"The irony of a dystopia is, nasty and brutish as they are, they usually begin with the best of intentions" -Author Unknown Through the backdrop of a crumbling world, George Orwell is able to paint an image of human life in years to come, if the society he lives in continues the track it is on. The use of irony in Orwell's novel "1984" further enhances the satirical nature of the book, and opens readers to a world of thought provoking subjects. Oceania, the strict dystopian Superstate of "1984", drives many people including Winston Smith to their breaking point, and lays the ground in which many ironic situations are born.
The primary theme of Chapter One deals with Winston’s desire to write down his deeply felt thoughts about the Party. The amount of irony used in this chapter is abundant, and the thing in which sets the tone for the rest of the novel. In the opening scene, Winston Smith is frightened to open his diary because he is scared of being “punished by death, or at least twenty five years in a forced labor camp” (9). The irony of the situation is that the Party claims nothing to be illegal, as “there were no longer any laws” (9).
People of Oceania are constantly in fear of laws which don’t exist. The fear of the unknown is what is nagging at many people’s souls. In Oceania, there is always a constant threat of disappearing, with every thread of your existence gone after you are taken away. Without saying a word, the Party is able to control the minds of many helpless citizens, and cause them to live their lives in constant fear. Many examples of situational irony occur in the second book of 1984. Winston leads the majority of his life friendless, feeling as no one understands him.
Near the end of book two, Winston finds confidants in O’Brien, Julia and Mr. Charrington. We experience the joyful feeling Winston has when he realizes he isn’t alone in his thoughts and feelings towards the Party. Together, they are conspiring to take Big Brother and everything he stands for, down. Ironically though, the people who give Winston the most joy end up causing him the most misery. By the last page of book two, Winston realizes that Mr. Charrington, a man he trusts, is a member of the Thought Police. Winston’s crave for attention is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
He is blinded by his want for someone to relate with him, even though O’Brien says “Don’t deceive yourself. You did know it-you have always known it” (239), when regarding his own involvement with the Thought Police. To Winston’s knowledge by the end of Book Three, Chapter One, Julia is the only person who is not betraying him. This is ironic in itself, as it is not seen commonly in our society or Orwell’s alike, that a young promiscuous twenty-something year old woman is protecting her thirty nine year old, frail, varicose ulcer-possessing lover.
The extreme use of irony throughout “1984” is yet another technique that further enhances the satirical nature of this novel. The use of situational irony, in which a character seems to be one way but then turns out the complete opposite, is strongly prevalent in the character of Mr. Tom Parsons. Although a “fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity” (22), Mr. Parsons makes a great impact on the way the book is shaped. Seen as the perfect Party member, Mr. Parsons salutes Big Brother every morning and takes pride is his children, whom are both members of the Spies.
Parallel to that of the Hitler Youth in Orwell’s time, the Spies are training children to become vessels in which only have the capacity to love Big Brother, store and report knowledge of odd parental behavior. It is ironic that even in the security of your own home, no one is safe. No matter the situation, Winston was speechless when Mr. Parsons was thrown into the underground jail at the Ministry of Love, for muttering obscenities about Big Brother in his sleep. Ironic in the sense that Mr. Parsons would do anything for the Party, O’Brien and the guards wouldn’t budge.
Mr. Parsons was soon taken away to Room 101. It can be argued that Mr. Parsons was the Party’s greatest failure. Through the immense conditioning that the Party and Parsons himself, put him through, they still aren’t able to control his thoughts. This example of irony is one that leaves a sliver of hope for the future. Mr. Parsons represents how propaganda and brainwashing techniques are not 100% foolproof. His subconscious still holds on to his original and true beliefs which are, as he dreams, “Down with Big Brother” (233).