Which fictional character has the scariest superpower


1984 (English Nineteen Eighty-Four) is a novel by George Orwell (actually Eric Arthur Blair), published in June 1949, in which the negative utopia (also known as dystopia or anti-utopia) of a totalitarian surveillance and prevention state in 1984 is pictured. The book is classified as science fiction. Orwell came into contact with the book We by the Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin through his political activities, which influenced him significantly in the writing of 1984.

Orwell wrote the book in 1946/47, a few years before his death while on the island of Jura off the coast of Scotland. The title contains the rotated numbers from 1948 to 1984 as an allusion to a not so distant future.

In the novel, the concept of the ever-present all-seeing Big Brother was introduced. Orwell's reductionist fictional language Newspeak (in older translations also called Newspeak, in the original English called Newspeak) became very well known. It is considered to be an embodiment of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. During the Cold War, the novel was viewed in the West as a criticism of real socialism or Stalinism and was thus also conveyed in the educational system. It was not taken into account that Orwell is shaped by Trotskyist and anarchist ideas, expresses sharp criticism of capitalism in his novel and understands it in its dystopia as a precondition for the totalitarian state described.

In recent times Orwell's description of a dystopian society has been used primarily for the purpose of criticizing the tightened security measures in Western democracies.

1 content

The novel begins with a picture of everyday life in a dystopian surveillance state. The action's protagonist is Winston Smith, a simple member of the (“outside”) party who wants to secure his own privacy despite the adverse circumstances. As a result, he inevitably comes into conflict with the system, which will inevitably lead to his downfall and death.

1.1 Part 1

Winston Smith works for the Department of Truth (Department of Propaganda). His life is characterized by supply problems, constant surveillance, fear and lack of personal relationships. Most of his work consists of rewriting and falsifying history. Like him, all the members of the Outer Party known to him live in Oceania.

Inwardly, Winston can no longer identify with the party doctrine for a long time. He has to keep his opinion a secret, because in Oceania not only all actions against the ruling party are considered a crime, but even the desire to resist is a so-called thought crime. Winston finds it particularly difficult to pretend to be in the face of constant surveillance by telescreens, police patrols, neighbors and work colleagues. Winston eventually begins to secretly record his thoughts and opinions in a diary.

When one day at work a young woman engaged in the youth league against sexuality catches his eye through eye contact, he suspects that she is a member of the Thought Police (the system's secret police).

Winston's great interest in the past drives him again and again to the slums of the proles (proletarians). The owner of a general store, Mr. Charrington, shows him a glass ball that surrounds a coral. Winston is immediately fascinated by the ball, a piece of the past, and buys it. Mr. Charrington leads Winston into a fully furnished room which does not seem to have a televised monitor. He is so taken with it that he considers renting it. But that is already a dangerous thought - he rejects it again when he becomes aware of it.

1.2 Part 2

Part two is about Winston's path to internal resistance and ends with his arrest by the Thought Police.

On the way home from Charrington's general store, he meets the young woman again. There is no longer any doubt for him that she is a member of the Thought Police. A few days later, he met her a third time at the Ministry of Truth. Just as she is about to walk past him, she falls. Winston stops to help her. He reaches out his hand and helps her up. She secretly slips him a note. Winston cannot open this immediately because he is standing in front of a tele-screen. When he arrives at his place of work, he finally has the opportunity to read the note: "I love you" is her message to him.

Over the next few days he kept trying to get in touch with her. But all attempts fail because the risk that they will be convicted is very high. One day, however, she is sitting alone at a table in the canteen and Winston takes a seat. At first he doesn't dare to speak to them, because they monitor televisions everywhere. They can't talk to each other much. He learns that she is leading a secret personal rebellion against the party and its values. After the two have met a few times in the country under great confidentiality, Julia agrees to rent the room through Mr. Charrington's shop in order to be able to live out their togetherness. This is also a serious crime, because sexuality is only allowed to serve reproduction and is to be gradually replaced by artificial insemination.

