Dr. Jay Gaspar
Junior Honors Seminar 300H
6 December 2010
Orwell??™s 1984 And The Totalitarian Regimes
George Orwell belongs between most read authors because of the genre of his work. The popularity of his novels leads toward the many discussions about his literary production. The novel 1984 evokes many strong feelings through a variety of readers at different times. His novel 1984 is liked, discussed, banned or hated at the same time. According to Frodsham, ???to reflect on and discuss 1984 is to do more than pay homage to a literary masterpiece. It is to consider and question ourselves, our society, our world; our past, our present-and-above all-our future??? (1). This book and other literary works are closely emotionally related especially to the readers who experienced the fictional reality which is masterly depicted in the novel and pushed to the fatal consequences in their real lives. The author will discuss how the totalitarian regime is depicted in 1984 and what the reactions of the public were during the Cold War on this worldwide famous novel.
A totalitarian regime is a concept which has previously been used in the different countries all around the world before World War II. At the beginning, it was an abstract concept used only between social scientists, but the use of the term gradually spread into other levels of society and became more popular. The concept of totalitarian regimes is connected with the disrespect towards an individual, totalitarian terror, the control of one dominating political party which promotes its totalitarian ideology, the absolute hegemony of a secret police, and monopole of the government over economic, cultural and informational structures. Many theoretical studies were written. In the fiction pieces of literature this topic was not particularly popular, except in Aldous Huxley??™s novel Brave New World (Grieder, 2007).
Communism is a totalitarian system, whose main ideal is the negation of all civil rights and freedom. Communism suppresses the social values and morals of the society and creates hate and harm. A primary, yet tragic accomplishment of communism is the creation of hate between neighbors (Prihoda, 2006). The aim of communism is to create a perfect society without any aggression, which is supposed to live together in harmony with everybody sharing everything. All the people would be equal and no one would have more than anyone else. However, aggression emerged in the society as a result of frustration from lack of freedom. This instrumental aggression continues in the society today and is the basic reason for often hostile behavior (Baumeister &Bushamn, 2008).
The Communism regime essentially suppresses all freedom and free enterprise in the society. If dictatorship is eliminated in a society which does not know the real meaning of freedom compare to societies that do experience freedom, one totalitarian regime will be replaced by another (Okey, 2004). The loss of freedom is the key concept which leads to the social and psychological traits of the society mentioned such as the development of aggression, etc. According to Baumeister and Bushman (2008), free action and the freedom to one??™s own opinions are necessary for the healthy and functional life of an individual. The self-determination theory states that there is a necessary level of autonomy and internal motivation which people need to feel to be healthy. Under the Communist regime, people have no right to their own opinions and subsequently lose their internal motivation (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008).
George Orwells literature work and his life are unmistakably connected with and influenced by the Cold War. George Orwell was born on June 25, 1903. His real name was Eric Arthur Blair. He was an English novelist and poet. George Orwell was born in Montihari, India, in the family of lower level clerk of a state administration. His mother was from the family of an unsuccessful French businessman. Despite their low socioeconomic status, Orwell??™s family tried to align with higher social classes. In 1911, Orwell was sent for his high school studies to England. His grades were exceptionally high, so he was able to receive an academic scholarship at the prestigious private school Eton. One of his teachers in Eton was the writer Aldous Huxley. During his time at Eton, Orwell published in the student??™s magazine at his high school. He refused a scholarship for continuing his education at the university and left to Burma instead. He worked in Burma in from 1922 to 1927 as a member of British colonial police, but he was disturbed with the atmosphere at the police station. The strong ethical and social prejudice among the police officers frustrated him to such a level that he left the police force. He lived two years between tramps and baggers in London and Paris. Later he worked as a journalist from 1930 and started to use his pseudonym, Orwell, is a name of a river in eastern England (Miller, 2004). The use of a new name was meant to symbolize his separation with the past and start of a new chapter of his life.
