Oct 7, 2015

Reflections after reading 1984

After you read 1984, you realize it is the “baap” of all the totalitarian societies created in fiction. Orwell has though of everything: a society where you are constantly in surveillance through telescreens, crimes of facial expressions major, and even crimes of thought are monitored. Information is constantly re-invented: old history is deleted, new histories created, so that you never know if what you read is real or not. News is constantly edited to support the party’s official line. New words are constantly added to the official dictionary, and more importantly, old words and constantly rounded up and routed form use, so that the entire vocabulary changes, and no art remains. Control of big brother is total. 

However, the plot leaves many questions unanswered about how such a society functions. What are the mechanisms through which one gets into the inner party circle? Why don’t the common people try and get into the party? Is membership guaranteed by birth, if so what about people who don’t qualify? IS membership by loyalty to the party? If so, can anyone get in? What about corruption within the party and digression, lack of faith, and giving in to temptation (of love, of art, of music, of communication, of ideas) from within the party?

What happens to spontaneous expressions of art? Can you really control art to this extent? For example in language or in doodles? The novel throws big ideas at you in every page, and every sentence is a punch-line. Sometimes you wonder how you can keep up, and then you realize that this novel is an imagination of future dystopia. Today many of the conditions imagined in the novel, like omnipresent technology. This has given us enough information to know that many of the ideas Orwell outlines are not plausible: nobody has time to monitor millions of CCTV cameras 24/7, or Orwell’s telescreens, and if they do, they would be bored to death. Modern dystopian works have learnt from these plot loopholes, and created more plausible societies. However, again, they do so only because Orwell was there to show what was possible and what was not.


shahen ahmed said...

Uniformity and absolute truth are the most dangerous things in this world!

aakhyan Bhattarai said...

I don't think there were loopholes in the plot as you mentioned. We do have an omnipresent technology right now, but it is not controlled by a totalitarian organization. Today's technology doesn't need people to attend to CCTV cameras but can have technology itself do the work. To some extent intelligence agency like NSA are doing it.

The vagueness of the inner working of the party itself gives an enigmatic totalitarian feel to it. I think the unanswered questions is part of Orwell's brilliance rather than a loophole.

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