From now on they will see each other there more often. Winston tells Julia about O'Brien, a member of the inner party, whom he also considers a deviant, because his behavior deviates slightly from the norm, which already means a lot in Oceania. He and Julia visit O'Brien in his apartment. He's also got a telescopic screen, but with the difference that he can turn it off for a short time. Under this condition, they can talk to each other for half an hour without being watched. O'Brien poses as a member of the underground movement The Brotherhood. Through O'Brien's mediation, Winston received a copy of the legendary book “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” by Emmanuel Goldstein. Before his arrest, he got to read the first and third chapters of the book. Basically, he only finds a clear description of things there that were already clear to him - "I understand the how, but not the why" - he says. Later in the book it turns out that O'Brien is himself a co-author of the book.

On the same day, Winston and Julia discuss their future together. While Julia dreams of a happy underground life with Winston, Winston wants to fight the party at all costs. It is clear to him that they will soon be caught, tortured and shot. And in fact, they are being caught and captured in their rented room right now. Now, for the first time, Winston is knowingly confronted with a member of the Thought Police - Mr. Charrington, the owner of the shop, who kept him under observation all the time through a telescreen hidden behind a picture.

1.3 Part 3

Part 3 covers Winston's captivity, torture, re-education and what happened after his release.

After his arrest, Winston wakes up in a windowless but constantly lit room. He suspects that he is in the Ministry of Love. All walls are tiled in white and there is a telescopic screen on each one. All around the room there is a seat that is just wide enough to sit on and is only interrupted by a toilet opposite the door. New prisoners are constantly coming into Winston's cell and being fetched again. Winston is also relocated from time to time. Due to the constant light and the lack of daily rhythm, Winston soon loses track of time. He barely gets to eat and is noticeably losing weight.

At the beginning, Winston goes through some routine interrogations; The interrogation officer is O'Brien, who until then pretended to be a member of the Brotherhood, but in truth cheated on him. First, Winston has to make the usual confessions (sabotage, spread of sexually transmitted diseases). Soon it will be brainwashed. Bit by bit, O'Brien dismantles the worldview of the intellectually inferior Winston. If he is unreasonable, plays stupid, or lies, O'Brien inflicts pain on him with a kind of rack. When Winston goes mad in pain, he is given electric shocks.

O'Brien explains to Winston the process of re-education: learn, understand and accept. To break Winston's disdain for ideology, O'Brien seeks to manipulate Winston's will. To do this, O'Brien forces him to look at his gagged and emaciated body from the torture in the mirror. Since Winston sees himself as a champion for mankind, one tries to make it clear to him that resistance is hopeless, since mankind is at the mercy of the party in Oceania and the related regimes in East Asia and Eurasia as he is. Now Winston is disgusted of himself, feels his sight as pathetic and undignified (“understand”) - and gratefully accepts the nourishing hand of the party (“accept”).

Winston is now getting enough to eat and is being nursed back to health. He even gets a new set of teeth. While he is recovering physically, he practices the principles of Zwiedenkens (in more recent German editions: Doppeldenk) and Verbrechenstop (in more recent editions translated as Delstop). He trains to outsmart his own mind. Winston Smith seems to be coming to an end in his re-education. But when O'Brien realizes that Winston still loathes his big brother and that his love for Julia is unbroken, Winston is taken to the infamous room 101.

In room 101 everyone can expect their own personal hell. O'Brien has starved rats in a kind of cage right in front of Winston's face and threatens to open the cage door immediately. In order to avert this horror, Winston sacrifices the last good he has left of his original self, his love for Julia. He betrays his love by pleading with O'Brien to do this torture to Julia and not to him. With that his inner resistance is finally broken.

After being released, Winston spends a lot of time playing chess in a shabby pub. He meets Julia one last time. Julia also shows traces of torture, a scar disfigures her once pretty face and her formerly athletic body has become misshapen. She reveals to Winston that she betrayed him and that the party managed to destroy their feelings for one another. Later on, Winston caught himself excited by the propaganda while watching the war reports with the crowd. He realizes that all his life he has rebelled against the community in vain. The book ends by stating that Winston loves Big Brother.

