1984 by George Orwell 11/14/16

Even though  I am not far enough to have a full understanding of the novel, part one of 1984 is clearly meant to set the scene on the world Winston lives in. Orwell goes into great detail when explaining to the reader how life works under Big Brother’s reign. Even though he hasn’t disclosed all of the aspects, many parts of the people of Oceania’s meager existence make complete sense.

Big Brother has instilled the idea of no laws. Nothing stops people from committing crimes or  doing things that are not approved, yet still people are taken away. For example, there is no rule against Winston going into the pub of a prole (the poorest of the poor, I gather, like the untouchables in India, maybe), but if someone suspects him of thoughtcrime, he could be watched or even taken away. These are the sets of unspoken laws. It is not completely illegal, most things aren’t, but it is certainly frowned upon and punishable. It’s a backwards way to hammer fear into the hearts of their people. There is no better way, I imagine, to create compliance than the feeling of impending doom if you even slip up the slightest in front of authorities. No laws plays a large part in setting the scene to how Winston lives his life. It shows the unproveable, unavoidable net that most are trapped under with the reign of Big Brother. It resonates in a powerfully terrifying way with the reader, showing the type of world that is possible.

Thoughtcrime is one of the many concepts that has not been completely explained to the reader. I cannot quite tell how one is convicted of thoughtcrime, if it is mind reading through the television screens, or if one has to share their thoughts to get arrested. Winston has repeatedly noted that Big Brother is always watching, and even the smallest unintentional tic or slightest shady glance could give someone away for committing thoughtcrime. The thoughts that are considered thoughtcrime have also not been clearly laid out, but it is clear that anyone who plans to rebel is guilty, those who attempt to find out the truths about real history are guilty, and those who understand things a little too well and are a little too smart for their own good can be guilty. This leaves the reader with an eerie sense of familiarity. The feeling that there is a golden spot, a perfect way to be a human is reinforced when those who are too radical are literally taken out their beds and away, never to been again.

The history of Oceania is unclear. It is known that the book takes place in 1984, and Big Brother came into power after the sixties. Winston remembers small bits of his childhood, before Big Brother, but is thirsty for more information on the true past. His job, after all, is with the government. He takes told history, sometimes statistics, sometimes articles or novels, and burns them. He then rewrites them to fit what Big Brother wants to prove. Shockingly, the masses gulp these lies up. Everyday they supposedly have more food more clothes, more stability. When the ministry of plenty cannot make boots for a while, they have a lie for the reason why. When the chocolate rations are cut from 25% to 20% a person on a Monday, they give an explanation, for example, the troops in Eurasia need more chocolate to conquer land for their overall gain. When on Tuesday, the chocolate rations are raised from 5% to 15% per person, everyone rejoices with glee and affection for Big Brother. Of course, in this case, the history will say that on Monday the rations were 5%, but really, they were 20%. It makes one think, is this how we are? Are we completely seduced by lies and false information, being controlled by a sole power who has managed to convince everyone that they are for the benefit of everyone?

Forgetfulness and gullibleness is the key aspect of many Orwell novels, including Animal Farm and 1984. Orwell’s dictators rely on the willingness the masses have to believe in improvement, and the changes that are put in front of them, never second guessing the “facts”. It is a true slap in the face to the credibility of history, statistics, and all documents that are taken as truth.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “1984 by George Orwell 11/14/16

