1984: The Message

1984: The Message Nineteen eighty four is a famous novel written in 1949 by George Orwell. This novel has been studied and analysed throughout history. Its content may be fiction, but this fictional world is not far from our own real world. There have been extreme totalitarian systems were people have suffered the dejection of death, lack of food, hatred, torture and hopelessness, just like the INGSOC totalitarian system referred in the novel.

We can compare the Ingsoc party with two totalitarianism movements and governments, such as Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, or commonly known as The Cultural Revolution, was a social movement that occurred between 1966 and 1976 and it was headed by Mao Zedong. According to historian Patricia Buckley (n.d), the aim of this revolution was “to attack the Four Olds-- old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits--in order to bring the areas of education, art and literature in line with Communist ideology.”

However, this movement caused chaos throughout the country. This chaos was caused by Mao’s Red Guards, a group of civilians, mostly youth, who punished those who did not follow the new socialist system; intellectuals, artist and liberals were severely attacked. They also destroyed several mosques, shrines, temples and cultural and historical artefacts.
Middle schools and universities also had to close down, for students were sent away to the countryside to live as proletarians and millions of students were, according to Buckley (n.d), “encouraged to attack counterrevolutionaries and to criticise those members of the party that deviated from the Maoist idea.” Many people, mainly rebels, were killed and civilians suffered the consequences of these acts. Actually, young people attacked older people. They were brought up seeing this system and for them it was right to do so, they followed Mao’s ideas and swore to serve him.
In Nineteen Eighty four, the population was controlled in the same way. People against the system were punished by the thought police, but this matter will be specifically discussed later.
Another totalitarian system was the Nazi Party. This party was founded in 1920 and was led by Adolf Hitler. At first it was followed by a minority, but then its popularity was so wide that Hitler could control masses. This also happens in the novel, the INGSOC party is run by a minority but it controls masses. In Nazi Germany, this control started in schools.

Education in the Nazi Germany was very important, they taught the children to love the party so when they reached their adulthood, they were loyal Nazi followers. The best way to cultivate these ideas is using a child’s mind. Children are innocent and believe what adults say to them. Hitler knew this and brain washed the children, with the goal of winning their hearts with his thought-control system, so he created the Hitler Youth and changed the educational programs. All the teachers were selected by Nazi members and they had to follow the party’s education program, which included Hitler’s doctrines of anti-Semitism and national socialist.

The subjects were altered. History classes were about the glory of Germany. Therefore, history was changed for their own sake, for they blamed others for past mistakes. Biology classes were used to enforce the belief that Aryan race was superior to any other. Children were taught that they had to marry someone Aryan; they were taught that interracial relationships would lead to the end of the “pure” race. In fact, Hitler decreed that "no boy or girl should leave school without complete knowledge of the necessity and meaning of blood purity." Mathematics was also a subject used to brain wash the children. Teachers had to use the anti-Semitic beliefs in mathematics exercises.

We can compare these facts with the novel. Firstly, in the part where the Parsons children harass Winston calling him a thought-criminal and a traitor. They were also upset because they could not attend to the hanging of some prisoners. This is what they were taught and brought up to; therefore this is what they believed in and thought it was right. To support this idea, we quote George Orwell (1949):

"Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it... All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals.(…)” (p. 32)

As an illustration of this fact, we have a declaration from a person that travelled to China during the Cultural Revolution and experienced this type of event.

“I went to Shanghai on the 60s and went to this shop and saw a little girl staring at me. I smiled at her and suddenly she began to cry and ran away. I asked my companion what I had done. His answer surprised me, for children in China were told that Americans ate Chinese children and the little girl thought I was American.” (T. Allsop, personal communication, January 28, 2011)

Secondly, the Germans changed history at their convenience, this also happened in the novel. One of the INGSOC party slogans was “who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'" Winston knew that many things the party claimed to be true were completely false. Though nobody could prove the contrary, for every piece of evidence was destroyed. Winston compares the history of Big Brother and the INGSOC party to “a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary." (op. Cit p. 54).

Also, in the Nazi educational system, the children were encouraged to inform the authorities about the adults that were “misleading” from the Nazi path, Hitler’s beliefs. In school, if a teacher said or wrote something against the party or the Nazi educational program, children would and denounce them. At home, it was the same situation. Parents feared their children. They had to be careful with their conversations and tried not to make a bad judgment of the party.

In the same way, this is clearly stated on page 319 of the novel, when Winston meets Mr. Parson in the Ministry of Love. He was there under the charge of thought-crime. His little daughter heard him say “Down with Big Brother!” in his sleep and denounced him to the patrols. Parsons is proud of her attitude, for he claims he “brought her up in the right spirit.” To reinforce this fact, George Orwell (1949) stated that “(...) it was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children." (p. 32)

In both of the totalitarian systems mentioned before. There are agents that work in pro of the party and that are in charge to punish those who are against it. In Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution it was the Red Guard and in the Nazism it was the Gestapo, Hitler’s secret police. The Nazis and the Maoist could not support an opposition, thus they were in charge of the elimination of it. The Gestapo used to arrest, without any trial, someone they suspected to be anti-Nazism and most of the time the arrested people were never seen again.

Both organisations were feared by the civilians and caused havoc in the population. These control and punishment groups may be compared to Orwell’s Thought Police. This group arrested people that committed Thought Crime (to think against Big Brother’s system) and then “vaporised” the prisoners. People feared the Thought Police and tried not to slip or do a sin against the system. Even their faces could accuse them of what they were thinking, this was called FACECRIME. The only difference between them is that the thought criminals were rehabilitated.

All this evidence indicates that not all written down in George Orwell’s novel escapes from our own reality. Actually, we can compare the so called American Dream to Big Brother, in which he represents the American Dream. People chase it, support it, want it, are controlled by it, suffer by it and cannot see it. They are brain washed by propaganda, by systems, by leaders and they are brought up in this way and hold up to it blindly. The human mind is vulnerable and can be managed in order to have control on them. This is the message that nineteen eighty four delivers to us.

Reference List

Kennedy, X.J. y Goia, D. (1995). Literature: An introduction to fiction, poetry and drama. New York: Collins College Publishers
Orwell, G. (1949) 1984. Retrieved from http://hawaiilibrary.net/eBooks/Give-Away/Movie_eBooks/orwell-1984.pdf
Evan Hearne, C. (2009, May) The Chinese Cultural Revolution. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from http://www.suite101.com/content/the-chinese-cultural-revolution-a115893
Garret, V. (2010, May) Life in China during the Cultural Revolution. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from http://www.suite101.com/content/life-in-china-during-the-cultural-revolution-a216853
Buckley, P (n.d) A visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from http://depts.washington.edu/chinaciv/

Social Control in Germany 1933-1939 (n.d). Retrieved January 28, 2011 from http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2005/8/22/72810/0719

Diane Evans (2011, January) Hitler Youth: Thought-Control and Brainwashing in Nazi Germany. Retrieved 28 January 2011 from http://www.suite101.com/content/hitler-youth-thought-control-and-brainwashing-in-nazi-germany-a334644

1984: The Message 7.8 of 10 on the basis of 2526 Review.