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Orwell’s point through Winston is that those who care are insufficient on their own, a singly party state of the tyrannical nature of Ingsoc can only be overcome by a combined effort of the people: an uprising of the proles, Winston stands alone and is so crushed beneath the boot of Big Brother. Winston’s shares Orwell’s frustration over the matter of the proletariat, Orwell felt that he could see the world letting its freedom slide into the hands of a select few, he knew that it could be stopped if only people could be convinced that they were losing their liberty.
However he also felt that this decent into totalitarian control was inevitable and that the people of the world could never be persuaded to take a stand, we can see this through the words of O’Brien when he is torturing Winston: “The programme it sets forth is nonsense. The secret accumulation of knowledge – a gradual spread of enlightenment- ultimately a proletarian rebellion- the overthrow of the Party… It is all nonsense, the proletarians will never revolt, not in thousand years of a million. They cannot… The rule of the party is forever, make that the starting-point for your thoughts.
“18 Julia is of a similar caste to Winston, in that she represents the politicly active, however she is representative not of those who are benevolently crusading for justice and freedom, instead she represents those who rebel selfishly. She fights for her own good, for physical pleasure, not intellectual freedom as Winston does. Orwell uses her to illustrate another point: she does not require nearly so much reindoctrination at the conclusion of the novel, this is because she is not as “true” a political activist in Orwell’s mind.
The point he is trying to show the reader through her existence is that those whose dissent is selfish are merely superficially seditious, and their political convictions are irrelevant. Again he shows us that those who stand alone cannot succeed against a totalitarian state. Through Julia and Winston as a pair Orwell demonises the state by showing that it destroys love. The last thing within Winston that is torn from him is his love of Julia, and it is at this point that he makes the change from Man to Shell.
The last character O’Brien in description seems calm, reasonable, manipulative and easy to talk to, he is glib and quick witted. He is Orwell’s representative of the Party, he is almost Satanic in the way that he converts and perverts those that try to battle wits with him, he is insidious in spreading the propaganda of the party and converting, then destroying those who rebel. Harbinger of pain and suffering, he is the penultimate evil and representative of all that Orwell hates.
Orwell makes him out to be despicable, obviously he is psychopathic, without feeling or remorse, and his sense of morality is so twisted that it is barely recognisable as human sentiment, but Orwell’s technique goes further than this, he even describes him as physically ugly: “There were pouches under the eyes, the skin sagged away from the cheekbones” However the Author’s purpose in creating O’Brien is to primarily to allow him to explore the political message that he wants to write of in more detail.
Whilst a generic and simplistic political message such as “Totalitarian systems are bad” is a relatively simple to encode into the plot of a text such as this, it is far more complex if the author wishes to discuss the specifics of politics. As Orwell was primarily an essayist he was not used to showing his beliefs in such a generalised way as a conventional political fiction would allow, so it was necessary to find a way to examine the political doctrine of a centralised economy in detail, but more than that it needed to be accessible to the average reader.
It was with these needs in mind that Orwell devised O’Brien’s role in the plot, it is his discussions with Winston over the party politics that Orwell uses to explore these concepts with the reader. When O’Brien explains, it is Orwell who wants to show the reader something. For example Orwell uses O’Brien to present his thesis that power is not a means, it is an end. Orwell took great pride in writing “prose like a window-pane”, he believed in a similar doctrine of writing to Gustave Flaubert, in that a writer should appear no more in his work than God does in nature.
However where Flaubert was trying to write a realist novel, Orwell’s work is more naturalistic in its style. The descriptions are clipped and precise, and flowery language is not to be found within the pages of the novel. His dry, clipped style adds perfectly to the anguish he describes in his foretelling of the future. The book is primarily dominated by narrative, Orwell is only interested in Winston’s conversations so far as they serve his political purpose, and outside the Ministry of Love, almost all of Winston’s conversations are too censored to show any political belief whatsoever.
Therefore Orwell is forced to focus his work on the thoughts of Winston to explore his political ideas. There are certain themes that Orwell uses to better portray the ideas that he wishes to explore. Primarily there is the theme of the destruction of love, Family love: between Winston’s family, and between the Parsons family who live next door. Sexual love: between Julia and Winston. Platonic love: between friends. All these ideals the Party has destroyed. This is just a fairly simple way for Orwell to engender a hate for the Party in his reader, a hate which would enhance Orwell’s political message on the evils of totalitarianism.
