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The Review of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell / İpek Artun


Nineteen Eighty-Four describes a dystopia written by George Orwell. The book expresses a world in which have only three nations; Oceania,Eurasiaand Eastasia. At the time which book took place two of these nations always allied against the other nation, as they are constantly at war in order to consume produced good and maintain an extraordinarily high level of public spirit among their respective citizens. It is a war which nobody can win nor lose, and therefore never has an end. This book is written in order to criticize the socialism. Big Brother represents Stalin and Goldstein represents Trocky.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is written based on political struggles for power. The world is divided into three super (hegemonic) powers, these are Oceania, Easasia andEurasia. In theOceaniathere is a totalitarian Party. Government uses different ways to control people’s minds and thoughts such as language, religion, technology, and education. These ways of mind controlling and brainwashing to maintain power over the society has been brought out through many symbols, events and ideas. Communication, personal beliefs, and individual loyalty, desires are controlled by the government for benefit of nation. Moreover thoughts, love, sex enjoyments are forbidden.  In order to narrow society’s words, expression of ideas, Party members create a new limited language which is Newspeak. It makes thought crime impossible because there are not any words to express the ideas. With the using this language, the loyalty of Big Brother is created, the personal beliefs are shaped and also society’s rebel is forestalled. Newspeak creates Doublethink which symbolizes the opposite concept like these slogans; War is peace, Freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength, these are the doctrines of big brother and the party. There are three groups in theOceania; these are inner party, external party and proletarians. Inner party members have some privileges. They have cars, helicopters, nice house, and better food. They can drink wine. External party members live in state’s house. They are spied on by tele-screen. When they wake up, they have to do sport. If they do not do it, tele-screen gives the alert. They can drink victory-gin but cannot drink wine. They take annual premium for dress. Proletarians drink beer but cannot drink victory-gin.

Oceania’s state structure is similar toAmericain terms of one side. In Oceania comes into existence combination of lots of cultures and nations likeAmerica.Americais one of the nations which do not have ties with the past. In the history there were not American people.Americawas founded with the participation of people which come from different nations.Americais the most nationalist and conservatist nation among the other nations in the world. This is an extraordinary situation for a nation which does not have any root which comes from the past. However America’s and Oceania’s propaganda styles are similar in terms of using icons, even America’s flagging behavior is similar to Oceania’s flagging and usage of Big Brother’s posters. Using symbols and icons makes the ideology of nationalism powerful and also creates the national identity over people. Moreover, In Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston look hard cash and on the back side of the hard cash there is a Big Brother’s portrait and also on the front of the portrait there is some slogans about Oceania’s nationalism; these are War is peace, Freedom is slavery and Ignorance is strength. Winston think that Big Brother is everywhere on the money, books, flags, posters, cigarette pockets. And also Oceania has an Anthem (everything is forOceania). Nowadays nationalist symbols are used mostly in every country. For example, inTurkeyin the primary school education and high school education students spout The Turkish Nationalist Anthem every week and also they spout the oath march in everyday. At the same time every class has an Ataturk portrait and Turkish flag. According to Billing (1995), flags are not the only symbols of modern statehood. Coins and bank notes typically bear national emblems which remain unnoticed in daily financial transactions. So in the routine business of flagging is not a conscious activity (Billing, 1995, p. 41). These routine activities are done in order to strengthen the people’s idea and sense of nationalism. So the routine activities like marches, pictures on money or the flags are not conscious activity, people cannot realize them.

