1984 - George Orwell - New
Nineteen Eighty-Four (also titled 1984), by George Orwell (the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair), is an English novel about life in an authoritarian regime as lived by Winston Smith, an intellectual worker at the Ministry of Truth. Winston is degraded and psychologically tortured after he is arrested by the thoughtpolice under the instruction of the totalitarian government of Oceania, in the year 1984. The book has major significance for its vision of an all-observing government which uses constant surveillance and propaganda, both insidious and blatant, to control its citizens. The book had a substantial impact both in literature and on the perception of public surveillance, coining such terms as 'Big Brother' and 'Orwellian'.
George Orwell, who had "encapsulate[d] the thesis at the heart of his novel" in 1944, wrote most of Nineteen Eighty-Four on the island of Jura, Scotland during 1947-1948 while critically ill with tuberculosis. He sent the final typescript to his friends, Secker and Warburg, on 4 December 1948, who published the book on 8 June 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four has been translated to sixty-two languages. The novel's title, its terms, and its language (Newspeak), and its author's surname are bywords for personal privacy lost to national state security. The adjective "Orwellian" denotes totalitarian action and organization; the phrase: Big Brother is Watching You connotes pervasive, invasive surveillance. Although the novel has been banned or challenged in some countries, it is, along with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, among the most famous literary representations of dystopia. In 2005, Time magazine listed it among the hundred best English-language novels published since 1923. The dystopian novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is largely considered to have been a primary influence for Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Nineteen Eighty-Four introduces Oceania, one of the world's three intercontinental totalitarian super-states. The story occurs in London, the "chief city of Airstrip One", itself a province of Oceania that "had been called England or Britain".Posters of "Big Brother", the Party leader, with the caption BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, dominate the city landscapes; two-way television (the telescreen) dominates the private and public spaces of the populace. Oceania's people are in three classes — (i) the Inner Party, (ii) the Outer Party, and (iii) the Proles. This government, the Party, controls them via the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), where Winston Smith, the protagonist, works; he is a member of the Outer Party. His job in Minitrue is the continual rewriting and altering of history so that the government is always right and correct: destroying evidence, amending newspaper articles, deleting the existence of people identified as unpersons.
The story begins on April 4, 1984: "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." The date is questionable, because it is what Winston Smith perceives. In the story's course, he concludes it as irrelevant, because the State can arbitrarily alter it; the year 1984 and its world are transmutable. The novel does not render the world's full history to 1984. Indeed, since the novel's only description of world history is contained in a book within a book given to Winston by a Party member, it is possible that what we read is itself meant to be a deception, and the history of the world of 1984 is somewhat different. Winston's recollections, and what he reads in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein, reveal that after the Second World War, the United Kingdom fell to civil war, becoming part of Oceania. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union encompassed mainland Europe, forming Eurasia; the third super state, Eastasia, comprises the east Asian countries around China and Japan.
There was an atomic war, fought mainly in Europe, western Russia, and North America. It is unclear what occurred first: the civil war wherein the Party assumed power or the United States' annexation of the British Empire or the war during which Colchester was bombed. During the Second World War, George Orwell repeatedly said that British democracy, as it existed before 1939, would not survive the war; the question being: Would it end via Fascist coup d'état (from above) or via Socialist revolution (from below)? During the war, Orwell admitted events proved him wrong: "What really matters is that I fell into the trap of assuming that 'the war and the revolution are inseparable' ".
Ministry of Truth bureaucrat Winston Smith is the protagonist; although unitary, the story is three-fold. The first describes the world of 1984 as he perceives it; the second is his illicit romance with Julia and his intellectual rebellion from The Party; the third is his capture and imprisonment, interrogation, torture, and re-education in the Ministry of Love. Oceania is a totalitarian state of omnipresent, two-way television surveillance; informants are everywhere; and Winston's romance with Julia is betrayed as a political transgression. Their imprisonment at the Ministry of Love (the most feared of the four ministries) features torture, brainwashing, and re-education in Room 101 (via the prisoner's worst fear). Those degradations re-educate them to love only Big Brother and The Party. Afterwards, disgusted by his love affair with Julia, Winston Smith surrenders his mind, body, and soul to Big Brother; like-wise Julia. On release, each admits having betrayed the other to survive, something they had vowed not to do; each is apathetic toward the other's betrayal.
The thematic likenesses between Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm are: the betrayed revolution; the person's subordination to the Party collective; the rigorously enforced class distinctions among Party members, i.e. the Inner Party, the Outer Party, the Proletariat; the Cult of Personality; concentration camps; Thought Police; compulsory, regimented, daily exercise; the youth leagues. As in the Nazi and Stalinist regimes, propaganda is pervasive; Smith's job is rewriting historical documents to match the contemporaneous party line, the orthodoxy of which changes daily. He re-writes and re-prints newspaper articles (society's official records) to delete from the collective memory all people rendered unpersons by Party order.
