They used their power for terror and murder, and their motive is simply to maximize their own personal power. George Orwell had witnessed World War II, the fall of Hitler and Stalin’s dictatorships, and the fatal outcomes that have come from these governments. To warn future generations of the harsh effects of totalitarianism governments, he wrote the book Nineteen Eighty-Four. Published in 1946, Nineteen Eighty-Four describes life in a totalitarianism form of government, following the main character, Winston Smith, as he takes risks in discovering how he believes life should truly be.
Literary critic Irving Howe states, “Were it possible, in the world of 1984, to show human character in anything resembling genuine freedom… it would not be the world of 1984” (62). In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government uses its power to suppress individuality among the people. To begin, the author shows how the government abolishes individuality through the use of mind control. First of all, the creation of Newspeak restricts the individual from saying things that he/she wishes to say.
More specifically, the task of the Party’s philologists is to regulate the vocabulary and language of Oceania to ultimately be able to control the actions and behaviors of the people. Literary critic Stephen Ingle argues, “The more vocabulary contracts, the more the Party will be able to control behavior” (124). Since the Party has complete control over how the people can talk and what they are allowed to say, they ultimately have the power to control how they act. Through Newspeak, thoughtcrime will become impossible due to the fact that there will be no terms in which to express it.
Furthermore, the Party asserts its control over the mind through doublethink. To begin, doublethink is an example of a thought process in which one simultaneously holds two contradictory beliefs while accepting both of them. For example, while in the Ministry of Love, O’Brien uses doublethink to make Winston believe that he can float. Winston says, “If he thinks he floats off the floor and I simultaneously think I see him do it, then it happens” (Orwell 278). O’Brien cannot float, however through the use of doublethink Winston can say that it does happen.
Moreover, the Party also uses thoughtcrime to regulate the people’s thoughts, speech, actions, and feelings towards the government. The Thought Police use psychology and surveillance such as hidden telescreens to discover cases of thoughtcrime and misbehavior. For instance, a telescreen hidden behind a picture on the wall in Winston and Julia’s secret hideout is the reason they are caught in their illegal love affair. Winston describes, “Thoughtcrime does not entail death: Thoughtcrime IS death” (Orwell 27). Winston is saying that death is definite if one thinks badly about the government or disapproves of the government’s actions.
Thus, due to telescreens, people are forced to keep an expression of optimism at all times; because any other emotion will be considered treason (Ingle 127). Consequently, individuality among the people is destroyed through mind control. In addition to mind control, Orwell also illustrates how the government strips the people of their personal identities though their control over reality. To begin, the party uses its power over Oceania’s history to eliminate all records of the past in order to create a future entirely dedicated to politics. Winston states, “History has stopped.
Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. I know, of course, that the past is falsified, but it would never be possible for me to prove it” (Orwell 155). The Party has complete control over the history of Oceania, and they choose to delete any and all traces of the past, such as memories. Additionally, the Party uses their control over memories to minimize individuality in the people of Oceania. More specifically, the Party seeks to control the memory of the people because without memory, they cannot remember the past.
They remove all documents and records of the past through their memory holes. It is one’s memories that keep the past existing and that shape their lives (Ingle 123). The Party succeeds in abolishing the past by restricting the memories of the people. Moreover, the government reduces individuality with their perceptions of logic. In Oceania, whatever the Party says is correct is correct. If one does not agree with what the Party says, he/she is considered insane; a flaw in the system. To explain, when Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love, they torture him-physically and emotionally to make him accept the logic of the Party.
Powerful party member O’Brien explains to Winston that their logic is correct, regardless of what Winston knows is right. O’Brien implores, “Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane” (Orwell 207). O’Brien is saying that the government has the ability to alter aspects of their lives that Winston knows are the real thing; however he has no choice but to accept them. He is considered “insane” because he knows what is right and what is wrong and is hesitant to believe that the Party’s logic is true.
Noted critic Stephen Ingle implies, “Winston conjectures that in the end the Party would declare that two plus two made five and the individual would be required to believe it” (122). In the future, there will be no other types of logic other that what the Party deems to be true. Thus, the government uses its power to control all aspects of reality for the people of Oceania. Equally important to mind control and reality, Orwell also shows how the government’s control over the people’s emotions suppresses their individuality. To begin, the Party extinguishes all forms of pure love among the people.
More specifically, if two people wish to get married, they must be approved. If they wish to marry out of love and affection, they will be denied. In the eyes of the Party, marriage must be handled like business-only to produce offspring that will be loyal to them. Winston implores, “But you could not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred” (Orwell 105). Every aspect of the people’s lives in Oceania is robotic and systematic, there are no true emotions. Similarly to the Party’s control over love, they also control sex between the people.
To explain, the Party believes that there should not be any pleasure from sex; it should only be used in order to reproduce. The people who are faithful to the party transform their sexual energy into political hysteria (Howe 65). All of their energy goes towards the Two Minutes Hate and their hatred for Big Brother in order to bring some form of unity amongst them. Furthermore, the Party also uses emotional torture to abolish individuality. To justify, when Winston is in the Ministry of Love, he endures not only physical torture but psychological torture as well.
He says, “In the end the nagging voices broke him down more completely than the boats and fists of the guards” (Orwell 200). The emotional torture from the questioning Winston undergoes wears him down and makes him into a mouth that simply utters what he believes they want to hear. The questioners transform him into something that is not even human anymore- merely just a robot. Literary expert Stephen Ingle argues that “the right and capacity to form one’s own judgment on external events…a full emotional life, a private world into which one could retire: those were the bastions of identity which Winston Smith sought to defend” (127).
Winston is the last individual with knowledge of things outside of what the Party believes to be moral, and eventually he is stripped from that title and made into one of the other brain-washed citizens of Oceania. Consequently, the Party uses emotional torture to suppress individuality among the people. Hence, the government in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four has been proven to use their power to strip the citizens of their individuality. For instance, the Party uses their control to take over the minds of the people and restrict what they can/cannot say or do.
Also, they have the power to control all records of the past, memories, and the logic they have placed in their society. If that is not enough, the Party also controls their emotions, regulates sex, and forces emotional torture among them to force their logic into their brains. Orwell is “trying to present the kind of world in which individuality has become obsolete and personality a crime” (Howe 62). Ultimately, if a society allows a dictatorship in which one person or a group of people have all the power over the citizens, the society will transform into an individualized group of robots.