Orwell hated totalitarianism primarily because of its attack on unbiased truth; he explained how history is altered by whoever is in power. In Orwell’s essay “Revising History” he examines the credibility of history and finds it to be based on the person or group in control. “If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened-that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death” stated Winston ironically before his torture and inevitable death, what was “terrifying” is Winston’s eventual acceptance of the party regime and the “truths” implemented. In 1984 O’Brian slowly re-arranges Winston’s memory; “There was a name for it which he had forgotten”, the torture Winston undergoes through the influence of the powerful government slowly controls his mind (and eventually does). O’Brian explains the “whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” a policy undertook by the party, limiting the range of words available in the English language. O’Brian recognises Winston’s cognitive frustrations, as a “faint smile twitched on the corners of O’Brian’s mouth as he looked down at him.” He knew what Winston was thinking.
Orwell creates sympathy for Winston, through the torment described in prison and also through his writing technique in indirect discourse, in narrating approach the thought and speech of Winston are incorporated with his words and ideas in to a third person narrative “and yet he knew, he knew he was in the right”. A reader automatically feels empathy for Winston who is victimised physically and mentally; “whatever he said, the swift answer crushed him like a bludgeon”. O’Brian’s ideas were as much a weapon against freedom of the individual as are the truncheons carried by the Thought Police troopers. This however doesn’t make O’Brian’s arguments true or even convincing, although he states them with such confidence that like Winston one may be cowed in to thinking they have substance. O’Brian’s speech proceeds from opinions to speculation in a series of rhythmic statements “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopia’s that the old reformers imagined.”
References to his listener, Winston, draw him silently in to discourse; “do not forget this Winston....If you want a picture of the future…” Finally the imagery used by Orwell of boot stamping on a face seals a speech with a vivid metaphor which conveys its meaning. “The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred”
In the years immediately after the First World War, a promising new era of democracy seemed to be unfolding. The autocratic regimes in Russia, Germany and Austria, were all overthrown and replaced by republics. The seven newly-created states in Europe all adopted the republican form of government. Democracy seemed triumphant in the post-war world. Yet within two decades, many democratic countries in Europe were taken over by some kind of dictatorship. Russia became a Communist state. Italy and Germany became Fascist states. Of the powers in Europe, only Britain and France remained staunchly democratic, though their ideal capitalism.
The character of Winston represented individualistic thought, like the democratic states previous to the World War Two Revolutions. Britain and France might have been regarded as democratic states. Within these two states, the individuals had freedom of speech and of the press, of petition and of assembly, and freedom from arrest for political opinions; “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows”. They could form political parties and elect the party or the parties they liked to rule “To die hating them, that was freedom”. In short, the individual was an end in himself. The government helped to provide for the fullest development and security of all individuals. Big Brother in contrast represented the totalitarian ideology, illustrated through O’Brian’s character. Russia, Italy and Germany might have been regarded as mean totalitarian states. Within these states, the individuals had no right of free speech, free publications and free associations. The individuals had no right to form political parties. “The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering-a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons-a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting-three hundred million people all with the same face.” There was only one governmental party which imposed its dictatorial rule on the people. This one-party regime was concerned with the 'total' activities of its people—their work, their leisure, their religion, even their private lives. The basic concept of the totalitarian state was best expressed in Mussolini's well-known phrase, “all within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”. In short, the state was the master, the individual the servant.
Orwell wrote his novel arguably as a sardonic attack on the totalitarian governments forming. Another novel Animal Farm was written as a satire on the Russian revolution, a modern beast-fable attacking Stalinism. Orwell's book was written as a parable of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet Union. Animal Farm interpreted in an anticommunist sense—as an indictment not against Stalinism but against socialism itself. “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” (Animal Farm) Implying that he recognises capitalism as the only form of humane society, as socialism policy is inevitably unlikely to succeed with man-kinds nature. Human equality in 1984 led to dictatorship “Therefore, from the point of view of the new groups who were on the point of seizing power, human equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted”. Orwell's two best-known books reflect his lifelong distrust of autocratic government, whether of the left or right: Animal Farm (1945), and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), a dystopian novel setting forth his fears of an intrusively bureaucratised state of the future.
Nineteen Eighty-Four will forever be remembered for its prophetic warning of a totalitarian society in which individuality is stripped away. In a desperate attempt to pierce through the invincible, omnipotent, omni-present Big Brother, Winston Smith fought to preserve his identity, an identity thwarted by O’Brian like an individual in a world where “there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph and self-abasement”, totalitarianism. “Alone-free-the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal”. Winston Smith’s character is eventually reformed, his morals altered, after betraying Julie and inevitably himself “The first thing you must realise is that power is collective. The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual”. Orwell’s writing still as Winston’s narrative voice in the last chapter seals this defeat, “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother”.
