The role of a government is to keep society under control. The complete control of that society, however, can only be achieved through manipulation and regulation of actions, thoughts and emotions of a society. 1984 is a dystopian novel that was written by George Orwell in 1949, portraying his visions on what the future will look like. It is a book about the dangers of a totalitarian society and the effect it has on certain individuals. Winston, the protagonist of the novel, has been watched over by Big Brother for seven years and was made to believe that there may be freedom in his future, only later to be captured and physically tortured by the Party, for the sole purpose of proving that people can be broken and molded into the “perfect” citizen of Oceania (Orwell 320). This essay will explore and examine the physiological aspects of a person’s life that are controlled by the Party. These aspects are surrounded by the central idea that order to completely gain total control of people, restriction of their actions is simply not enough. The Party’s regulation of human physiological processes and emotions is what Orwell proves to be necessary to achieve successful authority over a society.
It is evident that the human desire to express themselves through art, writing, music, and even sex is natural and extremely hard to supress, which is exactly the aim of the Party. According to Judith E. Glaser, neuroscience is teaching society that ‘self-expression’ might be one – if not the most important ways for people to connect, navigate and grow with each other (Self-Expression). Moreover, sex is a fundamental part of people’s lives and it is what makes us human. It substantiates, humanizes and incarnates existence along with its supply of joy, love, comfort and affection, further enforcing its importance (The Psychology of Sexuality). Artistic expression as well as other expressive arts therapies can be a corridor for transforming feelings and perceptions into new life stories and, as a result, creating a new sense of self, proving to have a healthy output on people’s lives (Expressive Art Therapies and Posttraumatic Growth). In 1984, Orwell has portrayed Winston’s efforts to try and withstand the Party’s influence through his ability to defiantly proceed to write in his journal, which “was not illegal…but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death” (Orwell 9). However, “his memory was not satisfactorily under control.” (Orwell 44)
Subsequently, when it comes to gaining complete control over a society the Party starts with the regulation of the basic physical aspects of one’s life. Sex is a human desire that the Party, with all its efforts, tries to demean to being simply an act for the government to keep procreation. “The Party’s real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act.” (Orwell 85). Winston’s sadistic and aggressive thoughts, prior to his and Julia’s affair are proof of the sexual repression the people of Oceania are experiencing. When Julia asks him what he thought of her when she first passed him the note, Winston revealed that “he wanted to rape her and then murder her afterwards.” (Orwell 156). Further into the novel, Winston disclosed the fact that he used to be married to Katherine who was “a tall, fair-haired girl, very straight, with splendid movements.” (Orwell 86). She called having sex “making a baby” or “our duty to the Party” (Orwell 87). Even though the Party, was not completely against occasional sexual intercourse, they wanted romance to be completely removed from it because according to the Party’s mindset “desire was thoughtcrime” and “procreation will be an annual formality, like the renewal of a ration card.” (Orwell 88; 349).
Aside from the strict regulation of sexual intercourse in Oceania, the theme of violence also has a lingering presence in the novel. Torture in Oceania is ironically overseen by the Ministry of Love, which is the branch in the government that enforces the loyalty to Big Brother and the Party through fear and brutality. It is through torture that the Party successfully alters a rebellious mind to become an obedient and accepting one. Winston is seen as “a flaw in the pattern”, and since “it is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party”, he must be cured (Orwell 333; 327). Room 101 is the room that all prisoners of the Ministry of Love are taken to, to be fixed – it is the final part of the torture process and the breaking point for everyone. Room 101 is where criminals face their worst fears and through that they are made “sane”. While Winston was in the cell at the Mistry of Love, there was a man there with him that was ordered to be sent to Room 101. As soon as he heard that, he yelled that he had a family and that “they can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats” but the officer did not seem to acknowledge him (Orwell 311). Room 101 is where both Winston and Julia went through the final stage of accepting their love for Big Brother and ultimately gave in to torture. They had lost their free will, they were simply pawns of the government like everybody else and they no longer posed a threat to the Party (The Vintage News). O’Brien warned Winston that “never again will he be capable of ordinary human feeling”, and that “they shall squeeze him empty and then they shall fill him with themselves” (Orwell 335; 336).
With regards to achieving more substantial control of a person, Orwell demonstrates the ways in which the Party was able to acquire access to the minds and the thought process of people in Oceania. The first aspect of mind control is the control of thoughts. The Party controls and restricts people’s ability to think whatever they want to think, by enforcing strict rules concerning what one is allowed to think. Thought crime is one of the many ways an individual in Oceania can commit treason – it is thinking of anything that the Party considers illegal, which is subsequently anything that opens a door to creating individuality. Winston is aware that “thought crime does not entail death: thought crime IS death”, however he does not seem to care as he is constantly committing thoughtcrime throughout the entire novel (Orwell 36). This further indicates that he is experiencing “doublethink”, which is one of the consequences of the Party’s massive propaganda campaigns. It is one’s ability to accept the information that the Party is feeding them and, simultaneously possessing a different set of information that contradicts what one is being told.