2 figures

The main characters Winston, Julia and O'Brien are real people, while "Big Brother" and Emmanuel Goldstein represent constructions of the ideology.

2.1 Winston Smith

Winston Smith, the main character in the novel, is an emaciated, frail, intelligent, brooding, and devoted 39-year-old man. He has lost his trust and love for Big Brother, the totalitarian ruling leader of Oceania. So he wants the government to be overthrown and his big brother down.

First, Winston appears as a hero who rebels against an unjust regime. This is put into perspective when he assures O'Brien that he wants to commit terrible crimes in the fight against the party, such as throwing acid in the face of a child. Although he is undoubtedly serving a good cause, suddenly his methods are no better than those of the state he is fighting. Winston, in his resistance, seeks to understand how the party can exercise such absolute power. In his long deliberations on this, the reader learns a lot about the possibility of using speech for mind control.

Winston is not only a theorist (which would be punishable in Oceania), but also a practical rebel. At the end of the book, however, it is revealed that his rebellion is just one move in O'Brien's (as a representative of the party) game of power to torture, manipulate and rule. O'Brien brainwashes Winston so that he ultimately loves even Big Brother.

2.2 Julia

While Winston is restless, fatalistic, and concerned about society as a whole, Julia is emotional, pragmatic, intent on enjoying the moment and getting the most out of her life. She hates the party because the party is trying to destroy her personal happiness in order to take it over firmly for the community. Julia's rebellion against the party is therefore much more personal. While Winston tries to join the brotherhood and deal with the abstract manifesto of its founder, Emmanuel Goldstein, Julia wants to make love and make plans for a future together. She is not, like Winston, convinced that the Thought Police will catch her and is therefore much more concerned with deceiving her colleagues, neighbors and the Thought Police. That is why she is involved in the youth league against sexuality (in more recent German editions: called the Junior Anti-Sex League), is the most passionate about the two-minute hate program and attends an astonishing number of demonstrations together with Winston. “It pays off, she says, it serves as a camouflage. If you keep the rules on a small scale, you can break them on a large scale. " (Part 2, Chapter 3) Julia claims she has had numerous affairs with party members. Although the reader does not know whether she is making this claim at Winston's request or whether it is really true, it clearly shows that she is unwilling to let the party take her pleasure from her. The desire for closeness, trust and hatred of the party, however, are the only things that Winston and Julia share.

2.3 O'Brien

O'Brien is a Department of Love spy appointed to monitor Outer Party members for thought crimes. To this end, he pretends to be Winston and Julia and poses as an enemy of the party.

He is representative of the entire ruling class, the inner party. Apparently he can empathize with Winston too, as he very often utters Winston's thoughts before Winston does himself.

Winston meets O'Brien while working at the Department of Truth. During the mandatory two-minute hate broadcast, they exchange a look that Winston finds reason enough to assume that O'Brien is an enemy of the party. O'Brien is admired by Winston for his elegance and radiating cleverness. Winston often dreams of O'Brien and a functioning resistance movement. O'Brien is a member of the inner party and therefore has some privileges more than members of the outer party. For example, he can park the televisor in his apartment and even has some luxury goods such as wine. So Winston confides in him, even gets Goldstein's revolutionary book from him (which, as it turns out at the end, was partly written by O'Brien himself). Winston meets O'Brien again in the third part of the book at the Ministry of Love. This meeting was foretold by O'Brien (in a Winston's dream): we will meet where there is no darkness. O'Brien now turns out to be a staunch supporter of Big Brother.

2.4 Big brother

Big Brother is a watchdog and a protector at the same time. Big Brother is watching you can mean several things from Newspeak to Oldspeak. The big brother is important as a family member, since the original relationships such as family, friendship or love no longer have any meaning according to the state ideology. He was already involved in the first revolutions of the 1930s and therefore has an uncritical heroic character.

Like Stalin and Hitler in their later years, Big Brother is practically invisible to the people and only exists in propaganda. Whether he really exists is one of the questions that torments Winston, and O'Brien gives him an ambiguous answer to this question.

