A Future Totalitarian Society by George Orwell


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Throughout George Orwell’s novel “1984” Orwell describes a future totalitarian society that is so far extreme that it is nearly impossible to oppose the party and live. Everyone must love and be completely devoted to their god-like leader, Big Brother. The book describes in detail the oppression that occurs in Oceania, from the perspective of a rebellious party member, who is eventually caught and forced to convert to the ideology of the party. A major theme in 1984 is a warning against totalitarian societies. Orwell outlines the very concerning aspects of Oceania’s society to show the reader it’s substantial consequences. Orwell effectively uses theme by demonstrating the extreme power and control the Party has from the perspective of a person who still exercises free thought to show its concerning effect on society.

Censorship is a topic of much discussion in many of Orwell’s writings, as he often looks to protect the freedom of speech. In Oceania, censorship is very common, so much so that the Party is able to control what reality it. Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, which works to change documents so that they aline with what the Party wants to be true. They change past documents so that they correspond with the future and after being fed this information, the people believe it too. Now the only places that history exists, in memory and as written documents, have been changed, and the past can be completely controlled. The party utilises this to exercise control over the large population. They can make the people believe anything they want them to. This assures that the people do not hear anything they do not like, and are rather always hearing good things from their country, and bad things from others. For example, the party had to reduce chocolate rations, but instead of telling people this, they announced that the rations were increasing, and replaced any evidence that the amount had ever been any lower. This of course raises suspicion amongst some people who remember what the rations actually were before. This is where the Party encourages the use of doublethink, which is the action of remembering something, but also knowing that the information that replaced it is also true. Eventually the old information is forgotten once the replacement has been accepted. This assures that the party is always right, and anyone who does not agree is in the wrong, and an enemy of the state. This idea of doublethink was not utilised by the protagonist, Winston, in his time of rebellion. As a result he was unable to accept that what the party claimed to be true. He held onto the evidence that claimed the party was being untruthful. However, Winston was very much alone in this action. The large majority of the population had succumbed to the parties ideas, and went on with their life never questioning the party.

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By putting Winston in such a predicament, Orwell is able to in a way anger the reader by only allowing Winston to see the truth. It is very obvious to the reader that the party alters documents, however, still the masses of people believe the things the party makes up. The reader likely shares the feeling Winston has of wanting to know the real truth. This encourages the reader to be confident in what they know is true, and want to protect their free thought, and avoid having it taken and replaced by a group of people. It raises a fear of having your own thought taken over and controlled by someone else, which is unlikely to be desirable to someone who wants to express their own thoughts and ideas.

To further exercise control over the population, the Party lines the streets with posters, frequents parades, and spews propaganda from telescreens in peoples room, to constantly feed and preoccupy the people with the parties ideas. Many luxuries have been removed, leaving the party as the only thing of importance in people lives. This along with the censorship brainwashes the people into making the party the only concern in their lives. Winston is not immediately overtaken by the parties ideology, but instead exists as an enemy, constantly in fear because anyone who has not been brainwashed quite yet is breaking the law, and will be subject to torture, and likely death.

The description of the controlled environment also raises a concern to the reader, as they can notice that this environment would likely suppress the nature of their own thoughts, opinions, and ideas. This would make them enemies of the Party, and put their lives in danger. Using the descriptive environment of Oceania, Orwell is successfully able to warn the reader of signs of control that out the freedom of thought at risk.

Orwell also demonstrates the unstoppable power the Party has by describing the hopelessness of Winston’s situation. Winston, who would likely share the place of a reader who had been placed in the novel, is aware that he will be caught and killed eventually. Nearly every action is recorded and listened in on, and with Winstons increasingly rebellious action, it is only a matter of time before he is caught. Winston does have some hope that a rebellion could happen eventually, but not in his lifetime. This gives the reader some hope throughout the novel, as Winston refuses to give in and lives out his life for himself and against the party. The reader is given a sense of security in Mr. Charrington’s room which leads the reader to believe Winston might be ok. The reader quickly learns that this is not true, and that even in the room winston was being listened to. At the end of the novel Winston is caught and forced through months of torture and therapy to reform, and he eventually is hollowed out and filled with the ideology of the party, being very stubborn in the process. This raises a feeling of hopelessness for anyone who thinks for themselves in the presence of such a strong totalitarian government.

Orwell creates this hopeless situation to show the devastating effects of totalitarianism , especially on free thought. This makes the reader want to assure that this style of government does not formulate, in the fear that they will share a similar fate as Winston’s.

By describing the nature of Oceania’s society in detail, Orwell is able to effectively warn the reader of the dangers of totalitarianism, as an overarching theme to the novel. Orwell is able to show how the freedom of thought and speech can be oppressed, and the consequences that follow as a way of frightening the reader. Also, using Winston as the protagonist makes it easy to see what would happen to someone who still thinks independently. The results are very unfavourable, allowing the reader to conclude that society must be watched, and it must be assured that someone steps up when the early signs of totalitarianism begin to appear in society. 

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