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George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian novel which presents an exagerated version of a totalitarian regime which not only controlled everything but which also could not be removed by any means. Orwell’s novel drew attention, back in 1949 when the novel was published, upon how this world would look like if a totalitarian regime would truly take over. My aim for this essay is to analyze Orwell’s novel with respect to the marxist elements present in the novel and also to illustrate their impact upon the protagonist’s feelings.
Marxism and especially Stalinism are present in Orwell’s novel through certain elements: countinuous surveillance, control of the mind, the cult of personality and a supposed “equality” between the Party’s members. Isaac Asimov, in his essay Review of 1984, considers Orwell as a writer with not much of an imagination, accusing him of not developing in the novel the actual communist actions which were happening in reality. “Orwell imagines Great Britain to have gone through a revolution similar to the Russian Revolution and to have gone through all the stages that Soviet development did.
He can think of almost no variations on the theme. I believe, though, that Orwell was an extraordinary visionary who pictured a society chained in nothing but governmental controll, a society which cannot be defeated. A communist concept presented in the novel is that of the powerless individual and of the high disregard the Party had for individualism. Everybody must form a group with everybody – this is the recipe for power, according to any communism regime. In 1984, history is continuously rewritten and in this way, the population’s memories are restricted only to what appears in the remaining articles after rewriting; it can be seen as another way of mind control.
Winston himself discovers that most of what the Party states is lies and towards the end of the novel, when Oceania suddenly becomes enemies with Eastasia, the country with which it had been allies all along, everybody is forced to conceive that they have “always been at war with Eastasia”. Ramesh K. writes in his essay Socio-Cultural Matrix in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four that “history is constantly rewritten to suit the current goals of the Party. Only the destruction of human memory will make it possible.
Hence the Ministry of Truth (Minitru) modifies history perpetually to the tune of the ideals of the Party”. As a result of the rewriting of history is the loss of memories. Nobody remembers how life looked like “before” Big Brother, and yet nobody seems to find it as disturbing as Winston does. He barely remembers his family, and he suspects that most of his memories are only a product of his imagination. He has problems recalling maternal love; he sometimes feels guilty for his parents’ disappearance and he constantly regrets his childhood behavior.
When regarding history, the only existing proof or better said, evidence, of such distant civilizations, ones before Big Brother, is written in censored books, created by the Party itself, with carefully selected details which attempt to illustrate how life is much better in the year of 1984, with the Ingsoc regime, then before the totalitarian era. Truth is continuously distorted and it can be regarded as close to extinction, since nobody has a correct notion of what is or is not true, anymore. Memories are vague and the ones vivid are imposed, influenced by the Party.
The loss of memories the whole society experiences may also be a result of the continuous flow of new information which constantly contradicts the old one and which, in its turn, is recreated over and over again. The process of rewriting history is described in 1984: “This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs – to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance” (Orwell, Part 1, Chapter 4, p. 1).
The cult of personality has a huge influence on Orwell’s dystopia, as on any other totalitarian society. Big Brother has been associated by the critics with Stalin, while his political enemy, another alleged founder of the Party, Emmanuel Goldstein, was seen as the correspondent of Trotsky, Stalin’s enemy in the power struggle from the 1920s. Like Trotsky, Goldstein was deported and excluded from the Party.
According to Isaac Asimov, Orwell’s “enemy was Stalin, and at the time that 1984 was published, Stalin ad ruled the Soviet Union in a ribbreaking bear hug for twenty-five years, had survived a terrible war in which his nation suffered enormous losses and yet was now stronger than ever. To Orwell, it must have seemed that neither time nor fortune could budge Stalin, but that he would live on forever with ever increasing strength. – And that was how Orwell pictured Big Brother”. Big Brother is regarded as immortal, the is no evidence of his actual existence, and even O’Brien hints to the fact that Big Brother is nothing more than the embodiment of the Party.
