George Orwell’s View of the Importance of Language as Illustrated in His Book, 1984
The Power of Language
The arguably most defining symbol of the novel “1984” by George Orwell is Newspeak. Newspeak was the new language established in Oceania and the code by which every one of its citizens lived by; this symbol reveals how when language and communication are restricted and limited, manipulation and control become an easier task for oppressors and tyrants. In the novel this symbol functions to keep the citizens of Oceania from liberating their minds and breaking the invisible chains Big Brother had attached them to, thus adhering to his every command without doubt or suspicion. Newspeak symbolizes power over the masses.
In the novel, Newspeak is the established language. Words such as revolution, liberty, love, and friendship are foreign to those who reside in Oceania. This is essentially the most powerful weapon used against the people; by restricting their language – they are restricting their thoughts and ideas. If one cannot convert a feeling into a sound wave then one cannot be an idealist.Thus one is, in turn, a slave to those who can. “Big Brother” manipulated his people as if they were pawns. Pawns can only advance one square at a time with the exception of the first move. This is done only in benefit of the king and giving an advantage to the higher pieces. In Oceania newspeak was the weapon used to order the pawns to move according to what Big Brother desired. This turned every citizen in Oceania into a mindless animal who used their frustration during hate week and two minutes hate. Their inability to feel, think and act turned them into savages who betrayed each other and became unpersons.
The Ministry of Truth, where Winston Smith, the protagonist, worked was the place in which Newspeak flourished. Not only were the thoughts and ideas that one could ever think of controlled but also what one thought in the past and what one could think in the future. In this so-called Ministry of Truth Winston along with other comrades altered past documents to fit what Big brother said or predicted. At the same time, the memory of those who heard was also altered to fit Big Brother’s command. These people were programmed using plain English. The workings of their mind were completely changed by the subtraction, addition or combination of words. Just like a DNA strand, a simple mutation can change an entire organism, multiple mutations in their language changed their society. Words such as “Thought Police”, “ungood”, and “Ingsoc” transformed children into spies, love into nothingness, family into a job for reproduction purposes and friends into death danger. We as conscious people live under the power of language. our ideas, inventions, relations, traditions, history, and future are nothing more than an infinite re-arrangement of twenty six letters and when our entire language becomes a code for submissive behavior, malicious forces can take control of our existence by simply changing our language.
The goal of Newspeak was to reach a point in which one word could express any necessary thought. This government did not want the people to think therefore it restricted the tool used to do so. Only those words that would reinforce the power of Big Brother would survive the attack. Because words have the power to free the mind, dictators such as Big Brother use them to instill erroneous ideas in the minds of the people. Ideas so toxic that once ingrained one has to fight very bravely to free oneself. 1984 created a reinforced concrete cage around each citizen of Oceania that poisoned their being and killed with darkness their individuality- that prison is Newspeak. This strategy was so effective because although many think that freedom and liberty are the ability to do and go where you desire freely, they are wrong. Freedom is freedom of the mind. One can be physically free but locked in a dark cage in the mind. If such thing occurs then one cannot escape unless we realize that we are imprisoned. In 1984 this concept was understood by those who were in control. Now who they were neither we nor the people of Oceania will ever now. “Big Brother” used language to incarcerate the minds of the people of Oceania. In doing so, he assured his power over them would not be easily destroyed. Only by understanding their enslavement will they ever be able to revolutionize and destroy their oppressor. Only when one is knowledgeable can one be free. Only knowledge which is dependent on language can set free an encaged mind.
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