1984: Propaganda and Totalitarianism in Society

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Born in 1903, Eric Blair (better known as George Orwell) had the opportunity to witness an incredible amount of global events, which today are considered infamous in our history books. Orwell lived through both World Wars, the Armenian Genocide, and the Holocaust, to name a few. However, it was the events he experienced as a soldier in the Spanish Civil war which prompted him to write what is widely acknowledged as his most celebrated work to date: 1984. Orwell witnessed the terrifying extent of power which a totalitarian government was able to attain, as well as the methods which were used to achieve its goals and aims. Based off of his experiences as a soldier from 1936-1939, Orwell effectively conveys overarching themes of totalitarianism, propaganda, and independence in his novel by providing the audience with an accurate depiction of the negative connotations and dangers which may result through the abuse of these themes.

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One of the first things Orwell experienced during his military service was the sheer lengths that a totalitarian government would go in order to abolish all forms of individuality. In his novel “1984”, the author effectively expresses these experiences by placing certain restrictions on the Party members in the story. For example, members are forced to wear the same clothes, eat same food, live in identical residences as their fellow comrades. The psychological aspect of this society with no sense of individuality, and one that is extremely basic and orderly, utterly crushes general spirit.

In addition to the Party’s organization of its members, another one of its focal points was to eradicate all forms of individual thought. Having independence with the ongoings in one’s mind was borderline a legal offense. This is why Winston makes his very best efforts in order to keep his thoughtcrime, or his diary, hidden from the eyes of his neighbours and the thoughtpolice as he knows that the Party understands that individual thought can lead to rebellion. Orwell uses O’Brien’s view to represent the perspective of the goals which he believes are held by a totalitarian society. Firstly, individuality must be prohibited in order to promote the goals of the party. In the case of Winston and Julia, they believe they are special as they have frequently committed thoughtcrime and experienced individual thought. However, this belief is crushed when they are arrested. Through this action, Orwell is very clearly cautioning his readers of the loss of individuality which results in the presence of a totalitarian state, thus providing ample evidence of why communism and totalitarian states are not effective forms of government.

Orwell understood that there was one particular factor which made a totalitarian state, a totalitarian state. That factor was propaganda. Through the correct utilization of propaganda, a government could gain total and utter control over its subjects. Orwell represents in “1984” propaganda in the Ministry of Truth, where Winston works, and through the propaganda machine in general. The Party decides exactly what the public will hear, regardless of the accuracy. The audience sees this when the chocolate ration is reduced from thirty to twenty percent, but the Ministry of Truth reconfigured the information so as to support the direction that the Party wished for its members to go in. The propaganda machine rearranged old facts as well as historical figures to support the current position of the Party. Orwell also includes more elementary forms of propaganda. The Two Minutes Hate, required daily participation in Physical Jerks, Hate Week, and the Posters of Big Brother plastered in every extra inch of space, are prime examples of how basic propaganda greatly affected the ideology of the Party Members. The party uses every possible opportunity to force its beliefs on its members. This tactic results in total loyalty. However, Orwell strives to make sure that the readers understand the importance of noting the quality and effectiveness of the loyalty which is the product of the propaganda. Most clearly seen in the Two Minutes Hate, the loyalty of the Party Members is intense and their hatred for the enemies of the Party is burning; this can be easily redirected if the enemy of the Party happens to change. Orwell’s presentation of the power of propaganda through the Ministry of Truth, the Two Minutes Hate, and other standard forms of propaganda support his warnings against the problems of totalitarianism. Orwell portrays the following idea to his audience: If propaganda rules all information, it is impossible to have any idea of true reality. The world is as the Party defines it

Although the elimination of individualistic traits and characteristics, as well as the effectiveness of propaganda in “1984”, Orwell’s main goal was to warn of the serious danger totalitarianism poses to society. He goes to great lengths to demonstrate the terrifying degree of power and control a totalitarian regime can acquire and maintain. In such regimes, as he so clearly demonstrated in “1984”, the personal rights of an individual as well as their thoughts and beliefs are discarded and overrun with the ideology which the government wishes for them to follow. The Party and Oceania on the whole present a totalitarian state. Through the actions which took place in “1984”, Orwell gave the world a glimpse of what it might look like in the foreseeable future if it decided to follow the ideologies of communism, instead of turning their back on it and pulverizing it right away. The readers were shown that the Party is unflawed in its absolute control over society, as evidenced by its ability to break an independent thinker such, like Winston. The Party also mastered every form and aspect of psychological control, largely through utilizing technological developments to their advantage. In finishing the novel with Winston utterly broken and defeated, Orwell clearly suggests that there is no hope for reducing the expansion or growth of such a perfectly established totalitarian regime. Orwell warns that at the time, this reality was a very possible one, as long as the world embraced communism and totalitarianism.

In conclusion, any person who read “1984” and was able understand the key themes of Orwell’s “1984” in the time period in which is was released, was clearly made aware of the extreme dangers posed by a totalitarian society. The themes of propaganda effectiveness, abolishment of individuality, and the downsides of totalitarianism were greatly exposed through Orwell’s well developed thoughts which derived from his own personal experiences and beliefs throughout this cautionary tale. Based off of his experiences as a soldier from 1936-1939, Orwell was very effectively able to convey overarching themes of totalitarianism, propaganda, and independence in his novel by providing the audience with an accurate depiction of the negative connotations and dangers which so clearly resulted through the abuse of said themes.

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