1984, Revisited for Our Contemporary Age | Fardeen Hassan

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Analyzing movies or books isn’t something I do very often. I don’t know why, but to me a book or a movie is made with the idea of the writer or the director, and we as readers or viewers see this entire thing from the very point of view we wish. How we get influenced by a book or movie depends almost entirely on us. Therefore, it is obvious that many people won’t agree with some of my analysis, but that is completely fine. So, I thought, why not give this entirely new thing a try. 

The novel 1984 by George Orwell is a masterpiece to me. But before reading this article or the novel, or watching the movie, make sure you are interested in politics, national policies, and history. If you’re not, then this is not for you. You’ll just end up boring yourself. And if you are someone who has interest in these subjects, then come here and have a seat cause we have a lot to talk about.

The entire plot of the novel centers on Winston Smith, a middle-class employee in the outer Party who works in the Ministry of Truth. First, let me clarify a few things. The Party is the ruling body or the government of Oceania. Oceania has four ministries called Ministry of Love, Truth, Peace, and Plenty. The names seem so nice, but the worst kind of things happen there. Winston is an employee in Ministry of Truth. He keeps the records and helps in preserving history – or more like destroying history. He hates what he does, but there is no other option. He is not one to go against the Party’s will, not after how much they do for the people of Oceania. Don’t be surprised by his attitude because these aren’t my words but the Party’s very own claim. Not only the Party but almost every citizen believes that the Party takes good care of them, and for that reason, they are obedient to ‘Big Brother,’ the first in command of the Party. There are speculations that Big Brother may not actually exist, but no one dares to think about it. Talking about those doubts is impossible because the thought police can appear anytime to catch those who speak against the Party. All around the state the media tells everyone how good the Party is and how happy the people are. The fact that citizens get great happiness from 25 grams of extra chocolate shows how deprived they are, and yet they were forced to believe that they have everything they want and need. In a situation like this, the story starts.

Throughout the entire novel, we witness how a dictatorship works. The amount of brainwashing, fear, fake pride, pretentious happiness, and forced feelings of self-satisfaction among everyone is insanely high, making citizens willingly or unwillingly believe that the state is in a really good condition under the Party’s rule. This is the very basic system followed by autocrat rulers in our current age. We are unfortunately the future that George Orwell predicted. Not the very same one but yet a close one for sure. In our time, we see how many countries, including my very own, accuse anyone who critiques the ruling party’s policies as a traitor. There are laws introduced every day to punish those who would talk against the government and its ruling body. The frontrunners of the government are presented as saints, and anyone opposing them is considered a threat to their throne. In recent times we have noticed how someone protesting the current policies and system is demolished with illegal use of power and arrest. There is fear among everyone. And yet people are forced to be happy with the ‘development’ of the country, including new bridges and roads, and they are forced to keep concerns about basic needs – called ‘opinion’ – aside. If someone decides to establish their independent opinion rather than be joyful about materialistic ends, which do not in fact improve life, then that person will be suppressed by the ruling party and their so-called patriotic members. We’ll find them dead in nearby rivers or shot down in a local field. In some cases, a few of them are tortured to an extent that they become, at least externally, well-wishers of the government.

But still there are some people, maybe small in number, but some people who will anyways attempt to establish their independent opinion. It may fail, it may not be big enough, it may not even place a scratch on the façade, but still they will try. Winston Smith represents every single person who gives their effort to change the corrupt autocratic system, knowing that they might likely fail. This man tried to write – to write against the Party behind the cameras. No one knew that he wrote, but he continued to write in case one day someone needed his writing. Or maybe he wrote just because he wanted to. 

Additionally, Winston Smith dared to love someone under the Party rule where intimacy is something that doesn’t exist, and love making is a word that has no meaning. Sex in Oceania is nothing but a process by which newer generations is introduced. In that scenario, he decided to love, to care, to hold Julia in his arms and look through her eyes to see his world. When everyone was busy showing fake patriotism, which actually starved and oppressed them, he chose to rebel. That story of rebellion is the storyline in first half of the novel.