According to Miller (2004), when Orwell came to Europe, he became an anarchist and later he became a socialist. His hate towards fascism only increased his support of socialism. However, despite his political views, he was never a member of any political party. From 1936 to 1937, he fought in the Spanish Civil War. He came to Spain as a journalist, but when he experienced the events of the war; he decided to enter the republic army. Many ???left thinking??? intellectuals from Europe decided to enter the republic army after they experienced the atmosphere in Spain. He suffered with a throat injury from the war which marked his voice till the end of his life. Orwell also gained a real strong understanding of the politics of the Soviet Union and the behavior of communists. During World War II, he worked for BBC and published in the left oriented magazine Tribune where he had his column. After World War II, the whole world looked forward to the future with a lot of hope, but Orwell was skeptical of the future. He anticipated that the future would not be that bright and did not join to the postwar euphoria. Since 1948, he suffered from tuberculosis, and his health was gradually decreasing. Orwell died of Tuberculosis in London. Very shortly before his death he completed two of his most famous novels: the Animal Farm and 1984. Both of these books are the critics of the totalitarian regimes (Miller, 2004).
The author will focus on the novel 1984and the way the totalitarian regime is depicted in the novel. The author??™s choice of 1984 was influenced by the fact that Czech Republic used to be a Communist country. Twenty years after the fall of communism, the Czech nation still suffers. According to Prihoda (2006), the democracy is still in its infancy and its further development has been hindered by a deficit of liability among the elites and the masses. From a social psychological perspective, the significant traits of the society are social anxiety, xenophobia, isolationism and suspicion of others (Prihoda, 2006). The national mind frame, which is still partly set in the totalitarian system, is one of dissatisfaction due to lack of progress since 1989. This has led to the sour mood which is spreading throughout the Czech society (Castellano & Jun, 2007).
In 1984, the dystopian London, where there is no space for privacy and feelings other than the ones toward Big Brother, offers the reader a suggestive testimony about horrifying world of the protagonist Winston Smith. Smith, on the first impression, is a typical member of the ruling party who is an employee of the Ministry of Truth. His responsibility is to adjust the news to the needs of the ruling party. Smith??™s life is similar every day and lack any aims or goals. His job description as the forger of the past is a theme through the book and the communist regime as whole which can be described according to Orwell as ???who controls the past controls the future??? (25). Winston is character with which the reader, especially the one who experienced the reality of Big Brother, can identify. Winston??™s curiosity for past events is overcome by the thirst for delimitation his own identity from the totalitarian regime.
Through the novel, Orwell draws the readers??™ attentions to be active and intractable. According to Rosenfeld, 1984 ???is not, I suppose, really a novel, or at least it does not satisfy those expectations we have come to have with regard to the novel–expectations that are mainly the heritage of the 19th century romanticism with its stress upon individual consciousness, psychological analysis and the study of intimate relations???(2). His intensions are coming from the roots of his strong socialist feeling, which in the past expressed itself in Orwell??™s support of the communist ideology. However, Orwell does not criticize communism in his novel that view would be extremely short-sighted. Orwell constructs the vision of what will happen if a powerful group in any society starts to dictate conditions and control lives of individuals. According to Rankin, Orwell stated his opinion, ???I do not believe that kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe that something resembling it could arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken roots in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical conclusion??? (Rankin, 2). He brings this vision to the tragically consequences. Orwell realistically guessed many mechanisms of totalitarian regimes. Many principles of totalitarian society Orwell guessed with surprising accuracy.
???The scene is landed in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than the totalitarianisms, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere??? (Rankin, 1975). Totalitarian regime can be seen as a jail from which is no possible escape. The prison in the novel is abstractly compared to London, where it starts with constant monitoring of the people and submission, which gradually became a real prison. The protagonist passes from the abstract jail to the real jail which is meant to bring him back at the beginning which was the state of absolute obedience. There is a similarity between the two minutes when Winston with other employees had to show a hate towards the members of other parties, and the hate expressed in the communist??™s Medias toward capitalism (Grieder, 2010). This show how close was the Orwell??™s dystopian world and the reality of the 20th century.