2.5 Emmanuel Goldstein

Emmanuel Goldstein (sometimes also Imanuel) has a timeless nature like his "big brother". He is a former party member, but he is the "public enemy number one" who denounces the betrayal of the socialist ideas of the revolutionary time and wants to carry out a counter-revolution with the "brotherhood" and the changing enemy in Oceania. Goldstein and the Brotherhood may be a Party-created illusion, bait designed to attract dissenters to make it easier for the Thought Police to catch potential Thought Criminals.

Several approaches are possible to this figure. Dramaturgically he corresponds to the opposition snowball on the animal farm.Possibly he embodies the October revolutionary and resistance fighter Leon Trotsky, whose supporters, organized in an underground party, were persecuted in the early days of the Soviet Union and slandered as saboteurs and terrorists; this is also indicated by the Jewish name Goldstein, since Trotsky himself was called Lew Bronstein.

In the novel it remains open whether Goldstein actually exists. The only thing that is indispensable for the system is its function as an enemy. In that sense, he's just as immortal as Big Brother.

Goldstein is also credited with "The Book", which explains the anatomy of the system (title: "The theory and practice of oligarchical collectivism"). This book was actually rewritten by party officials, including O'Brien; he himself admits that this book tells the truth about the crimes of the party, only a change in this situation cannot be brought about. This is based on Leon Trotsky, who in 1936 finished his work "The Revolution Betrayed", which the regime of the USSR was declared Marxist and banned.

3 Orwell's inspiration

To understand why Orwell wrote the novel in 1984, one only needs to look at his other works. The motive of betrayal of the revolution and the deep aversion to totalitarian regimes as well as the helplessness of the individual towards them becomes clear in the Homage to Catalonia and in Animal Farm. Orwell explains in his essay Why I Writethat since the Spanish Civil War he has repeatedly warned against totalitarianism in his work. That does not mean that Orwell writes for a bourgeois democratic society. Orwell himself radically changed his political opinion many times during his life. Among other things, he dealt with socialism and anarchism.

The building of the government of Oceania is a parody of a famous speech by Roosevelt on the four freedoms. As Orwell later told Malcolm Muggeridge, much of Winston's day-to-day work came from Orwell's own experience with the BBC. At that time the BBC was still subordinate to the Ministry of Information.

But the novel also reflects the fears of that time. Above all, certainly the fear that the dictatorships that have just been crushed in Europe could revive in a new form. Furthermore, in 1949 mankind was at the beginning of the nuclear age. Most people in Western Europe and North America were convinced that a ruthless totalitarian party would rule in the Eastern Bloc countries. The technical development from the television set already in series production to the bidirectional tele screen was conceivable. Orwell's utopia of a post-atomic Party dictatorship controlled by tele-screens appeared at the time as an incredibly realistic threat, compounded by the fact that Orwell appeared to be predicting such a society for the next 35 years.

An alternative inspiration for 1984 could be Orwell's own childhood and the description of the feelings and experiences experienced at the time. Fritz Erik Hoevels goes into this in his book Psychoanalysis and Literary Studies (Ahriman-Verlag, 1996) (inter alia) and describes Orwell's “true and hidden subject” as “the horrors of the family”.

4 cornerstones of ideology

4.1 Control of the past

A fundamental concept of the Thought Control Party is control of the past. That is why a gigantic effort is being made in the Ministry of Truth to adapt all existing documents to the current party line. Nobody should be able to refute statements of the party on the basis of historical documents, including reports that express themselves in a positive way about people who have meanwhile become "non-persons" through "disappearance" or "vaporization" rewritten. Or is the population not even aware of the constant change of opponents of the war due to the change in statistics and reports. They think that the state has always been enemies with the current enemy. To make this possible, the party newspaper, the Times, is regularly updated to include all historical editions and old editions are reprinted. The old copies that no longer fit into the party line are taken from the archives and destroyed.

There is also a famous historical model for this that Orwell may have known, a photograph of Lenin. In the original version, Trotsky and Kamenev stand next to him. In the second version, Trotsky has been retouched, but Kamenev is still there. In the third version, Kamenev has also disappeared.

