Wednesday, October 23, 2019
George Orwell 1984 Essay
In this essay I intend to investigate experiences and historical events in OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s lifetime. These events may have significantly influenced OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s style, structure and theme, contributing to the political and artistic nature of his novel. I also intend to compare the contradictory interpretations of OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s Ã¢â¬ËmessageÃ¢â¬â¢. Did he intend 1984 as a warning, a prediction, or a historical novel? Despite its critics 1984 has made a significant impression on the modern world. Its infiltration into reality television may not be a tribute Orwell would have appreciated but many of his terms and phrases have been used to highlight threats to social and personal freedom. I will use this as a basis to ascertain whether there are other aspects of OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s novel that have become reality in the modern world. 1984 by George Orwell was written in1947/48. This era has been referred to as Ã¢â¬ËThe age of anxiety, the age of the lost generationÃ¢â¬â¢. (www. historyguide. org/europe/lecture10) It was a nightmare world where individuality was lost. The totalitarian states of the time, exercised complete control over the lives of their human subjects. The Great War (World War One) facilitated totalitarian regimes, simply because war has only one objective: victory. Ã¢â¬Å"Individuality is sacrificed for collectivism and freedom is restricted as governments reject liberal valuesÃ¢â¬ . (www. historyguide. org/europe/lecture10) This mood of anxiety and conformity, is clearly illustrated in 1984; this is portrayed in the early pages of the novel and is maintained throughout. Orwell cleverly uses his descriptive talent, to set the scene for his reader. At the very beginning of his novel Ã¢â¬Ëthe vile wind, the swirl of gritty dustÃ¢â¬â¢ (Page 4) projects a negative image of life in 1984. The maintenance of these visual images is preserved and comparisons, between post-war Britain and 1984, are recognisable. Examples of these are the shortages, rationing and the bombsites of the 1940Ã¢â¬â¢s. Orwell successfully engages the readersÃ¢â¬â¢ senses to conjure up images within the mind of the reader. Ã¢â¬ËThe hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag matsÃ¢â¬â¢. (Page 4) I found phrases like this one actually made me feel the squalor and deprivation he was describing. The use of visual cues is also a theme, which starts on the first page of OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s novel. He continually presents images that could be describing London during the 1940Ã¢â¬â¢s, but are in fact describing life in 1984. Ã¢â¬ËA coloured poster too large for indoor display has been tacked to the wall Ã¢â¬â¢(Page 4) Orwell has managed to reaffirm the squalid surroundings by the use of the word Ã¢â¬ËtackedÃ¢â¬â¢ before he has even described the poster. Ã¢â¬ËIt depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five with heavy black moustache and ruggedly hand-some featuresÃ¢â¬â¢. Many have suggested that Orwell based his character Ã¢â¬Å"Big BrotherÃ¢â¬ the leader of the party on Stalin and Hitler because they all shared similar physical characteristics and had the ability to Ã¢â¬Å"manipulate the minds of the massesÃ¢â¬ . (The Worlds Most Evil Men). However, Churchill was also Ã¢â¬Å"recognised for his skill in altering peoples mindsÃ¢â¬ (The History Of World War II) which could be interpreted that, the people of the 1940Ã¢â¬â¢s were being manipulated, regardless of their countries political status. His creative talent excelled itself with the name of his totalitarian leader. Big Brother conveys an image of trust and loyalty with the idea that he is a member of your family who is a figure affording protection and security. This is a complete contradiction to the lives of the Russian citizens under Stalin or the German people during HitlerÃ¢â¬â¢s rein and indeed the population of nineteen eighty four had little opportunity to feel safe. The naming of other characters within his novel, I suspect, had a deeper meaning. For example Emmanuel GoldsteinÃ¢â¬â¢s face was described as It resembled the face of a sheep and the voice, too, had a sheep like quality. The significance of this description becomes more meaningful if you look at a poster (see appendix 1) used during World War II. Henri Guigon represented Churchill as a British bulldog in an American poster. To the whole world BritainÃ¢â¬â¢s new prime minister epitomised