Hulsey’s (2005) study found the following:

This dissertation argues that icons participate in the American nationalist project by    channeling citizens’ political and patriotic feelings through seemingly simple images. While    acknowledging that icons are necessary to construct what Benedict Anderson calls “the imagined community” of the nation, this study complicates a quick and easy reading of an icon’s manifest content and uses narrative to reveal the latent content in images like Marilyn Monroe, Barbie, Mickey Mouse, Elvis Presley, Pocahontas, Uncle Sam, Big Brother, and Adolf Hitler. These images are simple but their effects are very strong. (p. 5)

According to Hulsey (2005), “Whether positive, negative, or both, cultural icons can shape and direct human desire and are strengthened by their connection to the sacred and the political.”  For example,America’s nationalism idea which created by those simple images brought people’s ideas together andUnited States’ government used this power for occupation ofIraq. (p. 10)

Another similarity is their approach to other races. Even in these days inUnited States, people’s and state’s approach to black people is argued. Most of people think that black people are inferior and those people act in bad ways to black people in daily life. Reflection of this situation can be seen by looking the sections which is about the characteristics of war in Nineteen Eighty-Four. One of those sections is: “Whichever power controls equatorial Africa, or the countries of the Middle East, orSouthern India, or the Indonesian Archipelago, disposes also of the bodies of scores or hundreds of millions of ill−paid and hard−working coolies. The inhabitants of these areas, reduced more or less openly to the status of slaves, pass continually from conqueror to conqueror, and are expended like so much coal or oil in the race to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory, to control more labour power, to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory, and so on indefinitely.” By looking these sentences it can be reached to a conclusion thatOceania’s people and state see non-white people as slaves. The other point is the state’s way of showing people ofOceania. By looking these sentences their propaganda can easily be seen. “How easy it was, thought Winston, if you did not look about you, to believe that the physical type set up by the Party as an ideal−tall muscular youths and deep−bosomed maidens, blond−haired, vital, sunburnt, carefree _ existed and even predominated. Actually, so far as he could judge, the majority of people in Airstrip One were small, dark, and ill−favoured. It was curious how that beetle−like type proliferated in the Ministries: little dumpy men, growing stout very early in life, with short legs, swift scuttling movements, and fat inscrutable faces with very small eyes. It was the type that seemed to flourish best under the dominion of the Party.” The similar of this situation took place inTurkey. At that time, atTurkey’s video news release Turkish villagers which are working at the farm are shown as blond-haired, blue eyed, “modern” looking. However the truth is very different because the characteristics of Turkish people do not include these attributes. The underlying reason of this situation is glorifying nation in order to reinforce nationalism and patriotism. Turkish state’s aim was making people proud of their nationality through making propaganda with words such as, “my nation is modern, my nation reached advanced civilization level, my people is beautiful and handsome.”

In order to reinforce nationalism state creates two types of enemies. The first type of enemy is internal enemies. In Nineteen Eighty-Four in order to strengthen the nationalism, the enemy who is Goldstein is created. Goldstein symbolizes the person who is treason felony. The Oceania’s society watches the Goldstein everyday it is called Aversion Time. In this time people cry shame on Goldstein. In order to maintain the power and supremacy, Big Brother creates the “other” and the other is in the society. It is a similar discrimination of Turk and Kurt policy. In Turkey, there are lots of center and lots of surroundings. One of the centers is Turk and one of the surrounding is Kurt. Turkish nationalism is defined over Kurdish so Turkish ties become strengthen through the existence of Kurdish. The second type of enemy is the external enemies. In the Nineteen Eighty-Four there is two supreme power except Oceania; these are Eurasia and Eastasia which are the external enemies of Oceania. Big Brother and the central party use these enemies in order to organize the society and strengthen the nationalist ties. For example, in Turkey there are lots of enemies in the surrounding of Turkey is taught in primary schools. In every book students read that Turkey’s four side that is every neighboring country are the enemy like Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia.

