Lack of Freedom, Power/Fear, Rebellion: The Link between Symbols and Motifs in a Totalitarian State in both Nineteen Eighty Four and The Lives of Others
By: Zain Safdar For: Mrs. Robinson Class: ENG4U1 Due Date: Nov 6th, 2012
“A common allegiance to form of expression that is identified with no single national unit is likely to prove one of the most potent symbols of the freedom of the human spirit that the world has yet known.” (Sapir). This is infamous quote made by anthropologist Edward Sapir is significant because it talks about how many of the most potent symbols are hidden or yet to be discovered. It is important to uncover these various symbols because they can reveal many significant themes and many motifs as well. In literature, symbols are very significant because they help the piece of writing feel more real to the audience. Symbols can be used on a much simpler scale; however can be more sophisticated, very diverse and complicated. As a result, symbols are very unique and are open to a person’s perception and this helps bring more true meaning to a specific symbol. In both the novel Nineteen Eight - Four written by George Orwell and The Lives of Others created by Florian vonDonnersmarck, there are many hidden and significant symbols that reveal many reoccurring patterns and show many important themes as well. The setting in both is in a powerful totalitarian regime. In this type of government there is the sole leader that has complete and utter control over its inhabitants. Therefore, because of this immense amount of power the leader slowly starts to become corrupt. It is then when the leader starts to take the rights and freedoms away from people and begin to rule by fear. This is shown in both Orwell`s novel and vonDonnersmarck`s film with people being stripped of their rights and are punished brutally for a minor infraction that the government does not approve with. Therefore, because of the constant oppression this leads several citizens rebelling in their own fashion.
In Nineteen Eight -Four the totalitarian regime of Oceania the most popular motif is the lack of freedom and voice. There are many different types of symbols that can represent this void, however there are two symbols that stand out above the rest the diary and the paperweight. Winston’s diary plays a very instrumental part in his life. With the constant oppression from Big Brother and the Inner Party Winston`s diary is the only thing where he can ventilate and write down his thoughts about anything he desires. Winston`s first describes the diary to the audience in the opening chapters as a book filled with “Creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for at least forty years past.”(Orwell 8). However later on in this chapter Winston starts to state what the government ruling would be on possessing a diary “The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal, but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least twenty five years in a forced labour camp.” (Orwell 8). This symbol is very diverse and shows many different motifs. The main motif that the diary shows is the lack of freedom and voice. The government rule with an iron fist and wants the citizens to be emotionless creatures that abide the harsh rules that are in place. However, Winston believes that he should have such a privilege so he decides to purchase the diary to write his true thoughts. This gives him the freedom to write and share his thought process. This shows another motif where there is the constant lies and lack of truth. Big Brother decides what the truth is and anything that is against the government is destroyed. That is why the diary is such an important symbol because it symbolizes the truth about the society from a citizen’s point of view. Lastly, the diary represents Winston’s rebellion toward the Big Brother and the Inner Party. Winston knows he will be punished severely for possessing the diary, but he still keeps it to show and symbolize his rebellion toward Big Brother. In addition another symbol that shows similar motifs is the glass paperweight. Winston is in the prole district on a mission to find answers to his questions about the past, however runs into the same store where he bought his diary. As he enters there is a “Heavy lump of glass, curved on one side, flat on the other making almost a hemisphere. There was a peculiar softness, as of rain water, in both the colour and texture of the glass.” (Orwell 98) that catches his eye. This is significant because it shows many of the same principles as the diary. The paperweight shows the similar motif of rebellion that the diary does. He knows that they shouldn’t be have it have continues to keep it due to his immense hatred for the government. Therefore, because of the many motifs that the diary demonstrated it shows many themes as well such as rebellion and freedom.