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Concerning your wider reading explore and comment on how identity is presented in George Orwell’s 1984 and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go

Identity is how you see yourself; it also refers to your own perceived idea of how you view yourself which is ultimately affected by how others see you. This highlights that an individual does not have a personal identity, instead a ‘social identity’ is formed through the protagonists of 1984 and Never Let Me Go. At a point, the protagonists realize that coming to terms with their identity is difficult and is harder to accept. They are forced to succumb to the horrifying reality that society is cruelly binding them tight to their wayward norms and values. The horrific realisation of everything having a questionable motive in life unravels in the two novels leaving the characters staggered as well as the audience to reconsider who they are.

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Identity is portrayed as distorted. In 1984 everything and everyone was under strict constant ‘surveillance’. ‘Telescreens’ are everywhere, everybody’s movements are continually monitored. The internalization of the surveillance culture renders the civilians weak as they are constantly made to know, feel, and act in a certain way, they eventually come to self-policing. Orwell conveys the expression of anti-utopian ideology in his world showing it will ‘always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on a helpless enemy. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face- forever’, The people know that they are always being watched, therefore they behave obediently and in a conformist way. The noun ‘boot’ and the violent verb ‘stamping’ give off connotations of ruthlessness and erratic power being cleverly wielded by the regime enforced on civilians. The regime will go to any lengths to achieve the ultimate power of control by employing emotionless tactics to withhold self-immersion among civilians. We can assume that Orwell’s mental psyche had heavily shaped 1984 and was under the influence of traumatic political transformations that post-WW1 Britain underwent in the 1920s-1930s. During this time in 1940, Orwell reviewed Adolf Hitler’s manifesto ‘Die Grosse Luge’ which translates as the big Lie – to repeat a lie as truth endlessly through narrow communication channels that people cannot avoid will convince many, or enough of them. He had enforced his power by imposing intolerable burdens on German citizens. Orwell had taken this as inspiration for 1984 and utilized the false dogma ‘2 2=5’ from this. It unravels the horrifying torment that dictators take upon themselves to enforce their rule over people to gain eternal power. The metaphor ‘2 2=5’ shows that anything is possible, the dogma goes against logic and the people are made to feel no sense of logical freedom, this propaganda technique focuses on the misinterpretation of the facts, so the people are forced to blindly follow and are to displace all way of thinking. The Party expects the citizens of Oceania to believe the truth they instill is the only truth through the lens in which they provide like the false dogmas ‘WAR IS PEACE – FREEDOM IS SLAVERY’ knowing means you don’t live under full control of the party thus implying you have freedom to think. Lucy compared to The Party shows a similarity in her approach when she reminds the students of the expected future they will face straightforwardly. When she overhears students talk about job prospects, she breaks it to them that they ‘were brought into this world for a purpose, and your future all of them, have been decided – you’ll be preparing for your first donations. You need to remember that.’Miss Lucy’s brutal honesty contrasts with the other guardians she feels it’s best to make the students fully aware of their futures and that there is no point in concealing the truth; because of this her straightforwardness gets her into trouble and leads to her abrupt leave. The guardians fear the students may rebel at the fact that they cannot prosper beyond being donors. The student’s ‘purpose’ has been stripped away and their identity has been ‘decided’ for them. Is a terrible predicament for anyone to through, to have their basic rights taken away shows that students are not even entitled to have their freedom. Similarly in 1984 when Winston believes ‘if there is hope, it lies in the proles?’ Winston places hope and belief in the power prole number, in Oceania 85% of its population are proles Winston reckons having numbers can overload and provide enough force to destroy the party. Bourdieu 1984 argues that ‘the distinction between high culture and popular culture lies in the power of the group who supports and access them’ this highlights that numbers wield the power of influence. But the Party does not fear the proles nor its numbers, the party allows the proles to have as much entertainment such as music, gambling, alcohol, and pornography as floods the entire prole districts, ‘Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer – gambling, filled the horizon of their minds’, there is a similar pattern shared- this simple life is like an endless cycle cultivated only in the mind, they are left permanently entertained and content, the party lets them live as they choose ultimately it’s their ignorance keeping them under control preventing them from ever improving their social status. Winston believes they have ‘no impulse to rebel, without the power of grasping that the world could be other than it is’ ‘power’ could reference education, in Winston’s mind any access to education could give the proles an advantage of knowing any necessary awareness to rise and rebel. However, the party deems no intention of giving them that privilege.

