Analysis of Utopia in "1984" by George Orwell
“The dream of a just society seems to haunt the human imagination.” How effectively do the texts you have studied explore the pursuit for a better world?
Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a novel of the Utopia genre yet questions the very idea of the human desire for a utopia, presenting itself as a Distopia and a warning to society of today. The society presented by Orwell is one which haunts the every sleeping and waking moment of the people within it, as well as suppressing the human imagination. The constant presence of the telescreens torments Winston to the point where he realises that “nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull” and that even this is controlled by the Thought police. The constant surveillance and crushing of human existence and its fundamental rights of privacy creates a sense of hopelessness in the novel, a dead end that cannot be escaped. It is the Party’s power, based on fear, that induces this inevitability and static nature of the society: “who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past.” Ironically, the Party does believe that this extreme Communism will result in a better world, in terms of their Ingsoc (English Socialism) doctrine. Their eradication of humanity aims to create a cleansed and pure race which is united in its adoration of the omnipresent “Big Brother”, who professes to be “watching you” on every poster at every street corner and every minute through the telescreens. Orwell questions the distinction between Winston’s rejection of Big Brother and his submission to the conformed society, where during the two minute hate, he finds it “impossible to avoid joining in” as his “secret loathing of Big Brother is changed to adoration.” The diametrically opposed emotions of “loathing” and “adoration” in fact are so extreme that their distinctions become blurred and Winston’s feels both. This is a reflection of the co-existence of Utopia and Anti utopia in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four: they both present such extremes of ideas that the Party’s pursuit for a better world, although wrought with fear, torture and corruption, appears to co exist and feed off Winston’s own personal battle for justice. This leads to the lack of distinction between fantasy and realism, and ultimately questions the purposes and power of humanity and the individual against the body of the Party.
Winston is constantly haunted, both day and night by O’Brien, who becomes his imagined mentor and father figure in Winston’s pursuit of a better world, professing in a dream that: “we shall meet in a place where there is no darkness”. This appeals to Winston’s imagination and fundamental human desires and he embarks on a dangerous relationship with Julia, in the pursuit of a sense of privacy, intimacy and ultimately, humanity. His relationship with her becomes “a blow struck against the Party…a political act”, a secret rapport that destroys the conformity of society and allows him to expand his own dreams and memories of the “Golden Past” and the future. His pursuit of a better world lies in his belief in humanity and the power of the individual: “the animal instinct, the simple desire: that was the force that would tear the party to pieces.” His belief and trust in humanity’s simple movements “to annihilate a whole culture” demonstrates his faith in this power. However, the power of one is not enough when faced with the destructive Party. Winston is dependent on the “old civilizations founded on love and justice” and the preservation of their memory in his mind and dreams.
However, this attempt is annulled and crushed by the Party’s formation of Newspeak to destroy both the human imagination and the thought process. “The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect” and in being perfect, it involves “cutting language down to the bone.” Winston’s mind battle to counteract this destruction begins with his writing of a diary, his “guilty secret” which becomes his own rebellion against the Party, in an attempt to preserve both his own memories and humanity. His and Julia’s room also becomes a symbol of this preservation, the room becoming “a world, a pocket of the past where extinct animals could walk” with the luxury and relief of being “utterly alone, utterly secure, with no one watching you, no voice pursuing you.” Orwell’s use of “extinct animals” present s his pessimistic and distopian view of society. Winston and Julia become “the dead”, a picture of the bleak future presented by Nineteen Eighty Four “a boot stamping on a human face-for ever.” They are a past which has been eradicated in the “memory hole”, to be rewritten and brought “up to date” by the Ministry of Truth, in the pursuit of Ingsoc and Big Brother’s future believed utopia: “who controls the past controls the future and who controls the present controls the past”.
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26 June 2014