1984 – In the face of pain there are no heroes
George Orwell’s 1984 is a brilliant commentary on the dangers of totalitarianism, mind control, technology and both physical and psychological manipulation. The novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, is a very pensive and curious man. He is desperate to uncover the roots behind the twisted caste system that has been set in place by an organization called the Party. The Party demonstrates absolute control over every aspect of life in Oceania (formerly London).
They are a totalitarian organization using language as a mind control device as well as psychological and physical intimidation and manipulation in order to keep its citizens, or effectively its slaves, in line. One thing always holds true in Oceania, “Big Brother is Watching You. ” Winston Smith never becomes a true hero because the very society in which he resides has changed the very nature of what a hero can and cannot do. A society in which war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength makes individualism an act of blatant terrorism.
When individuality becomes a crime the devastating power of the Party is illustrated through Winston’s attempts at freedom and independence. Oceania is a harsh, totalitarian state. The leaders of the Party rely on a message that they relay over and over again: “War is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. ” They are a state that monitors and controls every aspect of society and even human interaction to the point where disloyal thoughts are made illegal.
For the Party, “power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. ” Due to the fact that Winston chooses to refuse the Party’s ideals and controlling ways the point of their vast power is realized on an even greater scale. The true oppression of the Party, Big Brother and the Thought Police can be seen. Though Winston exhibits a sort of refreshing thoughtfulness (at least in regards to any other members of society) his main attributes are his inclination towards rebellion and his sense of utter fatalism.
He goes to unbelievable lengths in order to rebel against the Party. He commits various crimes throughout the book ranging from simply writing, “Down with Big Brother” in is illegal diary to having a forbidden love affair with a woman named Julia and everything in between. He even gets himself accepted into the anti-Party brotherhood. However, it is only through the great efforts that Winston goes through carrying out his rebellion that the true effect of the power of the party can be seen.
The beginning of the parties control stems from their ability to use language as a mind control device. In Oceania, “if you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself. ” The Party implements a new language called “Newspeak” which simply eliminates any potentially disloyal words from the vocabulary. Orwell uses this to illustrate the point that language is the most crucial part in the generation of unique and original human thought. Without language, the formation of thought is nearly impossible.
Even the conceptualization of an idea questioning the Party’s absolute power is made impossible by Newspeak. Therein lies another issue; once the Party controls language they have the ability to exercise psychological and physical intimidation and manipulation over the society. Winston comes to a terrifying realization, nothing is worse than physical pain, “for after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or, that they force of gravity works? Or that they past is unchangeable?
If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, then the mind itself is controllable. ” There is no emotional feeling or loyalty that can overcome the feeling of physical pain for Winston. Here the reader is able to see Winston’s sense of fatalism. He stresses the subjugation of all events to fate. Deep down in his heart he knows that he will be caught by the Thought Police and sent to the Ministry of Love to be “reeducated”. Winston never can become the hero that the people of Oceania need because of this fatalism.
It is exemplified when he realizes that, “of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes. ” Winston Smith never becomes the hero Oceania is asking for because the society in which he resides has changed the very nature of what a hero is. Oceania is a society in which war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength effectively making individualism an act of blatant terrorism. When individuality becomes a crime the devastating power of the Party is
Illustrated through Winston’s attempts at freedom and independence, which are ultimately overshadowed by his fatalism and the power of the Party leading Winston to his unfortunate and very predictable demise. As far as heroes are concerned, the perfect totalitarian state will always stifle and keep down any acts of rebellion and heroics. There are no possible scenarios in which a hero can emerge from a setting such as 1984, because as stated so eloquently by Orwell, “in the face of pain, there are no heroes. ”