For as long as governments have existed, the people they ruled feared them. This fear and the desire to improve these governments have let to countless different attempts to perfect government. From the most liberal democracy to the most crushing dictatorship, governments have all faced some shortcomings. Because of the faults inherent in all governments, various types of governance have been the topic for many authors. The late novelist Ayn Rand wrote many books on the trouble that a socialist government could bring and espoused the virtue of individualism. She felt that by allowing government to limit our individual freedoms, we were sentencing ourselves to a certain death. She wrote that “We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force” (Rand). Rand realized that a government with too much control would not be able to help but overreach. Although George Orwell died seven years prior to the publication of Ayn Rand’s most well known novel Atlas Shrugged, he held the same fear of an all-powerful government. Orwell felt that with the new technology appearing during his life and the ever-increasing power of government, the politicians could choose to rule every facet of the citizens’ lives. The novel 1984 is a depiction of what Orwell thought would happen if a totalitarian regime were left unchecked by the people. He paints a stark picture of this dystopia in 1984 by the masterful use of both symbolism and irony.
Orwell lets almost no time pass before he introduces symbolism and irony into his story. He begins his novel by saying that “it was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” (Orwell 1). By saying that it was a bright day in April, Orwell gives the reader a sense that there is hope. April, a month in the spring, is a symbol of a new beginning and is a classic literary tool for showing the beginning of a novel. Orwell’s mention of a bright day is another reference to the hope still present in the lives of the characters. Had Orwell stated that the day was dark or dim, it could have given the reader an entirely different outlook on how the characters lives might turn out. Despite these two optimistic symbols, Orwell also throws in two very ominous symbols in the same sentence. The reason for doing this is to set a tone of irony that carries through the rest of the book. In addition to describing the day as bright, Orwell also portrays it to be cold. This is his subtle way of informing the reader that not everything is well in the characters’ lives. Orwell also found it important to tell the readers that the clocks were striking thirteen, an ominous number for many cultural civilizations. An example of this is in Christianity where Judas, the thirteenth person to be seated at the last supper, later betrayed Jesus. (Mark 14.10-11)
The development of the plot of 1984 is riddled with examples of irony. Orwell practically spells out the irony for the reader when he writes, “Even the names of the four Ministries by which we are governed exhibit a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, The Ministry of Truth with lies, The Ministry of Love with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation” (Orwell 178). This is an important example of irony because it is used to show the complete disconnect from the morals and principles of a free society. The main character, Winston Smith, is somewhat of an ironic character himself. He is not the typical protagonist. Most protagonists are strong, burly and brave, while Winston is slight and has an ulcer on his leg. Winston is employed in the “records” department of the Ministry of Truth. Despite its noble name, The Ministry of...
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