The Nature of Reality in Nineteen Eighty Four
Published 13 Sep 2017
Ninety Eighty-Four is the novel where George Orwell established an entirely new school of thought that is associated with dystopian reality. This is a concept which stands against the famous Thomas Moore idea of Utopia. Complete disillusionment in the writer’s mind regarding the contemporary political scenario resulted in the birth of this realistic feeling. Sarcasm and cynicism are also the integral parts of this idea of reality in this novel. George Orwell, having spent the early years of his life in India returned to England to study at Eton where he had a scholarship and was accused of educating himself out of the Headmaster’s fund. Later he found himself in Burma and still later worked for BBC, a job from where he resigned disillusioned about the honesty of media. (It Is “S. Cannizzaro”, 2009) During a part of his life he fought for the Republic in Spanish Civil War witnessing gaudy war atrocities and false broken promises by a new found Republic- the account of which was firmly brushed aside by the British Intellectuals when he related them, on his return to home country. Thus we see that though a Socialist Democrat in heart, Orwell was repeatedly disillusioned about the façade that a pseudo intellectual society puts up before the world in general. When such a man relates his thoughts and ideas of what Reality ought to be and what Reality may result in under a Totalitarian atmosphere, we see the birth of a novel like Nineteen Eighty-Four.
In the first part of the novel we find the antagonist Winston Smith constantly suppressing his natural urge to think and opinionate spontaneously in the fear that he might be spotted doing so by the Big Brother formed in shadow of partly Stalin and partly Hitler. He takes care to avoid the telescreens implanted in each home for surveillance by The Party by presenting his back to the Screen. When he feels the urge to write in his diary he chooses to hide in the alcove meant to house a bookshelf for it is out of the range of the telescreens. Later he falls in love with fun loving and happy-go-lucky Julia who cares more for the carnal pleasure than ethical values. In course of the plot this individualistic affinity between the opposite sexes merely for pleasure of the emotion is found by the omniscient Party and Big Brother and the culprits are caught and punished. At the end of the novel we find a phantom of the Winston Smith that we come across at the advent of the novel. Here stands a man suitably chastised for thinking his own thoughts, reacting to his own emotions and endeavoring to spend a part of his life, though apprehensively, in a way he would wish to.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell holds beacon to his idea of individualism by portraying the melancholic account of a man whose all civil rights are dominated by the imposed ideals of The Party and its Agent O’Brien who spies, traps, tortures and brain washes Winston Smith to acquiesce to the set of Party Norms. We find reflection of the same thought in Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ where Howard Roark an aspiring young architect is expelled from a renowned Institute for he refuses to build what others think Good. He finds independence the only measure of human virtue – “What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn’t done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity”. (Orwell, Part 4, Chapter 18, pg. 681) The awesome consequences that can result in a dictator dominated society are nothing but the death of all freedom that is assigned to an independent democratic society. Thus the Freedom to Think is subjugated to the principal of ‘Double Think’ where the thoughts taught by the Party are the sole school of Thinking; The Freedom of Speech is totally curbed by the ‘Newspeak’, a language portraying in affirmative to The Party Thought and The Memory Hole where all truth contradicting The Party campaign is sent. Incidentally, these concepts appear so relevant to the present political idealism in some pockets of the present world that terms like ‘memory hole’, ‘Big Brother’, ‘Room 101’, ‘doublethink’, ‘thought police’, and ‘newspeak’ have been entered in the Standard vocabulary in present times. (George-Orwell.org, 2009)
Reality in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is nothing but a process of breaking the individuality of a man resulting in a decadent future. The same as portrayed in Country-Last-Things by Paul-Auster where a similar picture of homelessness of a people is described vividly in a city where all is `Destruction’ with human bodies strewn across streets that are collected by licensed human scavengers to reap their own benefits following meaningless war sprung by hopeless dictatorial Government to stay in power. In the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four the stricture `War is Peace’- where War is the economic basis of a hierarchical society- is the ultimate dictum portrayed by the Party and to establish this, the ‘Human Spirit’, of those who can Think is successfully broken by the Party and its agents like O’Brien. Only the masses, Proles, are allowed to think for they lack the power of individualistic thinking. Those who can are taught through torture to submit to think “Two and Two Makes Five” thus contradicting the author’s opinion “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four”. Reality in Orwell’s, a crusader of Individualism and Democracy is subjugation of a intelligent human’s spontaneous thoughts, emotions and actions to the artificial norms that prove convenient to the Rule of an Autocratic Party and its agents. The Inner Party forms of the core of this Reality consisting of only 1% of the population. The Outer Party, 18% of the population may consist of people like Winston Smith, who are soon brought to heel by the Outer Party and the rest are The Proles, the unthinking mass. Here the ministries, Minitrue, Minilove etc are satiric implications of hypocritical institutions that camouflage only personal gains oblivious to philanthropic goodwill to build a a successful prosperous and productive society. In the novel, however, we sense the hidden optimism that is characteristic of all creative work when Orwell paints the picture of a Proles woman singing to herself as she works. Thus, around the dark cloud of selfish motivation of events by Big Brother shines the silver lining of Hope that future lies with the Proles, the mass and redemption may come therewith.
- It Is “S. Cannizzaro”. “George Orwell and His Time”. Retrieved from:http://www.itiscannizzaro.net/Ianni/booksweb/sito1984/author.htm . Accessed on March 22, 2009
- Orwell, George. Ninety Eighty Four. 1st World Publishing. 2004.
- George-Orwell.org. “Biography of George Orwell”. Retrieved from: http://www.george-orwell.org/l_biography.html . Accessed on March 22, 2009.