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A Review of George Orwell’s Book, 1984

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The Past and Individuality

George Orwell’s novel 1984 warns of a totalitarian state in the future. The totalitarian state, Oceania, under the control of the Party and its leader Big Brother, poses a society where the government is always right and where the people have no freedom of speech or thought. At one point in the story, Winston says “anything old, and for that matter anything beautiful, was always vaguely suspect”(96). The Party views “anything old” and “anything beautiful” as dangerous because they are symbolic of the past and individuality— things that the Party seek to control and abolish so they can remain in power.

The Party suspects anything that is old and views them as dangerous because they are remnants of the past and symbolic of the past. These objects can give someone thoughts about the life before the Party took control. Winston starts to rebel against the Party after buying an old diary and writing in it. He questions the Party’s claims about the past, asking “were things better than they are now?”(87). Old objects are also evidence that can be used refute the Party’s claims about the past. Because of this, the Party seeks to destroy or rewrite everything of the past so that there is no proof about the past other than what the Party claims for it to be. Winston’s job in the Ministry of Truth’s Records Department of forging and correcting past documents into “what the Party wanted” is an example of the Party’s efforts of rewriting the past (43). After the past was erased and falsified, “the erasure was forgotten, and the lie became the truth” and the only thing that would remain was proof of the Party’s claims and no evidence against it (75). The Party views “anything old” as dangerous because they are remnants of the past that can be used to disprove their claims and induce rebellion. But instead of letting the past be used against them, the Party seeks to rewrite the past and use the past to support them.

As with old things, the Party would also suspect “anything beautiful” and view it as dangerous because they are symbolic of individuality, which the Party is trying to abolish. Beautiful objects stand out and are not ordinary and dull. Contrary to that are the members of the Party, which Winston observes as “ugly, and would still have been ugly even if dressed otherwise than in the uniform blue overalls” (60). The Party tries to abolish individuality in people so that they would not have original thoughts and therefore they would only have the thoughts of the Party. Individuality and original thoughts are a danger to the Party because it is the source of rebellious thoughts. The Party executes people who are “too intelligent” and without “discretion, aloofness, a sort of saving stupidity” because they have individuality, original thoughts, and are capable of self expression (53-55). Contrary to the members of the Party, beautiful items are different and unique which is symbolic of individualism, a threat to the Party because it is the source of rebellious thoughts.

In the totalitarian society of George Orwell’s 1984, the governing Party manipulates and falsifies the past so that they are always right and abolishes individualism so that the people will only have the thoughts of the Party. The protagonist Winston says that “anything old, and for that matter anything beautiful, was always vaguely suspect”(96). This is because old things are remnants of the past and evidence that can be used against the Party. The Party seeks to control the past by “rewriting” the past so that the evidence that would otherwise be used against them, would be supporting them. Beautiful things are also seen as dangerous because they are unique and different, a symbol of individualism. The Party wants to abolish individualism because it is the basis of thoughts that could start a rebellion. The past and individuality are threats to the Party’s power and the Party would do whatever it takes to keep that power.

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