The intellectual Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party, lives in the ruins of London (the "chief city of Airstrip One", a province of Oceania), who grew up in the post-World War II United Kingdom, during the revolution and the civil war. As his parents disappeared in the civil war, the English Socialism Movement ("Ingsoc" in Newspeak), put him in an orphanage for training and employment in the Outer Party. His squalid existence consists of living in a one-room apartment, eating a subsistence diet of black bread and synthetic meals washed down with Victory-brand gin. He is discontented, and keeps an illegal journal of dissenting, negative thoughts and opinions about The Party. If detected, it, and his eccentric behaviour, would result in torture and death by the Thought Police. In his journal he explains thoughtcrime: Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death. The Thought Police have two-way telescreens (in the living quarters of every Party member and in every public area), hidden microphones, and anonymous informers to spy potential thought-criminals who might endanger The Party. Children are indoctrinated to informing; to spy and report suspected thought-criminals — especially their parents. Winston Smith is a bureaucrat in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, revising historical records to match The Party's contemporaneous, official version of the past. The revisionism is required so that the past reflect the shifts of the day in the Party's orthodoxy. Smith's job is perpetual; he re-writes the official record, re-touches official photographs, deleting people officially rendered as unpersons. The original or older document is dropped into a "memory hole" chute leading to an incinerator. Although he likes his work, especially the intellectual challenge of revising a complete historical record, he also is fascinated by the true past, and eagerly tries to learn more about that forbidden truth.
One day, in the office, a woman surreptitiously hands him a note. She is "Julia", a dark-haired mechanic who repairs the Ministry of Truth's novel-writing machines. Before that day, he had felt deep loathing for her, based on his assumptions that she was a brainwashed, fanatically devoted member of the Party; particularly annoying to him is her red sash of renouncement of and scorn for sexual intercourse. His preconceptions vanish on reading her hand-printed note: "I love you". After that, they begin a clandestine romantic relationship, first meeting in the countryside and at a ruined belfry, then regularly in a rented room atop an antiques shop in the city's proletarian neighbourhood. The shop owner chats him up with facts about the pre-revolutionary past, sells him period artifacts, and rents him the room to meet Julia. The lovers believe their hiding place paradisiacal (the shop keeper having told them it has no telescreen) and think themselves alone and safe.
As their romance deepens, Winston's views change, and questions Ingsoc. Unknown to him, the Thought Police have been spying on him and Julia. Later, when approached by Inner Party member O'Brien, Winston believes that he's come into contact with The Brotherhood, opponents of the Party. O'Brien gives him a copy of "the book", The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, a searing criticism of Ingsoc said to be written by the dissident Emmanuel Goldstein, the leader of the Brotherhood; it explains the perpetual war and exposes the truth behind the Party's slogan, "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength."
The Thought Police capture Winston and Julia in their sanctuary bedroom and they are separately interrogated at the Ministry of Love, where the regime's opponents are tortured and killed, but sometimes released (to be executed at a later date); Charrington, the shop keeper who rented them the room reveals himself an officer of the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Love torture chamber, O'Brien tells Smith that he will be cured of his hatred for the Party. During a session, he explains to Winston that torture's purpose is to alter his way of thinking, not to extract a fake confession, adding that once cured — accepting reality as the Party describes — he then will be executed; electroshock torture will achieve that, continuing until O'Brien decides Winston is cured.
One night, a dreaming Winston suddenly wakes, yelling: "Julia! Julia! Julia, my love! Julia!" O'Brien rushes in and questions him, and then sends him to Room 101, the most feared room in the Ministry of Love. This is where a person's greatest fear is forced upon him or her for the final re-education step: acceptance. Winston, who has a primal fear of rats, is shown a wire cage filled with starving rats and told that it will be fitted over his head like a mask, so that when the cage door is opened, the rats will bore into his face until it is stripped to the bone. Just as the cage brushes his cheek, he shouts frantically: "Do it to Julia!" The torture ends, Winston is returned to society, brainwashed to accept Party doctrine.
After his release, Winston and Julia fortuitously meet in a park. With distaste, they remember the "bad" feelings they once shared; they acknowledge having betrayed each other; they are apathetic. Torture and re-education were successful; Winston happily reconciled to his impending execution, and accepting the Party line about the past and the present. In his mind, he celebrates the false fact of a news bulletin reporting Oceania's recent, decisive victory over Eurasia. Winston imagines himself back at the Ministry of Love. He imagines the scene he created during his imprisonment of walking down the white hallway and being shot by the guard. He finally accepts that he loves Big Brother.
