George Orwell ‘fell into the trap of assuming that the war and the revolution were inseparable’. Today, it could sound a bit odd, but with an era of revolutions and totalitarian political movements preceding, in 1944, it sounded more like a fact. He lived in the most destructive and violent period of the world’s history, which is a clearly recognizable influence on 1984.
Orwell spent five years working forthe Indian Imperial Police (in Burma) and then went through poverty and depression. This enhanced his negative feelings towards authority and he got aware of the inequality between the working classes, and the job taught him the nature of imperialism. While his political orientation remained undetermined, and even though our good ol’ friend Hitler came along, George still hadn’t made up his mind. And so, with his political orientation unsure, the one thing he knew he was certain of, was that the British democracy wouldn’t survive the second world war. ‘Would it end via Fascist coup d’état (from above) or via Socialist revolution (from below)?’
The story tells the life of Winston Smith, who lives in a corrupted state. And for his sense, he is the only one who is against the totalitarian Party. The world described in the book resembles Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, with a ‘Big Brother‘ that watches every step you take and makes sure you remain law abiding.
Orwell’s work for the BBC had a great influence on the book. At the time the service of BBC was under control of the Ministry of Information, which means that the Ministry of Information decided what information would be shown in the media. In the book you have the Ministry of Truth, which shows how authorities can propagate the media, and so, lies turn into reality.
Speaking of propaganda, the story is packed with it. Deriving from Hitler’s national(-social)ism and Stalin’s communism, the fictional story has many aspects which are based on Stalin’s Soviet-Union. A clear example is the ‘Two Minutes Hate‘ sessions are similar to Stalin’s denigration of his enemies, which is sometimes even called demonisating, I would personally summarize it as extreme propaganda. The extreme propaganda that reached all over Europe, and also Orwell.
Also ‘Big Brother’ is seen as a parody on God, the all-seeing, all-knowing creature, which the politics are based on in the utopia. The description of ‘Big Brother’ also ressemblances Stalin. Prints of his face are placed throughout the state, which actually intimidates more than it intimidates.
A second example are the tortures by the Ministry of Love, they are similar to what was used by the secret police organization of the Soviet Union while interrogating. Even being forbidden to put your hands in your pockets, remaining in bright rooms for days, and being shown a mirror after being tortured.
This English Socialism, abbreviated to ‘Ingsoc‘, that Orwell predicted, wasn’t unlike anything they had seen at the time. Because of that it had a great cultural impact, I think it even decouraged many people to believe in the totalitarian political movements. And I think it’s even better that Orwell’s prediction never became, and never will come true.
Chrissie Quast V5H