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Totalitarianism is destructive, this is the theme and argument that is made in the novel 1984 by George Orwell. He creates this theme by using effective language, providing examples of destruction in the text, and character’s emotions to show the reader how totalitarianism has destroyed the quality of life in Oceania. Orwell also writes about how totalitarian rule has denied basic human freedoms and made individuality illegal. Finally, Orwell creates a bland main character, Winston Smith, and shows that a totalitarian government deems our “normal” as dangerous, as Winston becomes more humane, he breaks more and more totalitarian laws until he is caught and corrupted by the government to become one of them.

The quality of life in Oceania has undergone total destruction since the start of ruling by the totalitarian government. The Party keeps the standard of living dangerously low with constant surveillance to get rid of thoughts of rebellion and also to constantly remind the citizens of the Party’s vast power and control. The Party knows that one can’t help but be “sickened at the discomfort and dirt and scarcity, the interminable winters, the stickiness of one’s socks, the lift that never worked, the cold water, the gritty soap, the cigarettes that came to pieces [and] the food with its strange evil tastes” (63), but they do nothing to change it. If the citizens of Oceania were able to enjoy luxuries, they would feel entitled and more able to have rebel thoughts against the government. By tactfully keeping the citizens of Oceania struggling in order to have the bare necessities, the citizens stay loyal and do not question what they are told to do. The Victory Mansions are a great example of the effects of a totalitarian government. When Winston steps through the glass doors, he recollects how “the hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats… [and that] it was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times, it was seldom working, and at present, the electric current was cut off during daylight hours” (3). This displays how a very functional and nice place like the Victory Mansions was stripped of everything just for control. The Party cares so much about support and control that they deprive their population of electricity and even sufficient clothes. With the mansions having elevators as the main transportation to go throughout the lack of electricity makes living there near-impossible. Such simple things are being kept from the people so that their quality of life remains undeniably low, ensuring that they will continue to obey the Party.

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Orwell, a master of imagery, describes the worker’s canteen to demonstrate how totalitarianism is even destructive to places that help the government. In the book is described as “a low-ceilinged, crowded room, its walls grimy from the contact of innumerable bodies; battered metal tables and chairs, placed so close together that you sat with elbows touching; bent spoons, dented trays coarse white mugs; all surfaces greasy, grime in every crack; and a sourish, composite smell of bad gin and bad coffee and metallic stew and dirty clothes” (62). The use of the negative tone and extensive imagery puts a great picture in the reader’s head of the conditions the Party puts people in. Orwell also uses Winston to show thought of how a “normal” person would feel living in this world. In this scene, he wonders to himself “why [one should] feel it be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different,” (63) which proves the quality of life in Oceania had not always been so poor and hardships were directly caused by the Party. The description of the canteen shows the extent of the party’s power craze as they won’t even let the workers feel satisfied at lunch and how everyone lives in a constant state of misery. Throughout the book, there are countless examples of Orwell using imagery and description to portray how bad it is to live within a totalitarian government. We can infer that he slandered the Party as a way to show how bad real-world situations were for people living in the Soviet Union and in Germany with the Nazi Regime. Relating to the main idea of totalitarian destruction not only in the book but also around the globe.

