During the twentieth century, in the wake of the Great War, riding political figures initiated radical changes in society. To the disheartened populace, these emergent ideologies represented hope for a better future in which all men were equal. Revolutions occurred, but the resulting power shifts did not install the benevolent leaders the citizens had hoped for. In 1984, George Orwell creates a vivid dictatorship, extrapolating a future ruled by a harsh totalitarian government. His novel is meant as a warning to western society, alerting them that beneath the gilded promises lies a state where the inhabitants are oppressed and the most cherished democratic values – freedom, justice and truth – are perverted. Orwell’s dystopia satirized totalitarian regimes, exposing their oppressive social structure, their manipulation of the populace as well as their corrupt principles and practices.
Oceania’s society is clearly divided into three social classes, the Proletariats, the Outer Party and the Inner Party, representing the classicaltraditional castes of the Low, the Middle and the High, respectively. The Inner Party controls the Outer Party, which in turn prescribdictates the actionsactivities of the proles in, a system that is unbalanced and corrupt. The proles represent the common, working class under a totalitarian rule. Despite their vast numbers, eighty-five percent of the population, they are disinterested in rebellion, kept ignorant and complacent by the Party. They do not realize, however, that the Party is oppressing them, since:
The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated the proles from bondage. … But simultaneously, true to the principles of doublethink, the Party taught that the proles were natural inferiors who must be kept in subjection, like animals, by the application of a few simple rules. … All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. (Orwell 71)
To the members of the Party, the proles are simply animals, uncivilized ruffians who are allowed a certain degree of freedom. since they are cConsidered “beneath suspicion” (72), the Party deems the proles and unthreatening to itsthe Party’s control. So long as “The larger evils invariably [escape] their notice” (71), they Party are permitteds to live in crime and poverty in “a whole world-within-a-world of thieves, bandits, prostitutes, drug peddlers, and racketeers of every description” (72). Ignorant and ignored, life for the proles is dismal. Rather than lifting them out of poverty, the former revolutionists have abused them, using them for labour before discarding them without a thought to their well-beingwelfare. This is the reality for the common folk under a totalitarian leadership.
Although the proles are undeniably the Low, the Outer Party members are arguably in a worse position. The proles may be considered animals, but the Party members can notcannot be considered human. The Party does not allow its members are not allowed to be individuals and they must refrain from any thought or action that contradicts the Party. AtA Party member must always comport themselves in an “orthodox” (53) manner. At tthe first sign of individualistic “unorthodoxy”,thoughts or behaviours that deny Party disciplines, errant Party members are “vaporized” (54), a process by which theyremoved from society to be are physically, intellectually and emotionally broken and made to conduct themselves in an orthodox manner. Thus, the Party robs them of their humanity, enslaving them as surely as they do the prolesy are dehumanized, turned into pieces of a whole, members of a collective. Party members are as enslaved as the proles. “The terrible thing that the Party had done was to persuade you that mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account, while at the same time robbing you of all power over the material world” (164). Although the Outer Party members do not live in the squalor that the proles inhabit, the Party monitors themy are closely monitored and denieds them many of the liberties allowed for the proles, since the Party considers its outer members are consideredcapable of posing a potential threats. By keeping them strictly regimented and docile through the use ofusing “doublethink” (214), the use of contradictions to enforce compliance with the Party’s whims, the Inner Party ensures that they do not pose a threatrisk to the smooth rule of Big Brother. The prolesproles’ emotions allow them to retain their humanity, despite the conditions they live in. As Winston concludes, “‘The proles are human beings. … We are not human’” (165).
The Inner Party, led by the fear-inducing figure of Big Brother, represents the ruling class in a totalitarian state. The Inner Party members live in relative comfort, enjoying many indulgences luxuries the other classes are not permitted, such as sugar, white bread, jam, milk and genuine coffee and tea. Upon triumphantly presenting a stolen bundle of the aforementioned items, Julia complains, “There’s nothing those swine don’t have, nothing” (141). These luxuries create a certain level of animosity towards the Inner Party in the citizens who are intelligent, brave and foolish enough to recognize their oppression. While the ruling members of the Party enjoy these luxuries, they devise ways to maintain their lofty position. Through the use ofWith the Thought Police and telescreens, they monitor the Outer Partry to ensure the members do not question the Party’sir doctrines are not questioned. Through the complete oppression of the common folk, the ruling class gains, in essence, ultimate power over an entire population of slaves and their choice of resources and amenitiesa relatively affluent lifestyle. The distinctions between the High, the Middle and the Low in Oceania are meant to demonstrate the imbalance in power underin a supposedly socialist dictatorshiprule.
