Nineteen Eighty-Four is a 1949 novel by the English author Eric Arthur Blair, who wrote under George Orwell’s pseudonym. It is a dystopian and satirical book about totalitarianism. This novel takes place in Airstrip One (previously Great Britain) in the provinces of Oceania. It is the second novel in my second list of books.
The Social Structure
The Nineteen Eighty-Four book starts with a bright cold day in 1984 to anticipate this story’s harsh and ruthless dynamic. The cult of the Big Brother and the Ingsoc ideology are the bases of this society. There is a pyramidal social structure where the majority consists of proles, the lower working class; the Outer Party composes the middle-class, and the Inner Party represents the upper class. The dictator is the mysterious Big Brother, whose identity is secret. He is a phantasmatic leader who represents the Party. His face appears all over Oceania, in posters and telescreens with the “Big Brother Is Watching You” caption. Microphones and telescreens upholster every bit of the indoors and outdoors. Everyone and everything is under the control of the elitist Inner Party. The role of the Thought Police is to control everybody all the time.
In this lunatic and foolish social structure, there are three different government ministries: the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue, the Ministry of Peace, Minipax, the Ministry of Love, Miniluv and the Ministry of Plenty, Miniplenty. The Minitrue deals with news, entertainment and education; the Minipax is responsible for the war; the Miniluv is in charge of law and order; the Miniplenty manages the economic affairs. The worst among them is the Miniluv. The main character of this catastrophic scenario is Winston Smith, who works for the Minitrue. In Oceania, the official language is the Newspeak which consists of a minimal amount of words. Furthermore, the third most populous region of Oceania is Airstrip One, whose chief city is London. And it is in London that all the episodes occur.
A Ridiculous Propaganda
The three slogans of the Party are: War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery and Ignorance Is Strength. It sums up the concept of the ideal citizen who must be an ignorant slave and fanatic supporter of the Big Brother. Hence, instincts, free-thinking, love, and individualism are illegal. And every thought and emotion is meticulously scrutinised as much as actions. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the people’s enemy is Emmanuel Goldstein, one of the Party leaders; after he engaged in revolutionary activities, he escaped and disappeared. Everyone hated and despised Goldstein. Winston hates the Big Brother, the Party and the Thought Police. These three heinous entities fight the thoughtcrime, which consists of unorthodox thoughts and rejection of the Party’s doctrine.
Winston keeps remembering ancient times when he was a child, and there were privacy, love and friendship. Therefore, he firmly believes that thoughtcrime involves death, recognising himself as a dead man. Indeed, the deprivation of feelings and freedom gave birth to a society made of fear, hatred and pain; and the old England was now Airstrip one. Another slogan of the Party is: “Who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present, controls the past”. A mist surrounds every memory of Winston because he remembers only sporadic events. Briefly, he realises that whoever displeases the Party, disappears mysteriously. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, marriages were happening among Party members with the approval of a committee, with the condition that the two parts were not feeling any mutual attraction. The only purpose of marriages was the procreation of children for the service of the Party.
An Unbearable Existence
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, love is an unthinkable act because of the denial of feelings and affection. The Party considered the proles as natural inferiors such as animals. Hence there is no need to indoctrinate them with the ideology. And to exploit the proles, the only requirement is a mere patriotism. They are free from telescreens, daily inspections, and puritanism. Indeed, another Party slogan is: “Proles and animals are free”.
On the contrary, Winston’s life is a blend of a nebulous past and lies, which become truth. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Big Brother’s hypnotic eye is everywhere, even on the children’s books. And it is a coercive and frightening way to manipulate the minds. Literature is banned, and the only legal books are the ones about the doctrine of the Party. Therefore the history and the past are erased. Nobody escapes torture and detection.
Thoughts And Dreams
Not only thoughts and speeches are under examination but also dreams, which are the unconsciousness’s expression. Even during the sleep, the mind must control itself and love the Big Brother. On this purpose, the children are often spies, who denounce their parents, and their loyalty to the Party replaces their love for their parents. Moreover, no emotion is pure because the fear and hate contaminate everything. Nevertheless, Winston has a love affair with a girl, Julia, who hates the Party. They both try to survive, even though they break the rules, know that their death can come in a moment. Among all the social classes, the proles remain human, keeping their primitive emotions. In the end, Winston will go through several years of tortures, which will reshape his mind as brand new, inducing him to love and venerate only the Big Brother.
Cogito Ergo Sum
The Party’s logic finds its explanation in the concept of perception of reality, where truth and lie are consequences of the thoughts. A principle recalls René Descartes’s philosophy, who stated that “I think; therefore I am”. In this sense, reality exists because we think about it. As he explained: “We cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt”. Moreover, the self-evident truth of “two plus two equals four” exists only in the human mind. The English writer Samuel Johnson used to affirm that you may have a reason to assert that two plus two equals five. In the Nineteen Eighty-Four novel, what is essential to the Party is that every mind subordinates to the Party doctrine. As a consequence, the power of thinking must overcome reality; nothing exists outside the human mind.
The Zombies Of Nineteen Eighty-Four
The Big Brother Party’s ultimate ambition is to create a crowd of brainless zombies, who obey the Party’s doctrine unconditionally. The real interest of the Party and every type of dictatorship is to seek power for its own sake. And of course, they don’t care about the wellness of the multitude. As O’Brien, the torturer of Winston claims: “One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power”. No individuality is allowed since each individual is a mere cell of a social organism. Thence, individuals achieve power as soon as they lose their identity. And they cease to exist, living a grey life of zombies without emotions nor freedom.
It is essential to read this book because it reminds that dictatorship and totalitarianism are very dangerous and terrible. Nevertheless, even nowadays, many people are nostalgic for authoritarian regimes, perpetuating many tortures, murders and heinous crimes. I find unbearable and unbelievable that even nowadays there are groups of fanatics, who organise marches, which recall horrible atrocities both in Europe and in the USA, where this happens with the local authorities’ consent. I really cannot understand how it is legit to justify racism and people’s murders in the name of lunatic ideologies. Indeed the past should show how to avoid such horrific injustices and massacres. It seems humans did not learn from history and keep perpetuating the same depravities.