Fundamentally, language is the origin of thoughts and it is the basis of everyone’s thought process. Controlling the language is a way of controlling people’s thoughts as it narrows their vocabulary range, and as a result “narrowing the range of thought” (Orwell 98). In 1984, the language that is predominantly used is Newspeak, which consists of fewer words with rigid meanings. In chapter five, the readers are introduced to Syme, who worked in the Research Department and was a specialist in Newspeak. Orwell presents Syme as a character who is clearly loyal to Big Brother and was brainwashed by the Party. Syme believes that “the destruction of words” is “a beautiful thing” and that it is something that the society will benefit from (Orwell 67). Newspeak was created to remove even the slightest possibility of rebellious thoughts – the words that produce an opportunity of such thoughts have been completely eliminated from the vocabulary. George Orwell believed that the corruption of language and totalitarianism are linked and according to him, “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupts thought”, thus leading to the idea of Newspeak (Politics and the English Language).
Equally important is the paranoia that is instilled in people as a way of keeping them in check and from breaking the rules. Orwell introduces first indicator of the constant monitoring in Oceania is the poster that Winston sees. “It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” An example of Winston’s paranoia could be when he first encounters Julia and automatically assumes that she is a spy for the Thought Police and she is now on her way to report him to them. When he was sure it was the same girl he had seen a couple of days ago in one of the buildings, “there was no doubting any longer that the girl was spying on him” (Orwell 130). He thought “it was too great a coincidence. Whether she was an agent of the Thought Police, or simply an amateur spy…, hardy mattered.” (Orwell 130). Furthermore, the feeling of paranoia is placed in people through the use of technology and how it is embedded in the citizens’ everyday life. Throughout the novel Orwell shows that Winston lives in fear of the telescreens surrounding him, and ultimately he is not wrong in being afraid, as the telescreen in his and Julia’s hideout was the entire reason for them getting caught. Even at the beginning of the novel it was revealed that “the telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously” and that “there was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment”, which mad any action that was even slightly out of the Party’s approval was a huge risk and could put one’s entire life in jeopardy.
Furthermore, another element to consider would be how the Party controls people’s emotions and how that creates a social incompetence in the society. Love an emotion that the population of Oceania are not familiar with. It is evident that the people there are restricted from having any sort of relationships involving romance or any other kind of emotions, “there will be no love, except the love of Big Brother” (Orwell 349). Although marriage is tolerated by the Party, it is merely seen as a formality. The Party does not want partners in a marriage to have any real emotional attachments towards each other, because that kind of devotion poses a risk to the Party’s Power. The people are devoted to the Party, and the Party only. Winston himself had d not experienced love or having an intimate relationship, however he was as mentioned earlier, married to his former wife Kathrine, who was a pawn for the Party just like everybody else. Winston said “that she had without exception the most stupid, vulgar, empty mind that he had ever encountered” (Orwell 86). More…
More significantly, the Party takes pleasure from getting one to turn against their loved ones for the good of Big Brother, thus betraying the bond of loyalty and trust that was shared. As Winston is reluctant to betray Julia, O’Brien exploits Winston’s loyalty to her as a weakness to further continue torturing him until he breaks. Winston once told Julia “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 real betrayal”, and ironically he did just that. Families in Oceania are expected to allow loyalty to Big Brother outweigh loyalty to any other person, no matter whether it is, son, daughter, mother, father, husband or wife. Children are taught to spy on people from a young age, and are brainwashed in a way that forces them to report their parents to the Party for a crime. Parsons explanation for his presence in the Ministry of Love was that he got caught saying “down with Big Brother” in his sleep and that it was “his little daughter” who denounced him (Orwell 307). He said “I’m proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit”, thus proving the Party’s influence in the family institution. By the means of an organization called Junior Spies, which is where children are taught to denounce the parents to the Thought Police, the Party managed to wedge itself between one of the most powerful instinctual bonds and transform parental love and devotion into fear and paranoia, and then turn children into obedient pawns for the Party or an extension of the Thought Police.
Complimentary to the state and methods of control in Airstrip One in Orwell’s 1984, connotations can be drawn with the state and methods of control in Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games. Both novels portray how a revolution is something that seems to be inconceivable for the citizens that are oppressed by the government. In The Hunger Games, the Capitol is the center of command in Panem. It is in charge of most of Panem’s wealth and therefore has the means of control for all of its’ twelve districts. The annual Hunger Games are the ultimate act of the government’s power – they were designed to be a regular spectacle for the purpose of warning the people of Panem about the consequences of a rebellion, thus achieving their cooperation. Although both novels consist of a totalitarian government and strict societal control, they are presented with slightly different angles on the way in which the two are handled. In Orwell’s novel, the protagonist Winston, is aware that the repercussion of going against the system is death, and accepts that. In Collins’ novel, Katniss Everdeen has a chance at winning the Games and being rewarded with a luxurious life, implying that she has learned to accept living in a corrupted system. Both novels successfully convey how society’s norms and cultures can be changed with the appropriated use of propaganda along with fear.
In conclusion, it has been proven that the main goal of the Party is to remove individuality. Throughout Orwell’s novel 1984, the stripping of one’s self-expression and identity is what seems to be the essential aspect of dehumanization of a society. Orwell wrote this novel not only as a reflection of what he has seen in the war, but also as a warning of the future man who is bound to lose his individuality through the restriction of love and loyalty. This novel encompasses how the tyranny of a power, in this case the Party, can be destructive and dangerous to humanity. In order to completely gain total control of people, restriction of their actions is simply not enough. The Party’s regulation of human physiological processes and emotions is what George Orwell proves to be necessary to achieve successful authority over a society. “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power” (Orwell 344).