Why did George Orwell write in 1984
George Orwell's novel "1984" (originally "Nineteen Eighty-Four"), published in 1948, portrays the gloomy vision of a totalitarian surveillance state as a dystopia. The action takes place in London, the main city of Landing Field One, former England that is now part of Oceania. The protagonist Winston Smith is said to be killed because he sees through the functioning of the ruling oligarchy. Before that, his opponent O’Brien brainwashes him in order not only to wipe out Winston, but also his thoughts.
With the help of "televisions" all party members of Oceania are checked by the "thought police" and everywhere posters with the larger than life face of the "big brother" remind citizens of the omnipresent surveillance. Children are withdrawn from the influence of their families at an early age and infiltrated into the youth organization of the »informers« and raised to be informers. As a secret opponent of the system, Winston Smith feels drawn to the underground movement "The Brotherhood". In the high party functionary O’Brien, he thinks he has recognized a like-minded person.
The party shapes the past, and Winston's memories of the past are fragmentary. History is being rewritten in the "Ministry of Truth". Winston works there in the documentation department, where newspaper articles and other documents are "corrected" and reprinted. Winston suspects that his parents were victims of the first "waves of purges" of the 1950s. Since then, the earth has been divided between the three superpowers Oceania, Eurasia and East Asia, which are constantly at war with one another in changing constellations.
Another department of the ministry is concerned with the development of "Newspeak", the drastic reduction of the previous language with the aim of restricting the freedom of thought and finally abolishing thinking and eradicating so-called "thought crimes".
The population of Oceania consists of 85 percent "proles" who are oppressed and exploited. But they are free to indulge in cheap amusements, and their lack of political awareness prevents a revolution. Winston sees the life of party members as joyless and shabby. Although there is a lack of everything necessary in daily life, the "Ministry of Abundance" proclaims the steady increase in the standard of living. A comparison with the past is impossible.
Winston recalls a lie from the party that he exposed a few years ago. He realizes that the party is creating its own truth that contradicts what is objectively right. He notes in his diary that freedom means to say that two and two is four.
Winston's life changes when he and twenty-six year old Julia become forbidden lovers. Julia hates the party, but she knows how to camouflage it perfectly. Although she takes part in all party events and wears the sash of the "Junior Anti-Sex League", she finds loopholes to satisfy her personal needs. She likes her work in the novel department of the "Ministry of Truth", where novels are mixed together in so-called "kaleidoscopes" or what is already available is rewritten according to party guidelines.
Unlike Winston, Julia has seen through why the party is fighting and suppressing the sex drive: On the one hand, a close relationship between men and women should be prevented. At the same time, the accumulated energy is needed to fuel the enthusiasm for the war and the "admiration of the Führer". Julia does not suffer from the system. She bores Winston's political analysis.
Thanks to Julia's ingenuity, they manage to meet without being noticed by "tele screens" and microphones. In their rare meetings in the country, they enjoy the intimacy and sensuality. Mr. Charrington, whose junk shop Winston knows from secret purchases in a shabby Proles neighborhood, rents a room to Winston. Winston and Julia can be together undisturbed in the unoccupied bedroom above the shop, which is blocked up with things from the past.
Both are aware of the risk they are taking. Unlike Winston, Julia does not want to accept that they cannot win the game against the party and that both are doomed. When Julia notices a rat in the room, the horrified Winston confesses to her that he is terrified of rats. Even so, the room becomes a haven that makes everything else easier for Winston to endure.
O’Brien, admired by Winston, contacts him. When Winston and Julia declare themselves enemies of the party, O'Brien confirms the existence of the "brotherhood" under the leadership of Goldstein. He passes "the book" by Goldstein to Winston. In it Goldstein explains that the three superpowers are in equilibrium. The wars only serve to destroy goods in order to permanently prevent the prosperity of the population. This prevents the development of intelligence and safeguards the ruling system.
The oligarchy is based on a collectivism whose goals are bondage and inequality. The party had learned from history and secured its tyranny by imposing a unified opinion, the permanent formation of consciousness and a reality check. All party members are constantly monitored by the Thought Police, and those who deviate from them are persecuted and exterminated.
Goldstein's remarks merely systematize Winston's own findings, but do not answer his pressing question about the party's motive for action.
Surprisingly, Julia and Winston are captured in their room. The raid is led by Mr. Charrington as a member of the Thought Police.
Winston is in the "Ministry of Love," which maintains law and order. After brutal abuse and hours of interrogation, he made all the required confessions. Then he will be handed over to O’Brien, who has been monitoring him for seven years. O’Brien diagnoses Winston with a mental disorder that he tries to cure with the help of electric torture machines. Thoughts harmful to the party should be cleared of the world before the delinquent is executed.
O’Brien explains to Winston that “Big Brother” is the personification of the party that is constantly “recreating” reality. He tortures Winston until he recognizes the principle of creating reality and realizes that two and two could be three, four or five. The ability to have two contradicting convictions at the same time and to accept both is called "double thinking" in the party language.
O’Brien reveals himself as the author of the Goldstein book and Winston learns that the party's motive for action is power as an end in itself. For their sake, control people's minds and make them suffer physically. The current dictatorship is based on hatred. Increasingly powerless, Winston does not stop attacking O'Brien's arguments. He maintains that the party cannot deprive people of being human, even when he is confronted with his reflection in the mirror - emaciated, battered and broken: because so far he has not betrayed Julia and his love.
While recovering physically, Winston decides to adjust his thinking to that of the party. However, he wants to remain in control of his feelings, which O’Brien sees through. That is why he takes Winston to the dreaded "Room 101", in which every prisoner is confronted with what he dreads most. Famished rats are waiting for Winston in a cage to eat his face. Panicked with horror, Winston can avert danger at the last moment by telling Julia that she should be handed over to the rats instead.
After Winston's release, Julia meets. They confess to each other that they betrayed each other and thereby killed their feelings. In the "Ministry of Truth" Winston is now entrusted with a pointless task that leaves him plenty of free time and the opportunity to watch the news from the "tele screen" for hours. He looks forward to his execution without fear: he will die, permeated with love for his "big brother".
"1984" is the most widely read science fiction novel in world literature and is considered a classic. Influenced by Stalinism and German National Socialism, George Orwell drafts an oppressive future scenario in a totalitarian surveillance state in 1948, which forces the reader to compare it with his present. The slogan "Big Brother is watching you" has found its way into everyday life to criticize the increasing surveillance in democratic systems as well.
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