In order to maintain its supremacyrule, a totalitarian government must develop tactics to keep its citizens from revolting. Throughout the novel, Orwell demonstrates several tacticsstrategies, notably the use of fear, distrust and deception. Fear is a powerful motivator, as proven by Winston’s betrayal of Julia in Room 101 upon confrontation with his greatest fear:
The mask was closing on his face. The wire brushed his cheek. And then – no it was not relief, only hope, a tiny fragment of hope. Too late, perhaps too late. But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just one person to whom he could transfer his punishment – one body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over:
‘Do it to Julia! … I don’t care what you do to her. … Not me! Julia! Not me!’ (286)
This moment represents the Party’s victory over Winston’s emotions. Finally, they are able to fully break him fully to their will by destroying his love for Julia. It is not long after this success that Winston learns to love Big Brother, representing the Party’s ultimate triumph over his rebellion. The Party also usesFear is also used fear to keep the general populace in line,. Fear is omnipresent due to the threat of the telescreens, the Thought Police and vaporization if found guilty of unorthodoxy: “Within two years those children would be denouncing her to the Thought Police. Mrs. Parsons would be vaporized. Syme would be vaporized. Winston would be vaporized. O’Brien would be vaporized. Parsons, on the other hand, would never be vaporized” (61). The elimination of rebels is key instrumental to the assured power of a totalitarian leader, although the preventiondeterrence of rebellion is even more effective. It is a common feature of totalitarian governments to possess a secret police. The Party’s Thought Police are comparable to the KGB of Soviet Russia. Orwell’s portrayal of the secret police demonstrates their function as a tool of fear, looming over the population of Oceania. With the threat of agents schooled in reading body language, citizens must be proficient in Crimestop, automatically preventing even their thoughts from questioning the Party, lest they be arrested and subjected to vaporization. Likewise, the telescreens monitor the Party members, watching for signs of unorthodoxy even when they are alone.
In addition to the Ffear of being caught capture by agents of the Thought Police, discontented citizens must be extremely vigilant, is overpowering, since the identities of agents are but as a secret police, and one cannot be sure of whowhom to trust. Anyone could be an agent, and it is not only the police are not the only onesagents of whom one citizens must be wary of. The Party People are encourages everyoned to report suspicious behaviour, particularly children:
by means of such organizations as the Spies, they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it. … All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason. (24)
By corrupting the relationship between parent and child, the Party not only gains extra agents to weed out unorthodoxy, butbut also asserts itself over a new generation. One The aim of the Party is to eliminate healthy relationships, since without allies, people to confide in, support, individual rebels will lose hope. So long as people are alienated from themselves and one another, there can be no rebellion and the totalitarian leaders will remain in power. “No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends”(267). As fundamentally social beings, humans crave interactions with each other. Orwell’s intention by describing Tthe emotional isolation Orwell describes is meant to unsettle the reader.
Another powerful weapon in the Party’s arsenal is deception. Several times throughout the novel, Orwell references are made to fabricated facts and statistics. The Party uses propaganda to keep the population complacent and content with their harsh living conditions:
Day and night the telescreens bruised your ears with statistics proving that people today had more food, more clothes, better houses, better recreations – that they lived longer, worked shorter hours, were bigger, healthier, stronger, happier, more intelligent, better educated, than the people of fifty years ago. Not a word of it could ever be proved or disproved. (74)
Despite the claims of amelioration, the citizens still live in squalor. The Party would paint a picture of a glowing utopia, where there is unity among all the citizens, where all citizens share the same thoughts and principles, eliminating civil conflicts. However, without diversity, civilization becomes stagnant. Without political opposition, dictatorships are established and populations are oppressed. If rebels are silenced, and the population is made complacent by propaganda, and those who are not indoctrinated are afraid to take action, the dictator’s power becomes absolute. This is the reality Orwell wishes to exposebe known: “decaying, dingy cities where underfed people shuffled to and fro in leaky shoes, in patched-up nineteenth-century houses that smelt always of cabbage and bad lavatories” (74).
