10 November 2014
The Dangers of Totalitarianism
In George Orwell’s Ninteen Eighty-Four, all the citizens of Oceania live under the rule of a totalitarianistic government who is in complete control of their thoughts and actions. In this novel George Orwell tells a fictional story of a totalitiarinistic society, where the citizens of Oceania are under the complete control of the Party, and continually manipulated to know and do only what Big Brother wishes them to. In a study performed by Lupia and Menning it was concluded that “Fear affects politics” (103). Fear and power have been proven to be powerful tools of manipulation in any society; George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, demonstrates this claim with many striking similarities to another infamous totalitarian government under the rule of Nazi Germany in 1933. Through the close analysis of the novel’s protagonist, Winston, the reader is able to see how Orwell projects his thoughts and views to remind readers just how dangerous totalitarianism is. These dangers include lack of individualism and freedom as well as lack of societal development and economic progress. Lastly, totalitarianism in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four causes most of society to live in poverty.
“Totalitarian government is government by a dictator, operating through and with a single political party which comprises a minority, usually a small minority of the nation, but which is more or less hand-picked severely disciplined, and equipped with a monopoly of the means of influencing public opinion and enforcing the will of the government” (Hayes 21). Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts this scenario very well. Through Winston’s eyes the reader learns about the society of Oceania. There is only one political party, the Inner Party, of which its members are hand selected and controlled by Big Brother. The Inner Party is a very small percentage of Oceania’s population, the majority of the population is the “proles” or the lower class.
One of the many dangers of totalitarianism is that it causes a complete lack of individuality and freedom. Winston demonstrates throughout the story the lack of individualism that is demanded from the citizens of Oceania in many ways. In the opening scenes we see Winston begin to rebel against Big Brother by writing in a journal, which is strictly prohibited against by Big Brother. However, away from the prying eyes of the telescreen, Winston begins to journal. Initially Winston is unable to write, he lacks individual thought to put down on paper. Winston had thought about writing for weeks but then when it came right down he was unable to come up with anything to write. “For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the paper” (Orwell 10). Eventually Winston found much to write about, the progression of Winston’s writing gives a clear understanding why writing is prohibited. As Winston’s character progresses he begins to write, Winston remembers more and more of his past and then he begins to have individual thoughts and feelings. Orwell understood that conformity is an essential part of a totalitarian society, with conformity no citizen is able to have, or display, their own unique thoughts or ideas. This is also why reading any book not first deemed appropriate by the Inner Party is prohibited. While the uniformity of society seen in Nineteen Eighty-Four is not as drastic as the elimination of an entire minority as we saw during Nazi Germany, still all citizens of Ocenaia were groomed to look the same wearing “blue overalls which were the uniform of the part” (Orwell, 4). They were also forced to think the same, and act the same.
The danger of conformity to create a totalitarian society seems like a far off concept to those of us enjoying democracy; however, around the world in many other countries we see socialism as well as many past totalitarian societies in which dictators were able to create conformity.