1984 Criticism

The 20th century has given the literary world a completely new genre – a dystopian novel. The main purpose of this genre is to envisage the ruthlessness of technological progress subdued by the government. Eric Arthur Blake, an English writer and journalist more famous under his pseudonym George Orwell, made his own contribution to the field of anti-Utopian novels. In 1949 Orwell published his last novel, 1984, skillfully combining political criticism, harsh satire, and science fiction in an attempt to prevent the nightmarish future he describes. The title is an inversion of 1948, the year when the novel was finished. When Orwell wrote his novel, the whole Europe was shattered by the consequences of World War II. 

Two totalitarian regimes, Communism and Nazism, performed horrible actions to gain more power murdering more than 60 million people. Concentration camps, psychological manipulation, and mass tortures that Orwell observed encouraged him to create his own version of the future where these regimes win. Published a year before his death, it took the writer two years to complete 1984 due to a serious illness. The author himself admitted that his health issues might have influenced the gloomy story of a desperate man, Winston Smith, in his stand-alone fight with political and societal degeneration. 

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The impact 1984 had on the modern culture can’t be overestimated. For instance, a lot of Orwellian concepts and ideas have entered everyday speech. Such terms as “Big Brother”, “newspeak”, and “doublethink”, has become frequent quests in the political discourses. The principal slogan of the entire novel – BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU – has even become the symbol of dictatorship and human rights violation.  The novel asks quite an extensive number of serious questions about the nature of power and war and a lot of them remain no less relevant nowadays. 

Set in a partially destroyed London, the story takes place in a totalitarian country of Oceania, a huge conglomerate of several states ruled by the authoritative and ruthless Party. The general public, the proletariat, is deprived of any personal freedom or individual rights by means of physical and mental oppression. They live in miserable conditions with strictly rationed food and never-ending war. Orwell bitterly criticizes the methods applied by the authority that allow them to regulate and affect people’s thoughts and behavior. Promoting the atmosphere of terror and paranoia, the Party denies people the right to privacy as well as freedom of speech and choice. 

Turning their population into a nation of informers, the Party monitors everyone through the eyes of other people or using advanced TV screens that allow not only broadcasting their propaganda but also peeping at people all the time. Round-the-clock surveillance, mind manipulation, and falsification of history have one particular aim to turn people into obedient puppets that can be used by the political elite of the country to fulfill their dark needs. That’s why the government fiercely eradicates any signs of personal identity that doesn’t correspond with the collective way of thinking. This means Winston Smith is a threat that should be broken and altered according to the norms of Ingsoc. 


 

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