Delaying and changing past. Pre-existing past, history and cultural heritage, literally production like tongue twister are destroyed. There is just Oceania’s cultural heritage in Nineteen Eighty-Four.  If the people levy war against the Big Brother, they evaporate. Evaporating is eradication that is, the people has never had found a place in history. After the evaporating of Winston’s friend, he sees a list of name. There is no change on the list, the paper has the same oldness but there is no name of his friend. For example, In 1999 Ahmet Kaya was impeached  with high treason because of his Kurdish songs. He was accused as PKK supporter and his songs are shown as a supporting evidences. Another example is Nazım Hikmet, he was arrested and then released from Turkish nationality because the reason of hounding the military, taking place against the state he was sent into exile and he chose to go to Russia. Another example is that one day Winston picked up the children’s history book and looked at the portrait of Big Brother which formed its frontispiece. The book Express that before the glorious revolution, London was not as good as like now. There are darkness, every people lived in wretched poverty, they were hungry except the capitalists because all the people were a slavery of capitalists, they serve and live for capitalists. Winston think that is impossible to know it is true or wrong history and he also think that if in the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. This situation related with Turkish history. People learn the history in just one perspective; it is Ataturk’s point of view. Turkish history books also have portrait of Ataturk on the frontispiece. For example, existing Kurdish ethnic is rejected by this perspective and this doctrine is taught in the schools. When the students start the primary school, they learn there is no Kurt in the book, in the history and it causes big shock and trauma in terms of Kurdish students. This situation causes the big discrimination between the race and it causes also starting an ideological battlefield between Kurdish and Turkish nationalisms.

According to Winston’s observation, children are brought up by doctrines of Big Brothers, they learn his perspectives of history and they paint Big Brother’s portrait, write and recite poem to him. Their brains are washed. So if they see a different idea in their family from Big Brother’s doctrine they split on them. In Turkish schools, children write poems to Ataturk and they recite poems in national holidays like republic day. They learn that when The Turkish National Anthem is recited, it is prohibited to move slightly. Nowadays there are a lot of examples of how the children are constructed of nationalism. Except the solemn ceremonies when they are watching television if The Turkish National Anthem starts, they take position of homage and if their families do not join to them, they get angry.

Another perspective of changing the past is creating myths. Lots of myths are created so that doctrine the society as a huge past and strengthen the nationalist concepts.

Abizadeh (2004) study found the following:

The national memory must be a willfully selective memory. This mythical element in its shared memories is what enables the nation’s common history to provide it with a motivating power, so much so that the academic study of history poses a threat to the capacity of the nation to hold together: “Forgetting, and I would even say historical error, are an essential factor in the creation of a nation, and so it is that progress in historical studies is often a danger to nationality. (p. 292)

In the book suddenly there sprang into Winston’s mind, ready made as it were, the image of a certain Comrade Ogilvy, who had recently died in battle, in heroic circumstances. There were occasions when Big Brother devoted his Order for the Day to commemorating some humble, rankand−file Party member whose life and death he held up as an example worthy to be followed. Today he should commemorate Comrade Ogilvy. It was true that there was no such person as Comrade Ogilvy, but a few lines of print and a couple of faked photographs would soon bring him into existence. For example, concerning about Turkish history, there are lots of myths; the most popular one is Ergenekon and the other one is that Turks are the grand child of Gokturks. Another example is Ataturk’s Sun Language Theory. The Theory claims that all languages were derived and descended from Turkish language, that is, the primal language is Turkish. Summers and also American Mayas used Turkish language. Ataturk’s theory’s aims that in order to provide strong citizenships’ ties and relations and increase Turkish pride, creates rooted history. According to Renan (2004), the nation is constituted by two things: shared past memories and the present will to live (p. 292). Telling the fake or partially true stories is the nationalism’s way of bringing people together.

Renan’s (2004) study found the following:

It is a shared memory of a common history—of glories, sacrifices, common suffering, and so on—that affectively motivates the present will to bind together, to act together in unified fashion. This motivational force does not come, as it did for Fichte, from a promise of immortality: “Nations are not something eternal (p. 292).

 Another example of this in the book, inner party always make propaganda through telling stories about that even major inventions for instance planes were invented by them. Those lies gradually become truths and people believe them. As a result of this their nationalism and patriotism were reinforced and gradually were closed to the invulnerability.