4.2 War means peace

In Orwell's world, the three superpowers only wage limited wars on the periphery. This is enough for them to keep the population under pressure, to maintain poverty and thus to secure their rule. Since this is in the interests of all three governments, it prevents the great war between them. The fact that they constantly change their allies does not change anything (see balance of power).

However, at some point the reader will wonder whether the government of Oceania does not drop the bombs itself in order to avoid unrest or even demonstrations, because the following applies: As long as there is war and people feel it, there is peace. Julia and Winston also suspect this at some point, since these bombing attacks are only ever aimed at the areas of the proles and not the residential areas of the party members.

4.3 Dual thinking

Zwiedenken (in more recent German editions: Doppeldenk) is a central thesis of the book. If the party says 2 + 2 = 5, then so be it. Nor is it enough just to say it, you really have to believe it. The party controls the mind, if the party says 2 + 2 = 5 then people believe it, and when people believe it, so it is. On the other hand, O'Brien admits to Winston that it is used for scientific purposes and the like. sometimes it is necessary to know that 2 + 2 = 4. This is where the actual double-thinking (“doublethink”) sets in, since the party member loyal to the party is required to “switch between two truths” (in one moment 2 + 2 = 5, in the next 2 + 2 = 4) without turning to be aware of it. There is no objective truth outside the party. Under the torture, Winston actually sees the requested 5 fingers once, although O'Brien only shows him 4 fingers.

4.4 Hate Week

Hate Week is a propaganda event dedicated to hating political and military opponents. How interchangeable these opponents are for the system is shown by an episode in which the hate speaker is slipped a piece of paper in the middle of his speech saying that the opponent has changed. Without faltering or once making a promise, he continues his speech; The object of hate is now the new opponent.

Hate Week's little sister is the daily two-minute hate that everyone must participate in. Against his will, Winston cannot defend himself against the feelings of hatred generated there.

4.5 Non-person

Political opponents are liquidated ("liquefied") - "vaporized" (evaporated) in Newspeak, or hanged publicly in front of a mass audience. The party is not satisfied with that alone: ​​every memory of the murdered must be erased; they become non-persons - they don't exist, they never existed. This is illustrated by the example of a work colleague from Winston named Syme, who worked enthusiastically on the development of Newspeak, but one day disappeared and "never existed". An entire department in Winston's Ministry is busy destroying and rewriting documents in which non-persons are mentioned. The model for this is obviously the Soviet Union under Stalin. There the history of the revolution was constantly being rewritten. Even photos have been retouched.

4.6 Newspeak

Newspeak is the established official language in Oceania: The 11th edition of the dictionary defining Newspeak is being prepared at the time of the action. Newspeak is divided into three parts. Part A covers everyday language, which should be devoid of any political and ideological meaning. Part B represents the essential minimum of ideological and political vocabulary. Part C is by far the most extensive and contains the technical and scientific terms.

It should gradually replace everyday language (old speech) and serve to reduce the vocabulary and thus prevent graduated and shaded thinking. This is shown by the sentence "Altdenker unintusfühl Engsoz" in the commentary of the party newspaper in Neusprech. Translated into old speech it reads: "He whose worldview was formed before the revolution can never feel and understand the principles of English socialism in its ultimate depth".

If there was a corresponding opposite for every adjective in Old Spoken, every opposite is formed by an introduced un- in Newspeak. For example, as in Esperanto, the opposite of good and bad and warm and warm is the opposite. Forms of increase such as better, best and so on are replaced by plusgut or double plus good. In addition, almost all irregularities are brought into line with the rules. Longer terms like Ministry of Truth are simply shortened to mini-truth. Behind this, the original meaning of the words also fades.

