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Throughout history the establishment of castes and social class hierarchies has created hostile divides in populations, resulting in tension and discrimination. From the Indian caste system to the class discrimination present in the United States today, it is clear that social stratification almost always takes a turn for the worst and leads to oppression that can have a foundation of hard or soft power. Authors George Orwell and Aldous Huxley create worlds where there is an obvious differentiation between certain groups in the overall population, which causes the protagonists to rebel or feel dissatisfied with the lack of individuality and privacy in their lives. As the stories progress, it is clear that although the class systems in each book are different, they are both instruments that the governments utilize in order to control the citizens in Oceania and the World State.
In Brave New World, we are introduced to the complex caste system that is made up of Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. These are the classifications of humans in this work, and are assigned when the government artificially conceives each fetus. Alphas are at the top of the social hierarchy, while Epsilons are at the bottom. Each social class is assigned a specific color so others can differentiate easily, and are conditioned to believe that although each class is necessary, every class after beta is inferior. Because of this, the government is able to control every citizen in the World State by assigning each class to a specific job. Alphas are created to be intellectually superior to the others, and due to this they have the task of running the factories that create more humans. Betas are similar, but have jobs that require less critical thinking. As you go down the list of classes, the jobs that are assigned to them become less intellectually demanding and there is more discrimination towards them. When betas are conditioned at a young age the government plays recordings that state, “Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid…” (Huxley 20) The World State emphasizes that these classes and forced prejudices are set in place to promote their motto of “COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.” However, it is clear that the government degraded every class, regardless of the privileges that others seem to have on a superficial level.
On the other hand, 1984 depicts a social stratification that is made up of the Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles. The Inner Party is the smallest out of the three classes and the members receive many small privileges like wine and the ability to turn off their telescreens for about thirty minutes. Even though they do receive these privileges, they are not exempt from the strict rules that are in place to ensure the dehumanization of the citizens in Oceania. Throughout the novel, the protagonist, Winston Smith, realizes that even though the Proles are at the bottom of the social hierarchy, they have the most freedom of the three classes. To Winston and the reader it is clear that the ideals of the English Socialist Party (Ingsoc) are appallingly corrupt, but the mentality that the class structure creates makes Smith a minority in his thoughts. When Winston gets his hands on an enlightening book, he makes the revelation that,“It is in the ranks of the Party, and above all of the Inner Party, that the true war enthusiasm is found…If human equality is to be forever averted — if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently — then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity”. This example presents the crisis that the Outer Party and the Proles face as a result of the classism embedded in the ideology of Ingsoc, which rules over Oceania. The Outer Party and the Proles are constantly reminded that Big Brother and Ingsoc have always had all of the power, and will continue to do so, even if they need to murder or torture rebels. This need for control built on the foundation of hatred and strong power also strikes fear into the hearts of many citizens, which gives the party even more ammunition as they try their best to dehumanize all of them.
Through 1984 by George Orwell, we can analyze how the English Socialist Party controls citizens with an iron fist within the confines of the three-class system that they themselves established. The parties that Ingsoc created can easily lead to envy, despair, constant comparing, and even jealousy. Although these after effects may seem extremely harmful to the mentality of an ordinary human being, that is exactly what the government is aiming to do. It is evident as the plot progresses in this novel that the main goal of Ingsoc is to dehumanize their citizens, and they plan to achieve that no matter what the cost. This means going to great lengths to monitor every citizen at all times, and creating a broken class system where there is no opportunity to escape the destiny that the government has already created for you. The same is true in Brave New World, as citizens struggle to hold onto individuality and find themselves oppressed by a government founded on soft power. As classism grows more rampant in our modern world, it is important to look to these novels as examples of what could happen if social stratification is not solved soon.
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