In this century of upheaval, we have seen communism, a philosophy introduced to the world by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engles, spread throughout the world, and bring governments to the point of global annihilation. In 1949 in the tense post-war years, Orwell saw communism as a major threat to world peace and personal liberty. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, he describes how a nightmare future could be created is communism triumphed. However, Orwell was certainly left wing, fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, so why did he see communism as a threat?
The simple answer to this is that it was a threat. Marx’s ideals had been watered down from day one, and in the first communist state, Russia, the theory became so diluted and changed, that the new emerging theories became known after their creators (i.e. Stalinism).
If communist Russia was a threat in 1949, was communism itself the problem, or was it the leaders of the communist soviets? Well, I think that the threat to world peace was no greater under Stalin than under Lenin. Although, of course, Stalin could cause far more damage to the world with the advent of nuclear technology, his main threat was to his own people. He was not trying to enforce Marxist ideas of world communism, unlike Lenin, who believed in the world revolution. I am not trying to underestimate the threat caused by Stalin to world security, but I am saying that it was no greater than under Lenin (or for that matter Kruschev)
So the question arises, is it the fact that they are head of a communist state that drives these leaders to be so hated by non-communists. I believe this is the truth. The problem stems from the fact that communism and capitalism cannot survive together in peaceful coexistence, simply because they each actively undermine the principals of the other. Communism destroys the single person, and capitalism revels in it. Capitalism believes in a ridged class system, whereas communism believe everybody is equal. In this way it is impossible for there to be peace between communism and capitalism, unless there is a common enemy.
An example of this is World War, when we see a united communist and capitalist front against Nazism (one may consider the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939 as nothing more than a time winner for Stalin and Hitler). As William Blake said in his poem, ‘The Human Abstract’, “Mutual Fear brings Peace”, and this was true of war time communism and capitalism.
Fundamentally, however, there is no way that these two diametrically opposed theories can exist side by side. Even during the war, there was distrust, especially over the question of the D-Day landings. Stalin saw their long delay as a sign that the Allies wanted Nazism to destroy communism in the war. It is because of the mis-trust, suspicion and treachery that arise from having opposing cultures, that communism is a threat to the world, maybe not as strong today, but certainly prevalent for the majority of this century.
(Orwell 1949 p. 9).
"To dissemble your feelings, to control your face, to do what everyone else was doing, was an instinctive reaction" (Orwell 1949 p. 18).
(Orwell 1949 p. 25).
"Tragedy, he perceived, belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there were still privacy, love, and friendship, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason" (Orwell 1949 p. 31).
"'We didn't ought to 'ave trusted 'em. I said so, Ma, didn't I? That's what come of trusting 'em. I said so all along. We didn't ought to 'ave trusted the buggers' "(Orwell 1949 p. 34).
(Orwell 1949 p. 35).
"And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small. Everything faded away into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain" (Orwell 1949 p.42).
"Withers, however, was already an unperson. He did not exist; he had never existed" (Orwell 1949 p. 46).
(Orwell 1949 p. 53).
"The proles are not human beings" (Orwell 1949 p.53).
"Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness" (Orwell 1949 p. 54).
"As he watched the eyeless face with the jaw moving rapidly up and down, Winston had a curious feeling that this was not a real human being but some kind of dummy. It was not the man's brain that was speaking; it was his larynx. The stuff that was coming out of him consisted of words, but it was not speech in the true sense: it was a noise uttered in unconsciousness, like the quacking of a duck" (Orwell 1949 p. 55).
"Why should one feel it [their life] to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different" (Orwell 1949 p. 60).
"Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom" (Orwell 1949 p. 65).
"The aim of the party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act" (Orwell 1949 p. 65).
"The Party was trying to kill the sexual instinct, or, if it could not be killed, then to distort it and dirty it" (Orwell 1949 p. 66).
(Orwell 1949 p. 67).
"If there was hope, it must lie in the proles, because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, eighty-five per cent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated" (Orwell 1949 p. 69).
"Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious" (Orwell 1949 p. 70).
"It was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations" (Orwell 1949 p. 71).
"The capitalists owned everything in the world, and everyone else was their slave. They owned all the land, all the houses, all the factories, and all the money. If anyone disobeyed them they could throw him into prison, or they could take his job away and starve him to death. When any ordinary person spoke to a capitalist he had to cringe and bow to him, and take off his cap and address him as 'Sir' " (Orwell 1949 p. 73). Animal Farm.
