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How can a hero survive in a world gone mad? Both Casablanca, the classic 1940s film, and hailed as the greatest movie ever by some, and 1984, a piece of classic literature by George Orwell, also seen as being one of the most important novels of the 20th century, revolve around a world in chaos, where no one trusts anybody else, and a war wages on within and without.
In 1984, Winston hides from a totalitarian, thought controlling government, that is out to stomp out all aggression against the Party. Rick dealt with a world rocked by the impacts of World War II, where everyone was a spy, and even the spies were spied on. Both wish for hope and courage in their mutually exclusive worlds, yet only Rick finds hope in his. Winston dies with utter hopelessness, where no one will ever know of his life or deeds, yet he dies a hero.
Rick is a cynic, tossed into a chaotic yet romantic world, and comes forth victorious.
In Casablanca, we emerge with a feeling of hope, and joy, that the forces of good can win, and that eventually we will triumph over our enemies, wherever or whatever they may be. While slochky and romantic, Casablanca is a touching movie, and probably one of the best ever made. 1984 on the other hand, is a deep psychological thriller. In the world of utter thought-control, we find that even a strong hero such as Winston, is struck down by the party, for simply being alive, and that the virtuosity within humanity will eventually be overcome by our greed and lust.
Their struggles are that of man against the oppressor. Both 1984 and Casablanca deal with a world gone mad, and the struggles of not-so-ordinary people. Oftentimes, parallels can be made between characters in the two. Renault can be compared with O’Brien, because both are ‘double agents’ in their own ways, and one never knows for which side they work for.
Of course, in the end O’Brien is an agent of the Party, and Renault is a sympathetic Frenchman, who befriends Rick – Louis, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Sam of course, is stability. He can’t be bought or sold, and is seemingly a constant, always there and never too deep into the problems of the world. Sam represents the carefree aspect in all of us, the feeling that we’d just as soon turn our attention away from the war and hum a tune. Parsons could be the Sam of 1984, the escape from reality. Winston wishes he could simply give in as Parsons did, to just pledge his allegiance to the Party, and live out his days in relative happiness (Parsons is even glad when he was turned in by his daughter).
While vastly different, many similarities can be made between these two classics. Both take place in a world gone mad, where nothing is truth, and reality is always questionable. In 1984, we see that truth is temporary, and in Casablanca, people are not always who they seem. Rick and Winston both face the ultimate human enemy: the unimportance of the individual. Rick exemplifies this theme, as he relates to Ilsa: “The problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” Simply put, individuals don’t matter. That the events surrounding their world and time overpower those of the individual. In the world of 1984, we see the total eradication of the individual, and the loss of all personal rights. Winston and his comrades are part of the one, the Party, and any strives in another direction were punished with Room 101.
Casablanca deals with a festive arena in the midst of war, Rick’s Cafe Americain, and 1984 deals with the opposite, a dismal view of a war torn London. Yet both of them are set in places that are different than the surrounding world. Winston hides in his corner away from the telescreen, where he feels he can think and write, yet he realizes that as he sits there, he was the dead. Outside Rick’s a war wages on, but inside the kindly cafe, an atmosphere of warmth and freedom emanates. Yet it is soon crushed by the iron fist of the Germans attempting to capture the rogue Lazlow, as Winston’s alcove by the Party. Both Winston and Rick’s worlds are torn apart by forces beyond their control, but Rick is victorious in the end, and Winston loses the battle.
In summary, both 1984 and Casablanca revolve around the idea that humanity is losing its personal identity to that of the masses. The individual, in both cases, is far less important to that of the rest of the world. Hero’s can exist in a world gone mad, as we find in both 1984 and Casablanca. Lazlow is a hero of the rebellion, who stood out against the oppression of the German government, and escaped to Lisbon. Winston spat in the face of the Party, and stirred within himself, human emotions and committed the gravest crime: he was alive. Both acted in the face of defeat, and won their own victories. There are many similarities between the characters and events of 1984 and Casablanca. The line that sums it all up, was spoken by Rick. “That day in Paris, the Germans wore gray, and we wore blue.” They dared to be different, and to be human, in a world gone utterly mad with its own evils.
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