The re-education process employed by the state is another tactic enforced upon the people to ensure the dissolution of each former Identity. This is achieved through eradicating standard English, In Oceania words are condensed and simplified for communication to limit free thought and free speech, The Party’s goal is to have ‘Newspeak’ replace ‘Oldspeak’ in an attempt to try and control every aspect of citizens lives, even down to personal habits. Modern Marxist Louis Althusser 1971 argues that ‘capitalist societies have survived not simply by forcing workers to accept the system but by developing an ideological state which transmits ideas that justify the capitalist system and its class inequalities’. This includes the education system, mass media, families, and even religious organizations. This keeps the workers entertained making their lives more bearable and encourages the consumption of goods created by capitalist businesses. The party applies the ideological state apparatus through the re-education process of learning ‘Newspeak’ is normality for the citizens of Oceania, they stay in an inferior position in society like reading tabloids and pornography have been normalized by the party in attempts to divert their attention away from the real inequalities in society. The very concept of freedom cannot exist, Orwell’s imagined future takes the idea of living under consistent surveillance and ultimately changes the behavior in response to that. Milgram psychologists who conducted a study on conformity offer an explanation for the agentic state an explanation of obedience, when an individual carries out the orders of an authority figure, in this case, O’Brien who is a key party member of Ingsoc, acting as their agent the shift from autonomy to ‘agency’ is referred to as ‘agentic shift’, Milgram states that the agentic state allows people to direct their actions and then pass off that responsibility for the consequence to the person giving the orders, they act as agents for another person’s will, in this case, Winston alongside the proles. To sum it up the totalitarian regime ensures that no civilian has a personal identity, as it would show some semblance of freedom, which is not the case. In the world of 1984 people are in a collective identity, as shown through the proles, so to have an individual mind and individual thought is a form of dissent. In a sense there is no true identity, identity has been socially constructed, through indoctrination implored by the regime. The party highlights that they are not one, but a part of ‘us’ – Big Brother.

Like the proles in 1984, In ‘Never let me go’ It can be argued that the characters cannot acquire a personal identity as they are part of an organ farm, therefore are not meant to have a sense of individuality, because in essence, from their very birth the ‘clones’ are meant to serve as someone else’s identity and being. ‘different from the normal people outside; we perhaps even knew that a long way down the line donations were waiting for us. But we did not know what that meant illustrates the difficulties the students face as they try and come to terms that they are ‘different’ it places the students under stressful and pitiful circumstances. The fact that they ‘did not know what that meant’ shows the students are persistent in wanting to discover their true selves and desperate to gain acceptance from society. Similarly, Ishiguro had faced a similar crisis with his national identity and wanted to mirror his own experiences in ‘Never Let Me Go’ of his time in England. He was born and raised in Japan but moved to England when he was 5 years old. Throughout his childhood Ishiguro was a social outcast he felt too English for Japan and too Japanese for England, like the clones in Never Let Me Go he too searched for a sense of meaning throughout his life, thus leaving him with no clear identity. Sociologists’ theorist Sardar 2002 suggests that the world is in the middle of a ‘global identity crisis’ Sardar suggests that Britain had lost most of its empire and was feeling very small in the global world it was unsure whether it became more American or European. ‘Englishness’ was based on historical traditions that are increasingly becoming meaningless by the majority, so there is still a struggle to find an ‘English’ identity. Overall Sardar argues to develop a more confident identity, we must embrace diversity but also focus on what makes us the same our humanity. But this is not the case for the students It is clear that the aim for ‘Never Let Me Go’ is that Ishiguro wanted to connect with his readers and aimed for the reader to find an echo of his or her own life from this. The students are a mirror of Ishiguro’s identity in essence the students have no true identity even at the core of the novel.

