1984 - An examination of totalitarian rule in Oceania

Having studied George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', I intend to discuss the type of Government envisaged by Orwell and to what extent his totalitarian Party, 'Ingsoc', satirises past regimes. I will also discuss Orwell's motive in writing such a piece and how his writing style helps it become clear.

The main theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four concerns the restrictions imposed on individual freedom by a totalitarian regime. Orwell shows how such a system can impose its will on the people through manipulation of the press, the elimination of democracy, constant supervision (courtesy of the Telescreens) and more. Orwell also shows how the state has more subtle methods for imposing its authority, such as the manipulation of language and control of the media. Propaganda also plays a central role within the Party's infrastructure and it is used to gain support for Big Brother, stir patriotism and induce hate towards the chosen "enemy" country. Workers in the Ministry of Truth work to change the past, making Big Brother seem to have always been right. Also, the Party seeks to stifle any individual or "potentially revolutionary" thought by introducing a new language, Newspeak, the eradication of English and the deployment of "Thought Police" who terrorize Party members by accusing them of "Thought Crime" (ie. to think a crime is to commit a crime). The introduction of this new language means that eventually, no-one is able to commit thought-crime due to the lack of words to express it. This is a frightening concept ? the restriction of your thought could destroy your personality if the ability to think for oneself was erased.

Words are a weapon as far as the Party are concerned, but the war is not physical; it is a war against truth - The Ministry of Truth, minitrue, re-writes history and falsifies documents, the Ministry of Peace, minipax, makes war,

"It's a beautiful thing, destruction of words... You haven't a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston... Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we will make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it." (Syme to Winston -p46)

Nineteen Eighty-Four may not be known to everyone, but there are certain phrases and expressions that have actually gained common usage in the English Language. Examples of this would be Newspeak, thought-crime, Big Brother, unperson and doublethink. All of which relate to the State's frightening power to alter reality. Possibly the most interesting of these is doublethink, defined as 'the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them'. This, of course, sounds ludicrous until one considers the fact that this is evident within modern politics.

There are many parallels between 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' and other real-life examples. It has been said that it can be compared to both Stalinist Russia and National Socialist Germany. The fact that the Party can be compared to two supposedly diametrically opposed political systems does, at first, seem paradoxical, but yet the Party, the NSDAP and The Communist Party share a common thread: totalitarian rule. This is a point that Orwell was well aware of. However, this story was probably much more an attack on Stalinism, or at least autocracy in general.

Renowned internationally as a forthright speaker against Stalin, Orwell was, however, an ardent Socialist and was keen to distance himself from Russian totalitarianism. His Socialist beliefs, coupled with his experience in the Spanish Civil War as a member of the revolutionary POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) militia, led him to realise the threat of fascist, or at least autocratic, rule. It was this realisation that led him to pen his greatest novels - 'Animal Farm' and 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' (the latter was almost titled "The Last Man in Europe", but Orwell favoured 'Nineteen Eighty-Four').

The fact that Oceania, the country envisaged by Orwell, is ruled by Ingsoc, Newspeak for English Socialism, and Ingsoc itself is by no means a socialist Party, is brutally ironic to say the least. Possibly the best example of doublethink is that 'the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement ever stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism'.

Another symbolic parallel in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' is that of the Roman Catholic Church. It can be said that Big Brother is not dissimilar to God