the stubborn and proud nature of the British. Orwell uses animals for descriptive comparison frequently in his writing but the use of a sheep, in this instance, is a curious choice. The character Goldstein is the leader of the opposition and sheep like qualities conjure up images of low intelligence and all following the crowd. This is a form of sarcasm that implies ridicule, disapproval, or contempt Sarcasm often includes an element of irony. WinstonÃ¢â¬â¢s description of the opposition is not dissimilar to party members. Orwell could have been expressing his concerns with how ChurchillÃ¢â¬â¢s War Cabinet, had on occasions, behaved no differently from the fascist regimes of the era. News was censored, wages controlled and travel restricted under the guise of wartime necessity. (Guardian 2002). However Goldstein is a Jewish name and World War II had just ended when this book was being written. Goldstein is used as a scapegoat in 1984, which has, parallels with the Nazis attempt to blame their problems on the Jews. In my opinion the name of OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s main character Winston Smith also had a deeper, if somewhat personal meaning. Orwell was a dying man, when he wrote this novel, and he was probably aware it would be his final legacy to the world. He had a reluctant admiration for Churchill. Although he did not always agree with his policies he admired him not only for his courage but also a certain Ã¢â¬Å"largeness and genialityÃ¢â¬ . The History Of World War II) This admiration was expressed in the form of poetry that he rarely wrote. (See appendix 2). It is a fitting acknowledgement of this respect, that Winston became the name of his primary character. Smith is simply a very common English name, which gives the impression that Winston Smith is a very ordinary citizen not dissimilar to oneself. The caption under the Big Brother posters read Ã¢â¬Å" Big Brother is watching youÃ¢â¬ (Page 4) OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s use of capital letters for this caption, and indeed others later in the book, gives increased impact to the reader of the significance of these words. It gives a sense of the controlling nature of the society in which the citizens of 1984 lived; constantly being watched by the eyes of Big Brother. It was similar to the blackouts enforced during World War II where wardensÃ¢â¬â¢ patrolled neighbourhood, and failure to conform, resulted in humiliating offenders in front of their neighbours. (The History Of World War II) The use of posters and slogans in OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s novel may well have been inspired by the vast array of similar images used during World War II. England and Germany, among others, used large images, in a poster format, to send messages to their people. These were used to encourage conformity, solidarity and patriotism within each nation. At times they were also used to inflate morale at home and abroad, while at the same time humiliating and ridiculing their opponents. (See appendix 3) A good example of this, used in World War II, is the appearance of Ã¢â¬ËVÃ¢â¬â¢ on walls in German- occupied Belgium. The Flemish speaking Belgians would interpret this as Ã¢â¬ËvrijheidÃ¢â¬â¢, which means freedom, and the French speaking Belgians would understand this to mean Ã¢â¬ËvictoireÃ¢â¬â¢ (victory). This is a cruel psychological attack on an already defeated nation. Winston describes party slogans, in 1984, on the walls of buildings, which also have contradictory meanings. Ã¢â¬Å"War is peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is StrengthÃ¢â¬ (Page 6) Orwell uses this type of psychological approach in different ways throughout his novel. OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s wife, Eileen OÃ¢â¬â¢Shaughnessy (1905-1945) had a degree in psychology from Oxford University. Obtained in the 1920Ã¢â¬â¢s this would have been a significant achievement for a woman at that time and her influence on OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s writing has been recognised. Eileen wrote a poem called Ã¢â¬Å"End Of The Century, 1984Ã¢â¬ (1934). There are similarities between the futuristic vision of EileenÃ¢â¬â¢s poem and OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s 1984, including mind control and the destruction of personal freedom. (www. arlindo-correia) The aggression, described by Winston, during the two-minute hate, and the hangings could have been influenced by EileenÃ¢â¬â¢s psychological knowledge. There are various psychological theories as to why people display aggression. