George the outcome of an authoritarian regime permanently sustaining

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a nightmare
perspective of a totalitarian government that has gone awry. Throughout the
novel, Orwell ruminates on his thoughts of the autocratic super state of
Oceania, in which supreme power is in the hands of one individual, a symbolic
figurehead referred to as Big Brother. In such a society, every aspect of a
citizen’s life is controlled by Big Brother, hence the novel’s significant
slogan “Big Brother is watching you”1.
This individual has control over the thoughts, speech and associations of
Oceania’s inhabitants. Through these depictions, the concept of the future is
explored and the novel is a warning of the outcome of an authoritarian regime
permanently sustaining its perpetual power. As it was written during world war
two, Orwell was inspired by the dictators of Germany, Spain and the Soviet
Union. He combined his direct experiences of totalitarianism, the
politically-induced warfare and biased media to a futuristic age with advanced
technology to create this piece of literature2.
Although the novel continues to compel attention and resonate widely 68 years
after its initial publish, the interpretations of a contemporary reader in
comparison to one of the post war era differ due to the realities of their
lived experiences.

            A reader
directly from the post-world war two time period has a greater connection with
the dangers and fears of a totalitarian regime instilled in the novel due to
their recent experiences of the Soviet Union and Nazi-Germany aggression.
Throughout the narrative, thoughtcrime and doublethink were
Orwellian neologism used to depict criminal acts of having illegal thoughts,
thoughts that opposed or questioned the ruling party, and holding two opposite
ideas or beliefs simultaneously. Commitment of such crimes resulted in
punishments of torture and “wiping” an individual’s existence. These ideas were
more applicable to readers of the time as they were equivalent to the spreading
terrors of Hitler and Stalin. In many countries, ordinary citizens could not
oppose or resist the ideologies of such powerful leaders or their parties and
any individual who managed to do so experienced the horrors of concentration
camps or faced execution. Furthermore, throughout the novel, Oceania was
constantly at war with either Eastasia or Eurasia which meant that the Ministry
of Plenty restricted rations of certain goods. There was a shortage of
chocolate in the country which forced all citizens to reduce its ration and
thus not buy as much as they could before. This is more relatable to readers of
the war period as they experienced their countries in similar situations. To
help the war effort and to ensure fair shares for all citizens, the
distribution of scarce resources was strictly controlled by departments such as
the ministry of food. A reader from the 21st century would not be
able to make the same connections to these concepts as they have no first-hand
experience of these situations. Therefore, the text would be interpreted
differently by them as they have the knowledge of the historical events, but
they have learned them through secondary sources.

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When
considering Orwell’s sophisticated ideas of futuristic technologies such as
telescreens, microphones, monitors and surveillance cameras, these concepts are
better understood by recent readers. In today’s age, the government of many
countries gathers information of their citizens through the internet by
tracking them through cameras or simply through social media. They have the
ability to invade one’s privacy whenever they want. However, the fear of being
watched no longer exists for these readers as they are aware and accepting of
the widespread idea of being watched at all times by a higher authority. These
ideas were more frightening to individuals in the 1950s due to their
totalitarian experiences. They would view such technology as a means for the government
to abuse their power and further the control they have on their lives; a
technique to promote conformity, obedience and submission. However, a reader of
the 21st century may view this method of surveillance as a way to
better and protect the society as extensive surveillance technology can be used
to identify any acts of violence.

The
experience of being a woman has also shifted when comparing a 1950 society to
one in 2017 and therefore, Orwell’s portrayal of women is also interpreted
differently by two readers of the two time periods. Women in Nineteen Eighty-Four were encouraged by
the party to nurture and care for families which is evident through the example
of Mrs. Parsons, a stay at home mom who cooks, cleans and educates her children
on the rules and regulations of the party. This concept is better understood by
women during the post-war time period as they existed in a patriarchy society
where they were encouraged to be tied down by domesticity and ultimately find
happiness in this role. These ideas are absurd to women today as they now have
greater independence, freedom and opportunities which no longer restricts them
to the “typical role of a housewife”. Furthermore, throughout the novel, women are
encouraged to reproduce for the party, in order to create future party leaders.
This concept is more relatable to women during the war era as they too were
encouraged by the government to have kids, ideally boys, who can grow up and
represent their country at war.

In conclusion, it is due to a reader’s ability to make personal
connections to a piece of text that determines its value and meaning. Since
experiences vary among individuals, so do their interpretations. The
interpretation of a literary work is dependent on the context of the reader,
meaning the time period in which it was read. As readers of various generations
have varying experiences and thoughts, the meaning of a text alters along.

 

 

1 1984
book

2 https://londonhuawiki.wpi.edu/index.php/The_Influences_of_George_Orwell%27s_1984