Vivid Symbolism in ‘1984’ and in ‘V for Vendetta’
Both in ‘1984’ and in ‘V for Vendetta’, vivid symbolism allows the reader to catch the meaningful message hidden behind the words. They include a message addressing society today to think about the dangers of totalitarian societies. 1984 is a novel written by George Orwell and is set in a society where civilians are strictly controlled by the party on behalf of the Big Brothers. Similarly, V for Vendetta is a movie set in a world where it has been changed by war, famine, and disease, the government took over civilians’ freedom in exchange for happiness. The two stories are warning us of the importance of free thought and speech by using numerous symbolism it.
Winston: Main Character
Governments’ surveillance of the people is seen both in 1984 and in V for Vendetta. In Oceania, a superstate where Winston the main protagonist lives, the government places microphones and telescreens in public spaces and private homes. The Telescreen is an addictive content provider of broadcast news, weather reports, and interactive exercise videos. At the same time, it can detect sounds above a whisper and movement within its field of vision. Although in Winston’s apartment it can be dimmed, it can’t be turned off completely. All the civilians are watched every minute of their lifetime and in the novel, it said: ‘…no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.’.Similarly in V for Vendetta, the people are regularly surveilled by men working for the party patrolling the city listening to people’s conversations in their special vans with antennas on its top. When Finch, a police officer who has the ‘feeling’ there is something that is kept secret of the government that the citizens have to know, asks his subordinate whether or not he has the will to know the truth of the party, Finch puts on the anti-audio-surveillance device to prevent them from being listened to. Today we also do have audio and video surveillance in shops, airports, public parts of cit,ies and in our homes. And this loss of privacy is the trade-off that we make for increased security and convenience. We also willingly give out personal information through social networks. Many who use SNS frequently is showing the world, when what were we live, and like or comment on post appealing their characteristics. In our era, living in democracies, Big Brothers and Sutler is not a totalitarian government able to alter the consciousness of its citizens through various forms of torture. Instead, they are in each of us. We are watching each other. Telescreen and the audio-surveillance van are a symbol of the government ascertaining the citizens to find anybody that has rebellious thoughts. Both stories may be too extreme in the way the government copes with citizens’ thoughts, it is a trigger to think about our daily life today in a society where we are watching each other.
In Oceania, Winston’s job is to adjust financial and weather forecasts so that the ‘Big Brothers’ prediction is always correct. He also removes references to ‘unpersons’ or ‘vaporize’ political dissidents, and he rewrites history so that Oceania appears always to have been at war with Eastasia or with Eurasia. The central tenet of Igsoc is that the past is mutable and it has ‘no objective existence’. It states that it exists only in ‘written records and inhuman memories’. This idea is also seen in V for Vendetta. After the first night of the parliament explosion and the Orchestra music resounding from all the speakers in London. Sutler orders to add the piece of music to the ‘blacklist’. Although it is not explained what ‘blacklist’ is, we can guess that the citizens do not have the freedom to know the past from Gordan’s words to Evey, ‘you are my least worries’. Right after this scene, Gordon shows his secret room where he keeps documents such as the Quran. Borrowing Orwell’s words, the purpose of Winston’s job of rewriting the records and the existence of the blacklist is ‘narrowing the range of thoughts’. These acts of a government taking the freedom to know the true past is symbolizing how the governors do not want the citizens to be conscious enough to question them.
Not only in the past, but both governments also input false news to their citizens for the same reason. In V for Vendetta, after V`s attack at the TV station, the only TV program in London BTN reported that V was dead, even though they had evidence of him captured in the surveillance camera that he is still alive. Also when November the 5th was approaching, Sutler made all the news reports of the imaginary chaotic situation Likewise in 1984, the Telescreen tells lie about which country they are fighting against. One reason Winston was being tortured was that he noticed that the report was contradicting what they said the day before. Just like the news work in our time where the media are not concerned about honesty in giving people the correct information but to fabricate and give the news to lead the people to think in a particular way. For example, the Japanese state-run TV program, NHK, rarely reports what is going on in another country other than those which are related closely to Japan. It also tends to hide information about the wrongdoings of the Japanese government. Telescreen and BTN are symbolically warning us to stay conscious of what is going on in reality. To not rely on a single news report and to maintain the eyes to catch the true news.
V wears a Guy Fawkes mask which in modern society generally indicates anarchism, disobedience, and revolution. Guy Fawkes is the man who planned to blow up the Parliament in the 16th century but was caught before he succeeded it. Wearing this mask, V quotes ‘ fear got the best in you and in your panic, you turned to the now high chancellor Adam sutler, he promised you to order, he promised you peace and only demanded you in return was your silent obedient consent.’ the video of his state this was broadcasted when he hijacked the BTN. Mctigue probably worded ‘Fear’ and ‘Consent’ deliberately to remind Thomas Hobbes’s words. In Leviathan a book in which Thomas wrote his philosophy, it says one, Government power justified by the consent of the people ( you have to consent to your government having the power of you), two, It is human nature to fear death above all else. Any government that provides peace, order, stability and relieves us from the constant fear for our lives must be necessarily better than the state of nature no matter how oppressive it may be. Under this philosophy Sutler`s government is justified. A because people voted him into power and B because his regime brought people out of the state of nature by relieving them of that constant fear of death. To Hobbes, these are the only two requirements. Fundamentally, fear of death is the governing principle of human actions in Hobbes` political philosophy. However, it is V that rebels against this idea. He does not think the Sutlers government should be justified. Winston also thinks the same. On the opening page, Winston is writing an illegal diary. Diary is a place to record one`s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Those things in life that impress us and remind us of our humanity. It is the act of self-expression a creative act where we give voice to our inner thoughts and put them down on paper. For Winston, all such expression is a revolutionary act to show protest against the Party. The thought police have made it criminal to have your thought, let alone engage in the act of expressing them and putting them in a semi-permanent form. Winston`s diary and V`s mask is symbolizing their desire to fight against the control of the government and to win freedom over happiness.
In Winston`s world, all his actions and noise he makes are monitored by the government, likewise in V for Vendetta a van is running all day listening to what people are talking about in their private houses. Telescreens and BTN report false news to make people ‘narrow the range of thoughts’ and for the same reason, the past is hidden or rewritten in both worlds. As Winston`s journal and V`s masks symbolize, rebellion towards the government has long been an incident that occurs regularly in all societies. When Napoleon stood up, people said it was a ‘revolution’, but when the twin tower was hit by al-Qaeda force people said it was ‘terrorism’. 1984 and V for Vendetta used various symbolic expressions to question people the guideline, when terrorism is justified and when not. We all have to pay attention to what we are facing right now and sustain the ability to critically think.