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Dystopian Life in '1984' Was a Real-life in China

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There is no voice from citizens in a country under control by the totalitarian government. In a totalitarian government, the highly central authority seeks to control everything of society. The power of the masses is small and weak, which cannot bring any devastating impact to the government’s dominant control. People would have to entirely follow the rules set by the government without any rebellion. The novel “1984” is a typical dystopian work written by George Orwell in 1949, and it is focusing on how its government oppresses the citizens by control every aspect in society. However, in dystopian literature, there always be a conflict between the protagonist who stand out to rebels the corrupted government. In the novel, the protagonist Winston Smith starts to question and against the Party by having various thought crimes on his mind. Nevertheless, after the torture and brainwash by the Party, he feels guilty of thought crimes at the end of the book. Totalitarian governments do not only exist in the literary world but also happens in the real world. Go back to the 20 century, during ten years of the cultural revolution in China. People live under terrible social chaos, which was filled with turmoil, bloodshed, starving, and stagnation and millions of lives have gone. In the totalitarian society, the government has supreme power with no limitation to their authority, and they seek to control every aspect of the public, which lead people lost their freedom, culture and economic resources.

Under the totalitarian government control, people lose their freedom to act and speak as a human being. In the world “1984”, the Party restricts people from doing things that are adverse for the dominant control, such as writing a diary, “To one side of it (wall) there was a shallow alcove in which Winston was now sitting…By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen… it was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing( writing dairy) that he was now about to do”. Winston is trying to hire from telescreen to write a dairy. As a human being in society, one should have the right to write a diary. However, people in the world of “1984” are not allowed to do so because the Party define dairy as a record of history, which could affect the totalitarian government’s dominant control since the evidence of the past will cause people start to question the information that the government provided whether is true or not. People do not have the rights to decide what behaviours they can do because the government is completely controlling them to make sure everybody will not bring any threats to them. Identically, the strict control to act was also happening in China during the cultural revolution. “In the turbulent years from 1966 to 1968, what remained of old religious practices…old social practices such as traditional weddings and funerals, and old ways of dress were violently attacked and suppressed”. These traditional activities play a significant role in Chinese people culture. However, the government took away the rights of people to do what do they want to do. Durdin used the word “turbulent” to evaluate what happened during those years. “Turbulent” means disorder and unstable. By control people’s freedom to act, such as to hold traditional weddings and funerals will cause unsatisfied and protest from citizens because people are no longer able to express their emotion in a way that they want and comfortable with, and then the society start to disorder and unstable by people’s rebellion. Besides, in a totalitarian society, people are lost not only the freedom to act but also the freedom to speech. 

In “1984”, Parson caught by the Party and imprisoned in the Ministry of Truth by committing thought crime, “‘ Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep… Down with Big Brother! Yes, I said that!’… ‘Who denounced you?’ Said Winston. ‘It was my little daughter…She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day”. Parson has been reported to the Party by his own child because he said adverse remarks about Big Brother during his dream. Even though Parson is a person who is showing his loyalty to the Party all the time, he still has the risk of being committed to a thoughtcrime, which means nobody is safe in a totalitarian society. People are not only forced to the restricted public speech by the Party but also in any way possible, even in one’s dream, and that is unconscious and uncontrollable. It demonstrates that people have no right to judge anything about the Party and are not allowed to share any opinions with others. A very similar case happened during the cultural revolution in China. “a 16-year-old boy, Zhang Hongbing, denounced his mother to an army officer in his village in Anhui province, in eastern China. He slipped a note under the officer’s door, accusing her of criticizing the Cultural Revolution and its leader, Mao Zedong. She was bound, publicly beaten and executed”. The totalitarian government is not only dealing with adults, but also children become a tool of government; a son was sending his mother to execution. During the social chaos, the speech is genuinely a dangerous thing. People can quickly lose their life by expressing their opinion towards the government. All in all, People do not have the rights to decide what do they want to do as an individual in society, and the totalitarian governments under thoroughly restrict their speeches. In this case, by the end of living in this environment of life, people’s mind becomes numb, and they will lose of the ability of critical and questioning social issues.

Governments destroy the diversity culture from society and aim to limit people’s thoughts in order to strengthen the complete control. In “1984”, all the social media works must be edit by Ministry of Truth to match the Big Brother’s thought, ‘This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers… but to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance’. Winston is one of the employees work in the Ministry of Truth who changes the previous content of literary works to pair the prediction outcome from Big Brother, and by doing so, the authority and reputation of Big Brother in society is unshakeable and indestructible since he is always giving a correct prediction for the people. However, it is a fake appearance, and the Party only provides information that they want people to get. The purpose of all the mediums is trying to frame people’s thoughts and lead them to a specific direction, which helps the Party to dominant control because people are no longer get a piece of variety information to enrich their mind. 