  1. julialiningerwhite

    Hey Lena, I am not surprised to see that we were both intrigued by similar themes of the superstate Oceana. When first piecing together the dystopian world Winston lives in, the most striking aspect to me as well was the absence of laws, yet how this did not cause complete anarchy. Similarly, in my history class we are now studying different forms of government, one of which is Communism otherwise known Marxism named after on of its founders Karl Marx. Similar to the government in Oceana, communism is not intended to have laws or a legal system either. In fact, in an ideal communist society there would be no central government it “would fade away as people realize the perfection of communism and working cooperatively for one cause” (Mr Peri’s words). The system of communism and this government in Oceana both seem, to me, very flawed. They fail to take into account the greed that all people have, the fact that some humans will never be satisfied with just “5% to 15% raise in chocolate rations per person”. Without allowing people to be free in their product consumption, education, or even thoughts, the government of Oceana sets themselves up for rebellion and failure. It seems that all aspects of life in Ocean go against human nature. What confuses me most about the story is that it seems the superstate has existed for quite some time without being overthrown.
    The novel certainly sets itself up to be one of revolt against the government, or at least realization of the desire for independence. People are arguably in constant search of guidance, just look to organized religion, schooling, and the anarchy that occurs when people are left with no leadership. Naturally, humans crave to be told that there is a “right” and “wrong” action to do in every situation. I noticed that you had written about the gullibility of citizens living in Oceana to consistently believe their government’s propaganda. This made me wonder about the role human hope plays in accepting false information. Other than a movie in which a Jewish family is killed, no history of a pre- Oceana country is mentioned, leading the reader to believe that life before was incredibly bleak. Perhaps the totalitarian government was put in place for good reason, to prevent war, famine, or starvation breaking out in a world without central leadership. Possibly this regime is an over correction to the loose authority that caused suffering in the past. In that case, I believe it is a more sympathetic situation that Oceana exists in, rather than one of corruption. If the citizens are willing to believe all lies from their government, can we really blame them? It is human nature to be optimistic that a better situation is just around the corner, after all, the infamous slogan “Make America Great Again” did see massive success in a population of hopeful Americans.
    At this point I see many ways the book could play out, but in most of them the totalitarian government is challenged. Even if citizens were to continue their pattern of irrational optimism, they would eventually find themselves somehow in opposition to their near captive state of life.

  2. Benjamin Altman

    1984 is of a particular breed of novels that contains an idea so crazy that it’s relatable to our daily lives. I would disagree that there are no rules in Airstrip One because nearly every aspect of Winston’s life is controlled by the government and Big Brother. Even thoughts and emotions are dictated by the Thought Police. The governing system remains in complete control of it’s citizens through cameras and telescreens, making them a dominant factor over every point of people’s lives. They do allow for some minor freedoms as Winston shows by visiting the prole, but allow nothing that could give citizens the possibility to rebel. The reason Winston is allowed to interact with the prole is because the government obviously thinks them too low to even have the possibility of an uprising. Also, I would not necessarily compare the prole to India’s “untouchables” because although they may be inferior to Winston, he and others still interact with them.

    Thoughtcrime, although not fully understandable to the reader, is a very prevalent idea in the novel. I believe that thoughtcrime is a general term for any form of thought or contemplation against the will of government. The policing of thoughtcrime and it’s organization is somewhat unclear at this point in the novel, but I assume it’s prevalence will prevail at a later point.

    The setting of 1984 is greatly based on the government and it’s precautions. Airstrip One, along with the rest of Oceania, is an apocalyptic stage of futuristic technology and a broken populace. With a government controlled by greed and power, the general populace has fallen to shambles. Rations are scarce, buildings are unsafe, and above all, citizens are expected to obey every command of the government. However the lack of freedom does not equal lack of individuality. Although limiting, the absence of opportunity for Winston and his fellow people does not necessarily force them to become clones. Instead, people are confined to smaller individualities. One’s job position, where they go, and routine daily actions are unique to the person and their interests, giving them a sense of normality.

    The reason I finds this book so relatable is because similar to the book, we today are tracked and overlooked by our government. I am in no way accusing our government of anything, but it is true that they watch us and keep tabs on individuals they deem noticeable. Everything that is done in todays modern society is recorded, filed, saved, or otherwise tracked by higher powers in our country. This may not be of the same caliber of that in 1984, but the concepts are relatable. Winston is simply lacking the freedoms and liberties that we have today.

    1984 by George Orwell
    Benjamin Altman 11/15/16

  3. Brogan Deem-Ranzetta

    This novel so far has brought up many interesting topics that both astounds and saddens me. The first aspect of the world within “1984” that is surprising is the amount of oversight Big Brother (the leader of Oceania) has over the citizens of this country. All of their actions are constantly watched through a device called the telescreen and when some people decide to rebel against this tyrannical leader they disappear and are never seen again. In addition he and the Party are in control of everyone’s history and the language spoken which is Newspeak taken from the common English language. This is a large dictatorship but to a way larger level. The only part of this book that lessens the amount of this horrific issue is Winston. He is one of the only people within Oceania that is willing to sacrifice his existence by writing in an illegal diary prohibited by the Party about his rebellious thoughts. This is what I feel makes him seem more realistic. The fact that he is standing up against an unfair, powerful group is what makes him seem like many people today. For example it is like blacks standing up for their rights against the white aggressor. Along with being a realistic character he also brings excitement to the story. You never know what his next move will be and what the Party is to find out about this insurgent figure. Finally the courage that he has to do these rebellious acts allows me to earn his respect. I predict later in the novel he will rise up along with other fellow people that disregard the Party’s power and try to fight for their rights.

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