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) believed aggressive impulses are a reaction to frustrations of daily lives. This theory could easily be applied to the citizens in 1984. FreudÃ¢â¬â¢s theories were very influential during the 1940Ã¢â¬â¢s/50Ã¢â¬â¢s and his written articles had an almost political language, when referring to human behaviour, which may have appealed to OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s political and artistic nature. Behavioural psychologists believe behaviour is learnt through reinforcement; their theory is that humans respond to social reinforcement such as social approval. In the 1940Ã¢â¬â¢s solidarity and conformity in Britain was achieved via camaraderie Ã¢â¬Å"every one doing their bitÃ¢â¬ . (Yesterdays Britain) In 1984 it was built on fear. In the following quote Winston describes what happens to citizens who donÃ¢â¬â¢t conform to the partyÃ¢â¬â¢s political orthodoxy. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized. (Page 22) This type of enforcement was common after the death of Lenin in 1924. His successor Josef Stalin turned a popular revolution based on freedom and equality, into a totalitarian dictatorship maintained solely by terror. He said Ã¢â¬Å"The death of a man is a tragedy; the death of a thousand is a statisticÃ¢â¬ (World Most Evil Men). A census in 1937 estimated that RussiaÃ¢â¬â¢s population was twenty million short of what it should have been, although this information was withheld and emigration and famine were factors StalinÃ¢â¬â¢s purges accounted for millions of deaths during his rule. Winston describes the use of purges during the formation of the party. The intense anger and hatred that Winston describes are characteristic of mob behaviour and learning. The characters of OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s novel show almost animal like hatred for the opposition and hero worship for Big Brother. This behaviour appears unrealistic, but if you look at Britain during World War II there are some striking similarities. The people of Britain were suffering a savage war with horrors, deprivation, shortages and bombings. Death and loss were a constant threat, yet ordinary British people obeyed government instructions Ã¢â¬Å"keep calm and carry onÃ¢â¬ . The conformity of the people of 1984 is portrayed in different ways firstly; party uniforms remove any possibility of individuality. The idea that men and women wore the same uniform also removed gender as a source of identity. Ã¢â¬Ë IÃ¢â¬â¢m going to get hold of a real womenÃ¢â¬â¢s frock from somewhere and wear it instead of these bloody trousersÃ¢â¬â¢. Julia goes on to say Ã¢â¬ËIn this room IÃ¢â¬â¢m going to be a woman, not a party comradeÃ¢â¬â¢. (Page 164) During the war womenÃ¢â¬â¢s role changed and they were required to do the work previously done by men. The uniforms they wore, although practical, had a distinctly masculine appearance. Clothing was rationed until March 1949 and women had learnt to live independently. The Bible (Deuteronomy 22. 5) clearly states, Ã¢â¬Å"The women shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a manÃ¢â¬ highlighting the social unacceptability of women wearing trousers. This did not change until the 1960Ã¢â¬â¢s. Gender identity refers to the psychological and biological dimensions of sex. Freud (1925) described this as Ã¢â¬Å"Psychical consequences of anatomical distinction between the sexesÃ¢â¬ (Freud 1925) In the modern world, there is legislation that prohibits discrimination, because of a personÃ¢â¬â¢s gender identity, which is part of the human rights laws. (www. ransgenderlaw. org) Although Orwell gives his characters names, the society he is describing mainly refer to each other as comrade. This was also a common term used in Nazi Germany, during World War II. Removing the use of personal names is another means of removing an individualÃ¢â¬â¢s identity and individuality. The party is all-powerful, friendships and family structure is suppressed to limit the possibility of divided loyalties. The party demands absolute loyalty in thought and deed. Children are brainwashed via organization such as the Junior Spies and Youth Groups these are similar to Adolph HitlerÃ¢â¬â¢s Youth League, during World War II. Education was designed to suppress independent thought and sources of information were restricted and controlled. In the 1940Ã¢â¬â¢s most educational establishments, educated children via the Ã¢â¬Ëdidactic modelÃ¢â¬â¢ sometimes called teacher- centred teaching. This method is where knowledge is passed from teacher to pupil. The teacher speaks and the