Response to Nineteen Eighty-Four
2+2=5…obviously. “Oceana” perfectly defines what a dystopia is – a place that is perfect for those in charge, yet a living nightmare for everyone else. Before reading this novel, my schema of a dystopian world was quite similar to Orwell’s; a world with no freedom or privacy, led absolutely by those without the citizen’s best interest in mind. Winston Smith, our unfortunate protagonist, tries desperately throughout the novel to rebel against the government, yet fails miserably. This can be interpreted in one of two ways; the apparent – a human being (humanity) can be completely broken down and conditioned to believe anything we’re told, such as 2+2=5; or the not so forward – the human spirit is so strong that the government had to go through such tremendous lengths to break it.
Winston’s rebellion is certainly a sad one because let’s face it, the man was broken to the point of which he found comfort and happiness looking into the eyes of his sworn enemy, Big Brother; however, does his struggle not attest to the power of the human spirit? Winston went through weeks of torture, weeks of conditioning, and physical and psychological abuse because of his hatred toward Big Brother. Although he endured these hardships, Winston was able to retain his hatred for a very long time, hoping to die with his hatred so that he could claim a small victory over the government. He believed that humanity was such a worthy cause, that he was willing to die for it, although he had reason to prefer death over his torture. Winston knew his actions as a ‘free’ man were corrupt, he admitted it every step of the way. When he opened his diary, he admitted wrongdoing. When he stayed in the room with Julia, he was fully aware he would be punished. He knew what he was doing would end in torture and death, yet he felt expressing his humanity and hatred toward Big Brother was worth the gravest of consequences.
Big Brother also admitted to not being able to control the Proles, which were acknowledged as the last strand of true freedom in Oceana. While the Proles may not have acted on their freedom and were deemed harmless by the government, the fact that they even existed was a testament that the government always has a chance to lose. Although they did not act when Winston wanted them too, who’s to say that they wouldn’t at some point in the future?
Although I chose the keep the more optimistic message in this story, I can’t help but reflect on the dismal government. This totalitarian structure is literally a living nightmare! The censorship and oppression enforced by the government and Thought Police are absolutely horrifying. The presence of cameras and microphones recording every action is eerie to say the least, and the erasure of history is perhaps the biggest of the offenses. It’s common knowledge that those who do not know history are more likely to repeat it, and knowledge is power; the citizens of Oceana have no real history nor do they have true knowledge, only censored and fabricated propaganda. Because of this, the people have no chance of overthrowing the government and being truly happy.
Just after I completed this book, I went online to pull up some discussion boards to see what others thought. Moments before, I was thinking that it’s time to buy a new pair of sneakers. As soon as I went online, I saw advertisements for sneakers — coincidence? I don’t think so. Currently, the majority of people today use the Internet every day for anything and everything, yet it collects information about all of its users. Tech companies claim it’s to help customize the user’s experience, which I believe, but what if say 40 years from now, some new legislation is passed and this information can be used against us?
Starting in 2013, Edward Snowden, a former government employee, leaked information to the public about government surveillance programs, claiming they’re listening to our phone calls, watching us through our computer cameras, and have full access to anything stored in the digital world. I can imagine this is how the dystopia in 1984 started — as government secrets that eventually led to the control of the population. The government is already everywhere and can see everything we’re doing, and this is a scary thought. Similarly to Orwell, I postulate that in 35 years, the government may have absolute control over us.
It’s frightening to imagine that our society is heading toward that in 1984, but it’s certainly not an unreasonable claim. This novel is thoroughly thought provoking and makes the reader question society today. Personally, I’m very paranoid about anyone watching me, so this book was extremely relevant and I’d certainly recommend it to anybody. Will 2+2 equal 5 in some year’s time?