In addition to imagery, Orwell uses the characterization of the general population of Oceania to prove that totalitarianism is destructive to individuality and common sense. The people of this country have been subjected to countless propaganda, persuading them to fully believe that Big Brother has brought them a better life, that thoughtcrime is unthinkable and unacceptable, and to be frightened that anti-party movements or thoughts will not be tolerated. These messages have been subconsciously driven deep into the minds of the citizens of Oceania, so much that they have lost the ability to think for themselves, and blindly believe all that Big Brother tells them. The first evident glimpse of such brain-washed behavior is during the Two Minutes Hate when a little sandy-haired woman ings herself forward over a chair, and “with a tremulous murmur that sounded like ‘My Saviour!’ she extended her arms towards the screen,” (18) which is immediately followed by “the entire group of people [breaking] into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of ‘B-B! …. B-B! ….’”(19) The Two Minutes Hate is a form of propaganda which is aimed at the citizens of Oceania while they are in groups, allowing them to take on group mentality. This makes them feel stronger and more powerful when really, they are more vulnerable. The entire group is mesmerized, falling easily into the slow chant of Big Brother’s name, losing their individuality. Secondly, we see how totalitarianism is destructive to the common sense of the people of Oceania when “it appeared that [were] demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate rations to twenty grams a week. [] Only yesterday, [Winston] resected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grams a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it.” (61) Winston observes the crowd and doesn’t understand how they can blindly believe every word that they are told about Big Brother. As though they do not remember what they had been told yesterday about the chocolate ration being lowered, they easily accept and believe that Big Brother has raised it for them out of the goodness of his heart. Common sense has failed the people of Oceania and has been overtaken by their adoration for the leader of the totalitarian government that rules over them. Another example of how totalitarianism can destroy one’s individuality or common sense is Parsons’ breakdown when Winston runs into him in the Ministry of Love. When asked what he’s in for, “[Parsons says] “Thoughtcrime!” almost blubbering. The tone of his voice implie[s] at once a complete admission of his guilt and a sort of incredulous horror that such a word could be applied to himself.” (244) Parsons is convinced that even though one may not intend to commit thoughtcrime if they do, it is punishable. He is terrified of what the Party will do to him and feels truly responsible for committing a crime. When Winston asks him if he is really guilty of committing thoughtcrime, “[Parsons cries] ‘Of course I’m guilty!’ with a servile glance at the telescreen. ‘You don’t think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?’ His froglike face grew calmer and even took on a slightly sanctimonious expression. ‘Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man’ he said sententiously. ‘It’s insidious. It can get hold of you without you even knowing it.’” (245) At this point, Parsons shows just how loyal a follower he is, never doubting the Party’s judgment and he is almost thankful that they arrested him. He believes that thoughtcrime is an atrocity and cannot believe that he was a thought criminal all along. He is proud of his children for turning him in and is willing to change. Parsons no longer has the common sense to realize that he has committed no real crime and that he is being punished for expressing his thoughts. Through analyzing the behavior of the people during the Two Minutes Hate, the reaction that the people have over the chocolate ration has been ‘raised’ to twenty grams per week, and finally, Mr. Parson’s reaction to being arrested for thoughtcrime, is evident that totalitarianism is destructive to one’s common sense and individuality. Orwell also uses the characterization of Winston Smith to prove that totalitarianism is destructive. Near the beginning of the novel, Winston is a man who thinks that he understands exactly how the government is trying to control the people of Oceania, and he despises how easily the people believe lies and propaganda. One day, whilst thinking about the constant warfare between Oceania and the two other powers of the world, Winston concludes that Oceania is currently at war with Eurasia and therefore, according to altered historical documents, Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. In reality, “ as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia.” (36) This proves that Winston still has memories of the past and he uses them to remind himself of the real past, and not the one that has been conjured up by the Party in order to keep Big Brother satisfied. At this point, Winston hates both Big Brother and the Party. He refuses to believe what they tell him, and he tries to hold on to his individuality and his memories so that he can keep himself grounded.

Eventually, Winston is arrested by the Thought Police and brought to the Ministry of Love. At first, he tried to resist their punishments, but “when his nerves were in rags after hours of questioning, even this appeal could reduce him to sniveling tears… he became simply a mouth that uttered, a hand that signed, whatever was demanded of him. His sole concern was to find out what they wanted him to confess and to confess it quickly before the bullying started anew (254).” This point in the novel is where the effects of totalitarianism begin to destroy Winston as a person. A totalitarian government does not stand for individuality and frowns upon anyone who tries to oppose them. Since Winston has rebelled many times against the Party, by writing in his diary and by falling in love with Julia, he has become an enemy of the Party who must be rehabilitated and forced to love Big Brother whether he wants to or not. Winston is starved and beaten, tortured with electric shock, and threatened with his worst fear in order to have him submit to what the Party wants, absolutely destroying his morals and beliefs. But in the end, for Winston, “It was all right, everything was all right, [and] his struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”(311) This final sentence was absolute confirmation that totalitarianism has destroyed Winston as a person. He never wanted to love Big Brother or believe that which the Party wanted him to believe. However, in the end, Winston could not take any more physical or mental abuse, and had no other choice but to do what he was forced to do; love Big Brother, even if that meant that his morals and personal beliefs would be destroyed by it. Orwell’s extensive use of imagery, along with the characterization of the brain-washed general population of Oceania, and the characterization of Winston Smith worked together to prove that totalitarianism is destructive not only physically, but also to one’s individuality, common sense, and personal beliefs. Power can be a great thing, but when power falls into the hands of a dictator such as Big Brother, that power could destroy us before we know it.

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