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Instructor Cheryl Morris
Advanced Placement Literature
March 30, 2017
Essay #4: AP Prompt 2004
In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four , George Orwell implicitly addresses the question of whether or not we are too reliant on the government . He addresses this question indirectly by investigating an example of a dystopian society in which events marred by propaganda or time. Through his example of the government controlling its citizens, Orwell answers his own question by showing the reader that relying on the government ultimately fails because, it manifests in corrupted form, it provides only a temporary solution, and because members of society are unable to fend for themselves and create original thought.
George Orwell shows us the corruption of reliance on the government through the control they impose to keep the citizens in check. The way in which the government in this future dystopia keeps control over its people is through a combination of manipulation and fear. There is of course the ever-present threat of the Thought Police, which Winston makes clear in the opening chapter, who are able to watch everybody all the time and see into their minds. Then there is the way in which the Party turn families against each other, with children reporting their parents to the authorities for the slightest crime. The Party's assault on families does not only seek to separate parents from children, but also wife from husband, as it attacks sex itself, making people think it is merely a functional necessity rather than a physical act of pleasure and love.
The novel ends with a scene that brings the story to complete a circle, making it end exactly as it started, after all the psychological and physical torture since his arrest, Winston's spirit is not able to withstand the power exerted by a totalitarian government that creates "doublespeak" and untruths. This use of torture and brainwashing destroys Winston's desire for love, justice, and truth; in him there occurs a change that goes to the core of his nature. Through the successful manipulation of Winston's mind, Winston, in effect, begins to believe what is contrary to the truth. Now, he believes that "2+2=5" is true. And, his "Slavery is Freedom" because he no longer possesses any awareness of the discrepancy between truth and fiction.
Orwell's main answer to his question, which is presented constantly throughout the novel, but never explicitly stated is that there will always be inequality because of the innate inequality of people in the dystopian society. The dehumanization of people is the revolution that will destroy the freedom and essence of the individual. Truth is abolished, every trace of critical thought and individuality eliminated; man is alienated, transformed into mere parts of the process of production and consumption.
All the events and representations in Orwell's novel serve to answer his question indirectly. Instead of explicitly stating whether or not we are too reliant on the government in a way that could be attacked or challenged politically, he instead emphasizes what is wrong and lets the reader decide for himself/herself what the true problem is and how it might be fixed. The implicit question about the nature of reliance on an authority figure ties Orwell's novel together, but also makes it relevant outside of literature.
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