1984, by George Orwell: An Analysis of a Totalitarian Society

Topics: Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, Totalitarianism Pages: 5 (1595 words) Published: February 3, 2004
"Totalitarianism: Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed," (dictionary.com). Essentially, totalitarianism is a type of government in which the person or people in power seek to maintain absolute control over every person under their authority, with virtually all importance eliminated from the concept of an individual. The term was characterized by Hannah Arendt, the German-American political theorist who wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism, inspired by Hitler and Stalin of the just-finished World War II and just-starting Cold War. Responding to the terrors of WWII that she experienced firsthand, Arendt describes the evils of totalitarianism as she saw them. George Orwell, an author living at the same time as Arendt, responded similarly to the widespread war and terrifying totalitarianism. In his 1984, Orwell creates a strictly totalitarian society, offering an alarming glimpse into a possible future. Orwell's society shows every characteristic named above in the definition of totalitarianism, its government's sole goal to maintain power.

The society of 1984 functioned on the belief that control over the human mind is control over reality. As O'Brien, an important member of the Orwellian government referred to as the Party, says, "Reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party," (205). The Party is not concerned with objective facts. They argue that reality can only become reality when it is believed; additionally, the believed reality is the only reality. When O'Brien tells Winston that 2 plus 2 equals five, Winston must believe it, for he is not permitted any other option. Expanding on that idea, the Party states, "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past," (204). Only the present out of the three times is tangible, so the others do not really exist. And since reality exists only in the human mind, the Party has only to control the thoughts of that mind to control the reality of past, present, and future.

In their attempt to control the human mind, the Party seeks to eliminate all thoughtcrime, the crime of thinking anything against the infallible Big Brother, the intangible being by which everything is ordered. The act of thinking about committing a crime is, as Orwell describes it, "the essential crime that contained all others in itself," (19). That action is considered by the

Party the most horrible, for only with thought and a conscious decision to take action will any action be performed; without thoughtcrime, no crime would be committed. As such, the Party utilizes every possible method of eliminating thoughtcrime. Winston Smith, the main character in 1984, commits a thoughtcrime at the beginning of the book when he purchases a diary and in it writes, "Down with Big Brother," (19). He then reflects on the inevitable consequences of his action: "Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same," (19). The Party has the power to realize any committed thoughtcrime and to punish the criminal. Their ability to do so is even seen in the language; the English language is developed to satisfy the ideological needs of the society, creating Newspeak. One man says, " 'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it,"...
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