The Loss Of Individualism In George Orwell’s 1984 And Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
The society we live in will always push and suppress our individual thoughts, freedom, action and integrity; whether we like it or not. These classic pieces of literature, George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’, show us how our society’s loss of individuality is still being searched for even since the 1950s.
A predominant theme in ‘1984’ and ‘The Crucible’ is the restriction of personal freedom by absolutist power which illustrates a common message allowing authors to position contemporary readers. Today’s readers are warned of the dangers in which government can rule society for their own benefit by controlling and manipulating facts to sway people and to repress their individualism. The limiting, oppressive and intolerant society in both texts allows readers to understand how power through several methods and techniques can be used to control society.
In George Orwell’s ‘1984’, the totalitarian government of Oceania is able to suppress the individualism of the Proles through ultimate power and manipulation of truth. Similarly, in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’, the citizens of Salem are influenced by Theocratic government and the ways of Puritanism in which people have no choice lifestyle. These texts are able to set up what it means to lose individuality in a limiting and oppressive society.
Both texts show that whoever is able to manipulate the truth, to everyone else, is the most powerful in a society, and can use this power to achieve one’s ultimate goal. The portrayal of manipulation of truth in which truth and power is deemed as authority to control people is an obvious theme in both the novel and play. Characters use this idea to attain power for their own personal goals. For example, Abigail Williams uses manipulation tactics on everyone she gets involved with.
The one who has control over the truth in ‘The Crucible’ is Abigail Williams. “I want the light of God… I danced for the Devil; I saw him […] I saw Sarah Good with the Devil!” (Miller, 48). Through this quote we can see Abigail’s first accusations evident in the play. She wields ultimate control over the truth in which she continues to use as a means to an end. This manipulation of truth link can relate to many present world examples. For example, many governments lie and cheat the system purely for their own benefit, to win the power over people and to do everything they can to keep it that way.
1984’s eerie take on totalitarianism and its oppressive means is illustrated through the Party controlling Oceania’s economy, culture and political system. By constantly watching over citizens for rebellion, the Party is able to reinforce the idea that “Big Brother is watching you” (Orwell, 3). Several methods and techniques such as thought police, thoughtcrime, telescreens and spies contribute to the manipulation of this society.
The Party controls the past by manipulating the truth, perceiving them as always correct. The Ministry of Truth supposedly “rectifies” records, this is Winston’s job, to edit and rewrite history, reinforcing the party’s version of history. By erasing people’s own thoughts and replacing them with one’s own oppressive ideas, there is no longer such thing as individuality and self-expression. So ultimately, with this control of truth we can see power, that brings ones means to an end.
Throughout Miller’s allegorical text, ‘The Crucible’, the maintenance of power and the control of truth through oppressive means divides society when it comes to religion. In Puritan society, there is no freedom for the citizens of Salem, there is no choice in what they believe. The requirement to be Christian conquers the individuality and own cultural values, attitudes and beliefs. They are being controlled and manipulated by the Theocratic government that reigns over Salem. This positions readers to understand and feel empathy for the society in which these individuals live in by realizing how oppressive and limiting their society is.
The play is solely based on the 17th century Salem witch trials, which saw ‘witches’ be persecuted unfairly. A contemporary example of individuals being persecuted today is the North Korean society under the rule of Kim Jong Un. North Korea is a country that many people around the world do not get a glimpse of because of its oppressive means by the Government. But through research, the society in which North Koreans live in is a ghost town restricted to no technology where citizens are constantly expected to constantly look up to and obey the ruling leader. These notions of a ghost town in which people are at loss of their own individual freedom, is very much alike the ways in which the town of Salem lives in.
This idea of loss of individualism and self-expression comprehensively also comes through the Dystopian novel ‘1984’ by George Orwell, which dominates the Proles in Oceania’s sadistic society. Orwell’s novel is a clear example of how The Party accentuates the impacts of lack of freedom on society and humanity. This allows the divide the people of Oceania into clear differentiated societal classes limiting the expression of thoughts and ideas.
The limiting method of suppressing freedom of thought, shown by protagonist Winston, can be exemplified by his own words in which he states: “Do you realize that the past […] has been actually abolished? […] Every record has been destroyed […]; every book has been rewritten […] every date [,] altered […] Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. […] The only evidence is inside my own mind” (Orwell, 162). Winston’s quote illustrates how the Inner Party is able to ensure that society is constantly kept under strict control and that as a result; mindless puppets are created. Winston describes how despite every truth he thought was real is actually a lie to him and to everyone, he can only seem to think of the real truth in his head and how criminal this all is. Yet through this, readers are encouraged to think critically about how superior individuals or groups with absolutist power can rid of individual freedom and divide society for their own advantage.
Both Theocratic society and the Party are able to oppress the individualism of society and gain the most power above all. Which shows that power and truth in fact co-exist with one another and is still used in today’s society to manipulate and tyrannize the people.
To some, power is an end goal. It’s not a means to do things and get things done. The Party believes that power is an “end” because it is the ultimate end goal. On page 220 of Orwell’s novel, O’Brien explains that “Power is not a means; it is an end”, this quote reveals the total corruption of the purpose of the Party. The main goal of the Party is to perpetually rule society and continue to gain more control. They are able to play this out with the manipulation of truth, and that is their goal.
Abigail Williams’ motive of power is her desire to rid of Goody Proctor. When John Proctor confesses to his affair with Abigail, in an attempt to save those condemned, he pronounces that “She [Abigail] thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave!” (Miller, 89). It is clear that through jealousy, Abigail wants to kill Goody Proctor in order to be with John. Her ultimate goal is fueled by her desire to kill her, and through her use of manipulating the truth to gain favor and power over others in Salem she is able to weave control over the oppressed society.
The Party and Abigail have different reasons for obtaining power, but both of their goals are to divide society and control the oppressed. Abigail seeks to have Proctor for herself and the Party aim to maintain a hateful society and remain in power. The Party don’t will not surrender their power, but Abigail will for Proctor.
Power, through limiting and oppressive means is clearly represented through the division of society in both the play and novel of ‘The Crucible’ and ‘1984’. This representation of power through both texts is shown through Big Brother; who oppresses the freedom of thought, speech and love. Whereas, ‘The Crucible’ restricts the self-expression of society. In both texts, the establishment of who controlled the truth, how they created and justified power over society, and how clear their ultimate goal was, shows that the Party in 1984 and Abigail and the Theocratic society in The Crucible contain and maintain absolute power. Readers are positioned to understand how the oppressor weaves control over the oppressed in their respective societies and how this is clearly still evident in today’s day and age. The limiting, oppressive and intolerant society in both texts allows readers to be warned of the dangers in which government can rule society for their own benefit by controlling and manipulating facts and ideas to sway people exactly how they would like and to repress their
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