College Papers

The theme in the novel ‘1984’ written by George Orwell that intrigued me was power and control

The theme in the novel ‘1984’ written by George Orwell that intrigued me was power and control, and how the government inflicted power and control throughout the totalitarian society. I learnt about this theme though the main character, Winston, and the change he undertakes from questioning to accepting false information given by the government

Never have I felt so revolted towards something than I have towards the government in ‘1984’. Throughout the novel there are many examples of how the government inflicts power and control over society, for example, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”. This is repeated twice at the beginning where Winston reads this from two different giant posters. Also “you had to live in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinised”. This is when Winston was thinking about the telescreens. I was surprised that the two posters were the first thing Winston saw when he walked out of his house and into the street, also the cautious way he described the telescreens. This showed me that the government plays a big part in his life and is taking extreme measures to enforce the idea to all civilians that the Big Brother and government is always watching everything. This is especially surprising because Oceania and the government are meant to be at war, yet this idea suggests they are more focused on monitoring the civilians every action in order to have complete power and control over them rather than focusing on winning a war. At the very end of the novel Winston writes “TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE”, and he thinks “If he thinks he floats off the floor, and if I simultaneously think I see him do it, then the thing happens”. These both happen after he has been tortured for months by the government. I was shocked and appalled at the change Winston undertook from questioning reality to fully accepting that whatever the government says is true. This shows the full effect of the power and control the government can have on someone. This section made me think about the effect of controlling someone, and if you have enough power over them, you can influence and sometimes change their sanity and the way they think. It made me question if Oceania was really at war with an Eurasia or Eastasia, or if the real war was an internal war fought by the government, aimed at the civilians where the government was trying to dictate not just the way people acted, but also the way people thought, and the war was just false information fed to the civilians to make them have absolute faith in the government as they required the party to provide them with safety from the enemy. The fact that the government would go to these extreme lengths of dishonesty to gain the people’s devotion is appalling.

The novel reinforced my thinking about power and control and the negative effects it can have on people and society. Before I read the text I had a little understanding of how a dictatorship with complete power and control could have negative effects because of the other texts I had read on dictatorships in Nazi Germany and North Korea for example. 1984 was written in 1944 during World War 2, so I believe Orwell was trying to warn future generations about the full effects of a totalitarian government. After reading the text I realised that we need more people like Winston, who question reality and are willing to take action when something isn’t ethically right. When Winston and Julia are captured, there might have been hope for them if some other people were loyal towards them, but they weren’t because the party have manipulated them so “there will be no loyalty except loyalty to the party”. If the government hadn’t had so much power and control over society, the outcome for Winston might have been different.

Personally, I believe that Orwell was trying to foresee the outcome of World War 2 and what could happen to our society if we didn’t question, only accepted reality that we were told, this
is highlighted in the text when Winston writes in his diary “until the proles become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious”. The proles are the people at the bottom of the social structure that make up 80% of the population, Winston understands that they have enough numbers to rebel, but they never will because they all accept the reality they’re told, and they will always accept reality until after they rebel and see an alternative reality. I believe that a change has occurred in some countries from when this book was written in 1940’s to now where the totalitarian government was replicated on a smaller scale with Nazi Germany, but now society has not only transitioned from a communist to democratic republic but also a place where civilians have more freedom as the power and control has shifted from very few people in the government to society as a whole. This made me think that Orwell was wrong about our society’s future, as there are more people like Winston who question when reality isn’t ethically right and are willing to stand up for what they believe in.