Orwell and the concept of Dystopias Essay Example

As A.E. Samaan once said, “All utopias are dystopias. The term ‘dystopia’ was coined by fools that believed a ‘utopia’ can be functional.” Some believe that these optimal societies can continually exist without collapsing. However, almost all “perfect" utopias, as seen in literary works today, are not sustainable. While utopian societies often depict an idealistically flawless civilization, they frequently possess detrimental imperfections which lead to the eventual downfall of the community. In 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, this societal structure illustrates the extreme governmental control under which the population lives. Both dystopian novels exhibit total government domination through the manipulative power of propaganda and the underlying consequences of abolishing individual thought. 

Orwell’s use of propaganda in both novels illustrates the supreme power a government has over its society. In Animal Farm, Orwell utilizes specific propaganda techniques, such as appealing to the animals' fears, in order to demonstrate the ease in which a totalitarian government can subjugate its people. As the animals realize that the pigs are demanding the entire apple crop despite everyone's hard work, Squealer inquires, “Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back!...surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?” (Orwell 36). In playing to the animals’ fear of Jones returning to reinstate the farm, Squealer is able to manipulate the working class into performing an act that goes against their moral standards.

This represents the extreme power the government has because the pigs are able to benefit from the efforts of others without having to do any work themselves. The exploitation of the animals by the pigs separates them from the general population into a class with higher authority, therefore allowing them the power to bend the animals against their will. Thus, Orwell employs Squealer to illustrate the deceiving effect propaganda has on its targeted audience, and how these misconceptions further aid the government in gaining excessive power over its people. Furthermore, similar to Animal Farm, the slogans present in 1984 allow Orwell to highlight the complete control the Party has over Oceania.

During Winston’s commute to work, Orwell describes,  “From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH” (Orwell 4). These three contradictory slogans effectively express the ideals of the Party and leave no room for misunderstanding. The clarity in these slogans is significant because it provides a mantra for Oceania’s population to fall back on when their thoughts do not align with these principles.

Although many citizens may not agree with these ideas, these simplistic phrases used by the Party are a failsafe for people to use in order to avoid straying too far from the politically correct pattern of thinking. In providing these mantras, Orwell illustrates how powerful Oceania’s government is because it can successfully utilize fear and repetition to manipulate a person into aligning their thoughts with the collective ideas of the Party, thus exercising the absolute power they possess. To sum up, Orwell employs techniques of propaganda in both novels to illustrate the ability a totalitarian government has to alter the motives of its citizens to better suit the union’s cause. 

As well as demonstrating governmental control through propaganda, Orwell also highlights this form of authority by depicting a society in which all citizens share a unified conscience. In describing the animals’ inability to remember past events, Orwell accentuates the curtain of oblivion settled over the minds of the farm’s population in Animal Farm. As the older animals attempt to recall the past, Orwell informs, “...tried to determine whether in the early days of the Rebellion, when Jones’s expulsion was still recent, things had been better or worse than now. They could not remember.

There was nothing with which they could compare their present lives...except Squealer’s list of figures, which invariably demonstrated that everything was getting better and better” (Orwell 130). Since the pigs have constantly fed the animals false information regarding their quality of life since Jones’ eviction, the population eventually became conditioned to believe that the lies spun by Squealer were concrete facts. This delineates the idea that the government has complete control over every aspect of the animals’ lives, including their memory, because the animals have become completely incapable of independent thought. The horrifying aura surrounding Jones’ ownership of the farm forces the animals to agree with the pigs in saying that Napoleon is a gentler leader than Jones was, despite his tyrannical approach to managing the farm.

This blind compliance leads them to assume that if their leader is magnificent, then their living conditions must be as equally spectacular. Because the pigs continually manipulate the other animals to believe in the opposite of reality, all strains of individual thought have become obsolete due to the lack of independent opinions. Through this, Orwell elucidates to the reader the ultimate control the government has over the other animals because the rulers of society successfully unified everyone under one form of thinking, which only favors the government’s ideals. Likewise, Orwell expresses the totalitarian mindset of a unified conscience through the Ministry of Love’s reformation process in 1984.

While torturing Winston for his rebellious behavior, O’ Brian suggests, “Reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal...It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party” (Orwell 249). These words refer to the extreme power of the Party in that it is nearly effortless for them to convince others that there is only one way of thinking. In employing Thought Police to monitor the population’s every move, the Party successfully controls Oceania through the aspect of fear.

The terror of being convicted and tortured for expressing freedom of thought motivates most residents of Oceania to think and speak only in favor of the Party’s ideals; not for their own personal beliefs. In societies today, fear is both powerful and dangerous because it forces people to believe in false truths and turn against their inner morality. In portraying this throughout his novel, Orwell illustrates the extreme control the Party has over Oceania because the government’s ability to harness such an uncontrollable force and use it to their advantage sheds light on the extent of their supreme power. Because everyone is deathly afraid of the Thought Police, they restrict themselves from lashing out, which in turn allows Orwell to demonstrate how the Party has the entire civilization clenched in an iron grip. All in all, Orwell reveals through his novels that by abolishing the ability to think freely without suffering from major consequences, the government obtains complete control of its people and further exercises their tyrannical power.

Overall, propaganda’s extraordinary influence on the recipient and a lack of unique morals amongst the population contributes to the degree of control a government has over its people. As illustrated by Orwell in Animal Farm and 1984, all forms of government have flaws. The ultimate authority totalitarian parties possess in utopian societies confine its people to a life of suffering and oppression. This, in turn, results in a chaotic dystopia where hope for a more solid structure no longer exists. Moreover, Orwell believed, as did A.E. Samaan, that a modern utopia cannot exist due to the perpetually ravenous individuals who seek more power for themselves at the population’s expense.



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