Essay on Contemporary Society as Depicted in George Orwell's 1984

Paper Type:  Thesis
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1931 Words
Date:  2022-05-30


There is no author that discourses contemporary social matters better than George Orwell. He belongs to a clique of writers with a keen eye on the political dynamics and their downstream impact on the core aspects of the society. He is a political satirist who stirs muddy waters to reveal the rot that exists within the heart of the society. He exposes what many authors would wish to sugarcoat in order to attract readership and gain favor with the ruling class. His works are majorly inspired by the social dynamics. He vividly recreates the society in texts and brings out a resemblance that is not easy to conflict. The hallmark of his talent in this area was the Animal Farm which highlights inequalities that exists even in the exemplar democracies. He disputes the idea of ideal politics, and contends that every political system is marred with greedy leaders who do not care about the commoners. In another book, 1984, Orwell gives an account of how the future world would be. Written in 1949, Orwell foresees a dystopian system in 1984 that loathes good morals.

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The 1984 is a perverted society with regressive orders. He forecasted unending global warfare, political manipulation, propaganda, torture, gagging of the media, espionage, citizen demotivation, constitutional crises, and all other vices he believed could exist in a disorderly society. He attributes this disorder (or order) to the rise to power of totalitarian rulers and bureaucrats who are drunk with power and wish to remain in its stupor forever. In 1984, the political class tracks the behavior of their citizenry to detect the slightest intention of revolution. They generate propaganda and use state mechanisms to feed the people with lies. They initiate a systematic wave of deceit and contortion to fill the hearts of the people with disillusionment. Literature may distort the image of the society, but it may also give a true picture on the ground. Orwell's work adopts the second stance.

The fictional society in the book mirrors what America and most of the developed and developing world experiences today. "1984" is arguably here in the contemporary society. There is a 21st century absolutism that has infiltrated the political class today. It seeks to manipulate the citizenry by feeding them with propaganda through state-operated mechanisms. The leaders in positions of power spend the taxpayers' money to fuel unending wars in pursuit of global influence. They destroy the moral code that bids the society together, kills and tortures whistle blowers, nominates their kind to head federal agencies, and control virtually all sectors of the economy with an iron fist.

Social events are one of the most common factors that influence the content of literature. They may, for instance, direct an author to describe a fictional utopian society or rebuke a corrupt system. Most renowned essayists like John Dewey focused most of their writing to system in the society like education, politics, and nationalism. His work is, therefore, a common tool of referral for analyzing contemporary societies. The literal work produced on the society may praise or condemn the actors and social facts. For example, an author may observe that higher education among children from a certain community leads to the growth of crime rates. In giving their opinion of the root-cause of this regressive social dynamic, an author may give an account of the student's conduct of a fictional university to conclude that the vice emanates from bad morals in the learning environment. An author can also observe that many people in the society have a high happiness index. He may also attribute this happiness to high income since most people are employed. In tracing the course of this happiness, the author would prove that most people have gone through higher education, are in gainful employment, and their income is sustainable. In other words, there is no tool that mirrors the society as appropriately as literature. By use of skills and mastery of language and its devices, an author can produce a very appealing piece of literature towards a certain course. 1984 is such an account.

It is the year 1984 in the capital city of Airstrip One, one of the most populous and developed country of Oceania. The book's protagonist, Winston Smith uses the staircase to get to the seventh floor of Victory Mansions, a conglomerate of houses where "proles" (Proletarians) live. He passes through a hallway marked by enormous billboards with a face of a mustachioed man that the author calls the Big Brother. The entire apartment also has "telescreens" installed to monitor the speech and actions of the residents. Across the street from Smith's house is another billboard with letters "INGSOC" denoting English Socialism as the dogma of Oceania. In his room, Smith writes down on a cover of a book he had bought from the store downtown. He explains that acquiring that "THE BOOK" was a suicide mission that he was willing to undertake due to his admiration of the text and the author. Through Smith's eyes, the readers get to know the makeup of the political system that is the focus of George Orwell.

