Nazi Germany and Communist Russia in George Orwell’s 1984
George Orwell’s powerful and innovative novel, 1984, written in 1948, has been strongly influenced by the context of that time period. It makes an unavoidable comment on the damaging effects of totalitarianism, and illustrates how it adversely effects the society by mirroring the political change that was apparent, and highlighting what the future will become if ruled by tyranny. The context the time period 1984 was written in; more specifically that of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, as well as a more modern context; more specifically North Korea and the new presidency in America, has enabled me to gain a higher understanding of the texts ideas of manipulation and power, and the harsh warning Orwell was giving about the future of the world under totalitarianism.
The 1930’s saw the rise in power for Nazi Germany, and the events that followed it has greatly influenced my understanding of Totalitarianism, and allowed me to fully realise the strong theme of power and manipulation that is present in the novel. During the proceedings of Nazi Germany, a common occurrence was the burning of books to prevent the spread of knowledge amongst the people. This has allowed me to fully understand the harmful effect of The Party’s constant changing in history to prevent a political uproar among the common people, and keep the loyal and inline. O’Brian states “He who controls the past controls the future” illustrating how the manipulation of history has been done to maintain and grow the Party’s hold on power, just as Nazi Germany used manipulation to continue and grow their power. Many tactics used by Hitler is seen being used by Big Brother in 1984. This includes; The manipulation of languages, anti-sex regimes, rations, and most importantly- the constant monitoring of the people through intimidating and fear inducing figures. 1984 used the Thought Police as a reflection of Nazi Germany using the Nazis. These comparisons, and the context it provides, illustrates to me that the key idea of 1984 was to warn people of the dangers of a totalitarian society, and the impact it would have on the world.
Before writing 1984, George Orwell acted as a police officer in Russia. There, he witnessed many horrors that eventually led him to writing a novel warning the world of what the future entailed. This understanding of context has allowed me to recognise the idea of control and power presented in the novel. The 1930’s saw a rise in technology used for monitoring a societies every move. It was used to enable the Government to have full control over the people, as they were constantly watched. This is directly reflected in 1984, by the use of telescreens to monitor Winston, as well as the rest of the Party Members 24/7. Winston states “The telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them” this illustrates how far the government was prepared to go to have complete control over the entirety of the population. During the 1930’s in Russia, approximately 78% of the money was held by 2% of the population. This is reflected in 1984, by the stark differences in classes- the proles, who have nothing, the outer party who have a little, and the inner party who own everything. This context enables me to realise the idea of class, as well as how money- or more specifically the lack of, can be used to control a population and increase ones power. The context of 1930’s Russia allows me to compare and contrast values and attitudes of a real totalitarian government with that of the fake one in 1984, enabling me to clearly see the idea that totalitarian must be destroyed at all costs.
Despite 1984 being written in 1948, it IS still possible, as well as plausible to compare the ideas presented in the text with the context of our modern society to gain a greater understanding of the text. Currently the world is at a constant threat of a nuclear war with North Korea, and must watch as the human values and attitudes of America a torn down and replaced with the inhumane and dictator like ones being believed by the new president Donald Trump. America is beginning to transition into a Nazi like super power and turn into a totalitarian government. The values and attitudes of Trump allow me to realise the key ideas of manipulation of language and power presented in 1984. The meaning of the character Julie is magnified when compared to the current values of America. She is only prepared to fight for her own pleasure rather than for the well-being of other people, and this is a reflection of the beliefs of the current American people. Winston States “you’re only a rebel from the waist”, down illustrating Julius selfish nature and coupled with current events allow me to recognise the idea of false hope and selfishness of a population presented in 1984. The totalitarian like government present in both North Korea and America have enabled for the idea of the harmful effect of totalitarianism on a population to become apparent, as well as how power and language is manipulated in the novel 1984.
1984 is a novel that hints at the decay of the future under the rule of totalitarianism governments. It is a comment on totalitarianism and highlights the fall of society if we succumb to it. 1984 was inspired by the political context of Nazi Germany and Russia, and is still able to be used to make a common and dictatorship in tyranny in our more modern Society. The use of old and new context has enabled me to understand the texts ideas of manipulation and power and it’s apparent warning about the future of the world under the rule of totalitarianism.
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