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2+2=5 / Halil Türkden

Abstract

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever” (230).

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) is a most famous dystopian novel which was published in 1949. It was written by George Orwell and most of the comments underlines this work as the best of his works.

Before the starting, i would like to the genre of novel. “Nineteen Eight-Four” is considered an example of dystopian novel. It is the anti-thesis of utopia and also a dytstopia is defined as “an imaginary or futuristic world in which the desire for perfection produces wretched or tortuous consequences” (Carey and Snodgrass, 52). It is usually described by an oppressive system of government like an “totalitarian” or “authoritian” one. The novel of Orwell can be classified as such by presenting the definition of an perfect state. While many works are describing the “perfect” systems, dystopian or utopian fiction works seem as an allegory to criticize and satirize states which have appeared in the different type of structures.

Orwell gives us a expressionless and  evacuated world. The book illustrated that what kind of life would be in a dreadful world.  1984 portrayes the future of totalitarian state which everything is monitored in every second. That totalitarian state attempts at violence to keep people under the same roof. Also that state rewrites the history by perverting the truths. The title of my review explains this dogmatic state which want to us believe everything they said. This concept of 2+2=5 is from the Winston Smith who is the main character of the novel. He expresses as “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows”. (46)

One of the most interesting part in publication of book is the time issue. Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949 and this evil state was placed thirty five years in future. People who had lived in 1950s had had many question marks, fears or anxieties about thirty five years later.

First of all, i would like to start with discussing Orwell’s approachment and background statement. Eric Arthur Blair who was wrote his books with his agnomen  “Orwell ”. Actually, the most important section of his life is Spain process. In 1936, Orwell travelled to Spain to write about the Spanish Civil War and ended up adhered the battle which was against Spanish leader Franco on the side of the Republicans. After the war, he returned to England and realizes his modifed political ideas. Since 19936 he has been written against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism. In this section, his rejection of military service during World War II and participation to left movements shapes his writings (http://www.george-orwell.org/l_biography.html). Before publishing Nineteen Eighty-Four, he completed another important work “Animal Farm” in 1944 which was satire and loud criticism of Stalinist order in Soviet Union.

When the book “Nineteen Eighty-Four” appeared in 1949, the Cold War was on the main agenda of world. Thus, that book had been so popular in those years. The liberal psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm underlines that “Books like Orwell’s are powerful warnings and it would be most unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too”. Actually, the publication time of book was so critical because people realized that how Stalin and McCarthy governments’ injustice sanctions. The governments were getting stronger by rules, regulations, business sanctions and intervention to public and prive life. “The Nineteen Eighty-Four” served a propoganda of policies of U.S. which they were side of in the Cold War time. In this context, this famous novel was used as a tool or weapon by Western powers in order to condemn the communist regime. In this sense, author Berbard Oldsey underlines it, “The Nineteen Eighty-Four satisfied a need in the Western mind”. This work was used to accomplish political aims. For example, it was complimented by its being ideal example of satirizing the communist regime. This approachement and interpretation shows the novel as a dystopia because of its imagination of the worst society and warns against this totalitarian system.

In book, Great Britain was imagined that experienced same stages like Russian revolution. In paralell with the Soviets in 1930s, the socialism in Britain in 1950s had same story. At this point, i would like to compare or liken “Trotsky” who was a betrayer and disloyal character in Stalinist order and “Emmanuel Goldstein” who was one enemy of the people, Big Brother and the Party. Goldstein can be seen as scapegoat for the brotherhood and the party who has a fundamental role by distracting people in Oceania. Goldstein and Trotsky are so similar characters and Orwell did not abstain presenting Stalin as “Big Brother”. This following passage might clarify the image of Goldstein on eyes of people in Oceania.

As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. The little sandy-haired woman gave a squeak of mingled fear and disgust. Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago, nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with Big Brother himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death, and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared. The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was stil alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even – so it was occasionally rumoured – in some hiding-place in Oceania itself ( 6).

“Nineteen Eighty-Four” was written in the post war time when communism was comdemned. Also, Stalin and Trotsky were alive. The novel was taken as a criticism to Soviet Communism and totalitarian regimes in the world. In “Nineteen Eighty Four”, Orwell illustrates the image and conditions of totalitarian future. Actually, in spite of the certain allegories, the main goal of Orwell is to draw the attention of the people to the power relations in political world, and display the construction and settlement of all organizations in political systems.

