Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) is a political fiction written by George Orwell and published by Secker and Warburg in 1949. Even if its title shows a later year, this was just a futuristic foreshadow of what would become of the society several years later. In this fiction, Orwell discusses about the social and political issues affecting the society at the time. As a prolific writer, Orwell was quite critical and bold in his writings. He could use his literary skills to reflect on the major issues facing humanity. In this paper, a critical analysis is given about how 1984 was used by the author to address the political climate of the western society during the time of its publication.
I would like to begin by confirming that the major political issue addressed in this fiction is totalitarianism. When writing the text, Orwell was intending to warn the Western leaders about the dangers of autocracy which had greatly tormented Russians and the Spanish. In the opinion of the author, this dictatorial regime was spreading to Europe. Thus, it was necessary to caution everyone especially the leaders on its impending dangers and negative impacts that would accrue in the society up to (probably) 1984. Since the setting of the story was at Airstrip One, the common citizens were faced with lots of challenges. Most importantly, they were subjected to lots of oppressions from the autocratic omnipresent government which nearly controlled all aspects of their life.
I would like to agree with this author for making accurate observations about the happenings in the society at the time. Actually, his fiction depicts the true happenings of the society which as dominated and fully controlled by the state. Since the party was not contented with its leadership styles, it resorted to the manipulation of the society in order to increase its popularity. First, it did this by introducing a system of surveillance (Crick 39). Meaning, giant screens were mounted in everyone’s home and all public places to monitor their moves. Any form of rebellion would be ruthlessly dealt with. In fact, this was a good strategy for the party because it enabled it to manipulate the psychology of the citizens and infringe their privacy. This demonstrates how the power was misused by the party for the sake of political maneuver. In such a situation, the author reports that no reform of resistance would be tolerated at all. In fact, announcements were posted all over to remind everyone o be wary of their actions because ‘the Big Brother was watching!’
The other political issue in this novel is divide and rule. As an autocratic regime, the state has devised a mechanism of separating the children from their parents. In order to control any rebellion, the government has come up with a policy of recruiting children as spies. It is the responsibility of each and every child to monitor the behaviors of their parents. Any suspicion should be reported to the authority. In my opinion, this is a very divisive policy. It is not justified for the state to manipulate the minds of the children and groom them as spies. This is a very unjust practice which does not help them in any way, but only create an enmity between them and their biological parents. Whereas such children might not be in a position of understanding their actions, the reality is that it can adversely affect them because it obviously deteriorates their relationship with their own parents.
In order to exercise a full authority over the land, the party has a resorted to controlling information. It is the party mechanisms that are responsible for the storage of historical information about whatever happens in the state. Meaning, no single citizen is allowed to keep any record, be it in the form of document or photographs. Instead, the party even edits and rewrites newspaper articles so as to change their contents to suit them. in my opinion, this is a sign of autocracy. Once the government controls the history of the state, it can determine the present and future direction of the land. As historians argue, tomorrow is a product of today which emanates from the past. Thus, the rewriting of newspapers implies that the state will have to insert the information which it needs the current generations to believe in as a true history of its performance and successes (Benstead 127).
Based on this autocracy, it is important for the common citizens who are feeling its pinches to rise up and fiercely oppose it. Although the government does not condone any rebellion, it is a high time the society is sensitized to be aware of their rights and defend them as much as they can. If they come out in large numbers, the state will not be able to silence them, but listen to them and change to serve their interests. The experiences of the Oceanic, Eurasia and Eastasia people is a clear reflection of the sufferings inflicted on the citizenry by such totalitarian regimes.
Benstead, James. "Hope Begins in the Dark: Re-reading Nineteen Eighty-Four" Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012, pp. 120-135.
Crick, Bernard. Introduction to Nineteen Eighty-Four. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007. Print.