pupilÃ¢â¬â¢s listen. In the modern world students are educated via the Ã¢â¬Ëcritical methodÃ¢â¬â¢ this is sometimes called Ã¢â¬Ëstudent-centred learningÃ¢â¬â¢. This is a process where students are taught to explore, question and formulate truth and opinions for themselves. The use of investigating, discussing and debating are used to facilitate the development of independent thought. (Pollard1998) One of the most chilling depictions of the repressive and controlling nature of life in 1984, in my opinion, is the inclusion of the telescreen.. Ã¢â¬Å"The telescreen receives and transmitted simultaneously, you had to live did live, from habit that became instinctive in the assumption that every sound you made was over heard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinisedÃ¢â¬ . Page 5) The use of the telescreen was an ingenious concept, taking into account the era. Technology was primitive compared to the modern world. However, the military during World War II improved radar and rockets, this enabled the post war development of television (1946) and close circuit television (CCTV) (1949). The Star newspaper (January 14 1949) included an article explaining a Ã¢â¬Å"New system of television being used to aid road safetyÃ¢â¬ . This system carried signa ls direct from a camera to a screen with both visual and audio reception, this was known as CCTV. The summer of 1949 saw the technology and the knowledge but not the resources available to launch satellites (The Star 1949) which we now know can be used to monitor, observe and transmit around the world. In todayÃ¢â¬â¢s society Britain has earned a reputation as a world leader of surveillance. It is estimated that the average British citizen is caught on camera up to three hundred times per day (The Star 2005). However, observation of British citizens is not a new concept. During World War II mass observation was the governmentÃ¢â¬â¢s way of keeping in touch with the mood of the people. Tom Harrison, the director of mass observation called for observers to monitor war morale. CitizensÃ¢â¬â¢ reactions in cinemas were monitored to perceive the mood of the nation (Yesterdays Britain). Orwell used irony extensively through out his novel. For example He was alone: no telescreen, no ear at the keyhole, no nervous impulse to glance over his shoulder or cover the page with his hand. (Page 214) This contradicts appearance with reality and allows the reader to understand WinstonÃ¢â¬â¢s motives and rebellion. Later the reader is informed that in fact the telescreen is hidden behind a picture, which was offered for sale by Mr Charrington earlier in the novel. This suggests to the reader that an enemy is not always obvious. The friend and foe situation between the Communists and the NaziÃ¢â¬â¢s during the 1940Ã¢â¬â¢s is a clear example of a hidden enemy. In the present world, America and Britain are fighting a War on terrorism. It appears ironic that we are fighting a war against an unknown enemy; at home and abroad. OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s character Winston Smith is frequently concerned with the partiesÃ¢â¬â¢ alteration of facts and history. The quote Ã¢â¬Å"He who controls the past controls the futureÃ¢â¬ is a terrifying notion. The alteration of history, whether personal or social removes individuality and identity it also, to a certain extent, changes reality into anything the ruling party deems it to be. Stalin, after the Russian revolution, had history rewritten to magnify his part in events. TrotskyÃ¢â¬â¢s part had been erased from Soviet textbooks. (Time Archive 1940) For information and historical events to be constant and unalterable they need to be remembered. Humans have a complex memory system, which enables information received from the environment to be processed. Short-term memory (STM) is information that is held temporarily and long-term memory (LTM) is a permanent storage system. For information to pass from STM into LTM individuals need to pay attention to the received information. Repetition, relearning and making the information meaningful help to maintain the information permanently. OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s 1984 society appears to be attempting to remove LTM from its citizens. Information is received via telescreens but due to poor LTM development this information can be altered without the individual remembering the original information. This is achievable partly due to the act that new information interferes with previous memories. Orwell expressed his concerns (Politics and the English language) that government officials debating