Dystopian Elements and Basic Characteristics Essay
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A dystopia is an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. Dystopian literature shows us a nightmarish image of what might happen to the world in the future. Usually, the main themes of dystopian works are rebellion, oppression, revolutions, wars, overpopulation, and disasters. George Orwell depicts a dystopian world its citizens are constantly brainwashed and live in constant fear. In 1984, propaganda and lies are used to brainwash the citizens and control them. There are many elements of criticisms in this book, but I will be focusing on the Marxist, feminist, and psychoanalytic criticisms.
Marxism was developed by Karl Marx in 1848 during the Red Revolution. Marxism is about having social and economic power. In 1984, there are three social classes. The Inner Party, The Outer Party, and the Proles. The Inner Party is the upper class, they have a lot more freedom than the Outer Party and the Proles. They make up 2% of the population and are the elite class. They get better things such as food, coffee, and cigarettes. The Outer Party is the middle class; they live in bad neighborhoods, and barely get any food. They make up 13% of the population. They are constantly watched by telescreens and can’t turn theirs off like the Inner Party can. The Proles are the lower class they do all the manual labor work they aren’t as watched by the Party as the Outer Party because the government doesn’t see them as a threat and they make up 85% of the population.
However, everyone in Oceania lives in fear because The Party terrorizes them. The Party has three principles that they follow and everyone in Oceania have been brainwashed into believing: WAR IS PEACE, IGNORANCE IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. This is a form of ideology. In Marxism, ideology is a belief system and belief systems are products of cultural conditioning. In this case, The Party conditioned the people of Oceania into thinking that those three principles are true. The people of Oceania have been programmed into believing those Principles and believing in whatever Big Brother tells them to believe. They are not allowed to think for themselves or have their own opinions, and if they do they will end up getting killed. Oceania is a capitalist, totalitarian society because depending on what party you are in, that’s how you get treated. This is an example of classism. Classism is an ideology where you’re prejudiced or in favor of someone depending on what social class you are in. If you are a prole, you’re not looked at in the same way as a person in the Inner Party would be looked at. You would be deemed untrustworthy and you wouldn’t be able to have items like Inner Party people would.
One of the core principles of Marxism is, society shapes our consciousness and that’s true. Society tells us what’s hot in fashion, what’s beautiful and what’s not and that shapes how people view themselves and others. In 1984, the government shapes the people’s consciousness by coming up with new words. Words such as, “doublethink”, “newspeak”, “stop crime”, etc. The Thought Police, Youth League, and Big Brother are some of the ways used to keep the people of Oceania in constant fear and keep them in line. Because of this, the people of Oceania suffer from “groupthink” which is a psychological condition that’s fueled by the Inner Party’s social and economic conditions.
“Groupthink” shapes the lower classes beliefs that the Inner Party is always right. Big Brother is used as a tactic to put fear and paranoia in the people of Oceania’s heads that Big Brother is always watching them. That’s how the government control the people and shape their consciousness. The government does this, so the people will never want to speak out and voice their opinion on Big Brother, because if they do they’ll be considered a criminal, and they will always have complete control and dominance over the people of Oceania.
Feminist criticism is a literary form of criticism that gives the perspective of writing from a feminist perspective. It’s a political form of literature that analyzes the questions of how male and females relate to each other and the world and how women are portrayed in literature. History shows that men consider women as “inferior” and because of that, the stereotype that women are weaker than men was created. Society taught itself that masculinity is related to the weakness of females. (Csaszar, 40). In 1984, Orwell reversed this way of thinking. He made the main character a weak man whose main purpose in life was to obey Big Brother. Orwell also uses compelling, stereotypical, female characters which drives the man to act. Even though the women in the book have a lack of power, they’re the only characters that have a strong influence over Winston which makes the female characters an important part of this book.
In the begin and end of 1984, fear controls the main character. Winston is shown as weak and passive-aggressive. He goes to work and rewrites history and he obeys Big Brother. His only purpose is to serve society until he denies conformity later in the book. Winston would’ve continued to obey the government without question as well as lack masculinity if it weren’t for the women in his life. Winston’s mom, ex-wife, and Julia each played a role in Winston’s search for freedom. Winston feels guilty for what happened to his mother, and this is where we first see how women influence Winston (Whitney). Him wishing he could’ve helped his mom causes him to have rebellious thoughts. His ex-wife, Katherine, believed everything that The Party said, and this influenced Winston’s choices he makes throughout the book. Julia is the one character that influenced Winston the most. Julia’s influence on him made him rebel against Big Brother. She also made him realize how unhappy he was under Big Brother’s watch and that is the reason he starts to rebel.