Other more subtle metaphors and literary methods that Orwell uses are: the glass paperweight is used to represent freedom from the Party. It is bought when Winston first begins to deviate from the Party doctrine, and it is finally smashed by the guard when Winston is captured. Here we see that the coral, like his freedom, was actually far smaller than it appeared within the glass. Through the same area of the book the Rhyme of St Clements is used by Orwell to establish a growing tension, and is symbolic of the inevitable end to Julia and Winston’s affair.
This happens because as one reads the text the reader doubtless remembers the full poem, knowing the final line “Here comes a chopper to chop off your head”, it is hard to relax as one sees its approach. This increase in tension serves Orwell’s political purpose he wishes to focus the reader on the helplessness before the Party that Winston and Julia are victim to, the feeling that their defeat is inevitable adds to this, and is furthered by Orwell’s use of the Rhyme.
Above all Orwell’s literary methods serve to create a book that has stood as one of the greatest political writings of all time, these techniques have allowed Orwell to write a novel that is impossible to read without being changed forever. Merely skimming through the text for the sake of escapism, which surely was never Orwell’s purpose, it is inevitable that Orwell’s political beliefs will leave their mark on the reader.
This novel has spawned a thousand fictions of its type, and many great works such as the novel A Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood or the film Brazil owe their lineage to the work of Orwell. More than this the ideas that his idea of language as explored in the book have influenced the English tongue forever, words such as “Doublethink” and “Newspeak” will go down in the dictionary for all time, as will an adjective that I think he would be proud of “Orwellian”. However the scope of influence of Nineteen Eighty-four goes beyond literature even beyond language, to the very subject on which he was commenting.
Nineteen Eighty-four changed politics forever, Orwell’s warning, along with others of the time was indeed heeded, and humanity was diverted from a path that could easily have been as self-destructive as that described in the novel. I believe that congratulations are in order to the great man George Orwell for producing a political fiction that has eternally changed mankind, Thankyou.
19 Matt Jackson Bibliography Greenblatt, S. Three modern Satirists: Waugh, Orwell, and Huxley. C1965 Yale University Press. Orwell, G.Letter to Francis A. Henson (extract) [New York Times book review, 31st July 1949. ] [Life, 25th July 1949] Orwell, G. Politics and the English Language Horizon, April 1946 Burnham, J. The Managerial Revolution 1941; John Day & Co. Orwell, G. Letter to Roger Senhouse 26th December 1948 Ranald, R. A. George Orwell’s 1984,1965;
Monarch Press. Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We 1972 Penguin (First published in English in the USA 1924) Orwell, G. Letter to F. J. Warburg 31st May 1947 Orwell, G. Nineteen Eighty-four; 1949, Secker and Warburg Distopia [online] [cited 27/03/2002].
Available on the World Wide Web URL: http://www. geocities. com/Athens/Delphi/1634/Distopia. html Rucco, A. A Text Response Guide to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. 1993 Wizard books. 1 Greenblatt, S. Three modern Satirists: Waugh, Orwell, and Huxley. (p. 66) 2 Orwell, G. Letter to Francis A. Henson (extract) [New York Times book review, 31st July 1949. ] [Life, 25th July 1949] 3 Greenblatt, S. Loc. cit. (p. 66) 4 Orwell, G. “Politics and the English Language” Horizon, April 1946.
5 Burnham, J. The Managerial Revolution 6 Orwell, G. Letter to Roger Senhouse 26th December 1948 7 Ranald, R. George Orwell’s 1984 (p. 119) 8 Zamyatin, Y. We 1972 Penguin 9 Orwell, G. Letter to F. J. Warburg 31st May 1947 10 Orwell G. Nineteen Eighty-four; 1949 11 ibid. 12 Orwell, G. Letter to Francis A. Henson; loc. cit 13 Distopia [online] [cited 27/03/2002] 14 Yea I need to dig up a couple of references here I know…
I am working on it; the only catch is I cannot actually remember where I read half this stuff…. :(15 Orwell, G. Nineteen Eighty-four Loc. cit. 16 Ok, this idea is essentially one of my own, but it was extrapolated from a point that you made in conversation the other day, I would like to reference this if I can, any suggestions on how to do it? 17 Rucco, A. A Text Response Guide to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four 18 Orwell G. Nineteen Eighty-four Loc. cit. 19 Sorry I will do something about the conclusion, I know its wanky but it is 2. 30 in the morning and I think I am losing the ability to construct coherent sentences.