Here is a copy of the essay if it is hard to read on google docs:
A Cold Day in April
By the end of World War II, the United States and many European nations had spent millions of dollars to win a fight against tyrannical, imperialistic nations like Germany, Japan, and Italy to restore order and democracy back to their peoples. The year 1949 was a time when the war was completed, but some Western civilizations were still losing their freedom to think and learn. Because of these events, George Orwell, in his critical novel 1984, describes a future society in a state of dystopia, where a totalitarian government censors the citizens of a nation called Oceania and constricts their basic human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While most of the population shows no concern over the lack of freedom, one man named Winston Smith attempts to overcome the constant surveillance and oppression from the tyrannical dictatorship government led Big Brother. Basic ideals such as freedom of speech, religion, and press are suppressed, but Winston rebels against authority by reading books, writing thoughts, and feeling love. In 1984, George Orwell proves that through surveillance, manipulation of language, and the prohibition of individuality, a totalitarian government can gain complete control over its citizens.
Orwell uses the government of Oceania and its monitoring of actions and thoughts to demonstrate how totalitarian governments will do anything possible to maintain absolute power and to establish an assured devotion from their citizens. The government, who is controlled by a group of people called the “the Party,” first makes use of modern technology to influence its citizens primarily through the “telescreens”. These devices are almost like televisions that are scattered throughout each city and are used to spy on the everyday actions of people and listen in to everything they say. By doing this, the Party constricts the basic rights of every individual and limits personal freedom tremendously. Citizens are no longer able to express themselves and are forced to live in a constant fear of upsetting the government. To keep their people on edge, the Party has created an imaginary political figure called “Big Brother” who is pictured on thousands of posters and monitors everywhere they look. Orwell describes, “On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran” (Orwell 1-2). Orwell uses this figure of a man as a symbol for dictatorships around the world. At all times, these supreme leaders keep their citizens on edge requiring them to always think before they act. It is easy for a population to criticize their leaders, and it is common for them to rally together against a common enemy. Consequently, if the government surveillance workers of Oceania see or hear anyone mentioning anything negative about the Party, a group of law enforcement officers called the “Thought Police” will arrest them. This police force is present to ensure absolute loyalty from everyone. If anyone exhibits signs of disagreement or hatred toward Big Brother, they will be apprehended and taken to a special prison to be tortured and possibly executed. Not only does the Party use telescreens to watch its people, they have also brainwashed the youth by teaching them to spy on their parents. As a result, an organization is created called the “Junior Spies,” which consists of kids, are trained to report any acts of disloyalty from their parents. Winston is harassed by two “Junior Spies” when he ventures to Mrs. Parson’s house to help his neighbor with the plumbing one day. There, her two kids act like animals by annoying Winston and calling him a “traitor” and “thought-criminal” (Orwell 23). This kind of behavior from children occurs in almost every household and has to be dealt with by all parents throughout society. Winston sympathizes with her by believing that the “wretched woman must lead a life of terror,” and that “it was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children” (Orwell 24). Because parents no longer have any control over their kids, the Party is able to create a feeling of admiration and obsession within their minds. If children all around adore the Party and everything that represents it, the future population will only consist of an army of robot-like individuals controlled by the government. By describing how the Party is working to brainwash the future generation of citizens, Orwell is foreshadowing the eventual doom of all past cultures and individual freedoms in Oceania and all totalitarian governments. Critic Malcolm R. Thorp agrees that this is mostly due to terror that the government installs in its people. He writes in his article, “On the surface, at least, the methods of terror Ingsoc employs are typical of the ruthless means totalitarian regimes use in the twentieth century. For example, purges and ‘vaporizations’ of internal dissidents are thought an essential part of the mechanics of a government which uses conventional instruments of brutality as truncheons, machine guns, grenades, bombs, rockets, hidden microphones, dictaphones, two-way televisions, and police helicopter patrols” (Thorp 10). Thorp believes that a large part of the fear the citizens have of Big Brother comes from the belief that some form of brute force or punishment will be used on them if they break the rules. All of these instances of extreme government control, which are used a lot in authoritarian-led nations, scares the citizens to comply with everything they are told to do. Thorp believes this use of “mass psychology” puts society into a state of “emotional frenzy” where they have to think about everything they say, do, and speak. Orwell is telling the reader how citizens who always watch their back, who remain in fear of their government, and who are oppressed through excessive regulation, causes society to slip into a dysfunctional state.