on historic events trivialised the truth and found ways to convince everyone that history never happened or happened but it didnÃ¢â¬â¢t mater any way. Young children have a limited memory capacity due to underdevelopment of the pre frontal cortex but also because they are not particularly interested in remembering the past thus make little effort to develop ways of making memories meaningful, which also makes recall more difficult. Orwell useÃ¢â¬â¢s this concept in his novel in a variety of ways. Firstly the characters in 1984 are more concerned with survival than the past. The present is more relevant to this aim than events from the past. With the invention of Newspeak, the official language of Oceania it enables the party to restrict speech, thought and consequently memory. Many in todayÃ¢â¬â¢s society, would suggest that politicians have perfected their own form of Ã¢â¬Å"NewspeakÃ¢â¬ . The use of text messaging is also a modern day form of newspeak. Orwell was concerned with the use, or misuse of the English language. He felt that words with variable meaning were often used with the intent to deceive and that language was intended for expression not concealing or preventing thought. In the modern world the media is required to present a Ã¢â¬ËbalancedÃ¢â¬â¢ coverage of news and public affaires. However this results in a form of Ã¢â¬Ëdouble thinkÃ¢â¬â¢ in which truth is immediately neutered by an opposite truth. The second section of OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s novel deals mainly with the love affair between the characters Winston and Julia. This gives the novel direction and hope. However, the inclusion of Ã¢â¬Å"the bookÃ¢â¬ makes this a difficult section to read. OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s intentions may well have been to explain the futility of war where there are no winners or indeed losers; just simply the maintenance of war. Hitler wrote a book called Mein Kampf (My Struggle) outlining his vision of the future of Germany. It was a ranting, sometimes unreadable vision of the future of Germany (The worldÃ¢â¬â¢s most evil men). This may have been the inspiration for the inclusion of Ã¢â¬Å"the bookÃ¢â¬ in OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s novel. Orwell uses various figurative language through out his novel, this gives the writing greater power of expression and meets OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s criteria for artistic purpose (Why I Write). For example the melodramatic use of the nursery rhyme Ã¢â¬Å"Oranges and lemonsÃ¢â¬ , say the bells of St ClementsÃ¢â¬â¢s! (Page 112) Is an epigram, the rhyme symbolizes, in an almost child like way, the past. Orwell maintains the original historical names of the London churches before the formation of the party. Through this symbolic representation it gives Winston hope that, fragments of the past can survive. Other characters gradually piece together the rhyme until Charington finally completes it during the capture of Winston and Julia. These Churches are recognisable in London today and keep the novel relevant after the year 1984. Orwell uses innuendo with the words Ã¢â¬Å"we shall meet in the place where there is no darknessÃ¢â¬ (Page 118). Winston believes these words are from OÃ¢â¬â¢Brien but Orwell manages to keep the origin and the significance of these words unknown until Winston and Julia are captured. This creates and develops a sense of foreboding and suspense, which maintains the controlling and manipulating society, which is being portrayed in 1984. WinstonÃ¢â¬â¢s dreams of the Ã¢â¬Å"Golden CountryÃ¢â¬ are the direct opposite of his reality in 1984. They represent peace, beauty, unity and uniqueness. These are Freudian theories as they reveal WinstonÃ¢â¬â¢s subconscious. The capture and subsequent torture of Winston shows a curious, horrific and terrifying journey. The absolute and total destruction of the mind and body. However, the language and tone is calm and detached with surprisingly little malice, anger or hatred. This gives a deeper more powerful description of what Orwell is suggesting the future could be. It also gives the character OÃ¢â¬â¢Brien a more complex personality. He is constantly switching between Ã¢â¬Ëgood guyÃ¢â¬â¢ and Ã¢â¬Ëbad guyÃ¢â¬â¢. This intrigues the reader, as well as Winston. Is he friend or foe? He has the Ã¢â¬Å"powerÃ¢â¬ to do good or evil, which will he choose? Orwell is using an interesting psychological theory. He is suggesting that not all evil men are bad all the time and thus good people do not always act nicely. The reader is left with a feeling of