As a political writer, Orwell’s purpose as a political writer is to demonstrate the evils of a totalitarian society. Within 1984, he has included several direct criticisms of socialism and totalitarianism, mentioning both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia by name. Through the passages in Goldstein’s book explaining the Party slogans “Ignorance is Strength” (201) and “War is Peace” (185), as well as O’Brien’s commentaries, Orwell provides direct analysis of these ideologies. The Party slogan, “Ignorance is Strength” is a contradiction summarizing the method through which a dictatorship is established. In “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” (184), Orwell alludes to the perpetual cycle between the High, the Middle and the Low. Using general terms, he describes the struggle that has repeated itself throughout history: the High wishes to remain in wealth and power, the Middle wishes to become the new High and the Low wishes to live in a society of equality. Dictatorships are created when the Middle comes into power, the abuses the new foundnewfound authority:
In the past the Middle had made revolutions under the banner of equality, and then had established a fresh tyranny as soon as the old one was overthrown. The new Middle groups in effect proclaimed their tyranny beforehand. Socialism, … was still deeply infected by the Utopianism of past ages. But in each variant of Socialism that appeared from about 1900 onwards the aim of establishing liberty and equality was more and more openly abandoned. (203)
This corruption of principles is abominable. Orwell’s exposition of the motivations behind these seemingly benevolent revolutions is highly effective, demonstrating the false promises of a utopia that downtrodden common folk are all too willing to believe. Once the tyrant is established, it is all too easy for them to maintain the semblance of benevolence while indoctrinating the populace with their ideologydoctrines. So long as the citizens are kept ignorant, unaware of their leaders’ betrayal, the totalitarian rule remains strong.
The other Party doctrine explained in Goldstein’s book is the paradoxical “War is Peace”. Orwell uses the constant state of war between the world’s three superstates to create a feeling of foreboding and despair throughout the novel,novel. When he r however he reveals that the war itself is a ploy by the three governments to control their citizens, this augments the tension as it demonstrates further manipulation and deception on the part of the governments. An enemy not only gives the masses a target to focus their negative energy upon, but also creates a unique state of unity and a justification for the abuse of power:
The social atmosphere is that of a besieged city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes the difference between wealth and poverty. And at the same time the consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival. (191-192)
War is used as a tool, a means of manipulating the populace to do the Party’s bidding. Through this, Orwell demonstrates the lengths to which a dictator will go to retain their power. In addition, the stalemate allows for a certain level of comfort and security. This state of perpetual and stagnant war has fully isolated the three states from each other, producing the same result as a perpetual peace. Each government has the ability to govern itself in any way it should choose. For all intents and purposesEssentially, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia are their own worlds, simultaneously at war but also sharing a mutual agreement, and therefore global domination is unnecessary. In the end, the Party holds ultimate power over Oceania and so long as they publicize details of the war, the political situation will remain stablestable, as it would be foolish to upset the government in a time of war. This also justifies the meagre rations and lack of simple comforts. So long as Oceania is perpetually at war with another superstate, it will be at peace. The dystopia Orwell creates, wherein the atmosphere of war looms over the populace, is highly effective, especiallyparticularly in the Post-World War II era in which 1984 was published. The novelIt takes a lookexamines at the future that might have been and could be if totalitarian governments, such as those of the German Nazis or the Russian Communists, establish themselves.
Through the character of O’Brien, particularly in Section Three, Orwell discusses past totalitarian-esque governments and why they were unsuccessful in the long run. O’Brien speaks of the Spanish Inquisition, the German Nazis and the Russian Communists, anmentioningd the massacres they organized of the people who opposed them and, illuminating the differences between these groups and the Party. They allowed heretics to become martyrs. The Party represents a newer and crueller kind of dictatorship:
The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. … We are different from all the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. … We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. (263)
This quotation clearly demonstrates Orwell’s warning. Power is a corruptive force, and a hunger for power is a highly capable motivator. The horrors committed during the Second World War are not to be belittled,belittled. however Orwell, however, wishes it to cautionbe known the world that if these ideologies take hold, the dictator who learns from the others’ mistakes could very well prove a greater evil than Hitler and Stalin combined. Thise depictions of Big Brother is also alluded to in the descriptions of Big Brother,this, describing who seems to be a combination of these two leaders. The Inner Party, while outwardly using propaganda to manipulate the citizens of Oceania, is aware of its own greed and aware that its aim is not peace and prosperity, but absolute, irrevocable power. “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. … a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself” (267). With this warning, it is Orwell’s intention to avoid this ruthless new world.
In conclusion, Orwell’s 1984 is a satirical novel exploring the frightening oppression, manipulation and corruption within a totalitarian controlled state. The distinct societal divisions of Oceania exposes the inequality in the wealth and power distribution under a ‘socialist’ rule, while demonstrating the principles, practices and manipulative tactics of dictators both directly and indirectly throughout the novel. Orwell purposefully demonstrates the dangers inherent in a militaristic, all-powerful government in an effort to warn of its malefic intentions. It is the desire of any dictator to retain their power, and they will go to great lengths to ensure that they are not overthrown. These warnings continue to prove relevant into the twenty-first century, where the repercussions of the World Wars and political turmoil under dictators exist in countries without a firmly established democracy.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 1950. Print