The idea of a dystopian society is that of complete control, either through the use of a police state that has ultimate control over humanity and or the idea of man abusing technology to further gain control of its subjects. These ideas are very present in both novels. In 1984, the totalitarian state is technically and urbanely engineered to spy on and see people’s very thoughts. In Fahrenheit 451 a similar idea is used in the outlawing of literature and the use of denunciations to capture and punish those deemed to have broken the law.
This essay is going to explore the idea of Man’s struggle against the society which seeks to break him, erasing the individual, resulting in the mindless slaves to society, the very idea that the authors warn against. In 1984, the constant barrage of information regarding the greatness of the state and Big Brother’s supremacy over the common man forces everyone to consent and believe in the totalitarian state.
The party justifies itself by eliminating the individual, giving power to everyone as being part of the collective power of the party as O’Brien mentions «if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the party so that he is the party, then he is all-powerful and immortal » the party’s belief that they control everything even human reality portrays how far a totalitarian government can go in achieving complete control of humanity.
This can be clearly seen in 1984, where O’Brien tortures Winston to the point where he is capable of relinquishing all humanity, all common sense until the point where O’Brien tells Winston that two and two make five. Winston loses all sense of individuality to the point where conforms to the party and denounces his true love Julia. Through the use of fear and crushing oppression, the idea of love apart from love for big brother and the party is all that remains. Therefore the Party succeed in their aims, obedience through the use of force and fear.
The central conflict of the novel is Man-vs. Society, as with Fahrenheit 451. Winston constantly struggled for individuality in a society were there is no “I” there is only ‘we”, individuality and freedom of expression is forbidden, punishable by death. The party wishes to control all of humanity, eradicating the “sex instinct”, O’Brien says « we will abolish the orgasm » « there will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the party. There will be no love, except the love of big brother… there will be no art, no literature, no science », in this, the party’s aims are clear.
They seek to destroy what it is to be human, to create a population of hollow men, loyal to none but the party, un-thinking, un-loving slaves of the party, tools. As in 1984, the state in Fahrenheit wish to crush creative thinking, eradicating humanity in the process. The burning of books, similar to the book burnings of Nazi Germany show the totalitarian, dystopian need to control the thoughts of the masses. By doing this, they control the past, and therefore the future.
They are able to rewrite history to justify their acts, indoctrinating the youth to believe in their cause, just as the Nazis did. In Fahrenheit 451, as in 1984, symbolism and reversible meanings are present which can also be seen as conflicting emotions in the protagonist and the struggle to find a place in society. In 451, the contrasting ideas of fire and water are very interesting. The firemen are not as tradition tells, protectors of the people, putting out fires and saving lives, but using fire to burn and destroy literature.
Their role is to destroy, to burn human creativeness. Captain Beatty, chief of the fire department, believes that “fire is bright and fire is clean. ” This idea contradicts the norm of fire is destructive and evil. This represents the twisted ideas of authority, reversing the meaning of words, rewriting them to justify their aims of total control over humanity. The masses fail to see the true meaning of these words, or perhaps they have forgotten. This shows how far the totalitarian government has succeeded in indoctrinating people into believing what ever they wish them to.
However, the protagonists in both novels are depicted as being marginalised because they do not share the same ideas, due to morals and ideals that they can only express in their minds, far from the reach of the state, a lonely free island in a sea of relentless waves. The idea of water by Bradbury is used to cleanse montag’s soul. The water saves Montag, cleansing him of the scent of society, he is thus reborn. In addition, when Montag is trying to escape the helicopters and the mechanical hound, the tools of the totalitarian government, the stream hides and saves him until it is safe to return to land.
Montag indulges himself in the water and “there was only the cold river and Montag floating in a sudden peacefulness, away from the city and the lights and the chase, away from everything” in this the water saves him, purifies him, the opposite of the dystopian symbol, fire. Water is portrayed as the flow of humanity. In 1984, the party uses contrasting ideas in their party slogans such as « War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength » these contrasting ideas represent perfectly the party’s ideals.
The individual and the freedom that comes with it actually results in slavery in the dystopian society, ignorance of the truth of what the party is really about protects you from persecution of the thought police. The use of these contradicting words and the lack of opposition, mean that the party have succeeded in their indoctrination of the masses as no one has the ability to see past the words to see their true sense, even Winston and Julia remain troubled by it. In a dystopian society, the state exerts complete control over its population through oppression, terror and the constant use of propaganda. This is apparent in both novels.
