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Free Study Guide-1984 by George Orwell-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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Society and Polity in the Novel

1984 is a scathing criticism of past, present, and future societies. In particular, it alludes to totalitarianism as found in both right wing fascist and left wing communist governments that arose between the two World Wars and in the post-war periods. The portrayal of Big Brother and his Party brings up images of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Stalin. The description of Emmanuel Goldstein, as the enemy of the Party and the State of Oceania, conjures up the image of Leon Trotsky, who was branded as an anti-revolutionary in the Soviet Union. In fact, Goldstein's Black Book on 'The Brotherhood' is a parody on Trotsky's book The Revolution Betrayed. In addition, the celebration of 'Hate Week', with the description of a public meeting where mass hysteria is created by an enflamed speaker, brings to mind the image of Hitler, who had the ability to arouse mass frenzy against the Jews.

The society created in Orwell's novel is a society totally controlled by the Party, which strips the individual of all freedom. All activities, words, facial expressions, and thoughts are closely monitored by Big Brother through telescreens and Thought Police. Anyone who criticizes or questions the government, even mentally, is branded as a criminal, guilty of committing a 'thought crime'; and criminals are "vaporised" or put to death. Only those who blindly accept everything that the Party does or says is a 'law abiding citizen of Oceania'. Freedom of thought and expression, a basic democratic right of all men, does not exist in the new society.

Further, the Party under Big Brother systematically falsifies facts and records, especially those related to history. Winston Smith works at the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. His main jobs are to change historical information to reflect the Party's perception of it and to alter the speeches of Big Brother to match previous forecasts to actual production numbers. Truth, to Big Brother, is whatever he wants it to be, and what he wants can change from day to day.

The Party claims that it is a proletarian government, working in the interests of people to create a classless society. In reality, the working class of Oceania is shown living in miserable conditions. There is a scarcity of essential items, especially food and clothing; cheap labor is exploited. Class is strictly identified, and Party members are not allowed to mix with the proles. In fact, the Party's contempt for the masses is evident from its slogan: 'Animals and Proles are free'. At the same time, the Party officials live the life of the privileged few basking in the lap of luxury, as evidenced by the lovely apartment owned by O'Brien and the expensive wine served by him.

The most terrifying phenomenon related to the polity in the novel is that the entire world is divided into three superstates: 1) Oceania, comprising the American continents and stretching to the British Isles; 2) Eurasia, which comprises the entire region of Europe; and 3) East Asia, including the Far East and South-East regions of the world. In the novel, Oceania is permanently at war with either East Asia or Eurasia, with constant air raids and bombings. It is not a pleasant view of the world and a picture that everyone feared greatly during the Cold War of the 1950's.

Alienation and Love in the Novel

The new society created in 1984 is a society that is stripped of all human bonds and finer human emotions. Friendship is not tolerated, as evidenced by Winston's reaction to Syme. When he meets Syme in the staff canteen of the Ministry of Truth, he cautiously talks to him and does not dare refer to him as his friend. Everyone in Oceania, including children, are taught to keep an eye on one other and report misconduct to the Party. Two-minute hate sessions are directed by the Party. It is a society that values hatred, suspicion, and fear.

Oceania is a picture of cold alienation. It is a fully armed and highly automated world of machines. Even humans are treated like machinery and expected to act like them. They are awakened by the telescreen, directed in mandatory physical workouts, told which facial expression to wear, and placed in jobs that are directed by the Party. Friendly contact with other humans is discouraged, and sexual relationships are banned. If a person fails to follow Party orders, Big Brother will be watching, and punishment will be imposed.

The alienation is heightened by the Party's stance on sex. Girls from a very young age are taught in schools that sex is dirty. Extramarital relationships are strictly forbidden. Married couples participate in sex without love, joy, or emotion. Winston's wife is so indoctrinated by the Party rules that her body stiffens even at being hugged. Sex as a means to reproduce does not exist. Artificial insemination or 'artsem' (in Newspeak language) takes care of producing the babies.

The author's depiction of alienation in the novel is still relevant to contemporary times. Although there is not an exact Orwellian Oligarchy in existence, the highly industrialized society and extremely competitive world of today make a person feel alienated from others. In spite of automation and communication advances, people seem to have less time for families and friends, creating a sense of loneliness, similar to that experienced by Winston.

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