Santos, Chanel P.
Comm 4 TH 4:30-7:30
Tracing the Lines: A Review of George Orwell’s book, “1984”
Few years ago, I came across this book in my usual go-to bookstore, minutes away from our house. I did not get much hold of it because of the eerie feeling I have felt after reading its synopsis. I thought it was another dark, political book that will only give me a headache because of the terms I never understood and would never even bother to search back then. Such words are “totalitarian” and “bureaucratic” that sounds very foreign to me. But fate it was, I got hold of the book after a long period of time for school work and now, I could not put it down.
There are many ways in which this book has reawakened and strengthened my advocacy in empowering the oppressed. As what Winston Smith, the main character in the book, written on his diary, “If there is hope… it lies in the proles.”1 I have seen several themes or big ideas in the story that I found really interesting and moving, which will be further discussed in this article. One of which include:
Totalitarian Government: A Living Hell
Prior to reading the book, I already knew that the setting of the story was in London. But the description in the book was opposite to the beautiful and enchanting place that I have imagined before. The vivid description of the setting was outstandingly done as if the author has been thrown to that grimy place before and managed to come back to write down his experience.
The story opens up with the main character, Winston, who lives in Oceania, a society in which the government has total control of its people’s lives—including their thoughts. It is disturbing to think that every move they do, the ThoughtPolice is watching them like an insect under a microscope. All of these are for the purpose of keeping the structure of society and the status quo. 2
In connecting the story to a theory of Michel Foucault’s Panopticon3, there are four towers, governed by one, powerful Party that stand amidst the scrawny houses of its people. This Party governs and watches them through telescreens, which I find as a total lunatic thing, because it cannot be turned off and therefore runs 24/7 in the people’s lives. I have thought of it as a manifestation of media in our society today, that even though we have the choice to move away from it, there is no way of shutting it down entirely.
Moving on, the book was published in 1949 which indicates that its title, “1984” means that the story might come to life in the near future if dictatorship will prevail in our society. Unfortunately, it happened a few decades ago, not just in our country, but in most parts of the world. The fight does not stop there as the evil continues to find its way out of its grave.
The Spirit of Man
As Winston Smith said:
“There is something in the universe—I don’t know, some spirit, some principle—that you will never overcome.”- Winston in George Orwell’s 1984
The nonnegotiable value of a person, which is the soul, is the force inside human beings that is more powerful than the orders of the wicked rulers. But in contrary, it is easy to manipulate a lone person, when faced with fears, or in Winston’s part, his BIGGEST fear. As Julie A. Nelson said:
“Fear, kept unexamined and dammed up for too long, may then be manifested in excess when a crisis finally arrives—e.g., in financial panic or in support of totalitarian means for restoring order.” (p. 137)
It is really hard to defeat the spirit of a man to that extent that the Party has to go through series of tortures to brainwash Winston completely. But in order for the spirit of a man to be stronger, it needs to come in a collective form—a union of spirits fighting against the immoral acts of totalitarianism.
In history, people have joined their hands to overthrow abusive leaders that serves as a proof of the power of spirits that are determined to do the right thing for their society. A clear example is the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986 that united millions of Filipinos to end the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos towards freedom and democracy.4
Role of Media in the Society
It appears that the role of media has always been established in the story. From telescreens to altered newspapers, down to the intermittent announcements played every day—it shows the role of media to spread information to the people.
But, as the saying goes, “great power comes with great responsibility.” The fact that the misuse of media to shape and reshape the minds of the people for the benefit of the Party is one of the concerns in the novel that is as relevant today as they were before, or even more.
We live in a time wherein our lives are attached to the cyber world; our data are exposed in the abyss in most cases we are not even aware of. For an instance, in advertisements on social media sites that gives us directly the ads that are relevant to what we search often. Google provided a statement on their website saying: “We try to show you useful ads by using data collected from your devices, including your searches and location, websites and apps you have used, videos and ads you have seen, and personal information you have given us…”
This only mirrors the telescreens described in the novel, wherein every click we do, there is an engine there that sees every move we make and therefore influences our behavior.
Curing the Disease
Media is here to stay, and if it is where the people get their information, then we should strive to find a balance between its importance and safety. Sharing misinformation by the use of media would lead to further deterioration of the society’s views. Misinformation should be addressed by promoting Media Literacy and making it one of the subjects in the curriculum starting from the formative years of our young generation.
There is a big difference between knowing the truth and believing lies are truth. Putting this all together, the book shows how the spreading of alternative facts is not a new problem; it is all up to us if we are going to fight it. Let us not allow media to do the thinking for us. Let our own minds do the thinking.
In the end, I will admit that this book has made me feel depressed and doubtful of the truths that I know and acknowledge up until today. I will never see the world as it was before I have read this book. I was hooked from the first page down to its last words.
1984 by George Orwell is truly a timeless piece of work that mirrors our society even in the modern time. Reading 1984 has let me see the greater power that the media holds to the people, and how the higher positions make use of it to sway its people’s minds.
To end with a brighter note, this book deserves a doubleplusgood for imparting a certain knowledge in me to resist the dictatorship and be critical and responsible in the information that is being fed in my mind.
Santos, Chanel P.