Totalitarianism: A World of Terror Totalitarian is defined as “of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (as censorship and terrorism) (Totalitarian)”. Through totalitarianism the government is able to completely control its citizens. This can cause everyone to no longer be individuals, no longer be creative, and no longer be imaginative.
Orwell saw the dangers of living under totalitarian government, which is why he wrote Nineteen Eighty-four. George Orwell writes Nineteen Eighty-four in the year 1949 because he feared the future world would rule under totalitarianism. He warns society through Nineteen Eighty-four’s characters, themes, and control the Party has on its individuals. The characters in Nineteen Eighty-four are created to show its readers that totalitarianism can again become a serious threat and should not be taken lightly. Winston Smith was the main character in this novel. The instinctive responsiveness of the body leads Winston to begin his first tentative gestures of resistance in the solitary physical act of writing down his thoughts and experiences in the forbidden journal (Jacobs)”. In the first chapter Winston writes in his diary repeatedly in capital letters “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” from here it is clear that Winston will be the one who will fight for his individuality and against the government (Orwell 19). Winston is miserable and wishes life could be like the past where the truth actually exists and cannot be manipulated (Place).
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The Party is what Oceania, “…a totalitarian state in which the populace is grouped into three classes: the Inner Party (the ruling elite), the Outer Party (the party functionaries), and the proles, the vast, ignorant class of laborers”, calls its government (Burt). “Big Brother, the all-seeing manifestation in 1984 of the Party’s drive for power for its own sake, has come to stand as a warning of the insidious nature of government-centralized power, and the way that personal freedoms, once encroached upon, are easily destroyed altogether (Fitzpatrick)”.
Winston hates the Party and Big Brother, but he cannot vocalize this because there is no freedom of speech. “Winston… is overwhelmed by the power of a relentlessly indecent state, a state whose indecency manifests itself most extremely in its seemingly limitless capacity for cruelty (Stewart)”. He yearns to rebel against the Party but fears if he confides in the wrong person he might be vaporized. Winston believes the Brotherhood, the mysterious group of rebels that work together to overthrow the Party, exists and he would do anything to be a part of it.
This is eventually what brings about Winston’s downfall and is the reason why he is caught by the Thought Police. In an attempt to be a part of something he thought was the Brotherhood, Winston goes to O’Brian’s luxurious apartment. Even though Winston has no proof, he is convinced O’Brian is in on the conspiracy because of a dream Winston had a couple years ago. It is here where Winston claims his allegiance to Emmanuel Goldstein, a wide known rebel, and his hate for Big Brother. When asked Winston said he was willing to “…throw sulfuric acid in a child’s face…” to serve the interests of the Brotherhood (Orwell 176).
He is not worried if O’Brian, who is a high class Inner Party member, is lying to him to get a confession of treason. Winston knew he was going to get caught eventually. This is probably why he was not very careful when he was given the chance to be a member of the legendary conspiracy. Winston was fighting for the freedom to say two plus two is four, but once he was caught he was tortured and persecuted until he believed what the Party wanted him to accept as true, two plus two is five. Winston goes through both physical and mental torture designed to destroy his sense of moral superiority and reeducate him in the absolute power of the Party (Burt)”. Julia is another character Orwell created who resisted against the Party. She very much hated the Party. Julia was unlike Winston because she did not desire to overthrow the Party. Julia rebelled by having lots of sex, an act that the Party deeply frowned upon. Julia and Winston became lovers. “Winston’s relationship with Julia gives him the hope and inspiration to live in the present in a way that he had not during most of his life (Place)”.
But other than the fact they both had sexual desires and hated the Party, they had nothing in common. “If there’s no interest in sex, there obviously can be no future equivalent of the Winston/Julia relationship (Firchow)”. Julia was only interested in rebelling in small-scale ways, such as sex, buying black market chocolate and other goods, and wanted to avoid getting caught. This is one of many ways Winston and Julia differed. Winston wanted to rebel on a major, significant way and it did not matter to him whether he was caught or not. But Julia is able to accomplish and understand things in a way that the intellectual Winston is not; she has a practical cunning which Winston lacked (Stewart)”. Unlike Winston and Julia, O’Brian was not created to oppose the Party; O’Brian was the Party. Not much is revealed about O’Brian, but he is high up in the Inner Party. He convinces Winston that he is a part of the organized group of rebels. He then inducts Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood and claims that they are doing a great service to society. His extraordinary manipulation of Winston is both proof of his immense, almost godlike power and also proof of its “subtlety. ” (Firchow)”. O’Brian is not seen until after Winston and Julia have been caught by the Thought Police and sent to jail. He walks into the jail cell Winston was detained in and Winston asks if he has been caught too. O’Brian says, “They got me a long time ago (Orwell 245)”. This reply indicates that at one time O’Brian might have been rebellious earlier in his life, and was tortured until he accepted the Party and its ways.
Just incase the reader might have missed out on the significance of the main characters; Orwell also added themes within the novel that imply the dangers of totalitarianism. The Party is able to maintain power over Oceania’s people through its ability to psychologically manipulate them and scare them through the advance technology the Party has access to. Each room has a telescreen, which is a big screen that constantly streams propaganda and manipulates the Party’s failures to look like achievements. These telescreens also keep an eye on the citizens to make sure there is no thought crime going on.
Telescreens are what Orwell thinks is the future of television (Fitzpatrick). Along with the telescreens there are also microphones planted all throughout the city. With these two pieces of technology the Party is able to watch all of its members at all times. No matter where one goes he is always reminded “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU (Orwell 1)”. The Party has also created an organization called Junior Spies. This group encourages young children to spy on their parents or any other adult and to report them if there is any instance of disloyalty to the Party.
They force people to block out any sexual desires they have, because sex is not for pleasure and only meant for procreation. “The body and its desires provide the impetus for opposition to the regime: indeed, the body’s very lack of rationality becomes a virtue, for no reasonable person would be so foolish as to attempt to oppose the absolute power of the Party (Jacobs)”. It is reasonable to say that all of these can cause built up anger and frustration for the people of Oceania. The Party channels this anger by creating Hate Week and having parades full of intense emotions detesting the Party’s political enemies.
If all of this did not make the readers think twice about totalitarianism, Orwell was able to make everything worse when the Party was able to control the way one acts, the way one thinks, even the way one remembers events in history. The Party is always watching its individuals, they are scared and they must be careful how to act all times. Winston had to even watch out because if his face twitches the wrong way; he may be arrested. Once convicted as a being disloyal to the Party, one is then physically tortured until one believes the Party’s beliefs.
In the year 1984, English is no longer the official language of Oceania. The Party created the language of Newspeak. Newspeak basically narrows the English language down to one-eighth of its words. The Party’s reasoning for doing this is to limit the ideas of the individuals and make it so they are unable to formulate words to say them. “The aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought, and to remove from the classics all the subversiveness which could pollute the minds of Party members (Nineteen)”.
So ideally no one would be able to commit a thought crime or rebel because one would not know words to express one or to even think it. “The time will come when the official slogans, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, will not be required, simply because there will be no thought as we understand it now (Nineteen)”. The Party is also able to change newspapers and artifacts from the past to make it seem as if the Party has always been in power and for its own benefit. The Party never lets anyone keep photographs or any other forms of documentation from the past.
This makes people’s memories undependable and the Party’s job easier on constantly changing events from the past. In his novel Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell was successful in creating a world of terror under the influence of totalitarianism. Americans in the year 1949 were not exactly sure how to view communism, and many intellectuals thought as the Soviet Union as a great moral experiment. Orwell was able to warn people that if they did not oppose communism, life could be like this in the near future.