But like everyone else, he also couldn’t escape the eyes of ‘Big Brother’. He got caught by the thought police and was taken to the Ministry of Love where the Party makes thought criminals love Big Brother. You might wonder, how do they make someone love the person whom they hate from the core of their heart? Maybe by showing them the good colors of the Party? But that is a big fat no. They choose instead to torture. Not just regular torture to make them say something, but the kind of torture that makes them mentally ill to an extent where they don’t see 2+2 as 4 but as 5 or 3, whichever the Party decides. They endure immense pain, and yet no word said only out of pressure is accepted. Everything they say must be meant and felt at the same time. You might wonder how that can happen, but when you are both physically and mentally tortured to such an extent that everything inside you wants to believe something in order to escape the unbearable pain, then how can you not?

And even if the person still doesn’t believe it from his heart and still can’t truly love Big Brother, then there is room 101. Not just room 101 but ‘The’ room 101. Everyone has heard about this room, but no one living in normal society (I doubt how “normal” this society is, but yeah) knows what is in there. Neither did Winston Smith – until he was taken there. Entering the room, he saw nothing but a chair. Curiosity struck him. He wondered, what could be so horrible about a chair? – until he got to know what they would do to him in that chair. They brought his worst fear in front of him: ‘hungry rats.’ One’s worst fear changes from person to person, and this torture is worse than death. Wouldn’t your soul make you do anything when you are facing your worst fear?

What I see in this novel beside the way a dictatorship works is the urge of a person to love, to think, to speak, to want, and to believe. Believe no matter how much wrong happens. You might wonder how? I will get back to that, but for now, let’s talk about other stuff. Don’t you think we are also a victim of such control in this present world? Let’s ask ourselves, do we have the freedom to think? Even if we do, can we express it the way we want? Do we get everything we want even if we have every right to get hold of that? The answers to these questions are no, we don’t. And that is what George Orwell expressed through 1984. He showed us the true color of a dictator who talks about love and patriotism, which is anything but genuine, even while killing someone from both inside and outside. The fake faith they create in order to run the system makes people so blind that they aren’t left with the option to see anything, and they make sure no one else sees anything too. And anyone who tries to see reality gets their eyes taken away. This entire system runs by fear in the name of love. A kind of love which never actually existed. But to make it look real, they burn out the pages from history and attach new ones that make the ruling party seem like angels in front of the present generation. This practice follows the saying: “He who controls the present, controls the past.” And anyone trying to show the real colors are presented to the nation as traitors and are put down in a terrifying way.

Now let’s come back to belief. As I said, 1984also shows how to hold onto belief no matter how much wrong happens. You might question this thought of mine cause in the last scene we see Winston expressing his love for Big Brother. But my question is, was that love actually for Big Brother, or not? Most people say it is, but I don’t think so. Because just before that he met Julia though they had no sort of intimacy in them left – not externally at least. There was no verbal exchange regarding love or anything. That made us think that they had nothing left in them for each other after everything that happened. Just after seeing Julia, Winston looked very happy seeing the news on television, and he held the hand of the waiter, saying how great the news was. His eyes were speaking, and they were saying that something was surely making him feel loved. But the very moment he said, ‘I love you’—and that too without mentioning a name – he turned away, taking his eyes off Big Brother. Now you think to yourself, why would he do that? If his love was meant for Big Brother, then why did Winston look away? To me it’s because his love was for Julia because he still believed in his love for her even after the Party did everything to destroy that. 

Many of you might not agree with me here, but to me this is how dictatorship fails. They force a belief of misguided trust and faith onto us, and they largely succeed. But yet they fail to take away the true belief from us, which was built in us, which makes us. To me that is where Winston won, and the Party failed. He succeeded in holding onto his love even after everything that happened. 

Now it’s you who will decide: Did Winston actually win this battle in the end?

Fardeen Hassan, student  

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