Orwell’s novel is not a criticism of a particular regime . Fundamentally, the novel underlines power relations and the interplay between politics and devices of them. Firstly, it is necessary to refer to several critical approaches like sociological, historical, deconstructionist or structuralist approaches. For example, Marxist and deconstructionist approaches can be used to reveal the contradictory nature of the novel. In investigating this contradictory power relations in terms of power, language and truth, Marx’s ideas, base and superstructure can be used to handle the system and the creation of individual in this novel. Likely, the deconstructionist approachment of Jacques Derrida might be applied to understand the nature of the conflict in the “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

I believe that the ideas of Marx can help to understand the world which Orwell presented us. In this sense, the ideas of Marx in terms of the production mechanism and the culture might be considered. Marx explains the power of upper class by using the framework of “Base and “Superstructure”. He claims that the basis of human life and history are mode of production. The social instutions such as religion, government, marriage or another one are constructed upon the base of economy.

In the social production which men carry on as they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society–the real foundation, on which legal and political superstructures arise and to which definite forms of social consciousness correspond. The mode of production of material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. (Marx, 51)

In “Nineteen Nighty-Four”, Orwell explains the processes pictured by Marx by using the base and superstructure in the Oceanian society. In this society, the production system depends on the welfare of the state, not of the people, individuals. Winston, who is the main character of the novel, constructed self as there is no proper base structure to formalize an individual like him.

Orwell firstly clarified in the head of story that television helps endlessly inoculation to people and these televisions must be open all day. Orwell illustrates the television with its two functions. Television is turned on everywhere even during sleeping or in bathroom. They forced to hear and learn the order. Moreover, these televisions checks and watchs people. In other words “Big Brother is watching you”. Maybe, this system is useless and inconclusive way to control people because if there is a man being watched always, there must be another man who is watching another man always. So, Orwell realised that he should have limit its workings to Party.

In addition, there is a system of spies which children, friends or neighbours report on each other and makes them responsible to one another. In spite of these monitoring ways, Orwell was unsuccessful in applying computers and citizens in checking process. For instance, today, many computer softwares and file systems do same job in same degree. Another example is that tyrannies have been succeed in without computers. One of them was Nazi’s. I mean that the technological determinism and the tyrannical regimes shouldn’t related in every state or situation. Every society and every state has inner dynamics in changing movements or governing issues.

The characters of 1984 are so important and fundamental point to understand Orwell and this dystopian novel. In hopeless view of Orwell, usually, he ignores the virtues human beings have. Most of his characters are weak, coarse, abhorrent, disgusting and someone who delights in the pain of others. Actually, these are the way of emphasizing the status under tyranny. However, in this story, Orwell presents us there are courageous men and women who resist the tyranny.

Moreover, there are only two female characters in 1984. One of them is woman who laundries and singing song before the couple arrested. Another character is one of the main names “Julia”. She is an old party member who works in Ficton Department of the Ministry of Truth. Julia also execrate the party but he tries to seem loyal and satisfied with the principles of Party. Julia showed her love for Winston when they are together and even at their imprisonment. I believe that Julia is more individualist and selfish person than Winston because she doesn’t specify every disturbance in society. Actually their way of living is similar. On the other hand, their point of view of life is so different. Julia simply wants to have a life without limitations to her pleausure. She does not worry about anything else except of herself. She only focuses on personal opposition to Party and her self satisfaction like loving Winston. After Winston and Julia are tortured, they come across. In this section, the attitude of Julia is soulless and complicated against to Winston. The most descriptive part of the story about the personality of Julia is that she falling asleep while Winston is reading to her the book about the nature of Orwellian order. This following passage can describe that what sort of person Julia is:

“Life as she saw it was quite simple. You wanted a good time; ‘they’, meaning the Party, wanted to stop you having it; you break the rules as best as you could.” (137)

Winston Smith is a regular member of the Party in Oceania. Among his missions at Ministry of Truth is deleting all records and history about the person who is arrested by the thought police. Winston thinks that he received in a measurable life that has to be altered. He has got still hope in his life.  On the Dodge, he wants to bring about the downfall of a government and Party. For example, he would like to sex to rebel agains the Party, not for his sexual needs and wishes.

He had pulled her down on to the ground, she was utterly unresisting, he could do what he liked with her. But the truth was that he had no physical sensation, except that of mere contact. All he felt was incredulity and pride. He was glad that this was happening, but he had no physical desire (126).

