Big Brother is a constant threat to everyone.
Big Brother is a threat because it seeks to control the way people think. The party discourages independent thought, which, as Orwell shows is a very dangerous situation. Newspeak is the official language of Oceania. It deletes a lot of words from the dictionary. The remaining words are rigidly defined. By reducing language, Orwell shows that this then narrows people’s range of thought. This means that they will not be able to think certain concepts like freedom and independence. It is called “cutting language down to the bone”. As Syme states sarcastically, “it’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” It eliminates “thoughtcrime” which is the ability to “know the truth” but believe in lies. AS Orwell states, the party knows that it is better that people do not have the ability to think two opposing thoughts.
Furthermore, Big Brother is also a constant threat to the citizens of Oceania because it seeks to control the past. One of the party’s famous slogans is “who controls the past controls the future”. As Orwell demonstrates, the party realises that people will not challenge them if they know that the party is always right. For this reason, the party constantly changes historical records to prove that “whatever was true now was true for everlasting”. Winston is also part of this process because he works in the Ministry of Truth which is responsible for changing all the documents. Winston is so horrified that he is determined to keep a diary. He wants to record his thoughts about the present. He knows that it is important for people to be able to make comparisons in the future. For this reason, the telescreen constantly watches him. He knows that he is committing a dangerous act by writing in his diary. It is a direct threat to the party.
Big Brother is a constant threat to people because it controls people’s emotions, loyalties, trust and relationships.
The Party despises any individual or personal feelings or instincts that are outside its control. People’s anger and rage towards Goldstein transforms into love and adulation for Big Brother. Peoples’ emotions are controlled through the hate sessions. The Two Minutes Hate is a form of brainwashing. People gather in front of a telescreen for two minutes. People are encouraged to show their love towards the Party by demonstrating disgust for Goldstein, the Enemy of the People. People are taught to hate the enemy, like Goldstein or Asia. This gives an emotional outlet, which often reaches the frenzied heights of hatred. Hate Week is also “sex gone sour”. Love, feelings, sexual instincts are channelled into war fervour and leader worship. p 139 Often the hate sessions make people very excitable. They reach a “hideous ecstasy of fear” . People end up loving Big Brother totally. Big Brother is transformed into an “invincible, fearless protector”.
People are reduced to robots like Katherine. Frigidly, she shows horror of personal attachment that is not geared towards child-rearing. (p 138) The Party believes that love should only be shown towards Big Brother and therefore does not support love or sexual relationships. It does not support the development of personal relationships or family ties, such as that between Julia and Winston. (Chapter VI) Katharine and Winston are permitted to separate because they cannot have children. (They cannot divorce). He has not seen her for about 9 years. As a “human sound track”, she despises sex and is completely brainwashed by the party. She has a “stupid, vulgar, empty mind” and swallows all the party’s slogans. The Parsons’ children are typical of those who are completely brainwashed. As Hitler’s Youth army, they become spies for the party.
Most alarming of all is that the Party seeks to “cure” people of any thoughts or emotions that exist outside its control. O’Brien explains to Winston that it does not want to shoot traitors as the Russians did during the purges. It must ensure that heretics genuinely love the party, “heart and soul” (267). The Party wants to ensure that the heretic is “one of ourselves”. It wants to reshape and remodel the individual in the party’s image. This ensures that the dead victim does not become a martyr to an opponent’s cause. Big Brother ensures that all confessions are “true”. To this end, the Party courageously realises that it is using power for power’s sake. The object of power is “power”.
Discuss the use of power as a form of oppression in Nineteen Eighty-Four
In the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the totalitarian society of Oceania uses various means of control to maintain total power. Orwell’s analysis of power and the tools of power used by Big Brother show the ruthless lengths to which a party may go in eroding an individual’s rights and freedoms. In such a world, the party makes a virtue out of using power to maintain control and any deviation from party doctrine is considered a thought crime. there are many parallels between the techniques used by the Party and communist and fascist countries around the world, but particularly the soviet system and nazi Germany during Orwell’s time.
One of the principle means of control in Oceanic society is the constant use of surveillance so as to detect the “deviant” thoughts and feelings of party members. Citizen’s behaviour is closely monitored by the ubiquitous telescreens which are designed to receive and transmit information simultaneously. “The smallest thing could give you away”. When Winston commits the deviant act of writing in a diary, he is aware that this is an “executable offence”. He knows that “Sooner or later they (the thought police) were bound to get to you”. The threat of the omnipotent Big Brother (Big Brother is watching you” creates a constant sense of anxiety and many citizens become paranoid should they have “errant thoughts’. As Winston realises thinking for oneself becomes a paranoid act of defiance.
