Sample Essay On Nineteen Eighty-Four: Orwell’s Life And The Development Of A Novel
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the most famous novels ever written. It tells the story of a dystopian future world, where a government overlooks everything; there is no personal freedom and no sense of personal determination in Orwell’s dystopian future. The novel was written in 1949, at the end of World War II. Most of the world was experiencing a sense of relief along with a sense of awe and fear in the wake of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Orwell, on the other hand, seemed to be thinking fearfully of the future, and the potential disasters in store for humanity if humanity continued to act in the manner Orwell feared they potentially would.
Orwell was the son of a British civil servant, and as such, experienced a relatively charmed life in India. He left India relatively early, however, and settled with his mother and older sister in England at a young age. He was in England for the start of World War I, although his father was not, choosing to stay in India for most of Orwell’s childhood (Currie 57).
Orwell never bonded with his father, who he saw as boring and conservative; even as a young child, he was caught up in his imagination. His imagination seemed to be a dark place, and other children and adults around him often commented on how dark he was as a child. Orwell attended an excellent boarding school, but was not able to attend university due to lack of funds. Instead, he decided to become part of the India Imperial Force, and then later a writer; during the 1930s, he joined a group that fought against General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War (Currie 57).
Orwell’s invention of the dystopian future in Nineteen Eighty-Four is commonly attributed to fear of the future, but this is not an entirely fair reading of the novel. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a text that transcends fear; Orwell was observing the nature of humanity when he wrote the text, not merely telling humanity what he feared could happen. This is clear because the novel is still popular today, and still manages to speak to people in the current political climate; Orwell saw the current political climate in Europe, and could see a potential problem in the future.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell tells about the way the Party rewrites history. He states that, “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting” (Orwell). Orwell had seen Nazis burning books; he had witnessed the Soviet Union making motions insofar as taking over Europe. Orwell was fearful of a potential future where there was a Party, but he was not necessarily making a prediction. The novel was less of a prediction and much more of a warning for the future. Big Brother’s willingness to change history—and thus write the future—is something that has come to fruition in many different places around the world, and is one of the most dire warnings in the text.
Orwell clearly felt that those who can control the past—or at least the perception of the past—can control the future. This has come to be true today in many different ways. For instance, in China, the Chinese government repeatedly tries to suppress information regarding the Tiananmen Square massacre; indeed, despite the people having access to the Internet, they have been exceptionally good at suppressing this information. Information that makes the Chinese Communist Party look bad is removed from the Internet; China’s censorship of the Internet is so vast that it keeps millions of people employed every year.
China is not the only example of a country that tries to control its people through re-writing history, although it is guilty of some of the most egregious examples of this re-writing. Saudi Arabia has also banned books that are deemed inappropriate, and censorship is rife in the Middle East in general. There are many nations around the world with governments that have ignored the many lessons that Orwell tried to impart with his text. They do this to maintain power; maintaining power can be very difficult unless the government can convince the people that they are acting in a way that is in the people’s best interest.
Another important concept that is introduced in Nineteen Eighty-Four is the concept of group hate. Orwell writes, “The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp” (Orwell). The existence of hate like this is absurdly common today. It is very easy to whip people up into a frenzy, especially when they are in a group; humanity is seeing the effects of this type of group hate today in many different disturbing ways all around the world.
When terrorists from Al Qaeda flew planes into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, the world witnessed just how dangerous pure hatred could be. This was a very visible reminder of what can and will happen when people are encouraged to hate blindly. There is no denying the fact that the terrorists who flew the planes on that day hated the United States; perhaps these people had reasons to hate the United States government, and perhaps they even felt fettered by their own inability to express their hatred. However, the fact that they could reduce themselves to blind destruction of innocent people is one of the things that George Orwell so feared insofar as the blind hatred of the “other” in Nineteen Eighty-Four is concerned.
In Orwell’s society, Big Brother and the Party utilize propaganda very heavily to influence the feelings of the public. Today, propaganda still exists, even in the western world; however, the place of much of this propaganda has been taken by advertisements. In places like China, however, there is still a very active propaganda campaign that is designed to teach people how and what to think from a very young age. Propaganda is a very powerful tool in the hands of an all-powerful government, because it can influence how people act, but also how they feel; the propaganda machines inside China and North Korea, for instance, are both incredibly powerful and have influenced public opinion very strongly in favor of the government in power.
Propaganda, hate, and the control of history are three of the major issues that Orwell addresses in Nineteen Eighty-Four. These issues become central to his nightmarish vision of the future, and despite his many warnings, facets of the government that Orwell so reviled still appear in modern day governments. These governments are acting precisely in the ways that they have been warned against acting, and it is these actions that will eventually cause their fall. Although Orwell had preternatural foresight in some areas, he could not have foreseen the advancements humanity would make in other areas; while the protagonists in Nineteen Eighty-Four are without hope, the people of the world today are not entirely hopeless and lost for the future.
CURRIE, ROBERT. 'The ‘Big Truth’ In Nineteen Eighty-Four'. Essays in Criticism XXXIV.1 (1984): 56-69. Web.
Davison, Peter. 'Orwell & Marxism: The Political And Cultural Thinking Of George Orwell'. American Communist History 9.3 (2010): 335-337. Web.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949. Web.
Resch, Robert Paul. 'Utopia, Dystopia, And The Middle Class In George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four'. boundary 2 24.1 (1997): 137. Web.
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