This illustrates that Winston’s world view is so different from Julia. In spite of the pleasures of Julia which are so romantic, Winston considers everything for rebellion. Also, their understanding and approachments of rebellion are so different. They are together because of common hatred to the common enemy. Although they have so different aims, that common enemy “Party” lead to fall in love.

“It was something in your face… I am good with people who don’t belong. As soon as I saw you I knew you were against them.” (128)

“She hated the Party… but she made no general criticism of it. Except when it touched upon her life she had no interest in Party doctrine.” (75)

Unlike Julia, Winston is so worried about whole system and the government activities. He is so anxious about freedom of humanity.

“I don’t imagine that we can alter anything in our lifetime, but we can imagine little knots of resistance springing up here and there… gradually growing up, and even leaving a few records behind, so that the next generation can carry on where we left off.” (Page 162)

When we look at the narration of Orwell, it is possible to see how illusions were created by author. Orwell provides his work as non-identifiable through the picture of “nowhere” and “everywhere”.This makes the novel open to interpretations, claims and challenges. Maybe, this was the Orwell’s aim. It can be seen as forecast of Orwell about the world.

Unlikely to what Marx and Winston think, the future world won’t be a communist utopia. George Orwell illustrates that proletarians will always be controlled by ruling class people. The Party in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” narcotize working class people through alcohol, cheap pornography and gambling. It is possible to mention in the deficiency of consciousness for these people. Actually, it is not only my interpretation, this is an explanation referring to state of the worker class people in England in the time when the novel was written. The Party might reject the worker class as they constitute no threat to its rule. The following passage defines this thesis clearly.

What opinions the masses hold, or do not hold, is looked on as a matter of indifference. They can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect. In a Party member, on the other hand, not even the smallest deviation of opinion on the most unimportant subject can be tolerated. (240)

Another important issue is that the party demolish people’s conscious by reminding them that there was a state of endless war. The state in the novel is ruled with three superpower.

In one combination or another, these three super-states are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years. War, however, is no longer the desperate, annihilating struggle that it was in the early decades of the twentieth centary. It is a warfare of limited aims between combatants who are unable to destroy one another, have no material cause for fighting and are not divided by any genuine ideological difference. This is not to say that either the conduct of war, or the prevailing attitude towards it, has become less bloodthirsty or more chivalrous.(109)

This endless warfare thought must be protected to provide collectivism in society. Actually, there is a conflict between these three superstates which are Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia by referring the powers of the 1980. Unlike the wars of the past, they have not any ideological or material reasons to fight.

The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by continuous warfare. The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed.

 

In this sense, the war situation maintain collectivism and also doesn’t allow any development in the material states of population which might be create a oppositional entity. Moreover, collectivism provides that recollection and forgetting the past. In the novel, the Party rewrites history. All people who live in the world of 1984, do not care the past because of unknown cause. The memories were deleted.

1984 is the best image of the authoritarian, frightening and powerful government. During the publishing years of the book, there were absolute powers, tyrants and destructions of them. Overthrown Mussolini government and Germany of Adolf Hitler left decayed systems and stories. However, the main enemy of Orwell was Stalin. Orwell shaped Big Brother according to Stalin. On the other hand, there is good question about the immortality of Big Brother. How long could tyrants live? Hence, how long can Big Brother live?

In summary, Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” does not picture or predict the future like foreseeing approaches of science fictional novels. On the contrary it shows the special hostility to Stalinist state. However, the work of Orwell can clearly expain the today’s power relations in the world. The today’s politics are well-organized. Today, it is impossible to see wars, revolutions or big changes except the terror actions. In this sense, the remembering the another dystopian author “Huxley” is fatal. In 1984, people are controlled by imposing pains. Huxley emphasizes that in “Brave New World”, people are controlled by imposing pleasure. To sum up, Orwell worried that “what we hate will ruin us”. However, Huxley underlines his worry that “what we love will ruin us”.

 

References

  • Carey, G., Snodgrass, M.E. (1999), A Multicultural Dictionary of Literary Terms, McFarland & Company, Jefferson, North Carolina.
  • Marx, K. (1964), Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, trans. T.B. Bottomore, McGraw – Hill, London.
  • http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087803/ , Erişim Tarihi: 06.01.2012.
  • http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048918/ , Erişim Tarihi: 06.01.2012 .
  • http://www.george-orwell.org/l_biography.html , Erişim Tarihi: 06.01.2012 .

 

 

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