Critical Analysis of George Orwells 1984 Using Literary Criticism

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Interpretations of literary works take varied routes ranging from context to authors intentions, allusions, inferences and the works of critics. While some literary works have been interpreted to represent things that the authors went through, others depict politics, economic status, and social issues among others. Literary criticism can expound not only such allusions but also shade light on hidden aspects that require deep thought and reflection. Critical analyses make literary works relevant and meaningful.

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George Orwells 1984 has been for so long considered as one of the most satirical timeless political fictions of all time. Looking at 1984 through a critical eye, a lot can be deduced from the book in relation to the historical context, the authors background and the unimaginable representation of a particular kind of future bedeviled by various undesirable shortcomings. In particular, this essay presents a critical analysis of 1984 through literary criticism of the occurrences within the book and the actions of the characters that Orwell presents and how he presents them. Orwell presents his ideas best because the book, written in 1948, is set 36 years into the future, and therefore unveils possible political interferences and mainstream media influences. Through characters like Winston Smith, Emmanuel Goldstein, and Big Brother, Orwell brings together a masterpiece that will never be forgotten. While some critics maintain that 1984 depicts difficulties that Orwell underwent in his life, a critical look into this book proves a little different, on a wider perspective (Stansky, p.101). Orwell explores the issues of psychological, political and ideological control of citizens in a dystopian future in which the mainstream media and some characters like Big Brother are used to instill fear and obedience in people.

If Orwell had known how his depiction of a totalitarian future would change the dynamics of political landscapes in the current time, he would be a very proud man. He foresaw what only a few people saw as early as 1948 (Bloom, p.5). The totalitarian nation of Oceania is created with a great history of fame and inner political mechanisms which are later altered by the government through a political party by the name Ingsoc. The party employs the use of propaganda, surveillance, and spies among others to intimidate and frighten the citizens of Oceania and also maintain power. Ingsoc is meant to weaken peoples confidence through the insistence of no-privacy rule through enforcing that all city buildings should have glass walls so that nothing is done in secret. Through these measures, the people of Oceania have no right to self-belief, common sense, intelligence and the right to make personal decisions in any matter. The residents of this totalitarian state are subjected to psychological torture.

The control of information in 1984 is driven by the contradictory slogans of the political party. Slogans like Freedom is slavery, War is peace and Ignorance is strength are often used to remind people that the opposite of everything is true, and not what they regard as right, just, or democratic. Through this means, Orwell writes against socialism and fascism associated with possible future dictatorial governments. In philosophical terms, the partys use of these slogans indicates to the people that they do not need freedom but slavery and that they should prefer war to peace or embrace ignorance. Contradicting these ideologies resulted in government-sponsored torture and death, hence promoting total obedience and loyalty in exchange for survival. These political terms drive political and psychological control with fear being the major means of governing people. Despite this technique, Winston, who is also the protagonist, is used to by Orwell to represent rebellion.

It is clear from the book that language is used in-depth as a tool of mind or psychological control, and Orwell believed in the connection between language corruption and totalitarianism. This is where the idea of Newspeak comes from. As a political language, Newspeak distorts concepts and events by terming them as something else. In one of his earlier books named Politics and English Language, Orwell admits that If thoughts can corrupt language, then language can also corrupt our thoughts (Orwell, 137). In this sense, it can be deduced that the role of language involves formulation and expression of thoughts through available words. Newspeak does not contain rebellious or disobedient words thereby limiting how people conceive such thoughts. Specific linguistic aspects that can be noted in 1984, especially the appendix section, include the abbreviations and words associated with totalitarian countries. Such words like Nazi, Agitprop (propaganda), Gestapo (secret police) and Komintern are altered words with limited meanings which drive the political intentions of Newspeak. It all comes down to the matter of conscience which is gagged with fewer and fewer words of representation each year. Orthodoxy is well maintained by the use of Newspeak, and Orwell mentions that Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness (Orwell, 46). As observed from 1984, Newspeak is used instead of English language with an aim to prohibit people from questioning the absolute power and control that the party holds.

Orwell presents a sorry state in Oceania, a situation in which dictatorship takes charge to change the history of the whole nation. History books are re-written, and facts change to block people from reading and conceptualizing the old truths associated with democracy, fairness, and justice. In addition to the language ostracizing such words from its vocabulary, facts were changed to lies, a fact overseen by the ministry of truth (Chapman, p.3). The residents are brainwashed to believe unproven concepts without question. Those who believe in the party were victims of brainwashing, and typical example, in this case, is brought out by the belief that two plus two equal to five rather than four (Orwell, 80). No one dares to question or seek proof of the matter. Re-writing of the history books bore the ideas against capitalism, which people were made to believe is bad. Within the same line of thought, revolutionary individuals like Emmanuel Goldstein, who founded the Brotherhood organization, are constantly hunted by police.

Social policing and technology used in 1984 are symbols of total control by the government on its people. Constant surveillance dictates that people should conform to the demands that the government drives through Insoc. Telescreens are presented in all homes and the picture of big brother, an imaginary person created by the government, keeps watching everyone and their moves. Orwell creatively makes readers learn of Big Brother through Winstons perspective. The screen constantly reads Big brother is watching you (Orwell, 3) and is people believe that it hears even whispers too. Through the life of Winston which is always under surveillance, it is evident the pressures that residents of Ocean go through in every aspect of their lives. Whenever the omnipresent telescreens are not watching, the people around are. It is clear that people are afraid of the consequences of their actions especially if they show non-conformity. The fear is fueled by the constant disappearance of those who are disloyal to the government. Again, in 1984, Orwell portrays the police, as nosy when he describes how their patrol helicopters snoop down peoples windows looking for any signs of mischief or hidden agendas (Orwell, 2). The thought police are also believed to have the abilities to know what everyone is thinking, prohibiting Oceanian citizens from negative thoughts related to disloyalty. From the fact that the disloyal individuals are executed with no trace, the prospects of such horrific incidents happening are dreaded with every nerve. Despite the fact that Oceania has no written laws for punishing crime, an environment of fear is created in a manner that favors the governments capabilities of controlling people within Oceania and maintains power.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Orwells 1984 brings forth a dystopian future as a warning to the current generation of political philosophies or dynasties. Through the use of characters lives and occurrences throughout the book, Orwell foresees a future generation of totalitarian and oppressive political regimes and governments which will neither obey any laws nor tolerate differences. He paints the negative realms of technology and how it can be used to influence unjust or unauthorized decisions such as surveillance. Language, telescreens, re-writing of history books, control of information, torture and death are some of the techniques use by the dystopian government of Oceania. Despite these circumstances, Orwell gives hope for the future by implying that only revolutions, rebellions, conscience, and determination, among others can save future people from rogue governments.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. George Orwell. Chelsea House, 2007.

Chapman, Don. Orwell's Language and Thought in Politics and the English Language and 1984. Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium. Vol. 15. No. 1. 1989.

Orwell, George. 1984: A Novel. New York: New American Library, 1949. Print.

Politics And The English Language. Horizon, 1946. Print

Stansky, P. George Orwell And The Origins Of 1984. Modern Language Quarterly, vol 37, no. 1, 1976, pp. 101-103. Duke University Press, doi:10.1215/00267929-37-1-101.

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