Both novels are predictions of a future controlled by totalitarian states. The thoughtpolice in 1984 use brainwashing, spies and denunciations to control the party however the proles are generally untouched. This is similar to Nazi Germany in that only those who rebelled or were undesirables in society were quashed, the general population remained untouched. By comparing Nazi Germany and the era in which this novel was written, we can see the blatant warning against future governments similar to the National Socialists led by Hitler and the state of terror and oppression and ethic cleansing which was deemed for the greater good.
O’Brien says to Winston “perhaps you have returned to your old idea that the proletarians or the slaves will arise and overthrow us. Put it out of your mind. They are helpless, like the animals. Humanity is the party. ” This shows the view that the totalitarian government controls all that is humanity and the lower classes remain irrelevant because they have neither the knowledge nor the power to overthrow those who control reality. They control the laws of nature, the past, the present and the future.
However, Fahrenheit 451 does not elaborate on the political aims of the ruling party apart from their desire to quash human creativity and the ideas of individuality. Yet it remains a typical part of dystopian ideology to desire to control every aspect of the masses and even humanity itself. The use of the « telescreen » is an interesting concept that is abundant in both texts. The use of the telescreen in Fahrenheit 451 is that this became the populace’s way of interacting with others without physically interacting with them, as people became detached from literature, from freedom.
The people on these televisions were your “family”, who would keep you company and be your “friend”, spurting propaganda and essentially keeping people in check. The telescreen in 1984, shared the same idea but consisted of other more sinister uses such as spying on those suspected of thoughtcrime, revolutionary thoughts against the party, overhearing conversations and playing militaristic key speeches and propaganda techniques seen in Nazi Germany with the peoples radio. However this form of propaganda could never be switched off.
This shows the ingsoc party’s ability to penetrate every single aspect of humanity and society, the idea that « big brother is watching you « is very well demonstrated. This of course being the reason why Winston and Julia were captured and tortured by the state. The use of the Telescreen can be noted in Winston and Julia’s struggle in that they are constantly bombarded by party propaganda, possibly overheard by the party through speakers hidden in the screen. This creates pressure to conform for fear of being found out and sent to the ministry of love for reconditioning.
The underlying fear of the unknown bound them to neither conform nor rebel. They are lost in a society which they cannot escape and do not wish to be a part of, yet they have no choice. I believe that under this amount of pressure, anyone would fall and conform to whatever the Party demands, as the individual is no match for the collective power of the Party. Winston is not just a character in the story, but an idea. Winston is an anachronism. His mind and personality are not defined by the Party slogans, by the Party’s ideas of what he should be.
From his own point of view he is an individual; from the Party’s point of view he is a flaw in the reality it is creating. The story follows Winston and his struggle for individualism and his overpowering feelings of humanity, the very feelings that the party try to destroy, which they eventually do through horrific torture spread over months. O’Brien says to him whilst trying to brainwash him « you are the last man…you are the guardian of the human spirit. » Winston then looks into the mirror and sees the frail creature that he had become.
O’Brien does this to show the extent to which his party can destroy humanity and rebuild it to their designs. He then goes on to say « Do you see that thing facing you? That is the last man. If you are human, that is humanity. » Convincing Winston that his struggle in futile, the control of the party is infinite, they create the law around them to meet their ends of controlling everything, and everyone. Winston is eventually brainwashed and ends up loving bigbrother, thus the aims of the party complete.
In conclusion, the extent to which 1984 refers to a dystopian society compared to Fahrenheit 451 is at once different yet similar. The ideas of the party relate to those of the Nazis and soviet Russia; the lies, the oppression, the propaganda, the removal of civil liberties and the crushing of humanity. However 1984 is an extreme version of this prediction of the future. Fahrenheit explores more the emotional changes in Montag that convinces him to relinquish his part in destroying freedom of expression enforced by the fireman and the state and to embrace his curiosity and his humanity. 984 ends with the destruction of Winston, finally loving bigbrother, his love for Julia destroyed, his individuality crushed they had both failed themselves and each other and lost to power of “Big Brother. ” Orwell was a firm believer in Marxism and the need for the proletarian to rise up and equalise society. These two tales are a warning of the dangers of dystopian societies, the need for humanity to shed this society that has become so desensitised and to be aware of the reliance on technology, before it is too late.