Orwell reveals that totalitarian governments manipulate history and language in order to gain and maintain total control over the population, resulting in a loss of individualism and free thought. Reality only exists within the human mind. The “truth” one believes can be created or altered to fit a certain narrative. The government of Oceania does exactly this by creating a language called Newspeak. The Party has removed specific words from existence that are “unimportant” or no longer used. Some words such as “democracy, honor, justice, science, and religion had ceased to exist” (Orwell 305). By removing words that oppose the Party’s ideals, the thoughts that come with them are erased completely from reality. People are no longer able to correspond their thinking with a word that represents it. Winston meets up with one of his friends, Syme, at the Victory Coffee shop. Syme works in the Research Department and has a duty to help change and update the Newspeak dictionary. Syme tells Winston, “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it” (Orwell 52). The Party has instructed Syme and the people he works with to destroy any words that lead to an individual committing thoughtcrime. The Party is gradually shrinking the size of their vocabulary year after year. They get rid of these words and also the synonyms and antonyms of existing words. The Party believes that every concept needed to be expressed can be done through the use of only one word which has a rigid definition and no other meanings. Syme predicts that eventually all literature of the past will be wiped out, there will be no thought whatsoever, and intellectual conversations will cease to exist. Orwell uses Syme to reveal the true intentions of the Party, which illuminates what totalitarian governments desire to do with their people. They wish to create a population of simple minded individuals who do not think about anything else except about their love for their leader, doing so ensures that they will always remain in power. Not only does the Party manipulate Oceania’s language, but also their history. They are able to convince people and students in school that certain events happened and others never happened at all. One example of this is how the Party convinces its citizens that they are in a constant state of war with Eurasia or Eastasia. By keeping the people united together against one common enemy, they are able to keep a sense of patriotism and love for their country. This tactic keeps the people blind from the fact they are living under an oppressive government. Through this instated hate for foreign nations, the people want nothing to do with any sort of foreign values. Therefore, any outside ideas or beliefs that may threaten the Party’s power are kept out of the minds of the citizens. As a result, they are left with nothing to hold as a comparison to their own nation. One of the mottos of the Party is “WAR IS PEACE.” This paradoxical statement is actually true. If Oceania is always in conflict with other states, any sort of hatred felt within the public will not be turned toward the Party, but instead to these foreign enemies. Through warfare, Oceania and its people will remain in a state of “peace.” Another example of history being changed is through the actions of the Ministry of Truth and the job Winston works there. This branch of the government is concerned with creating words and altering the language of Newspeak, and also in news media, art, literature, and entertainment. They hire workers to rewrite history, change facts, and spread propaganda to fit the Pary’s doctrine. If Big Brother is wrong about something or makes any sort of mistake, the ministry is there to make it accurate and to make sure government decisions always seems right. They have the ability to convince the population to change enemies and allies during the middle of a war or even to change names or records of people the government has mistakenly hired or fired. Anything that would imply that the government was not smart or was weak is erased and replaced with false information giving the Party a positive appearance. Ultimately, this place where Winston himself is employed, is as corrupt as a government can get. Orwell uses this branch of government to depict how authoritarians must maintain an appealing image to its people at all times. They are able do this by creating loads of fake news, spreading false stories, and removing or replacing events in all records, all for the purpose of creating an image of a perfect government. Orwell believes this is dangerous because a group of people who are uneducated and who do not understand the truth about their nation’s past do not have anything with which to compare the present, which means past mistakes are bound to happen again. Orwell is arguing that a nation is unsustainable in the long run if its people are unaware of the history behind their founding and the truth about the actions of their government.
