Analysis of the Novel, 1984 by George Orwell

Analysis of the Novel, 1984 by George Orwell






Analysis of the Novel, 1984 by George Orwell


The novel, 1984, by George Orwell qualifies to be considered a classic piece of literature going by the depth in the content and relevant insights it contain and the unique style that it adopts. Using the experiences of character Wilson Smith, Orwell attempts to highlight the influence that a totalitarian government would have on the society members. The dangers arising from such a government lie in attempts to control the lives of its civilians. Through this, the government manipulates civilians’ minds undermining their ability to make decisions for themselves. These totalitarian tendencies are the ones that Orwell is disturbed with as they give way to widespread oppressions as the government seeks to control and monitor the lives and movements of civilians.

While capitalist nations such as the United States claim to rubbish totalitarian tendencies, it is gradually becoming evident that they are embracing the same tendencies. Events that have taken place after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 points towards authoritarian government tendencies covered in the novel 1984. Legislations, revelations of illegal wiretapping and government sanctioned torture and assassinations that have taken place relate to the tendencies that make George Orwell disturbed. As a result, the democracy that the US has traditionally been associated with has been progressively contracting. Relating totalitarian tendencies established in 1984 and the current ongoings in the US administrations, it is becoming evident that tendencies mentioned in the novel are creeping into the US and they pose dangers to and are counterproductive to the democracy that the country has been advocating.

Constant Surveillance

George Orwell has effectively discussed the issue of constant surveillance, where government authorities watch over the lifestyle of its citizens in order to look out for any signs of rebellion. For instance, the government establishes a slogan of, “big brother is watching you” (Orwell 3). This is meant to ensure that the citizens became cautious of whatever they are doing. Additionally, the government authorities use telescreens to monitor the activities of its citizens. These screens are found in public places. The police are also strategic and George Orwell depicts them as flying around residence using helicopters, peering into people’s windows.

Government authority is vested in the Party, signifying that the Party is the government. Curiously, the Party uses members of the family to survey the activities of fellow members. The Party uses children to get information about the activities of their parents. Orwell provides a picture in which spies of the party train children to be devoted members of the party, thereby making them to relay information about the activities of their parents. The fact that children are allowed by the party to eavesdrop on their parent’s conversation makes adults to even fear their own children. Sometimes, parents denounce their children, and the party’s propaganda machine, The Times, would write an article praising this act as heroic. The child would be branded as a ‘hero’ for abandoning his family for the well-being of the party.

Other forms of surveillance can be depicted when party officials warn the citizens against allowing their thoughts to wander aimlessly. The consequence of this according to party officials is that some negative thought could easily be registered on the public telescreens. For instance, if a citizen has a negative facial expression when victory is announced, he would be facecrime. The author says, “Your worst enemy was your own nervous system. At any moment, the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom” (Orwell 64).

In the US, the situation is the same as in Oceania. As has been witnessed in Oceania, police officers are not ashamed of using helicopters to even look through the windows of their citizens. In the US, many government officials have been mandated to enter into private homes without any warrants. These powers have been offered to them by the Patriot Act of 2001, which was signed into law by former US President George Bush (Fincen 3). This Act was extended by President Obama in 2011, suggesting that the citizens would continually have their homes checked without warrants. The aspect of using children to monitor the activities of their parents can be equated to the habit of US authorities keeping computerized information of citizens. The fact that children would relay information of parents to party officials is akin to the danger of private information being fed into a centralized data bank (Bennett 3). Government officials have effectively used Media outlets like CNN to spread western ideals. In this sense, both the Obama and Bush administrations have traditionally used media houses to paint a good picture of Western countries. This makes non-western nations to look ‘bad’.

Unending Propaganda

The inner party uses propaganda as a strategy to force its viewpoint on its citizens. Those who rebel against the assertions of the propaganda are tortured and sometimes brainwashed in order to conform to the dictates of the party. It is quite apparent that rumors, false ideas and myths control the minds of citizens in the fictitious country, Oceania. One of the most distinct propaganda machinery used is the party slogan that reads; “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” This slogan is doublespeak because it does not express any form of absolute truth. A clear analysis of this slogan reveals key issues. For instance, the slogan spreads a distinct propaganda that discourages citizens from looking for freedom because it is a form of slavery. Additionally, the party slogan creates the impression that the ignorance of the citizens on government affairs is a great strength. In this sense, the propaganda asserts that the secret to happiness lies in ignorance.

The slogan has effectively been used by the government to control its citizens into believing that the INGSOC government alone that can make them happy. Another slogan, “Big brother is watching you” is an effective propaganda that is used by the party through the media to control the minds of its citizens. From the surface, the slogan creates the impression that the citizens are safe in the hands of the authority. However, the slogan is meant to spread fear among the citizens that without the Party, there would be no safety. This makes the citizens not to rebel against the establishment.

