The book 1984, written by George Orwell, talks about a negative utopia, under the rule of a totalitarian government. This book is amongst some of the most interesting works of literature I have read and caused me to ponder heavily on some new concepts it introduced.
The book is set in the year 1984 in the city of London. After WWII has ended, there was a war that started to overthrow the communism in England and replaced it with a totalitarian government, known as INGSOC, this battle is later referred to as the Revolution. London is part of the nation of Oceana, which is constantly at war against either Eurasia or Eastasia, and is allies with another. INGSOC is able to erase all individuality, and manipulate reality. They separate the world into three sections of the inner party, outer party, and the proles, with the inner party being the most privileged and powerful, and the proles being close to slaves. They control the people with an iron fist, keeping them monitored at all times, and manipulate their thoughts using a ton of political propaganda and a language they devised called Newspeak. Anyone who dare step outside the box of the herd of brainwashed sheep will the vaporized, being erased out of worlds as well as the minds of the people.
The general plot of this book circles around our protagonist, Winston Smith, a member of the outer party who works at the Ministry of Truth helping with the edit of documents. Winston introduces us to this world and presents his own perspectives towards it. His desire for a revolution to change the current styles of living together with his rebellious spirit help moves the plot forward, and we are able to discover the perspectives of INGSOC as well as the brainwashed people in this process. The first half of the book revolves around these thoughts of rebellion as well as his love with Julia, another rebel. The second half of the book, which is also its climax, talks about his imprisonment when his thought crimes have come to light and the gradual perversion of his mind thanks to the brain-washing methods of the Party. The story ends with a completely brain-washed Winston who has lost all his individuality as well all his previous desires. The entire book ends with the words, “He loved Big Brother.” (Big Brother is the leader of INGSOC and he is their symbol. His face is placed everywhere from posters, coins, to the videos shown on the no longer fictional telescreen which acts as a television and a monitoring device. Big Brother’s face is always accompanied with the caption: ‘Big Brother is watching’.)
Doublethink is an interesting concept introduced in this book. It is basically the ability to hold two opposing opinions, mostly due to the influence of the government, at the same time. For example, I really like my Aunt Betsy since she is nice to me, but thanks to my parents constantly telling me how she is horrible to them and judgmental to the family, I has some distaste for her. Due to the promotion of my parents I now hold two opinions of Aunt Betsy that oppose one another, yet coexisted; this is the process of doublethink. In this book doublethink extremely common to a point of necessity, and INGSOC achieved this either by propaganda or by brain-washing. This concept alarmed me very much since I realized that I myself am starting to develop doublethink. Thanks to the constant bashing of the major media, my original political, social, or personal values are slightly affected, as an opposing concept is introduced. Though I still firmly believe on my original values, it is also true that I find the opposing opinion relatable, thus holding both in my mind at the same time. I realized the immense power that the media can have on the minds of the people, and what is scarier is they so subtly achieving this that I wasn't even able to notice anything out of the ordinary, what makes this worse is that there are many news today that are biased, fake, or partial. These events really lead you to question free will itself, seeing that the media nowadays can change your opinions and values almost as easily as you would change channels. What is somewhat a consolation though, is that at least we have freedom of speech, and a range of options to let our thoughts be heard to the world, and to hear other people’s thoughts, thus making any possible brainwashing done by the major media harder to achieve.
1984 George Orwell Movie Trailer
1984 also has a unique take on the definition of reality itself. The Ministry of Truth where Winston works helps with the manipulation of documents and literature. They even change history itself. For example, they claimed that they were the ones to invent the airplanes and etc., and destroying or alternating any documents that might disagree with them. The question presented here if there is no proof against the fact that INGSOC invented airplanes, and with everyone believing that INGSOC did invent airplanes, does INGSOC inventing the airplanes become the reality? You might argue that the truth is what really happened, and that is reality, but here comes another question. During Winston’s captivation O’Brien held up 4 fingers and told him that he held up 5. Winston kept saying it was 4 fingers, regardless of the torture due to his opposition saying that “you cannot change reality”. Winston then receives an electric shock directly at his temples, causing him to see everything in a blur, thus making the 4 fingers O’Brien had held up to 5 fingers. Here come the question, how can we know that the 4 fingers we see is truly 4 fingers? How can we be absolutely certain? If Winston’s perspective can be easily changed with an electric shock, how can we be sure that the 5 fingers he was seeing is not the reality, and that the 5 fingers is not what everyone else sees? How can we be so sure of our senses and trust them to be reliable to the perception of reality? The final dilemma is that if for example, I say that I’m floating in the air, despite the fact that I’m not. If everyone in the world ‘sees’ that I am floating in the air and believes it wholeheartedly, am I floating in the air? In a sense, if everyone including myself sees it, then yes, in another sense, no. These are just some of the questions presented in the book that has filled me with doublethink.
1984 was written as a warning to us after George Orwell has seen the terrors of the dictatorship of the Soviet Union. The totalitarianism of Hitler also fueled this book, as it became what I would believe as one of his best works. In this article I discussed only a small portion of this book, and I hope that you will get to read this book yourself.