Orwell illustrates how the oppressive regulation by authoritarian governments leads to a constriction of human feelings and emotion, causing society to collapse into a state of isolation. The Party has another method of controlling the citizens of Oceania and that is by forbidding relationships formed by love. Love is not allowed, except for a love towards “Big Brother.” This belief is demonstrated when Orwell stresses, "There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother" (Orwell 34). In the novel, Orwell describes the hidden relationship of Winston and Julia. The two lovers commit a serious crime by having their secret sex meetings. However, they each desire to do it for different reasons. Winston is attracted to the fact that by having sex, they are defying Big Brother. In fact, his love for Julia grows when he discovers the large amount of men with whom she has slept. On the other hand, Julia sees sex as just an act of pleasure, and she desires it for the feeling. The two say they love each other, but they were brought together in order to fulfill some other desire that they have. Orwell is claiming that excessive regulations and policies that limit one’s individual freedom lead to citizens becoming isolated from one another. By prohibiting someone from participating in something that comes naturally to the human body, the government is dehumanizing its people. At one point in the novel, Winston and Julia are together up in the small room above Mr. Charrington’s shop. After making love together, Julia gets up to wander around the room and she picks up a glass paper weight. She asks Winston what he thinks of it. He responds saying “I don’t think it’s anything--I mean I don’t think it was ever put to any use. That’s what I like about it. It’s a little chunk of history that they’ve forgotten to alter. It’s a message from a hundred years ago, if one knew how to read it” (Orwell 145). Orwell uses this glass paperweight as a symbol representing the past. The weight was made many years ago when craftsmanship and private business was allowed and during a time when people were able to express their creativity and make such beautiful pieces of artwork. More importantly, it was a time when people were free to feel love and get married happily because of their emotional connections with their partner. Orwell uses this symbol to explain how before the Party was in control, it was normal for people to have relationship like Winston and Julia, which is one filled with passion and sexual desire. He is saying how the only resemblance of this past is found in that one room and how the rest of society has already slipped into a state of emotional and moral decay. Without experiencing these necessary human feelings, society and relationships between humans in general will no longer exist. Orwell is describing a possible outcome of a nation and its people if overbearing governments continue to stop their citizens from just being human. Literary critic Piers H.G Stephens elaborates on the meaning of the paperweight saying, “As a lasting, decorative, and lovingly made object rather than a mechanically functional or power-driven one, it symbolises the emotional integrity and the fidelity feelings over time that Winston and Julia aspire to, counterpointing the Party realpolitik of betrayal and shifting allegiances” (Stephens 88). In the novel Orwell describes it as: ‘The paperweight was the room he was in, and the coral was Julia's life and his own, fixed in a sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal" (Orwell 147). Towards the end of the book, the thought police finally catch Julia and Winston breaking the law. At the moment of the arrest, the authorities smash the paper weight, shattering glass everywhere. Stephens argues that “Like the thrush's song, [this scene] symbolically offers a vision of human experience and potential that is both wider scope and, for this very reason, more naturalistic than the solipsistic, intellectualised power worship represented by the Party” (Stephens 88). The emotional expression of singing the thrush's song and the glass paper weight both show how these feelings are necessary to human life. Stephens believes that these happy feelings support things like the “possibilities of free psychological growth,” the “recognition of beauty” (Stephens 88), and the bonding of experiences over time. The Party, he argues, constricts these things from happening. He agrees with Orwell in that totalitarian regimes who ban or over-regulate certain actions that allow individual expression need to be destroyed. Orwell is providing a warning to all readers the possibilities of what could happen if the government oversteps its boundaries in the lives of its people.