1984 is a timeless novel. Orwell??™s vision is going to be a fear any time when totalitarian regime would gain power. The topic of deleting a history to maintain the totalitarian power is also close to the reality of totalitarian regimes because it is a useful tool to control masses. It is a classic example of manipulating with the minds of citizens which is developed to perfection by the ruling party in 1984. Through the manipulation with the minds of the citizens, the Party was able to easy control the society. Orwell brings up other themes in the novel against which he is trying to warn the readers. He shows the absurdity of war. He underlines the nonsense of war which only aim is to keep the society in a constant fear. ???The only reason for war is the need to be war which is captured in the slogan of the party the war is a peacetime??? (Orwell, 1949).
From the literary view, 1984 is a remarkably straightforward written and the plot is straight-lined. It is a bibliography of the protagonist Winston Smith which is trying to bring at least a little piece of truth inside the totalitarian lies. The critics are accusing Orwell that the novel was ordered. The speculations are that W. Churchill paid Orwell to write 1984 (Shaw, 2003). ???Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four in particular, the official Western propagandist found so appealing, so much so that they were willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting them??? (Shawn, 2003). Orwell also followed other writers in his dystopian ideas especially Aldous Huxley. Orwell is also criticized for the amount of power he thought that language has. He thought that language had an unlimited power and it can be a tool of truth. In 1984, the ruling party develops Newspeak like the new minimalistic language (Rosenfeld, 2004).
The novel 1984 was written after World War II in 1949 when it was becoming a common knowledge that communist ideology is spreading behind the borders of Soviet Union to almost the whole Eastern Europe and middle Europe, where many not-democratic regimes developed. Despite Orwell??™s intentions, he attacked mainly Stalinist regime in his novel. Despite the fact that Orwell was a socialist, 1984 is unmistakably aimed to be a critique of socialism and against the regime in Soviet Union. Orwell wrote against totalitarian regimes; he was a supporter of the democratic socialism. The critics of the novel especially in the Eastern bloc saw the novel as the attack on socialism. They interpreted the novel as a satire of the most dangerous militaristic tendencies of the capitalistic, neocolonialism and imperialistic society. However, for example, in the communistic Czechoslovakia Orwell was on the list of banned authors and his books were not able to be officially published (Shaw, 2003). Orwell accomplished truly trustworthy picture of a totalitarian society, despite the fact that he did not live in the totalitarian regime. His ability to picture the totalitarian regime shows his extensive knowledge about the situation in the Soviet Union, and other undemocratic regimes in Europe during the WWII and in the period between WWI and WWII (Okey, 2004). The bipolarity of the real world, which existed between the capitalistic Western Europe and the eastern communistic bloc, is in Orwell??™s fictional world of 1984 replaced with the Tripoli world between the three Great Powers. The Cold War between West and East is replaced with the schizophrenic war, where the enemies and allies can change at any moment. The similarity between the 1984 war and the Cold War is also noticeable in the influence of the daily life; because the citizen does not feel the consequences of the war in his or her daily life.
Orwell discussed the tools the totalitarian regime uses to gain and keep its power. Those tools lead toward police repression, strong propaganda and breaking of the original social bonds. Those instruments sketched in the social culture reality of English society in 1984. The instruments in the novel are brought to the catastrophic consequences. The regime in the book regime used vaporization to get rid of certain people. The person who was vaporized stopped to exist; it was the same as if they would never live at all. The vaporization is the reference to the purges which were happening in the totalitarian regimes especially from 1936 to 1938. The control over the citizens was held through doublethink. Doublethink allows accepting the twisted reality and believing in it. The principle of doublethink is in the capability of processing two opposite information; this process is automatized for the characters in 1984. The foundation of a successful use of doublethink is that the citizens agree with the idea that Big Brother is always right. This is a parallel with a real totalitarian regime where the leaders are always right. For example, the leaders of Soviet Union held the opinion that the citizens of the Soviet Union have better lives than the citizens of western imperialistic countries. The other tool used to hold the power was the development of the new language newspeak. It was created by the Ministry of Truth, and it would entirely replace the old speak. The aim of newspeak was to limit the vocabulary and the structure, so it would disable thinking. The newspeak is used as a symbol of the trend of simplifying language in the real world, which is particularly obvious in the modern life nowadays, but the beginning of this trend could be seen already in 1948 (Philips, 2008).
