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George Orwell's 1984: Dangers of Totalitarian Control

By ryno2696 Apr 15, 2014 1818 Words
Student x
Mr. Peterson
English 102
2 April 2014
George Orwell’s 1984
George Orwell writes his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four not as a story of fiction but as a warning about the dangers of totalitarian control. The concepts of free enterprise and individual freedom no longer exist in 1984, all of the power is split into three groups Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania. In his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell uses certain literary devices, introduces new linguistic concepts and uses propaganda techniques to suppress freedom, controlling the people and forming a totalitarian society. Orwell introduces two new linguistic concepts in 1984; newspeak, and doublespeak. Newspeak is used by the Party to reduce and limit thought, and simplify the english language to the bare minimum. Doublespeak, on the other hand, which is commonly used by Party members to distort the actually meaning of words, and use the words against those who do not understand what they mean. George Orwell uses the propaganda tactics of “plain folks,” as well as the use of the Big Brother posters to achieve the idea of suppressing freedom. By utilizing propaganda techniques, introducing new language concepts and using literary devices, Orwell successfully warns us about the potential dangers of totalitarian control in our society today.

Orwell uses the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” to instill fear in the people. An inevitable motif in Nineteen Eighty-Four is the “Big Brother Is Watching You” poster, which is first introduced when Winston enters the Victory Mansion. The elevators in the Victory Mansion are broken, meaning that the inhabitants have to walk many flights of stairs day in and day out. The more they walk, the more posters they see, further enforcing the oppression free thought and action; the posters are omnipresent and boundless. This poster is propaganda; it is used to disseminate the idea that Big Brother tracks your every move. The purpose of this campaign is to induce fear into the proles. Instead of watching out for them, the Party watches over them, apprehends and condemns any thought of opposition that could enter their minds. There are two main elements in this poster: The first is the face of Big Brother, and the second is the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” (Orwell, 2). Big brother’s poster is an example of a “plain folks” propagandistic technique. Propagandists use this approach to convince the audience that the spokesperson (Big Brother) is from humble origins, somebody they can trust and somebody who has their interests at heart (Propaganda). The Party didn’t have the proles’ interests in heart; instead they were focused on maintaining an authoritarian regime that manipulated the past as well as the present. By using the “Big Brother is watching you” poster, the Party successfully suppress free thought and action of the citizens in Oceana. The central theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four is the state’s imposition of will upon thought and truth. Winston wants to keep the few cubic centimeters inside his skull to himself. He wants to be ruler of his own thoughts, but the state is powerful enough to rule even those. He wants the freedom to believe that two plus two equals four, that the past is fixed, and that love is private.

There are many different tools that the Inner-Party uses besides Big Brother to keep the lower classes under control.  Newspeak, telescreens, thought police, Ministry of Love, double think, war, prostitution, alcohol, gambling, the lottery and propaganda are only some of the many tools used by the Inner party in order to keep control.  The propaganda of 1984 is an interesting aspect of the plethora of tools the Inner Party uses to maintain power.  Not surprisingly Orwell had experience writing this sort of rhetoric before 1984 draws parallels between the western democracies of World War Two and Oceania, discrediting the banal Cold War theory that the novel is a warning of communist totalitarianism.  Orwell’s point is that the differences between capitalistic democracies and communist dictatorships are irrelevant because both are invariably a vehicle that the most powerful group uses to maintain power “He is actually talking about a development that is taking place in Western industrial countries also, only at a slower pace than it is taking place in Russia and China”(Fromm 320).  The propaganda is directly correlated with Orwell’s modern world, but Orwell’s ideas of a new language and system of thought are more frightening prophesies of futuristic ultimate suppression. George Orwell introduced a new concept – “Newspeak” and “Doublespeak. Newspeak is only one of the many linguistic concepts created in Nineteen Eighty-Four to suppress people. Newspeak is the combination of words, or the usage of the same simple vocabulary in order to limit the range of ideas that could be expressed. Instead of using words such as excellent, amazing, best, the citizens will use this word from Newspeak dictionary, like good and “doubleplusgood” . This is an example to show that citizens have to simplify and limit their ideas; the Party successfully suppresses their thought by limiting their vocabulary. “Unperson” is also a Newspeak term; it is a person who has become “vaporized” (Orwell, ). Vaporized is a euphemism; Orwell uses this literary term to help explain the consequences of going against the government. George Orwell used a term called “vaporized” metaphorically as an example to explain what would happen to the “criminals” caught by the Thought Police. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Emmanuel Goldstein was the Enemy of the people. Goldstein denounced the dictatorship of the Party advocated for freedom of speech, the press, assembly, thought, which is everything the party was against, therefore Goldstein was condemned to death. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, vaporized means to erase everything that you were in, it was any form of literature such as books, images, newspapers, and movies, simply rewrite the entire framework of history. By using Newspeak, which is limitation in vocabulary, Orwell was able to demonstrate how the government managed to suppress free thought and action.