Archard’s (1995) study found the following:

Nationalism is simply mistaken about the way the world is. It argues that is would be better to talk of national myths which are not myths proper, nor complete falsities and which bear a complex relation to the truth. They may contain some truth and give rise to true beliefs. National myths may also be justifiable for serving cognitive and affective purposes. They may be condemned for giving rise to unjustifiable beliefs for requiring the unjustified manipulation of the facts or for sustaining unjustifiable states of affairs. (p. 472)

Media creates sterotypes in order to provide hegemony, it shapes people’s feelings, desires, perspectives and it also shapes their national ties.

Anderson’s (2005) study found the following:

In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following definion of the nation: it is an imagined political community- and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereingn. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. (p. 6)


 In Turkey young male people actually do not want to go to military service but media shapes and manipulates their consent and those people feel like that they want to go by their will. In this process martyrs are glorified by media and martyrs’ families do not sorrow because they think that their son died for glorious and sacred purpose, instead of this they again reinforce existing discourses and sterotypes, these are the sentences like: “praise to our nation, if I have a chance I would send my son again, martyrs do not die, nation do not divide”. People cry and pray at the remembering days for the martyrs which they have never known or never seen. According to Anderson (2007), the contemporary, modern type of culture, which nationalism follows, creates images of martyr and this misleads the modern path of nationalism. In order to show respect to martyrs, people mourn for tombs which they do not know who lies in it (Anderson, 2007, p. 23)

Language is the most important tool in order to shape society’s ties and ideas. Language expresses people’s ideas. It creates discourses. the effects of language can be divided into two divisions, these are controlling/manipulating and creating strong ties among the people of society. The first division is that Oceania is a relatively young nation and it designs its own language which is Newspeak. It provides attachment of people, creating strong ties. This situation’s reflection in Turkey can be seen by looking the creation of Turkish language. When the Republic of Turkey established the commonly used language was Ottoman language but Ataturk does not want to use that language because it was the language of collective nations which lives on Ottoman lands. New Turkish language provided usage of common language and this provided improvements to the development of Turkish conscious. The second division is that usage of language in order to control masses. In the book of Nineteen Eighty-Four the government of Oceania thinks that the rich languages are enemies, because it causes to people think a lot moreover thinking a lot causes thought crimes.  In order to prevent thought crimes Oceania’s government made a new language which contains a little words. As a result of this people think less and thought crimes are avoided. Nazım Hikmet’s example can be shown in order to understand this situation clearly. At that time Turkish government scared of Nazım Hikmet’s words. The language of his poems were very rich and his expressions were so clarifying and enlightening and all of these scared government and they exiled him because of power of language.  Especially children have a critical role in order to repeat and reinforce the discourses. Nineteen Eighty-Four shows the importance of children in the process of the repetition of totalitarian language and discourses and also making of propaganda. The central party and Big Brother train the children about noser through schools in order to inform on their families. If children’s families express their ideas freely that is, they do not use the Newspeak and Doublethink. They go beyond Big Brother’s instructions and they make thoughtcrime through language. Children inform on their families.

In conclusion, in order to create and reinforce the nationalism, language, icons and symbols, deleting and changing past, myths and created internal and external enemies are used. Nowadays, in “modern world” these are used to sustain nations’ existence. The aim of this methods can be justifiable but the effects which causes traumas and bad consequences on people. These traumatic effects can be seen at Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Russia, Franco’s Nationalist Spain, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. These isolated nations collapsed.



1)Abizadeh, A. (2004), Historical Truth, National Myths and Liberal Democracy: On the Coherence of Liberal Nationalism, The Journal of Political Philosophy Volume 12, Number 3, 291–313

2)Anderson, B. (2007), Imagined Communities, Istanbul: Metis

3) Archard, D. (1995), Political Studies 43, 472-481

4) Billing, M. (1995), Banal Nationalism, London: Sage

5)Hulsey, D. (2005), B. Nationalism: Icons, Popular Culture and American Nationalism, England: B.A., New Mexico State University

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