These women are also described in different ways to show how different their personalities are and show the influence they had on Winston. His mom was the first person to have an impact on Winston. She couldn’t stand up for herself and this showcases the “women are weak” stereotype and she died because of it. Winston feels guilty and believes he’s responsible for her death and he lets this guilt take over his thoughts. His ex-wife, Katherine, conforms to the servant stereotype. She was a beautiful woman, however, Winston hated her because of her obedience. She was considered the model citizen of The Party. Her talk of their “duty to the party” encouraged Winston’s rebellious thoughts and his thought crimes increased.
All of these women had a huge impact on Winston, but the woman who influenced Winston the most was Julia. She is the ultimate influence that led to Winston’s fall. Julia is the opposite of Winston. She’s fearless, rebellious, and free-spirited, traits Winston wished he had and eventually he gains the courage he lacks. Julia becomes the stereotypical temptress who turns Winston into this brave new person. Whenever he’s around Julia, he’s able to share his hatred for the party and he thinks for himself. Orwell ends the book with, “He loved Big Brother” (Orwell, 370). By doing that, Orwell shows defeat that ultimately destroyed Winston. When Winston is with Julia, he had a sense of freedom and he was brave, but without her, he goes back to being an obedient citizen because, in the end, Winston doesn’t have anybody else but Big Brother.
Orwell’s portrayal of women who fit into these stereotypical roles causes Winston to find himself. His purpose of serving society and obeying Big Brother was greatly influenced by the women in his life. Society destroyed him while women helped shape him into the man he is. Through the guilt he felt when he mom died, Katherine’s lack of emotion, and Julia’s love for rebellion, Winston learned the nature of masculinity for himself.
In psychoanalytic criticism, we look at a book from a psychological perspective. Sigmund Freud created the principles of psychoanalysis in 1896. He believes that people are motivated by powerful, unconscious drives and conflicts. When reading through a psychoanalytic lens, the citizens of Oceania are the victim’s psychological manipulation. The party believes that as long as a person’s perception of the truth can be externally verified, then even a lie can become the truth. For example, one of The Party’s methods of control is Newspeak. The party invented Newspeak to control the way people think. If anyone should think for themselves, then that person has committed thoughtcrime. Thoughtcrime is a thought that doesn’t fit into Big Brother’s ideologies. This controls the people directly through the citizen’s actual thoughts and it also dictates them physically through how Big Brother determines if a citizen is committing a thought crime.
Big Brother determines a thought crime by using telescreens that are placed throughout Oceania and they examine the reactions on the face of the people and what they say to find out how they feel about what Big Brother is doing. This controls the people because it makes them not display any opposition to the government. By doing this, fear is instilled in the people and this takes a psychological toll on them. Citizens are constantly reminded that Big Brother is watching them, and that also takes a toll on the people psychologically because they live in fear and paranoia. Another example of Big Brother controlling the people was by the way that he had children brought up. The government brought the children into the organization called the “Junior Spies”. Once the children were in this organization, they were trained and taught to betray their parents by being additional eyes and ears for Big Brother. This form of control psychologically manipulates families not to talk about anything that would display individuality.
Big Brother controls the citizens by taking away the passion and the enjoyment out of sex as well. In Oceania, Big Brother establishes sex as something that should only be used for the reproduction to help populate Oceania. Sex isn’t supposed to be enjoyed and can only be done by specified members of the dinner party. Sex expresses individualism and free thought, so by manipulating the people do not like sex, they’re taking away the citizens individualism. Big Brother takes the problems in the society and uses them to say that other parties and cultures are the reasons for their faults. This creates hatred in the people and stirs up emotional responses against the other parties and cultures. The government does this in a way that’s similar to the propaganda tactics used by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany and Joseph Stalin in Communist Russia.
The most obvious way Big Brother psychologically manipulates the citizens is observed through the posters that the government hangs up. Throughout Oceania, there are posters that say, “Big Brother Is Watching You” This is a scare tactic that the government uses to put fear in the citizens of Oceania. Big Brother uses fear by creating a place in which the citizens are constantly reminded that they are being watched for disloyalty and other crimes. By using psychological manipulation, the citizens of Oceania are trapped in a place where they can’t think for themselves nor can they question the government, because if they do, they will die.