"It struck him that the truly characteristic thing about modern life was not its cruelty and insecurity, but simply its bareness, its dinginess, its listlessness" (Orwell 1949 p. 73).
The reality was decaying, dingy cities, where underfed people shuffled to and fro in leaky shoes, in patched-up nineteenth-century houses that smelt always of cabbage and bad lavatories. He seemed to see a vision of London, vast and ruinous, city of a million dust bins, and mixed up with it was a picture of Mrs. Parsons, a woman with lined face and wispy hair, fiddling helplessly with a blocked wastepipe" (Orwell 1949 p. 74).
"The past not only changed, but changed continuously. What most afflicted him with the sense of nightmare was that he had never clearly understood why the huge imposture was undertaken. The immediate advantages of falsifying the past were obvious, but the ultimate motive was mysterious. He took up his pen again and wrote: I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY" (Orwell 1949 p. 79).
"Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy" (Orwell 1949 p. 80).
"If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable-what then?" (Orwell 1949 p. 80).
"Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall toward the earth's center" (Orwell 1949 p. 81).
(Orwell 1949 p. 81).
"They [proles] seemed to possess some kind of instinct which told them several seconds in advance when a rocket was coming, although the rockets supposedly traveled faster than sound" (Orwell 1949 p. 83).
"Proles react to reality, not hearsay" (Orwell 1949 p.).
(Orwell 1949 p. 92). Revolutions
"…because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested" (Orwell 1949 p.93).
"What appealed to him about it [the coral] was not so much its beauty as the air it seemed to possess of belonging to an age quite different from the present one" (Orwell 1949 p.95).
"The centuries of capitalism were held to have produced nothing of any value" (Orwell 1949 p. 98).
"It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy but always against one’s own body" (Orwell 1949 p. 102).
"‘We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,’… The place where there is no darkness was the imagined future, which one would never see, but which, by foreknowledge, one could mystically share in" (Orwell 1949 p. 103).
"Winston watched it with a sort of vague reverence. For whom, for what, was that bird singing? No mate, no rival was watching it. What made it sit at the edge of the lonely wood and pour its music into nothingness?" (Orwell 1949 p. 125).
"He stopped thinking and merely felt" (Orwell 1949 p. 125).
"That was above all what he wanted to hear. Not merely the love of one person, but the animal instinct, the simple undifferentiated desire: that was the force that would tear the Party to pieces" (Orwell 1949 p. 127).
"But you could not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act" (Orwell 1949 p. 128).
"If you kept the small rules you could break the big ones" (Orwell 1949 p. 130).
"Life as she [Julia] saw it was quite simple. You wanted a good time; ‘they,’ meaning the Party, wanted to stop you having it; you broke the rules as best as you could" (Orwell 1949 p. 132).
"… people are such hypocrites" (Orwell 1949 p. 134).
(Orwell 1949 p. 134).
(Orwell 1949 p. 135).
"She [Julia] would not accept it as a law of nature that the individual is always defeated. In a way she realized that she herself was doomed, that sooner or later the Thought Police would catch her and kill her, but with another part her mind she believed that it was somehow possible to construct a secret world in which you could live as you chose. All you needed was luck and cunning and boldness. She did not understand that there was no such thing as happiness, that the only victory lay in the far future, long after you were dead, that from the moment of declaring war on the Party it was better to think of yourself as a corpse" (Orwell 1949 p. 137).
" ‘Oh, rubbish! Which would you sooner sleep with, me or a skeleton? Don’t you enjoy being alive? Don’t you like feeling: This is me, this is my hand, this is my leg, I’m real, I’m solid, I’m alive! Don’t you like this?" (Orwell 1949 p. 137).
"There it lay, fixed in future time, preceding death as surely as 99 precedes 100. One could not avoid it, but one could perhaps postpone it; and yet instead, every now and again, by a conscious, willful act, one chose to shorten the interval before it happened" (Orwell 1949 p. 141).
"He wondered vaguely whether in the abolished past it had been a normal experience to lie in bed like this, in the cool of a summer evening, a man and a woman with no clothes on, making love when they chose, not feeling any compulsion to get up, simply lying there and listening to peaceful sounds outside. Surely there could never have been a time when that seemed ordinary" (Orwell 1949 p. 146).
"It was as though the surface of the glass had been the arch of the sky, enclosing a tiny world with its atmosphere complete. He had the feeling that he could get inside it, and that in fact he was inside it, along with the mahogany bed and the gateleg table and the clock and the steel engraving and the paperweight itself. (Orwell 1949 p. 148).