During the cultural revolution in China, a similar method to enhance the central power had applied, “All forms of media and communication were tightly controlled …Everything, from poetry to posters, had to reflect Mao Zedong Thought”. The social status of Mao Zedong was corresponding to the Big Brother in “1984”. He was an infallible leader for Chinese citizens during revolution time, no matter what he said is accurate, and people are fanatically pursuing and flattering him in any way possible. Therefore, all the literary works must learn from Mao Zedong Thought, and there are not various types of literature that exist anymore. By restricting people’s minds, identically, in “1984”, Newspeak was created by the Party to take place the original literature words. Syme talks about Newspeak Dictionary with Winston secretly during the lunchtime, ‘don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word… all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten’. Syme has a clear mind about the aim of the Newspeak Dictionary is to eliminates the words from the natural language and make it more understandable to the Party’s ideology. It highly benefits the Party that unable to reduce or exterminate the thought crime because people do not even know what a thoughtcrime is, and there is no word to describe it. Also, since people’s literary world has been simplified, they have no more specific and accurate literary devices and vocabularies to convey their thinking. Likewise, as an example of limiting the diversity of culture in real life, during the time of the cultural revolution, “Schools and universities were closed, and churches, shrines, libraries, shops and private homes ransacked or destroyed as the assault on ‘feudal’ traditions began. Gangs of teenagers in red armbands and military fatigues roamed the streets of cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, setting upon those with ‘bourgeois’ clothes or reactionary haircuts”. Any places that relate to the Chinese traditional culture were being regarded as evil, and it is not allowed to exist in society. People do not have sources to get knowledge from other types of literary works except Mao Zedong Thought. The ‘bourgeois’ clothes and reactionary haircuts have the same meaning as the natural language in the book “1984”, which are forbidden by the government, because people are not allowed to think out of the box and bring their own characteristic to society. Cutting off the multicultural resources from the literary world is one of the methods that totalitarian governments do in order to stabilize the dominant control in society. By limiting different culture resources in society, it reduces the people’s ability to think and also stagnate the development of human literature because people are not getting real literary information.

By controlling the economy situation, low-class people will not be able to get enough amount of resources from the government. In the world of “1984”, Goldstein’s manifesto mentioned that, “For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realise that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away”. If proles are living in a condition which everything they need is achievable, they will start to think more deeper about their life and are likely to realize that they are under totalitarian controlling. By economic controlling by the Party, proles are not available for enough resources. Instead, they are only getting essential resources to stay alive. When the basic physiological needs such as foods and clothes become the difficult problem that people are facing, moreover, pornography, alcohol and lottery as entertainment activities that people are busy to do. Under these circumstances, people do not have enough energies to think about psychological needs, which means they are not going to aware they are under oppressed and who is in power. 

By the same has happened in the real-life, “By the time the Cultural Revolution sputtered to a halt… about two hundred million people in the countryside suffered from chronic malnutrition, because the economy had been crippled”. Millions of Chinese people suffer from a lack of food during the cultural revolution. People in the countryside are the same social class as the proles in the world of 1984. Government do not provide them with enough resources in order to enrich low-class people’s life, instead, leaving them in a situation which makes them only think about how to overcome the physiology needs. By doing so, low-class people would not be a threat for rebelling the totalitarian control. In 1984, to control chocolate ration is means to control their life, “It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week”. People are thankful for Big Brother to offer them more chocolate ration than before. However, the truth is that the amount of ration is reduced instead of increased. The Party alters their food resources and makes sure they are not getting enough amount of food, in the meanwhile by rewriting the history to convince people that the Party is trying to improve their standard of lives. Another means used to force people do not get enough resources that happened in real life is to kick out people from the city, “educated young people from the cities were sent to the countryside to work on farms… More than 16 million young people were sent to the countryside”. People were forced to work as a farmer in the countryside. It means quality resources such as education took away from the people by the government. Their living conditions has been decreased from the economy perspective since the countryside is not as developed as the city, and people who live in that situation will not be able to focus on figure out the issues from totalitarian control. Instead, they are facing physiological challenges, and they were dealing with agriculture production every day. Therefore, for the totalitarian governments, in this case, educated people are no longer become a threat to them as well. In 1984, the Party modified the chocolate ration to the proles. In real life, millions of Chinese people were forced to work in the countryside during the cultural revolution. The totalitarian governments control the economic resources and distributed citizens a limit amount in order to stuck people in a basic survival standard of living. Therefore, people are only focusing on how to make a life instead of being educated and start to question the policy.

In concluding, totalitarian governments are seeking to control every side of society with unlimited power entirely, which impaired people’s freedom, culture diversity and economic resources. In the dystopian novel ‘1984’, George Orwell presented a typical totalitarian society by restricting people to record history by themselves and prisoning people who speak inappropriate speech for the Party, by the same token, the Chinese government has forbidden particular activities and kill people who claim one’s view on policy during the cultural revolution. Moreover, editing literature works in order to control people’s mind, can genuinely damage various culture happened in both of the book “1984” and past China. All the forms of mediums must reflect and match the totalitarian government thought. The last but not least is to keep the masses in a basic survival standard of living by distribute them with a limited amount of economic resources, which forced people do not have enough energy to question the policy. People are seriously harmed both physically and mentally by living under totalitarian government control; they have no identity in society and let the government order their lives. 

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Dystopian Life in ‘1984’ was a Real-Life in China. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
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