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1984, Surveillance and Lack of Individualism

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Lauren M

on 19 July 2013

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Transcript of 1984, Surveillance and Lack of Individualism

1984, a dystopian novel by George Orwell describes a totalitarian government under the control of Big Brother (the most powerful figure in the government)

The citizens of Oceana have no control over their lives.
Imagine one of these in your house or bedroom with the possibility of someone tapping in at any time and knowing your every move.
1984
Imagine your little siblings or children spying on you ready to report you at any moment.
Imagine not being able to show emotion or facial expressions for fear of being thought of as suspicious.
The citizens of Oceana are under constant surveillance. With the use of telescreens they can be watched at anytime in their own home. Kids are trained to spy on their parents and report them to the thought police if there is any suspicious behaviour. Similarly facial expressions are also closely monitered by the thought police, for signs of disobedience to the party (the government).
Individualism
Not only do the citizens of Oceana have a lack of freedom, but also a lack of individualism
"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten." (Orwell.1. 5. 23)
The government has created a new language called "newspeak". Like the quotation mentions, the party is trying to gain control of everyone's thoughts so no one can disobey orders or revolt.

The party gets people who work at the ministry of truth to rewrite and change the language. Considering this is the protagonist's, Winston's ministry, he is being forced to rewrite and ruin his own language.

"And what he wanted, more even than to be loved, was to break down that wall of virtue, even if it were only once in his whole life. The sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion. Desire was thoughtcrime." (Orwell, 1. 6. 16)
Oddly enough, having sexual relations with another person was considered rebellion and could be subject to punishment, unless one was doing their "duty to the party" which was solely for pro-creation. Additionally, showing love towards anyone but Big Brother was seen as defiance and was not tolerated. (This included family as well)

The main characters Julia and Winston eventually rebel by having intercourse with each other.

"He turned round, and for a second almost failed to recognize her …. The transformation that had happened was much more surprising than that. She had painted her face." (Orwell.2.4.29-31)

"To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone – to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink – greetings!" (Orwell.1.2.40-41)


Even actions as simple as wearing makeup or keeping a journal were forbidden by the party. There were to be no thoughts or opinions against the party and there was to be no expressing one's self.

Julia and Winston both rebelled against the party, Julia by wearing makeup and Winston by keeping a journal. Winston wanted people to know what his life was like when Big Brother was no more. In his journal he wrote "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER" over and over again.
Clearly the people of Oceana are under strict control of the government. Main characters Winston and Julia are oppressed. They are not allowed to think their own thoughts, engage in certain activities or express themselves in anyway. Additionally, they are kept under constant surveillance to make sure that there is no rebellious behaviour. However, being under such a tight leash leads our main characters to revolt in anyway that they can.
George Orwell shows a truly dystopic society and what it would be like to be under the rule of a extreme totalitarian government.
This leaves one last question. Could you imagine your life like this?
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