begins to make foolish, reckless decisions. This is where the conflict begins. He buys a journal from a shop in the proletarian district of London, and as his first act of rebellion, writes "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” (19), in addition to several other...