wanting to like OÃ¢â¬â¢Brien but at the same time hating him for his cruelty. This strange relationship is as contradictory and confusing as Churchill and RooseveltÃ¢â¬â¢s involvement with Stalin (1939). Despite the catastrophic purges, and the negative value that Stalin had demonstrated over human life, they still became allies. Churchill said of Stalin, at the Yalta summit, Ã¢â¬Å"I walk through the world with greater courage when I find myself in a relationship of friendship and intimacy with this great man. Ã¢â¬ Stalin concealed a cruel and calculating nature prepared to commit war crimes at least as evil as those of the enemy. (Worlds Most Evil Men) Winston represents mankind (us)Ã¢â¬ If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Ã¢â¬ (Page 309) WinstonÃ¢â¬â¢s torture and re-education is his or our chance to save humanity, freedom, individuality, choice, beliefs and the right to be different. Orwell has used psychological manipulation of the mind to project a horrific interpretation of the destruction of mankind Orwell uses a terrifying concept, by taking Stalin and HitlerÃ¢â¬â¢s atrocities to a whole new level: total and absolute conformity in life as well as in death. So long as human beings stay human, death and life are the same thing. (Page 156) OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s novel in my opinion is a plausible projection of the future as he saw it in 1948. Projections of the future, often allows the reader to become detached because the people appear different from oneself. However, Orwell creates characters that are not dissimilar from us (the reader). The inclusion of the proletarians, that cleverly maintain sentimental songs and normal human compassion, also prevents detachment and preserves recognisable modern parallels. The setting of this novel is used to maintain the past, the present and the future. For example, the central administration building of The University of London which was used during World War II as the headquarters for the ministry of information. All censoring systems were coordinated from here. It bears a striking resemblance to the Ministry of Love described in 1984 and amusingly its telegraphic address was Ã¢â¬Å"miniformÃ¢â¬ . (www. orwelltoday. com) All other significant buildings, described in 1984 can be located in London today. This was probably OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s intention and it keeps the novel viable even after the year 1984. In returning to the original question I feel I have demonstrated that George Orwell used many sources of inspiration, from the world, in his writing of 1984 and it powerfully reflects the times in which it was written. After the publication of Animal Farm (1945) Orwell explained that he intended Ã¢â¬Å"to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one wholeÃ¢â¬ (Why I Write). This suggests that Orwell was concerned with BritainÃ¢â¬â¢s future. Even with overwhelming evidence of the evil nature of the Stalin regime, they still became allies with Britain and America. Malcolm Muggeride said of Orwell Ã¢â¬Å"He loved the past, hated the present and dreaded the future. I strongly believe that Orwell intended 1984, as a warning of what the world could become, not necessarily what it would become, if Ã¢â¬ËweÃ¢â¬â¢ (the future) did not take action and responsibility. Orwell has left a legacy, a permanent warning. For the present and the future, to prevent the formation of the totalitarian states of the past. His terminology has given modern day man, the language to express themselves and to protect civil liberties and influence human rights. 1984 is a political satire that exaggerates all that was wrong with the world in 1949 to hopefully shock and horrify a nation into action and prevent this type of society becoming a reality. Although the date of the book has passed the message is still clear and in some ways more relevant today, than when it was written. The advances in technology have made the surveillance and monitoring of citizens easier and more commonplace. Freedom, in the true sense of the word still depends on where you live, your age and your gender. However, I feel OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s novel should be recognised for its extraordinary impact and significant contribution to human rights in the modern world. Although OrwellÃ¢â¬â¢s warning has been subjected to many interpretations I feel a novelist is supposed to make you think and possibly reflect: you must agree, job well done. Despite its critics 1984 has sold millions of copies and has been translated into 65 languages.