Airstrip One is the former British territory that was amalgamated into the larger Oceania after a global war that restricted the world map. Oceania, where Airstrip One is located is one of the three continents of the world which are in constant fights with one another. The other two continents are Eastasia and Eurasia. Oceania is under the leadership of the Party, which is headed by the Big Brother. He has a policing agent called the Thought Police that investigates defiance and prosecutes culprits accordingly. The Party has four ministries that oversee the affairs of the country. There is the Ministry of Truth, which oversees "news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts" (Orwell, 1949). The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war while the Ministry of Love and Ministry of Plenty maintain law and order and promote economic affairs respectively. Oceania has a continental language called Newspeak. The words of this language have an English root although their meanings are cryptic. Winston worked for the Ministry of Truth and did an awkward job. He, among others, undertook what is called historic revisionism. They reviewed past newspaper articles to change meaning and rewrite tem in Newspeak. For most part of the novel, Winston remains loyal to his employer until he meets Julia. She motivates him to become rebellious through some materials he gets from "likeminded" people in the Party. However, he comes to learn that nobody was really opposed to the Party. When he is discovered by a secret Thought Police agent masquerading as a comrade, he is detained in torture chambers and is only released after re-pledging his support for the Party.

The Party in the book is akin to the affiliations that feature in the political spheres today. The government is formed by a political party that wins the election or any other form of gathering majority support. The political party then appoints the cabinet which helps the president or the prime minister in governing the country. The ministries are an extension of the presidency. They fulfill the party's agenda for the nation. In most cases, the agenda is the president's campaign manifesto and their promise to the people before the election. The people appointed to head the ministries must be political associates of the president. They must show allegiance, and any act of defiance is punished by immediate dismissal. Besides the ministries, the president or his affiliates puts in place propaganda mechanisms to make his plans known to the people. The State Department in the USA is one of the propaganda mechanisms. It fulfills the wishes of the US government to the international community. The actions and projects by the State Department do not necessarily reflect the will of the people. These projects are at the interest of the President and are undertaken with hope that they will bear fruits for the government. What each ministry or federal agency does is under the influence of the presidency, although the opposition may put some caveats in parliamentary sessions. However, and from statistical analysis, most bills emanating from the presidency or the ruling party see the light of the day regardless of the opposition they get in parliament. Then ruling party's Chief Whip oversees the persuasion of the opposing forces to ensure that the bills that hold the president's agenda pass through the Congress. How the ruling party ascends to power is always a question of the meaning of democracy. The US elections are done through party and state delegations. This delegation does not put in consideration gender or ethnic balances. The campaigning period in the United States and other places in the world is akin to a battle. There are countless boardroom deals as politicians seek support.

This picture is more or less the same as the one that George Orwell draws in his book. He presents the Party as the supreme authority whose say is final. The party oversees rationing of food, surveillance, warfare and virtually all activities taking place in Oceania. The Party's head is the Big Brother who is an embodiment of tyranny and authoritarianism. He does not welcome a contrasting opinion to his decrees. He is omnipresent and employs all the tactics to implement his agenda for the nation. All the four ministries fulfill his desires for the nation. The Ministry of Truth, for example, distorts news feeds to suit the message of the Big Brother to the nation. Winston reveals alteration "was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs-to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance" (Orwell, 1949). After the alteration and necessary editing, the material would be reprinted and redistributed to the readers, but now bearing the intended message. The manner in which the Party rose to power is through warfare. There were many people who were ruthlessly maimed as Oceania and its rulers fought rebellion. Winston recalls a movie that he watched showing the merciless killing of a man in the Mediterranean Sea. In the same movie, a boat full of mothers and their children is sunk through an air-to-ground bomb launched from an Oceania helicopter. The present government and its inner operations reveal a rot that is so deep and inherent in the political system of our time. The rot existed in 1949 when Orwell was writing the book, but he predicted the trajectory that it was expected to take. Five decades ago and several administrations down the line, the rot is still there. Unfortunately there are dim hopes that it will disappear in the near future.

1984 portrays the police force as ruthless, cruel, cunning, and as the killing machine of the Party. The government accomplishes some of its agenda through the police. The Federal Bureau of Investigations in the USA is a detective outfit that has often found itself on the receiving end of criticism. The local police departments have also fallen short of sympathy, often carrying out extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians. The police sometimes make poor judgments that at times prove fatal. There is leaked information that the CIA undertakes secret missions to extract information from innocent people. They apply enhanced torture techniques (ETT) and detention without trial, although these activities are prohibited under the constitution. They infringe on the basic human rights by mistake or intention. Although these cases are isolated, it is correct to say that there are glaring similarities between the 1984 Thought Police and the current force.

The Thought Police is omnipresent. In the first c...

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