Of course, it has to be acknowledged that the ‘Big brother’ is composed of the Party and the INGSOC. In general, propaganda has been used to brainwash the citizens of Oceania into believing that ‘big brother’ intends to make them happy. These propagandas have effectively been used to prevent rebellion because it makes citizens to feel safe and protected. The apparent belief in an ideal society through propaganda can therefore be described as one of the most lethal weapon that has been used by the Party to control the citizens of Oceania. Indeed, the aspect of brainwashing is quite successful. When Winston visits Parsons’ place, he notices a full-sized banner of ‘big brother’ (Orwell 27).This is the party paraphernalia within the house of a citizen, highlighting the fact that ‘big brother’ has been effective in spreading propaganda to households.

President George Bush was a master propagandist, especially during the time of the Iraq war. Having known that the public was not supportive of the Iraq invasion, he tried to use some phrases which were meant to hide the truth. Terms such as,’ axis of evil’ were meant to whip public sentiments for the war. Although it was quite apparent that there existed no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the then US president was more concerned about regime change in order to install a regime that was favorable to the oil interests of the US. By suggesting that Iraq falls within the axis of evil was a strategic language that was meant to convince the public that the country was making nuclear weapons.

Distortion of Language

Like other literary scholars, George Orwell has effectively abused and misused the English language in order to drive his message home. Government authorities deceive and manipulate the citizenry by language. As a result, the people are able to exhibit unquestionable loyalty to the regime. Distortion of language is highly exposed through the media. Quite apparently, the media is skilled in engineering the ‘truth’. For instance, Winston’s job in the ministry of Truth is to modify news items and other documents that expose the Party in bad light (Lewis, Florence and Moss 47). After replacing the original document with a modified one, he destroys all the original files. Orwell says:

This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but also to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets… Day by day and almost minute by minute, the past was brought up to date. In this way, every prediction made by the Party could not be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record (Orwell 42).

Of course, the aspect of distorting language was meant to make it difficult for the opposition to grow. Additionally, the totalitarian state of Oceania is in constant war, and the Party has to keep the public satisfied with this warfare. The authorities are quite aware that if the public becomes dissatisfied with the warfare, then it would resent the shortage of food and other commodities and possibly rebel against the party (Berkes 7). Therefore, the use of language through the media has been used to distract public attention away from the negative side of warfare. Media uses soothing words, which creates good news of victory. For instance, Winston’s telescreen announces, “Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end” (Orwell 28).

In many instances, the media relies on the contention that any piece of information that is repeated often becomes accepted truth. This is something that Winston comes to discover, when he becomes amazed that his friends and colleagues accept the lies that emanate from the media. Therefore, in order for doublespeak to be effective, “you just say things frequently and people eventually understand and say it themselves” (Chilton 27).

In another instance, politicians abuse language to hide the truth. Orwell offers the example of how politicians can twist words in order to deceive people. For instance, defenseless villages are bombarded from the air and the inhabitants are driven away from their homes. When millions of peasants are robbed of their farm produces, the authorities’ uses jargon filled English to pacify the general republic (Orwell 148). Orwell in fact castigates this heavy reliance on ready-made phrases.

The Obama administration can be accused of the distortion of language using aspects of double speak. In doublespeak, the administration has distorted language through the application of semantics and euphemism. Obama has on many occasions been overheard suggesting that he accepts debate on civil liberties. This has not been true because his administration has been known for penalizing whistleblowers who volunteer information to the public about the secret dealings of the state.

Historical Revisionism

Historical revisionism is normally achieved through the deliberate distortion of historical records in order to legitimize negative events that happened in the past. Sometimes, it would entail denying some crimes that happened in the past. This is normally achieved through the aspect of forging documents, and manipulating statistics. As has been visualized earlier, the Party used the media to engineer truth through language. In this sense, Orwell acknowledges that the Party has the ultimate control over history. In fact, language according to Orwell is linked to history. The work of Winston at the Ministry of Truth is to modify news items and other documents in order to erase the truth that happened in the past. Quite apparently, this whole process of falsification of documents amazes the reader of the novel, when it is found out that Winston, the master forger of documents has problems recalling reality of the past.

Oceania is at war but Winston is not sure whether the country is at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. This is because the Part keeps changing history (Orwell 42). Falsification of documents also happens in the ministry of plenty, where economic figures are made up to create the impression that the economy has improved greatly. This is meant to make a contradiction between the past, and the present, in order to make the citizens believe that the current regime is better than the former ones. This is not true because the ‘big brother’ regime is involved in numerous warfare, which makes the economy slow down.

In a different instance, the government of Oceania has the habit of continually revising records that are historical in order to conform to the politics that occur in the current realm. It is quite apparent that Oceania is currently at war with Eurasia with records indicating that this country has been a constant enemy of Oceania. However, the records are changed in order to brainwash the public into believing that the country is actually an ally. In essence, historical revisionism is an effective tool that is used for propaganda purposes by the ministry of truth. Orwell witnesses the aspect of changing the truth of the past to conform to the current setting in this statement; “he who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future” (Orwell 37).

