George Orwell’s classic novel ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ paints a bleak picture of a futuristic society controlled by a totalitarian government. 1984 is a novel about using power to control society. George Orwell's novel was published in 1948 and this is significant because World War II had recently ended and the Nazi dictatorship of Adolph Hitler in Germany had been defeated. This was not an end to dictatorship around the world; however, because Joseph Stalin controlled Russia in much the same way that Hitler had controlled Germany and Mao Zedong was in charge of China.
Propaganda, fear, murder and thought control were methods that Hitler, Stalin and Mao used to gain power and to control their countries. In 1984, many similarities exist between the novel and Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia and Mao's China. Big Brother could easily represent Hitler, Stalin and Mao. Overall, the main methods of control in 1984 were control of education and information and over bearing system of rules. 1984 is not just about totalitarianism; it makes us live through totalitarianism. The Party wants power for its own sake.
The novel shows how the government attempts to control the minds and bodies of it citizens, such as Winston Smith who does not subscribe to their beliefs, through a variety of methods. The first obvious example arises with the large posters with the caption of "Big Brother is Watching You" (Chapter 1, page 3 and 4). These are the first pieces of evidence that the government is watching over its people. However, the Party truly carefully monitors the behaviour of all of its constituents. One method of Big Brother’s surveillance was through telescreens screens located in the homes in Airstrip One.
The first obvious example of this that arises in the novel is in Winston’s home; “Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; more over, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the mental plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. ” (Chapter1, page 4). Shortly afterwards we learn of another method of surveillance, the "Thought Police", who "snoop in on conversations, always watching your every move, controlling the minds and thoughts of the people. " (Chapter 1, page 6).
To the corrupted government, physical control is not good enough; however. The only way to completely eliminate physical opposition is to first eliminate any mental opposition. The government is trying to control our minds, as it says "thought crime does not entail death; thought crime is death", therefore warning Oceania’s citizens that any rebellious thoughts will equate to death. (Chapter 1, page 27). The further the reader gets in the novel the more drastic methods of control are seen. When government lies become truths, and nobody will oppose, anything can simply become a fact.
Through the control of the mind and body the government attempts and any hopes of achieving a utopian society are dashed. The peoples' minds are essentially not theirs' anymore. The government tells them how to think. Conformity and this unilateral thinking throughout the entire population can have disastrous results. Morning group exercises are mandatory. The Party demands that all loyalty created in private be severed, and that the only acceptable loyalty is loyalty to the Party. The Party condemns sex, and brainwashes its constituents.
The Party recognizes no concept of a "family" other than the collective family under rule by the Party. The Party controls everything – the past, the present, and the future – by controlling historical records, language, and even thought. The Party tortures and "vaporizes" those who harbor rebellious thoughts. Winston was seen to be showing rebellious thoughts, hence, the torture from O’Brien destroying what he knew. “How many fingers, Winston? ”, “Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four! ”, “How many fingers, Winston? ”, “Five!
Five! Five! ” (page 262). Then later Winton says “How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four. ” With O’Brien replying “Sometimes, Winston. Some times they are five. Sometimes there are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane. ”(Chapter 2, page 263). This is evidence of the “Parties” control to harbor and change facts to what they want people to believe. 1984 details at length the effectiveness of torture as a tool to control subversion in a totalitarian society.
Here, though, torture is not limited to physical suffering, but also encompasses mind control, brainwashing, and indoctrination. The branch of government that oversees torture at Oceania is ironically named the Ministry of Love. It is, however, effective; through torture, the Ministry is able to transform rebellious minds into loving, accepting ones. “ When I press this other lever, the door of the cage will slide up. These starving bruits will shoot out like bullets. Have you ever seen a rat leap through the air?
They will leap onto your face and bore straight into it. Sometimes they attack the eyes first. Sometimes they borrow through the cheeks devour the tongue. ” (Chapter 5, page 299). With the pain and thoughts of it happening seeking into Winston, he finally breaks. Big Brothers violent methods proving effective. By Winston screaming “Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! ”(Chapter 5, page 300). O’Brein new then this violent method had worked, he had achieved the ultimate goal, a victory of betrayal.
Winston’s former self was lost; the only part of his individuality and rebellion was his love for Julia. In conclusion, it is evident that the party maintains the power through the discourses of violence, the controlling truth and fear/surveillance. Orwell’s novel paints a bleak picture of a futuristic society where power is paramount. Although with Winston’s best attempts to break the parties constraints of the party, it is evident that the party controls people of society through violence and fear.