Let’s Recap

When George Orwell wrote 1984 he saw power politics, not science as the major threat to humanity. Obviously, recent history had shown him the possibilities of power. When he wrote the novel he seemed to have given up hope as his dreams of social revolution seemed illusive. The post-war period was depressing and wartime moves towards equality were gone. In his personal life he had to cope with the death of his wife and the TB that would soon kill him. Orwell had also seen the terrible effects of war as he had followed allied troops through Europe in 1945.

1984 seems to be his last stand for humanity. Orwell was able to draw on his knowledge of the methods used by the Nazis and he had also seen how propaganda was used in Britain during the war. Oceania is in a state of perpetual crisis which is used to get people to comply, to submit to power. They are told that their interests as individuals are identical to the national interests. This is what happened in Britain during the war. Individuals were persuaded that it was their personal efforts and sacrifices would help to win the war. Orwell saw that in times of crisis people can be asked to do things that they would normally find insupportable. He saw that although that Britain won the war that the dangers of the process couldn’t ne ignored. In 1984 Orwell shows ordinary people submitting to an appalling life – he is warning that it could happen and that the results would be devastating.

We have discussed at length Orwell’s vision of totalitarian power and he did see in wartime Britain the seeds of such power. Remember that during the war the government had emergency powers and no opposition. The novel reflects his sense of urgency; Orwell saw the misuse of power as a real possibility that could lead to loss of democracy. Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World) wrote in 1958 that,

“George Orwell’s 1984 was a magnified projection into the future of a present that contained Stalinism and an immediate past that had witnessed the flowering of Nazism. Brave New World was written before the rise of Hitler to supreme power in Germany and when the Russian tyrant had not yet got into his stride. In 1931 systematic terrorism was not the obsessive contemporary fact which it had become in 1948, and the future dictatorship of my imaginary world was a good deal less brutal than the future dictatorship so brilliantly portrayed by Orwell.”

1984 is a political book and it developed from the political ideas and actions that Orwell was familiar with. The language that he uses bluntly conveys the possibility of disaster but it is a style that is totally appropriate for the message. Orwell has made language state so plainly, without strain or exaggeration a devastating nightmare.


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