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During the early 1900’s, a plethora of totalitarian regimes were created which often forced their citizens to conform to a certain set of outward beliefs either through torture, mind control, manipulation, fear, or propaganda, regardless of their own personal ideals. In 1984, George Orwell utilizes the character of Winston Smith, who seemingly supports the government, but internally desires rebellion, in order to highlight the dangers of a totalitarian state.
Orwell utilizes Winston’s fearful nature of the consequences of betraying the Party in order to convey the negative effects of totalitarianism on people, and to highlight how fear was used as a tactic to force citizens to conform rather than be their true selves. While listening to the 2 minute hate a program designed to influence the members of Oceania into opposing the other nations so violently that they allied with Big Brother- Winston claims that . Although Winston was showing signs of rebellion against the Party, he still acts as if he supports them. This outward show of support towards the party is an example of the lengths that Winston went to in order to protect his life, and to avoid being captured by the Thought Police. If he had instead decided to stay seated rather than react to the footage of Goldstein, an infamous traitor of the Party, he surely would’ve been considered suspicious to the Thought Police and could’ve resulted in vaporization. In addition, after being tortured into conforming into society, Winston claims that After spending an extensive amount of time being tortured and held against his will due to his decisions to rebel, Winston finally breaks and loses his desire of rebellion. Although he still dislikes the Party’s beliefs, he chooses to no longer defy the Party as his fear of going through torture again is much stronger than his internal desires. His actions, as well as his career as a writer at the Ministry of Truth, are just one of many ways in which Winston attempts to appear as a normal member of society. Winston’s primary purpose for his actions are solely based on his want of survival. This instinctual decision to blend in based on survival is a familiar occurrence in totalitarian states. Similar to the novel, many totalitarian states utilized a series of propaganda, fear, and constant surveillance of their citizens in order to keep them dutiful to their nation. Through the use of Winston, and the vivid descriptions of the twisted tactics used by the government, Orwell attempts to highlight the threat of rising totalitarian regimes, and to emphasize their negative impact on society.
Moreover, through the use of an outside narrator, Orwell attempts to highlight Winston’s internal struggles with his true beliefs vs. the beliefs of the Party, and how his attempts to assert his individual nature are useless under complete totalitarian control. While discussing betrayal with Julia, Julia tells Winston that the PartyThis shows that while both Winston and Julia outwardly appear to follow the government through both actions and words, they are still against the government internally. This is representative of the fact that regardless of how strictly government attempts are to force uniformity, there is no way to ever completely control a population, as thoughts cannot be completely controlled Just by being with Julia, and spending time with her, Winston breaks many of the laws of the Party, but he does not regret it. Rather than feel guilty for his crimes, Winston is mainly curious of the reasons behind the laws as well as the true history of the government. In addition to his rendezvous with Julia, Winston also internally rebels with the keeping of his diary which “was not illegal” but if discovered would be Winston’s internal desires are so strong that he can no longer control himself, and he begins to keep a secret life away from how he presents himself in public. Although he is fearful of what will happen to him if he rebels, Winston curiosity and his hope overpower his fear, and he begins to seek out ways to rebel against the Party in order to allow free thought. He is constantly in search of ways to rebel, eventually leading to him trusting those he thought were trustworthy, but who turn out to cause his destruction. He alone is intelligent enough to question the teaching that the Party instills in them, while the rest of his society is content with what they are told. Winston’s eventual capture and brainwashing to comply with the rules of Big Brother, are symbolic of the totalitarian state, and how the creation of a uniform society may come at the expense of citizens individual rights and freedoms. Through Winston’s internal thoughts, Orwell attempts to highlight the dangers of the totalitarian state, and he attempts to warn his audience to defend their individual human rights, or else possibly have them taken away.
George Orwell uses Winston’s conflict between his internal desire to rebel against the Party, and the conforming attitude he presents to everyone else due to his fear of being captured in order to showcase the abysmal effects of a government that aims to control all of their citizens. Orwell aims to use Winston’s inward and outward tension to emphasize the power that a repressive government has over their people. The lack of success Winston had with his desire to rebel against the government is meant as a warning from Orwell, that an absolute government such as the Party, will lead to the erasure of one’s individual freedoms. Through his many comparisons in the novel to real life events, such as his references to the Cold War and World War II, Orwell presents 1984 as a frightening warning to readers of the flaws of a totalitarian government.
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