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Answers to queries on Orwell’s 1984 Essay

In the essay Why I Write, Orwell explained that all the serious work he wrote since the Spanish Civil War in 1936 were “written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism. ” (Orwell, 5) What can you add by looking at his life and his mental state when writing the novel? The author wrote the novel in 1947–1948 while critically ill with tuberculosis. The writer himself wrote about the stages of his life leading to the period when he wrote the novel:

First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism: but these experiences were not enough to give me an accurate political orientation. Then came Hitler, the Spanish Civil War, etc.

By the end of 1935 I had still failed to reach a firm decision (on political position)…. ” (Orwell, 6 parenthetical interpretation mine. ) What was the world like in 1949 (the immediate post-WW II era) in terms of politics, economics, and particularly the media? After Allied victory, two opposing world views and ideology—capitalism ( that termed itself democracy) and socialism (that called itself the democracy of the working class) characterized the previously unified Allied Forces, the former led by America, on the latter by the Soviet Union.

The two worlds have polarized economic systems: capitalism (which espoused free enterprise) and socialism (which espoused economic central planning). The two blocks also had opposing media philosophy: the so-called free libertarian press, in the tradition of the US revolution, and that of the Marxian school which saw media as the tool of the socialist revolution. This was the cold war era, and the world was politically bipolar: the United States and the Soviet Union were the superpowers.

Orwell’ s once mighty Britain had become an impoverished crumbling has-been, even as its newspapers were reporting false triumphs. When he wrote 1984, Orwell saw the betrayal and perversion of socialist ideals in his country, and his hope of “English Socialism” had crashed. The novel is aimed primarily as a critique against totalitarianism. But what kind? As his dream of “English Socialism” turned into a monstrous ideology of oppression, Orwell saw its dehumanization even as its source model has become oppressors of the Soviet nations.

Many of the characters in the novel in fact are believed to be depicting real figures from the Soviet Union. He was focused on the British socialists but obviously he had the Soviet politburo in mind as well. And he was obviously sure the British-American partnership would be heading towards the same direction. Why is the novel perhaps even more relevant than it when it was first written?? Al Gore in his Assault on Reason panned against us present-day Americans in our failure to oppose Bush when he led us to a baseless war against Iraq, against the advice of his own policymakers and using fabricated lies.

Through the power of the media and the arousal of fear in us, our leader and his media spinners led us to embrace his war without us raising a whimper. (Gore, 2007; Bossard, 2007) He also warned us against any future effort to gag the internet, in the manner China is now doing it—arguing that the internet is our last hope of interactive democratic dialogues through which an informed nation can guard itself against the media and other manipulative technologies of a ruling demagogue.

There have been many instances when even the most intelligent of nations have een misled by their leaders—the example of Hitler for the German people, and the recent example of the Philippines (1986) where a dictator ruled for 30 years until a unified people power ended a despotic rule, incidentally American-supported. Initially, warnings of intellectuals like Orwell may be voices in the wilderness in, but as proven by world events, at the appointed time nations would heed them, and people will move against their oppressors. Tell me why you think the novel can be used to teach students about media, history, and what we think we know.

What does the book teach us about how to respond to political campaigns and advertising? What does it say about us? Against the backdrop of experience, the novel tells us how revolutions devour their sons and fail their fathers. But what Orwell warns against is the use of our skills as media men in the overall scheme of Big Brother. In the novel, the main character Winston Smith, was a revisionist writer of history who wrote it according to the whim of Big Brother’s officialdom.

The propaganda machines of Big Brother were staffed by media professionals. Media churns out materials tainted by political motives. Media people are potential instruments of oppression and deceit. Lastly, how is the novel truthful, original, and human? In Why I Write Orwell said : “(I write )…. because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. ” (p. 5) Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel We was a primary influence for 1984.

He also included the following as influences of the novel: Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar by Arthur Kostner, The Iron Heel (1908) by Jack London, among other books. (Shelden, 1991) Surname 5 The humanity in this novel rests in its vigorous warning against falling into the trap that will lead humanity to the nightmare of 1984. The inhumanity of its characters ironically dramatically aroused a fear in us, so we its readers recoil in the lost of such human sensibility — which the novel helped recover for us, in its aspiration for a society of equals where people are human beings and not Big Brother robots.

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