Orwell describes the deception used by the government of Oceania and how they create a false illusion of reality in order to explain how totalitarian governments are able to brainwash their citizens. In the story, Winston meets a man named O’Brien who convinces him that he is a member of a secret, rebel group called the Brotherhood. Winston befriends O’Brien because of his common interest of overthrowing the Party. O’Brien is actually a member of the Inner Party and tricks Winston into joining his group in order to catch him in an act of disloyalty. When O’Brien has taken Winston to the interrogation room to try to brainwash him, Orwell writes, “The terrible thing thought Winston, the terrible thing was that when O’Brien said this he would believe it. You could see it in his face. O’Brien knew everything” (Orwell 262.) O’Brien had known everything about Winston and about the Party the entire time. He lies and says he does not for the purpose of getting Winston to believe he was a rebel too. This act of deception is one example of how Orwell depicts what a totalitarian government would go at lengths to do to enforce its policies. O’Brien became who he needed to be to find out information about Winston and to get him to rebel against Big Brother. Winston realizes his mistake when he sees O’Brien in the jail cell and he shouts, “They’ve got you too!” O’Brien replies, “They got me long ago” (Orwell 238). O’Brien here reveals that he in fact works for the Ministry of Love and that he was converted to a loyal Party member a long time ago. Orwell uses O’Brien to represent the Party and a product of totalitarian governments. O’Brien cannot remember much about his past except for the fact that he might have once been a doubter like Winston. A long time ago, the Party had put him through exact same pain. The deception used by O’Brien is a representation of just one corrupt way an authoritarian might catch its people rebelling against the state. They might also brainwash their citizens through an extreme infliction of pain and torture to the individual. Winston refuses to accept anything the Party requires him to believe, so O’Brien has no choice but to take him to “Room 101.” Winston asks what is in this room, and O’Brien responds, “You know what is in Room 101, Winston. Everyone knows what is in Room 101” (Orwell 260). Everyone knows what is there because the Party uses everyone’s worst fear or phobia to get them to give up their beliefs. O’Brien uses Winston’s fear of rats to get him to betray his lover Julia. This horrible act created by the government to get people to become loyal Party members is used by Orwell to fully open the eyes of the reader to what is actually happening in totalitarian regimes around the world. Orwell thinks that some nations in the 1940s were slowly slipping into a state of dystopia as their governments gained more and more control over their people. Literary critic James Connors believes that Orwell did have hope for the future, but was still pessimistic towards these types of governments. Connors writes in his article, “Writers in particular, and men in general, must be made aware of the awful possibility that the future could become a nightmarish world if they neglect to keep alive the liberal tradition and the values associated with it. It would be, of course, a gross mistake to argue that Orwell was a comfortable optimist. He was a brooder, and in 1984 he clearly displays a great deal of anxiety about the future. But anxiety is not the same thing as despair” (Connors 473). Connors recognizes how Orwell is anxious to see what the future beholds for totalitarian regimes that were currently growing in 1949 and also the ones that had just been overthrown. Orwell was not one to despair because he had hope. He had hope that the Western powers would live up to their name and keep all people in the world protected from the oppression of powerful authoritarian governments. Connors concludes his article by saying, “If one must regard 1984 as some sort of culmination, I suggest that it be regarded as the most effective of the numerous efforts which this fine man made to prevent the future from becoming a nightmare. And had [Orwell] lived longer, it doubtless would have been followed by many” (Connors 473). Connors argues that Orwell deserves a lot of credit for the impact he had on his readers and that it would have been greater if he had lived longer. He was only 49 years old when he died. In his short life, he used many works of literature, most specifically 1984, to criticize and bring attention to totalitarian governments who mistreat their citizens and who have become too hungry for power.
In 1984, George Orwell proves that through surveillance, manipulation of language, and the prohibition of individuality, a totalitarian government can gain complete control over its citizens. Orwell depicts this overbearing government authority though the Party’s control of Oceania and the various ways they oppress their citizens, including through the use of technology, banning actions that evoke emotion, brainwashing rebels, and invoking fear into the lives of everyone. These actions are described using the life of a man named Winston Smith and his defiance of Big Brother, his writing in the diary, his relationship with Julia, and his brainwashing transformation carried out by O’Brien. Orwell criticizes these extreme acts of persecution, which is mostly caused by the totalitarian governments’ hunger for power. Orwell argues that totalitarianism is an unsustainable way of governing and that it leads to a state of emotion-less citizens, destroyed individualism, and the collapse of society.