The novel's original title was The Last Man in Europe, but publisher Frederic Warburg suggested changing it to a marketable title. Orwell's reasons for the title are unknown; he might be alluding to the centenary of the socialist Fabian Society founded in 1884, or to Jack London's novel The Iron Heel (wherein a political movement's acme in power is 1984), or to G. K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill, set in 1984, or to the poem "End of the Century, 1984", by Eileen O'Shaughnessy (his first wife). According to the introduction of the Penguin Modern Classics edition, Orwell originally meant 1980 as the story's time, but as the writing became prolonged, he re-titled it 1982, then 1984. The full title of the first edition was Nineteen Eighty-Four. A novel. He also might have titled the book 1984 because he began writing it in 1948, so he switched that year's digits 4 and 8 .
In the essay Why I Write, Orwell explains that all the serious work he wrote since the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was "written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism." Therefore, Nineteen Eighty-Four is an anti-totalitarian cautionary tale about the betrayal of a revolution by its defenders. He already had stated distrust of totalitarianism and betrayed revolutions in Homage to Catalonia and Animal Farm. Coming Up For Air, at points, celebrates the personal and political freedoms lost in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Much of Oceanic society is based upon Stalin's Soviet Union. The "Two Minutes' Hate" was the ritual demonisation of State enemies and rivals; Big Brother resembles Joseph Stalin; the Party's archenemy, Emmanuel Goldstein, resembles Leon Trotsky (both are Jewish, both have the same physiognomy, and Trotsky's real surname was 'Bronstein'). Another suggested inspiration for Goldstein is Emma Goldman, the famous Anarchist figure. Doctored photography is a propaganda technique and the creation of unpersons in the story, analogous to Stalin's enemies being made nonpersons and being erased from official photographic records; the police treatment of several characters recalls the Moscow Trials of the Great Purge.
Biographer Michael Shelden notes these influences: the Edwardian world of his childhood in Henley — for the golden country; being bullied at St. Cyprian's — empathy with victims; his policeman's life in the Indian Burma Police — the techniques of violence; and suffering censorship in the BBC — capriciously-wielded authority.
Specific literary influences include Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar by Arthur Koestler, The Iron Heel (1908) by Jack London; Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley; We (1921) by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which Orwell read in French and reviewed in 1946; and The Managerial Revolution (1940) by James Burnham, predicting permanent war among three totalitarian superstates, broadly equivalent to those in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell told Jacintha Buddicom that he would write a novel stylistically like A Modern Utopia by H. G. Wells.
World War II acts as the grounding for Orwell's more fantastic elements. Most of the novel contains direct parallels, and occasional outright pastiche, of the rhetoric and politics surrounding the end of the war and the changing alliances of the nascent Cold War. The overseas service of the BBC, controlled by the Ministry of Information, was the model for the Ministry of Truth. The Ministry of Love's ultimate weapon against dissidents, Room 101, is named after a conference room at BBC Broadcasting House where Orwell used to sit through tedious meetings. The Senate House, where the Ministry of Information was housed, is the architectural inspiration for the Ministry of Truth. Nineteen Eighty-Four's world reflects the socio-political life of the UK and the USA, i.e. the poverty of Britain in 1948, when the economy was poor, the Empire dissolving, while newspapers reported imperial triumphs, and wartime ally Soviet Russia was becoming a peacetime foe. Oceania is a metamorphosed future British Empire that geographically includes the United States, and whose currency is the dollar. As its name suggests, it is a naval power, with much militarism focused on venerating sailors serving aboard floating fortresses greater than Dreadnoughts. Moreover, most of the fighting by Oceania's troops is in defending India (the "Jewel in the Crown" of the British Empire).
The term "English Socialism" also has many precedents in Orwell's wartime writings. In The Lion and the Unicorn of 1940, Orwell stated that "the war and the revolution are inseparable (...) the fact that we are at war has turned Socialism from a textbook word into a realizable policy". The reason for that, according to Orwell, was that the outmoded British class system constituted a major hindrance to the war effort, and only a Socialist society would be able to defeat Hitler. Since the middle classes were in process of realizing this, too, they would support the revolution, and only the most outright reactionary elements in British society would oppose it — which would limit the amount of force the revolutionaries would need in order to gain power and keep it.
Thus, an "English Socialism" would come about which "...will never lose touch with the tradition of compromise and the belief in a law that is above the State. It will shoot traitors, but it will give them a solemn trial beforehand and occasionally it will acquit them. It will crush any open revolt promptly and cruelly, but it will interfere very little with the spoken and written word".
Orwell's words in this and other writings at the time leave no doubt that in 1940 he regarded "English Socialism" as highly desirable and was actively trying to bring about its victory. Yet in the nightmare world he envisioned eight years later, the same term - contracted to "Ingsoc" - is the monstrous ideology of a totally oppressive regime, far from the relative moderate revolution which Orwell foresaw in 1940. When the vision of "The Lion and the Unicorn" is compared with that of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" it is evident that Orwell saw the regime presided over by Big Brother not only as a betrayal and perversion of Socialist ideals in general, but also as a perversion of Orwell’s own specifically and dearly cherished vision and hope of Socialism - "English Socialism".
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