To safeguard against individual deviation from Party doctrine and to ensure an individual does not think for themselves, (that the “party has “power over both “body” and the “mind” and over “external reality” ) the party has an elaborate system of control, ranging from Newspeak (reduction of language) to constant falsification of history to prove the infallibility of the party. Orwell believes that there is a correlation between words and thought processes. In the absence of words such as rebellion and defiance, people will not have think these concepts. To this end, language control and mental manipulation are essential in The Party’s maintenance of power. The official language of Oceania, ‘Newspeak’ was designed to reduce and narrow the range of thought so as to diminish an individual’s ability to commit Thoughtcrime. “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words”. With the reduction of words comes the reduction in the range of consciousness which becomes “always a little smaller”. The method of ‘Doublethink’ was also used to control people’s thought processes. Doublethink was the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts whilst simultaneously believing in both of them, it was “to know and not to know”. This method of manipulation made it possible for citizens to believe anything that The Party told them even while they were conscious of information that was contrary to what they were being told. This is evident during Hate Week when The Party speaker changes the nation he refers to as an enemy and the crowd immediately accepts his words. It is through these methods that The Party is able “to arrest the course of history”. Thus, through the use of such techniques The Party was able to break down an individual’s capacity for independent thought. By controlling “reality which is inside the skull” the party is able to overcome the “laws of Nature” as well as incontrovertible truths such as 2 + 2. This ensured that it controlled which eminently demonstrated their use of power in an oppressive means.
By controlling the facts and figures about the present, The Party is able to manipulate the past. Winston realises that whoever “controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”. This control again minimises a person’s awareness of oppression. As Winston realises when he is writing in his diary and researching Oceania’s collective past, if people are not aware of their oppression they will not have the motive for rebelling. Whatever The Party declared was therefore accepted by citizens because, “there did not exist and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested”. The readjustment of the past was needed to safeguard the infallibility of The Party. Orwell also suggests that if people are not aware of their oppression or do not have any means of comparisons with past events then they are unaware that their present conditions may not be ideal.
As a means of controlling the past and the immediate present, the Party fabricates the war narrative and constantly changes enemies to suit their political agenda. The party manufactures a state of constant war as a means of controlling the populace and keeping people dependent upon Big Brother for security purposes. The purpose of war is not to improve the standard of living of its citizens. Rather it is simply a tool to oppress and to prove that the object of “power is power” rather than any sense of improvement in daily lives. The war narrative also delivers a scapegoat, such as Goldstein, who becomes an object of hatred and resentment. He becomes a useful tool to help redirect people’s emotions. To make people completely dependent upon Big Brother – both emotionally and intellectually – the party fabricates a scapegoat which belongs to the constant war.
Similarly, the Party uses unscrupulous and sophisticated means to restrict a person’s emotions and their choice of partner. If sex “created a world of its own” then the party must stamp out sex. It is only useful for procreation purposes. Free love is denied to all Party Members. During the Two Minutes of Hate, sublimated sexual instincts are rechanneled through love and hatred towards Big Brother and the enemy, Goldstein, whose image merges with the enemy soldier. Because of their desire for sexual freedom, Winston and Julia constantly fear detection. Julia is emboldened by their relationship and for her, sexual freedom becomes a private means of rebellion.
Through the systematic tools of oppression, Orwell suggests that it is possible to get “inside” him. Nowhere is The Party’s power more evident than in Room 101, where the purpose is acceptance and “cure”. Although Winston does his utmost to protect his dignity and freedom, he is overcome by the sheer brutality of the torture exerted upon him by O’Brien. To understand the party’s intention that “the object of power is power” requires a deliberate act of Double Think. He is completely defeated when confronted with his worst fear – which is the fear of rats. At the thought of being attacked by these “screaming animals” he is overcome by the basic human instinct to save himself. He betrays Julia when he shouts, “Do it to Julia”! “Not me”! His betrayal of Julia signifies the complete loss of his individual will (defiance, resolve) and his failure to keep “the inner heart inviolate”. He comes to accept the most important doctrine of the party that the “individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual”. He submits to O’Brien’s political agenda. By submitting entirely, Winston merges his identity with the party and becomes the party. Only then is he “all-powerful and immortal”. Winston finally realises that he “could not fight against The Party any longer” and he accepts and loves Big Brother unreservedly. “He had won the victory over himself”. This is an empty victory but it is necessary if he is to survive. The Party has triumphed over Winston’s spirit and destroyed all his hope for the future. Therefore, through the torture executed in Room 101, The Party portrays their use of power in an oppressive form.
In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, we are evidently made aware of the oppressive power the ruling oligarchy exerts over the citizens under its rule. The overwhelming extremities the Party employs to maintain the power base is disturbingly portrayed and the oppressive means through which the Party aims to achieve total domination are distinctively made apparent. All regimes imposed upon citizens are harshly and strictly executed, inhibiting many if not all aspect of human life to be lived freely. This highlights Orwell’s message of the dangers of totalitarianism and the damaging effects that the use of power through oppressive means has on society.
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