According to Philips, Orwell??™s novel 1984 was received with positive reactions, which means that it showed the values and norms which were professed and respected in the society of 1948. The most of the western societies had the horrors of the WWII in its fresh memory. The atmosphere in the western society was against the right of the political spectrum, because of the antifascist attitude, which would lead to a presumption that Orwell??™s antisocial novel would not have the support of the readers. However, all the British and western society received the novel positively. There are many reasons for the positive reactions. One of the reasons is that Orwell criticizes all the types of totalitarian regimes without a preference from which end of a political spectrum they are formed. One of the other reasons is the increasing knowledge of the public about the situation in the Soviet Union at the beginning of the Cold War (Rosenfeld, 2004). Orwell shows how difficult it is to overthrow a totalitarian regime when its bases are firmly anchored in the state institutions, and they penetrated into a daily life of the individuals. The model of the regime is a totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union; however, the regime described in the novel does not have similarity in the history. It is a totalitarian model which is developed to the perfection; its roots are so deep in the society that it is impossible to change because of the lack of any free will. The dictatorship is so effective that people do not see other options ant they are stopping to think on their own. Their lives are directed by slogans and phrases; however, none of them realizes that. The totalitarian regime described by Orwell is to perfect, but the position of an individual in the society is highly similar to the position in the real totalitarian regime (Orwell, 1949).
According to Frodsham (1985), the reason why this novel became so famous is that it is not dystopian but can be characterized as an extreme reality of the developing bipolar world. 1984 closely paraphrases the rising bipolarity of the world that was taking place in 1948. Orwell defended the dominant contemporary culture system. The western European powers just entered into the Cold War with the communist bloc under the lead of the Soviet Union. The leaders of the political parties of western European country were convincing their citizens that people who live in the eastern bloc do not have freedom and that there is a need to stop spreading of communism towards the west. Despite the fact that Orwell was inspired even from the regime of Nazism in Germany, Orwell??™s roman was seen mainly as an indictment of communism. 1984 was used by the leaders of the West for agitation against the communist regime and the Soviet Union. Because the roman entraps and creates peculiar image of social culture reality of the period, it became a topic of many interpretation discussions. Orwell??™s piece is connected mainly with political texts and documents. The novel has a bond towards a legal content as well because of the time it was written. In 1948 as the consequence of the WWII many politicians tried to come up with definitions of the basic human rights. There are not direct references toward religion in the novel; however, a few links between the novel and the religious atmosphere during the WWII and from it sequenced anti-Semitism can be found. Also, the reference to philosophy is indirect. The book points out the danger of the dogmatic ideologies, but it does not show any direction because the citizens do not look for anything else than the ideology of the ruling party.
The author is fascinated by the way the totalitarian regime is depicted in 1984. Orwell??™s pessimistic vision of the future, supported by the details of the governments??™ of the totalitarian regimes in the 20th century, disclosed the basic principles of any absolutistic government. The principles are the total power, the suppression of individual??™s interests and needs, and the mass conformity. Orwell portrayed a piece of himself into Winston. He was trying to find himself in the middle of influence of the totalitarian regime without any possibility of seeing the reality, history of real life as itself. The novel should not be banned for the similar reason as Winston writes his journal, the hope for freedom and change. It shows what the world would be if any power would become absolutistic.
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