Moreover In ‘Never Let Me Go’, Ishiguro addresses the questions raised about humanity through the clones. He believed that clones provide science fiction with modern language to discuss questions about the human soul and identity. The clones offer a vehicle to discuss the sadness of the human conditions. These issues are heightened through Madame’s emotions, ‘I was playing this tape – you were watching me and crying this suggests that Madame was in shock at the fact that Kathy had emotions she was able to feel and react to the music playing. Madame ‘crying’ in front of Kathy is to make her feel safe, she understood her desperate plea in wanting out of life, Madame in her view saw a little girl holding onto the old world and pleading for it to ‘Never let her go’ the play on the title evokes an irrefutable sadness, the song symbolizes the depth of human affection and the fear of losing the ones you love. Madame had almost understood this and was driven to save the students to avoid the approach of a harsh new world. The italics ‘to prove you had souls at all’ heightens the emotions in turmoil, it’s exaggerated because Madame alongside Miss. Emily was desperate to correct the system and wanted to place importance on the severity of violating human rights can have negative consequences. Madame kept the student’s art to showcase in galleries because the integral nature of art produced reveals the ‘souls’- it was evidence to prove the students were humans.

However, in 1984 identity is broken down and reconstructed to suit the whims of the totalitarian regime. O’Brien compared to Madame has no emotional regard for Winston and the severity of the human conditions he faced. ‘You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.’ The stark imperatives suggest the state seeks to crush individual rights to ensure its full desolation, Orwell made it important to place Winston during the midst of it all because his experience is key as a prole within the hierarchical system, they are facing the worst conditions in Oceania it also suggests that Winston had always understood that the Party sought to control the truth. Winston is an everyman in Oceania who represents the proles, so having his hope beaten down in the most violent ways by O’Brien suggests no future for society uprising from the regime. The repetition of ‘we’ is condescending It reinforces the Party’s patronizing superiority; Winston’s reconstituted identity reflects the ideology of Ingsoc. This is further enabled through Orwell’s use of scare quotes; Winston is described as a ‘stain that must be wiped out and must be cleansed’ this loaded imagery is politically provocative; the use of contentious language suggests that The Party is adamant about bringing about their idea of order by erasing the natural order through confrontational means. Orwell was concerned about world affairs that were taking shape around the world such as communism and government’s control over the lives of people. ‘Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.’ Psalms 51.7 shows that cleansing is a form of atonement to wash away sins and gain forgiveness from the Almighty. The Party’s take on ‘cleansing’ is warped and fixed on corrupt ideals to facilitate forced conformity, by doing this the regime disrupts and tarnishes the original biblical text to forge their own forced ideals onto people. Winston confesses to being a religious believer, however he said anything to get out of the pain that was being inflicted on him by O’Brien. Religion was not permitted in 1984 because religion allows individual thought to freedom of speech. The regime seeks to eradicate any form of freedom, religion is a social identity in Oceania it is carefully controlled and maintained through meticulous oppressive tactics to enable easy submission. Interactionist theorist Howard Becker 1983 is interested in the notion of the ‘self’ which is our unique identity based on how we see ourselves though our sense of self is effectively influenced by how we interact with others. This is affected by the process of ‘labeling’ whereby other people categorize us and attach identities to us. Interactionists call this the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, a label can also become a master status which can override other aspects of a person’s self. This applies through 1984 as Winston is the embodiment of every prole in the hierarchical system within Oceania. To have a social identity instead of a personal identity is an example of a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ which is the main motive that drives Ingsoc to achieve absolute control over Oceania.

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