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Specters of Totalitarianism: Representations of Power and Control in Twentieth Century Dystopian Fiction (English Dissertation)

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Mark James Fisher ENGL 3000: English Dissertation Dr. Jane Dowson Spectres of Totalitarianism: Representations of Power and Control in Twentieth Century Dystopian Fiction By Mark James Fisher Dissertation Supervisor: Dr. Jane Dowson A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED IN THE REQUIREMENTS OF A BA (JOINT HONOURS) ENGLISH AND HISTORY DEGREE Contents Page Introduction The Origins of the Dystopian Genre and its Characteristics Structure and Aims of the Dissertation Methodology pp.1-5 Chapter 1 - Rewriting History? The Manipulation of Truth and Memory as a tool of control in George Orwell?s Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm pp.6-11 Chapter 2 - ?BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU? (George Orwell): Representations of Surveillance and Terror as tools of control in George Orwell?s Nineteen Eighty Four and Margaret Atwood?s The Handmaid?s Tale pp.12-19 Chapter 3 - Winning Hearts and Minds? Representations of Indoctrination and Propaganda as tools of control in George Orwell?s Nineteen Eighty Four and Aldous Huxley?s Brave New World pp.20-27 Conclusion pp.28-29 Bibliography pp.30-32 Abstract Dystopian fiction has always been preoccupied with power and control. One of the main reasons why authors write this type of literature is to create awareness of how this power and control can be manipulated by governments and dictatorships respectively, to serve their own ends. This dissertation, using George Orwell?s novels Animal Farm (1944) and Nineteen Eighty Four (1949), alongside Margaret Atwood?s The Handmaid?s Tale (1985) and Aldous Huxley?s Brave New World (1923) as its literary texts, will look at the ways in which the dictatorships like Oceania, Manor Farm and the World State wield this power and control over the citizens that it controls. They are seen to wield this power and control via different forms: re-writing history, surveillance and terror, and indoctrination and propaganda. Chapter 1, using George Orwell?s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four as its basis, will look at how the dictatorships in these novels, Oceania and Manor Farm, are able to re-write history. ...read more.


It is important that talking and whispering is an illegal activity because it demonstrates that the citizens of Oceania are unable to express their inner thoughts and feelings. By being unable to express their inner-thoughts and feelings, Winston and his fellow citizens find that their identities are stripped away from them. As a result of their identity being stripped away from them, they become invalids, and thus are deemed to be worthless. Similarly , the fact that Winston?s movements are ?scrutinised? (p.5) demonstrates the technological nature of the regime, as it reveals that the regime analyses everything. By analysing everything, thereby paying close attention to detail, the regime is easily able to protect itself. As a result of being able to protect itself, any illegal or criminal activity, carried out by the citizens of Oceania, is quickly eradicated. Furthermore, the Thought Police carry out surveillance by bugging walls and room devices like the ?wires? (p.5) . The fact that the Thought Police could ?plug in your wire whenever they wanted to?(p.5) is important in revealing that no-one is safe from the regime. Winston?s suggestion that you had to live ?in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard? (p.5) is important because it exhibits the regime?s ability to effectively penetrate the psyche of its citizens. As the regime effectively penetrates the psyche of its citizens, the citizens of Oceania are forced to change their behaviour, and conduct their everyday lives in a regimented manner. It is important that Oceania?s citizens are required to conduct their lives in a regimented manner, as it demonstrates that they become social recluses. As a result of this, they become fixtures of the Party. Surveillance in Orwell?s novel is also mediated through the posters of Big Brother. Orwell explains that: The hypnotic eyes gazed into Winston?s own. It was as though some huge force were pressing down upon you, something that penetrated inside your skull, battering against your brain, frightening you out of your beliefs, persuading you to almost to deny the evidence of your senses. ...read more.


Whilst all these methods are used effectively by dictatorships to control populations, they also prove to have their limits. If there is any method that the regimes most successfully use to wield control over its citizens, it is surveillance and terror. This is because unlike the other two methods, surveillance and terror enables dictatorships to break its citizens, thereby ensuring complete conformity and obedience. At the same time, through these methods of control, this dissertation has shed light on the concept of totalitarianism, and the extent to which Manor Farm, Oceania and Gilead, can be considered to be ?totalitarian regimes?. Although Arendt defined totalitarianism as ?a political system which ensured total domination over all political, social and economic life?, her ideas of total domination are not totally substantiated in all the novels discussed, as some novels display more resistance than others.[64] Out of three different regimes portrayed in the novels, Gilead is proven to be the regime where Arendt?s ideas of total domination are less substantiated, whereas, Oceania and Manor Farm are proven to be the regimes? where Arendt?s views are most substantiated. [65]The Gilead regime proves to be the regime that is less ?totalitarian? because despite its control over the population through surveillance and terror, Offred, and her secret lover Nick, by enrolling in the Mayday resistance organisation, are able to escape, leaving Gilead to disintegrate. [66]On the other hand, Oceania and Manor Farm prove to be the most ?totalitarian? regimes. Whilst by the end of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston is effectively broken and converted to the Party?s cause by O?Brien, by the end of Animal Farm, the Pigs rule supreme over the other animals and have replaced the farm?s former owner, thus unveiling a betrayal of the revolution, thereby installing a dictatorship, promoting oppression and inequality.[67] It is this oppression and inequality that writers of dystopian fiction critiqued and warned their readers against, in order to prevent cruelty from happening again, in the contemporary world. ...read more.

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