1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell. In the book, the author imagines a totalitarian government that controls people’s thoughts and behavior. Winston Smith, a minor functionary, commits thought crime by entering the love affair with a co-worker and trying to rebel.
The book is very well-written. The plots are intriguing, and I enjoyed the plot twists in the book. The themes are very important to read about as well. Overall, the reading experience as amazing, and it is a great book.
Warning against a dystopian society
–book review of 1984
Imagine living in a world where the Party controls the flow of information, human memories, independent thoughts, language, expressions, interactions, and even daily actions to ensure stability. More scarily, picture living in a world where Thought Police exists, and where people go to jail for having “unorthodox” thoughts on their minds. Picture a dystopian world where Newspeak, a simplified language that serves to brainwash people, dominates human expressions, and where fundamental human values, including honor, justice, morality, and science no longer exist in the human dictionary. Isn’t this horrifying? In the book 1984, George Orwell creates a world exactly like the one described above: where under totalitarian rule, people are dehumanized to thoughtless creatures. Instead of making a prophecy, Orwell tries to warn readers against the extreme outcome of totalitarian governments by creating a dreadful world. According to the Orwell, the success of the Party is achieved through making people ignorant: the ruling party seeks to forfeit the past to control human memory, thus destroying the truth to take control of people’s thoughts, expressions and actions, all favoring the prosperity and stability of the Party itself. By arguing so, Orwell reveals the importance of understanding the past objectively, having independent thoughts, and obtaining freedom in communication and actions.
In 1984, the dystopia manipulates the history record to control human minds. In the first section of the book, Winston, the protagonist, wonders, ” why should one feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?” Winston starts to understand the manipulation method the Party uses: if people are unaware of the past, they would be content of the present and future. The Party controls the past continuously so that people’s memories and thoughts are also under control, as “past and the external world exist only in the mind.” In a conversation with Winston, O’ Brien, the member of the Inner party, says, “we, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past…”
The people, immersed in the wrong information of the past, verify the statement with their actions that “history has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” Without ever knowing what life in the past was like, people in the world created in 1984 were convinced that the Party is the greatest. The propaganda, including “war is peace”, “freedom is slavery”, and “ignorance is strength” purport to be truth to them. The Party leaders understand that as information and the access to right information are under control, they are able to indirectly manipulate the minds of the people. Orwell genuinely believes that independent thoughts and ideas are the key to freedom. Under the brainwashing society of 1984, “orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” Instead of having diverging ideas, ordinary people are convinced that ” whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.” The importance of independent thinking explains why Winston sees thinking as the only hope and only way of resistance in the end of the novel.
The totalitarian society not only alters the past but also monitors people’s minds, dehumanizing people to transparent creatures without personal space. Thought crime, namely the crime of having thoughts unfavorable to the ideals of the Party, is considered the top sin in the envisioned society. As Winston narrates, “it was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen.” Orwell creates the terrifying society of thoughtless people to remind audience of the importance of being free from brainwashing.
Besides controlling thoughts, Orwell establishes a dreadful government that controls language to limit rebellious thoughts. Newspeak, the language for the government is not only the simplified version of Oldspeak, but also creates vocabulary deliberately for political purposes. For instance, words that favor the Party are directly added with positive prefix, adding a positive connotation to the word. Words that express feelings or ideas against the norm of the Party, on the other hand, are associated with negative prefix like “crime” and “bad”. By including the Appendix of the book–“the Principles of Newspeak”, Orwell humorously mocks the absurdity of the totalitarian government, which serves the belief that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
By controlling history, thoughts and language, the Party Orwell envisions eventually manages to control actions of the people. Even though the Party is not able to directly manipulate people’s behavior, through the constant brainwashing process, the Party unconsciously controls the actions of the people so that they support the rule of the totalitarian party. Under the envision, each individual loses its individuality; as Orwell puts it, “the individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual.” The individuals are dehumanized and conformed to a point where individualism no longer exists within themselves because all people care about is the victory of the Party. The ending scene of the book, where Winston loses his rebellious spirits and cheers for the victory faithfully, demonstrates that the Party, by controlling thoughts and language, is able to determine the actions of the individuals.
While Orwell does startle the readers with the dreadful world, it is not his intention. He reveals his own fear of living in a world where people lose liberty, and thus spreads the fear to the audience, who will in turn value independent thoughts and freedom of ideas after reading the book.