In the fictional book written by Goldstein he states that “Nobody has ever seen Big Brother. He is a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. We may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already considerable uncertainty as to when he was born. Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world” (Orwell, Part 2, Chapter 9, p. 262). Big Brother was everywhere: “On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrappings of a cigarette packet – everywhere.
Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed—no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull” (Orwell, Part 1, Chapter 2, p. 34). In such a strict society, Winston attempts rebelling against the Party and also falling in love. Once he meets Julia, his double life takes form and he finds himself in a continuous seek for freedom. The relationship between Winston and Julia is, of course, sentenced to permanent influences on behalf of the Party.
They attempt to rebell against it but their rebellion is nothing but a narrowed one, with no actual influence upon the Party. In a world where everything, with no exception, has been adapted to completely new rules, where history is continuously modified and the truth is contorsed over and over again, not even love or friendship remain the same. Winston and Julia are supposed to be in love and moreover, they are supposed to be not only friends, but allies in their fight against the system, but in 1984, in this parallel version of totalitarianism Orwell created, friendship and love would always be darkened by the other’s real identity.
An example for how love is reduced can be found in the episode when Julia attempts to dress up for Winston, when renting the room above the antiquities shop, a room which does not have a telescreen. She hardly manages to become feminin by using a very bad smelling perfume – which brings about awful memories to Winston – and by wearing ugly – and yet different from the Party’s uniform – clothes. It seems like no one has the ability of being romantic any longer, and even more important, no one has the means of being so.
In 1984, no possible love relationship can be imagined and the idea of making love is something strictly forbidden, because making love – and this is something the Party knows very well – makes people happy, and when people are happy, they no longer care for every bad thing that happens in their every day life in the context of a totalitarian society. Julia explained to Winston the Party’s conception: “When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time.
All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot? ” (Orwell, Part 2, Chapter 3, p. 167). In the eyes of the Party, there’s no such thing as love or friendship, and even the existing feelings can only be pointed towards Big Brother, the totalitarian leader who can only be seen on the posters all over the city, which show Big Brother’s portrait and a terrifying slogan: “Big Brother is watching you”.
According to Isaac Asimov “the great Orwellian contribution to future technology is that the television set is two-way, and that the people who are forced to hear and see the television screen can themselves be heard and seen at all times and are under constant supervision even while sleeping or in the bathroom. Hence, the meaning of the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’. ” Love, as already discussed, is distorted, reduced to physical needs (not even physical pleasure).
But, as it is easy to notice, throughout the novel, love remains the Party’s greatest enemy against which they are already fighting through manipulating the children – yet only achieving the destruction of parental love. I consider that children betraying their parents are a symbol and nonetheless, an illustration of what Orwell may have imagined about future generations who will do everything for the Party’s sake – even betray their own mothers and fathers. In my opinion, children when regarded as a symbol, are supposed to “bring the change into the world”.
In 1984 they are the reversed, the opposite version of this concept: children will not change anything, from their point of view, the totalitarian society must and will remain as it is, with few corrections here and there in the history books, when actions and facts begin to contradict with others. “Nearly all children nowadays were horrible [… ] they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party.
On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it. … ]All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children” (Orwell, Chapter 2, p. 31). As a conclusion, 1984 emphasizes not only on the impact of a totalitarian regime upon the society, but also on its impact upon the individual’s soul, feelings and thoughts. Winston and Julia’s rebellion may be described as an abstract one, because they do not really achieve anything.
Oliver Substance, in his essay The Tendency of Man: Nineteen Eighty-Four, states that “to truly be a rebel, all of one’s actions need to be rebellious, not just the one’s involving the basic human urges. Rebels need plans, or else they end up the same way as every other would-be rebel: in Room 101. ” The impact upon the reader has no limit, since the novel leaves so much space for interpretation and continuation. Finally, I would like to end my essay with the following quote from the novel: “If you can FEEL that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them” (Orwell, Part 2, Chapter 7, p. 210).