The aspect of distortion of historical records has been achieved by the Obama administration largely. The hunt for Osama bin laden has been filled with a lot of discreetness and few Americans know what happened. Distortion of information during Osama’s killings was achieved through censorship. No information has been availed to the public concerning how the al-Qaida fugitive met his death. Although much remains to be desired as to how the man was killed, the Obama administration has convinced the public that he was shot and dropped in the ocean in order to prevent Muslims from making the terrorist a hero.


Technological surveillance features prominently within the novel, where telescreens are being used to monitor the daily activities of the citizens. This is meant to instill fear within the general population that any action beyond what is acceptable by the establishment would attract heavy punishment. Ironically, the aspect of surveillance is received positively by the citizens, who view it as an aspect of a caring government that protects them from potential danger from enemies of the republic. In this sense, widespread fear is initiated into the enemies of the establishment. This helps to cement the authority of those in government because they get assured of ultimate obedience from the citizens.

In the same spirit, Americans have accepted technology as a form of surveillance for security purposes. Most Americans regard technological surveillance as favorable. This acceptance hinges on fear of terrorism. Therefore, Americans have no problem with government authorities tapping their telephone conversations because they believe it is a worthy sacrifice for their security.

Perpetual War

George Orwell’s book rotates around three states, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. At any time, Oceania is at war with any of these states. In this sense, there can never be a time in which Oceania is in alliance with both states. When it is at peace with one state, it must always be at war with the other. The theme of perpetual war is therefore consistent in the novel. This is similar to situations in the US. The US is always in a condition of perpetual war, and barely in time for peace. This traditional was precipitated during the Bush regime, when the war on Afghanistan began. The end of the Afghanistan war was associated with the commencement of the Iraq war, and it is quite apparent that the end of the Iraq war shifted attention to Iran due to its nuclear program. Therefore, the states of Eurasia and Eastasia can be compared to Iraq and Afghanistan, which seem to change positions of war.


The Party has an exclusive room through which all forms of torture are carried on individuals who seem to have ideologies that contradict the manifesto of the ‘big brother’. Room101 is a torture chamber within the Ministry of Love, where political prisoners are forced to recant their convictions. Indeed, the protagonist Smith undergoes untold anguish within the confines of room number 101. In the book, Smith undergoes physical torture where he receives incessant blows in order for him to confess even things he has not done. The intellectuals of the party administer drug injections and electric shocks in order to make a forced confession.

The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 has shielded the US from the atrocities that were being done on war prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Before the Act, torture was used as an interrogation tool for the prisoners, who were mostly, associated with terrorism (Greenberg 114). Like the use of drugs and electric shock in room 101, war prisoners in Guantanamo Bay were initially forced to accept fabricated charges. Therefore, the Detainee Treatment Act that was signed by former President Bush can be described as a great success in prohibiting inhumane treatment of prisoners. Nevertheless, the amended Act of the same law has been criticized by human rights organizations like Amnesty International for providing loopholes that can precipitate torture of prisoners. In this sense, the amended version is akin to allowing the torture activities that happen in Room 101.

Lack of Habeas Corpus

The principle of Habeas Corpus ensures that an individual under arrest is brought before a court of law. This ensures that a prisoner is not detained unlawful. The novel 1984 by George Orwell exposes situations in which individuals are arrested without trial. Thought police arrest Winston and never provide any trial. This denied him the chance to prove himself innocent. When Winston Smith is arrested, he is taken through torture even before any court of law proves him guilty.

The aspect of preventing someone from declaring himself innocent until proven guilty is quite visible in our society. This signifies that there is a lack of the principle of Habeas Corpus. In the US for instance, former President George Bush suspended the Habeas Corpus and it has never been reinstated up to date (Monacellib 5). Therefore, innocent people can be arrested and sent to jail without any trial. Even when in jail, it becomes quite difficult for such people to prove themselves innocent in order to afford them freedom and a fair trial. This signifies that contemporary Americans are not quite different from Winston’s case, who suffered torture at the hands of the party officials.


The novel 1984 by George Orwell can be acknowledged as having predicted the advent of totalitarianism in the contemporary society. Surprisingly, totalitarianism is not being practiced in communist countries like Russia and China alone. The threat of terrorism after the 9/11 has forced the US to adopt these practices. The United States has therefore become the new Oceania, and abandoned democratic ideals for totalitarian ones.

Works Cited

Bennett, John. Orwell’s 1984: Was Orwell Right? 2013. 7 November 2013 <–9_Bennett.html>.

Berkes. “Language as the “Ultimate Weapon” in Nineteen Eighty-Four.” 27 February 2000. Berkes. 7 November 2013 <>.

Chilton, Paul. Orwellian Language and the Media. London: Pluto Press, 1988.

Fincen. USA Patriot Act. 2001. 7 November 2013 <>.

Greenberg, Karen J. The Torture Debate in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Lewis, Florence and Peter Moss. The Tyranny of Language in Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984. London: Comedia Publishing Group, 1983.

Monacellib. “1984 and Orwell’s Predictions.” 5 June 2011. Swsd. 7 November 2013 <…/Big_Brother_is_watching_you_articles.pdf >.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: Penguin Books, 1949.