The Culture of Fear in 1984, a Novel by George Orwell

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Discuss ways in which Orwell presents a culture of fear in 1984

Fear is a primary theme in ‘1984’. Fear is what drives many characters from rebelling against the dictating party. The fear of death, torture and hard labour restrains Winston from speaking publicly against the party. Orwell presents a culture of fear in 1984 in a similar way to Koestler by building up to a climactic moment of arrest which will inevitably lead up to torture and death. He presents the dread of the moment by invading every moment of Winston’s consciousness, much like Rubashov in the passage of ‘Darkness at Noon’, by giving concrete details of the thought police and police state. Orwell also presents a police state where citizens spy on each other to create a culture of fear.

One way in which Orwell presents a culture of fear is through the climactic moment of arrest, which is dreaded from the beginning of the novel. In ‘1984’, arrest invades Julia and Winston’s safe space within Mr Charrington’s flat when the ‘iron voice behind them’ from the telescreen says to Winston and Julia, ‘you are the dead’. This quote demonstrates how the theme of fear created throughout the whole novel has finally erupted during one chilling moment where the thought police invade their supposedly safe place. The use of direct speech creates a climatic and shocking moment and foreshadows their mental death to come and the end of their revolt against the party. The phrase ‘behind them’ essentially represents the party and implies that the party has been following them the whole time. Similarly, Koestler presents the climactic moment of arrest. This is presented ‘when the two officials … were hammering on Rubashov’s door … to arrest him’. This demonstrates that Rubashov is being arrested in real life at the same time in his dream. Koestler uses repetition of ‘hammering on the door’ in the first sentence of the first and second paragraphs to signify the overlap between dream and reality, which foreshadows Rubashov’s future. He uses sound imagery and onomatopoeia to signal the climactic moment of fear in a vivid way, using ‘hammering’. This is similar to Orwell’s use of direct speech showing the literal invasion of their space. In both texts the terror of arrests and the inevitability of it comes together, signalled by sound. Both texts reference the secret police of the totalitarian states of Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. In Nazi Germany, the greatest fear for the any rebels against the Nazis, would be being caught by the S.S and taken to concentration camps. This parallels the KGB in Stalin’s Russia and Stasi in communist East Germany after WW2 This draws an almost exact parallel to Winston in ’1984’, which was written by Orwell in 1948.

Another significant way in which Orwell presents a culture of fear is through the theme of police state. In ‘1984’, the intimidation of the police plays a key role in preserving fear in society. When the Thought Police arrive Winston describes a ‘feeling of nakedness’ and he ‘dared not turn his head’ when Julia is hit. This quote illustrates Winston’s obedience towards the police due to his terror of them. The noun ‘nakedness’ emphasises how vulnerable Winston feels against the brutal force of the Thought Police. The fact that Winston does not turn his head, acts as the first foreshadowing of Winston’s betrayal of Julia. He does nothing to stop the attack of the one person he loves most. Orwell gives detailed visual imagery of their uniform, ‘solid men in black uniforms with iron shod boots…and truncheons in their hands’. The adjective ‘solid’ and ‘black’ and ‘iron-shod’ have connotations of strength and brutality, signifying their annihilation. This is similar to the intimidating police in Koestler’s novel. The police’s uniform show an ‘aggressively barbed cross’ and they carry ‘grotesquely big pistols’. The adjectives ‘barbed’ and ‘big’ have similar connotations of violence and instil fear in the characters and the readers, which illustrates the terror created by the police. The ‘’aggressively barbed cross’ draws similarity to the insignia of the S.S in Nazi Germany which was two bolts of lightning.

Fear is prevalent throughout 1984 and is the party’s primary method of control. It is aided by an overwhelming sense of paranoia and stops people from rebelling against the party and performing thought crime. The impending doom of room 101 is enough to prevent many from changing, however there is a strong sense of cruelty associated with this as the party always know who is committing thought crime and even convict those who are not to increase the sense of fear among the citizens of Oceania. In conclusion, Orwell presents a culture of fear through distrust and a basic human need of survival.

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