The Use and Abuse of Power in 1984, a Dystopian Novel by George Orwell
Power, Used and Abused
Control can easily be depicted as a thirst for power. Once that power is abused, chaos
ensues, corrupting people all around or belittling them. In the novel 1984, George Orwell shows
power of a dystopian society by creating a totalitarian government that removes the three qualities that make us human: freedom, love, and knowledge.
In order for mankind to be dehumanized in 1984, the government, the Party, manipulated the citizens in a physical and mental manner. Big Brother is able to control the minds of the working class citizens, also known as the Party, by purposefully overwhelming their heads so people are incapable of thinking for themselves. The government feeds the Party negative thoughts about their neighboring countries in order to keep their own citizens from rebelling from within. On the surface, the main character Winston Smith is portrayed as a brainwashed Party member, but on the inside he loathes the Party and the absurd content they deliver to the people. He is unable to conform to their falsification and believes that “freedom is freedom to say that two plus two make four” (Orwell 87). Winston disagrees immensely with the statement that says “freedom is slavery” because he believes that independent thought is what makes people free, and the government restrains them from reaching that level of intellectuality. Not only does the government perform a type of brainwashing, but they also utilize their power to physically exhaust the people and refrain them from any free time to themselves for rebellious or immoral actions.
The people’s duties to the party are enforced to keep everyone so mentally and physically exhausted they will not break any rules. However, Winston abandons his job and begins to revolt against the Party. Once he was caught, he was placed in the Ministry of Love where the government implements all sorts of torture techniques to force the strays to realign with the Party’s standards. Despite people’s stubbornness or resistance, the Party always gets
through to the rebels and turns them back because “Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain” (Orwell 239). This statement has true validity to it considering Winston after all the abuse he goes through, he eventually caves in to the Party. The government tries all techniques including mental and physical fatigue in order to humiliate someone’s persona.
Humans are the only organism on Earth that develop feelings of love towards a companion. If that ability is taken away, then people become deprived of a basic human instinct. The government enforces a busy schedule on the people so they don’t have extra time on their hands to disrespect the Party’s ordinances. Winston begins to create time out of his daily routines in order to spend quality time with his love interest, Julia. Both Julia and Winston demonstrate a strong hate for the Party by sneaking around and disobeying government rules by conversing and having sex. The idea of love is frowned upon by the Party because it is understood to cause angry and frustration, so the act of “making love” is really the people’s duty to the Party. Winston describes his sexual relationship with his wife as a job rather than for pleasure because “No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred” (Orwell 138). Although, his affair with Julia exhibits true emotion between two human beings which was a rarity in this novel. Love is nothing but meaningless. Besides Julia and Winston’s bond, Winston and O’Brien, Winston’s tormentor in the Ministry of Love, shows a parallel of the two characters and can be seen as an appeal between one another. From the start of the novel, Winston has been fascinated with O’Brien and displays a sort of love for him. Even though O’Brien tortures Winston, Winston reads through his rugged skin and sees a man just like him, one who questions the Party’s authority. Orwell implies that O’Brien use to contemplate the government’s instructions just like Winston because “it resembles my own mind except that you happen to be insane” (Orwell 126). Without any actual words, Winston and O’Brien acknowledge they were
both at some point rebels, but sooner or later they realize the Party is too powerful to overthrow,
so they just join them. Love is misconstrued in all types of relationships throughout the book, but it can never be eliminated out of the equation because it is a quality that is inevitable.
When people lose the ability to think on their own, they ultimately surrender their humanity to the authority figure. Part of the government’s ploy to control the people was through language and historical facts. The Party decided that there are far too many words in the English language so the government made up a new type of language known as Newspeak. This newly developed language’s “whole aim…is to narrow the range of thought” (Orwell 58). The Party members are instructed to reinvent this new language and eliminate words in order to make it impossible to describe any feelings of an uprising. Along with the deletion of present day diction, “every record had been falsified…History has been stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the party is always right” (Orwell 169). The government believes that if they can control the present, they can control the past, and if they control the past, they can control the present. The Party wants to get rid of all proof of past conflict whether domestic or foreign to keep the members of the Party from interpreting their actions as corrupt and harmful towards the society. Intelligence is seen as a threat to the government, therefore the language and historical documents must be destroyed.
Power in the novel 1984 is misused and results in humility of all humanity. The Party takes full advantage of the supremacy they have over all members. Through lack of freedom, love and knowledge, people become mistreated and tossed around.