"Four, five, six-seven times they met during the month of June. Winston had dropped his habit of drinking gin at all hours. He seemed to have lost the need for it. HE had grown fatter, his varicose ulcer had subsided, leaving only a brown stain on the skin above his ankle, his fits of coughing in the early morning had stopped. The process of life had ceased to be intolerable, he had no longer any impulse to make faces at the telescreen or shout curses at the top of his voice. Now that he had a secure hiding place, almost a home…" (Orwell 1949 p. 151).
"Often she [Julia] was ready to accept the official mythology, simply because the difference between truth and falsehood did not seem important to her" (Orwell 1949 p. 154).
(Orwell 1949 p. 156).
"In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird" (Orwell 1949 p. 157).
"The end was contained in the beginning. But it was frightening; or, more exactly, it was like a foretaste of death, like being a little less alive. Even while he was speaking to O’Brien, when the meaning of the words had sunk in, a chilly shuddering feeling had taken possession of his body. (Orwell 1949 p. 160).
"The dream was still vivid in his mind, especially the enveloping, protecting gesture of the arm in which its whole meaning seemed to be contained" (Orwell 1949 p. 164).
"The terrible thing the Party had done was to persuade you that mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account, while at the same time robbing you of all power over the material world. When once you were in the grip of the Party, what you felt or did not feel, what you did or refrained from doing, made literally no difference. Whatever happened you vanished and neither you nor your actions were ever heard of again. You were lifted clean out of the stream of history" (Orwell 1949 p.165).
"The proles had stayed human" (Orwell 1949 p.166).
" ‘I don’t mean confessing. Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn’t matter; only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you-that would be the real betrayal’ " (Orwell 1949 p.167).
" ‘No,’ he said a little more hopefully, ‘no; that’s quite true. They can’t get inside you. If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them’ " (Orwell 1949 p. 167).
"But if the object was not to stay alive but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately make? They could not alter your feelings; for that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable" (Orwell 1949 p. 168).
" ‘You understand,’ he said, ‘that you will be fighting in the dark. You will always be in the dark. You will receive orders and you will obey them, without knowing why’ " (Orwell 1949 p. 175). [any different from big brother?]
"You will have to get used to living without results and without hope" (Orwell 1949 p. 177).
"It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable" (Orwell 1949 p. 191).
"In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance" (Orwell 1949 p.191).
(Orwell 1949 p. 194).
"But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous" (Orwell 1949 p. 199).
"Since each of the three superstates is unconquerable, each is in effect a separate universe within which almost any perversion of thought can be safely practiced. Reality only exerts its pressure through the needs of everyday life-the need to eat and drink, to get shelter and clothing, to avoid swallowing poison or stepping out of top-story windows, and the like. Between life and death, and between physical pleasure and physical pain, there is still a distinction, but that is all. Cut off from contact with the outer world, and with the past, the citizen of Oceania is like a man in interstellar space, who has no way of knowing which direction is up and which is down" (Orwell 1949 p. 199).
"In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact" (Orwell 1949 p. 200).
"The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden. The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already" (Orwell 1949 p. 201).
"The aim of the Low, when they have an aim-for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives-is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal" (Orwell 1949 p. 203).
"There then arose schools of thinkers who interpreted history as a cyclical process and claimed to show that inequality was the unalterable law of human life" (Orwell 1949 p. 203).
(Orwell 1949 p. 205).
"It had long been realized that the only secure basis for oligarchy is collectivism" (Orwell 1949 p. 207).
"Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else" (Orwell 1949 p. 252).
"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship" (Orwell 1949 p. 267).
(Orwell 1949 p. 267).
(Orwell 1949 p. 267).
" ‘We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull’ "
(Orwell 1949 p. 300).
Here's what a star student thought of this essay
Quality of writing
Sound grammar, spelling and sentence structure here. Equally, this candidate utilises a variety of relevant vocabulary to address the complexities of the given question. With a word count of 5,832, it must be noted that this is a lengthy essay and students should be aware that this will not be expected for an exam, and often coursework (WJEC A-Level word limit is less for example).
Level of analysis
High. One is drawn to this candidates exploration of Winston's persona and the way he fits (or does not fit as the case may be) into Orwell's oligarchic and totalitarian society. With exploration of symbols, wider social context, and character, it is difficult to find fault. However, I would be inclined to suggest that more detailed analysis of language could improve this essay further.
Response to question
Excellent. This candidate explores a variety of perspectives and interpretations, whilst avoiding a linear answer to the given question. For example, the structure of this essay was both organised and engaging; incorporating a general overview at the start, and a valid summary to conclude. Overall, this candidate does not lose focus on the question and has ultimately produced a thoroughly engaging response.