Orwell uses irony; as expressed through “doublespeak” shows that not everything is as simple as it appears to be. To “doublespeak” is to say one thing and mean another. The Party slogans are a direct form of “doublespeak” and the first example of Doublespeak. “War is Peace”(Orwell, 19). This is first of three Party slogans. It is a deceptive sentence as war meant anything but peace in the context of Nineteen Eighty-Four, although war was what kept Oceania together as a society. The Party did this by making sure that the country had an enemy, in order to act as the glue that keeps society together. When people have a common enemy to unite against, they do not question the leadership. “Freedom is slavery”; indeed it wasn’t (Orwell, 19). If you do not believe in the Party and are unable to suppress free thoughts, you will soon enough become a slave, tortured and browbeaten, oppressed by the authorities until you change your mind. “Ignorance is strength” (Orwell, 19). Orwell explains that in order to have free thought and action, the proles have to hold power; therefore, the Party must have the upper hand in society in order to have made their bold game-changing moves. George Orwell used “Doublespeak” in the Party slogan to explain totalitarian control in Oceana. These words are the official slogans of the Party, and are inscribed in massive letters on the white pyramid of the Ministry of Truth, as Winston observes in Book One, Chapter I. Because it is introduced so early in the novel, this creed serves as the reader’s first introduction to the idea of doublethink. By weakening the independence and strength of individuals’ minds and forcing them to live in a constant state of propaganda-induced fear, the Party is able to force its subjects to accept anything it decrees, even if it is entirely illogical—for instance, the Ministry of Peace is in charge of waging war, the Ministry of Love is in charge of political torture, and the Ministry of Truth is in charge of doctoring history books to reflect the Party’s ideology. That the national slogan of Oceania is equally contradictory is an important testament to the power of the Party’s mass campaign of psychological control. In theory, the Party is able to maintain that “War Is Peace” because having a common enemy keeps the people of Oceania united. “Freedom Is Slavery” because, according to the Party, the man who is independent is doomed to fail. By the same token, “Slavery Is Freedom,” because the man subjected to the collective will is free from danger and want. “Ignorance Is Strength” because the inability of the people to recognize these contradictions cements the power of the authoritarian regime. “who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. The slogan is an important example of the Party’s technique of using false history to break down the psychological independence of its subjects. Control of the past ensures control of the future, because the past can be treated essentially as a set of conditions that justify or encourage future goals: if the past was idyllic, then people will act to re-create it; if the past was nightmarish, then people will act to prevent such circumstances from recurring. The Party creates a past that was a time of misery and slavery from which it claims to have liberated the human race, thus compelling people to work toward the Party’s goals. The Party has complete political power in the present, enabling it to control the way in which its subjects think about and interpret the past: every history book reflects Party ideology, and individuals are forbidden from keeping mementos of their own pasts, such as photographs and documents. As a result, the citizens of Oceania have a very short, fuzzy memory, and are willing to believe anything that the Party tells them. In the second appearance of this quote, O’Brien tells Winston that the past has no concrete existence and that it is real only in the minds of human beings. O’Brien is essentially arguing that because the Party’s version of the past is what people believe, that past, though it has no basis in real events, has become the truth.

Since Newspeak is limiting vocabulary, it limits the ability of the citizens of Oceana to express themselves hence this is method Orwell used to depict government suppressing free thought and action. For Doublespeak, George Orwell used the Party slogan to explain more about the society and how it manages to keep the society together therefore you cannot have free thought and action since everybody is bowing down to – Big Brother.  Big Brother posters are all around the Victory Mansion; therefore inhabitants are induced with fear and thus have to suppress free thought and action. George Orwell used Doublespeak, Newspeak and the “plain folks” propaganda strategy, in order to successfully warn us about the dangers of totalitarian control.

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