Another remedy are euphemisms (glossing over). The system's detention and torture camps are called pleasure camps. The Ministry behind it is the Ministry of Love. The political prisoners are thought criminals. In party slogans such as war means peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength, the words are simply given new meanings so that they cannot be used against the party. Words also have different meanings depending on the person they are related to, so "black and white", whether used for party members or enemies, can mean particular loyalty to the party or treason. In this way, the party prevents an alternative system from being conceived from the start. As an example, Orwell described criticism of the big brother in Newspeak "Big brother is bad". The speaker cannot further differentiate or justify the facts. For an Orthodox party member, the criminal thinking or deldenk is only a gross curse and harmless to the party.

Orwell provides a good example of this in the appendix to the novel (depending on the edition, here: Nineteen Eighty-Four. Penguin Books 1990, ISBN 0-14-012671-6), where he explains the principles of the Newspeak language:

The words Communist International, for example, evoke an image of worldwide brotherhood, red flags, Karl Marx and the Paris Commune. The word Comintern, on the other hand, suggests a tightly organized body with a well-defined doctrine. It refers to something that is so easily recognized ... like a chair or a table. Comintern is a word that can be uttered without a fuss, but Communist International is a phrase that everyone hesitates about for at least a short while. Likewise, the associations evoked by a word like Minitrue are rarer and more manageable than those generated by the Ministry of Truth. […]

Due to the extensive work involved in translating all of Altsprech's books into Newspeak, the time for the final introduction of Newspeak has been set for 2050.

4.7 Crime

In 1984 critical thoughts, so-called thought crimes, which question the doctrine of the fictional state of Oceania, are treated as state crimes. The declared aim of the ruling totalitarian party is to deprive citizens of the possibility of committing thought crimes through the introduction of a new language (called Newspeak), through constant falsification of history and through total control and threats. For example, Oceania is alternately at war with Eurasia or East Asia while at peace with the other. If Oceania is at war with a state, then it has always been at war with this state and will always be at war with this state in the future, while the other state has always been and will always be at peace with the other state. Anyone who does not acknowledge this is committing a thought crime.

It is also considered a crime not to wear the happy, serious or even hateful facial expression required depending on the occasion. There is a historical model for this: At the time of the Roman Emperor Claudius, a citizen is said to have been accused of having gone to the market with the “sullen expression of a teacher”.

4.8 Orwell's concept of power

Orwell describes power not as a means, but as an end. The aim is to decompose the unity of the personality in order to construct a completely new personal unity, the new human being, at will. It is often overlooked that Smith is currently a strong personality and clearly sets himself apart from the jaded subjects around him. The repressive nature of the regime only becomes clear when looking at Smith's life force, which he has to hide and which drives him to rebellion. It is not the surveillance he avoids that has a repressive effect, but rather the manipulation of Smith's thinking through an intellectual totalitarian system that bears great resemblance to the Hegelian: every thought and every feeling of Smith is held up against its opposite in the manner of Hegel's skepticism. When Smith asks if Big Brother exists as he does, the answer is that Smith doesn't exist; if he is ashamed of his hatred, he is asked why he thinks hatred is worse than love. According to Orwell, the flip side of power is the belief of those over whom power is exercised. He does not differentiate between Christianity, Hegelianism and communism, as all define faith as the elimination of all contradictions ("credo quia absurdum", Tertullian). So he has Smith say: Freedom is being able to say that 2 plus 2 is 4.

5 Oceania

Oceania is one of the three remaining superpowers in the world, the other two being Eurasia and East Asia. Oceania consists of America, Great Britain, Australia and the southern part of Africa, Eurasia from Europe and Russia, altogether from the Iberian Peninsula to the Bering Strait. East Asia consists of the People's Republic of China, Mongolia, and Japan. Oceania is always at war with one of the other two powers, but the war is exclusively about territories and never about the annihilation of the other. The latter seems impossible anyway due to the absolute balance of forces.

5.1 development

The novel itself explains little about the history of Oceania. However, in the second part of the novel, Winston receives a copy of the critical "book" from O'Brien, which is said to have been written by the highest public enemy Emmanuel Goldstein. Even if it later turns out that this book was actually written by the party itself, it conclusively explains the concept of the party and the history of Engsoc (English socialism, in the original Ingsoc, derived from English socialism). Accordingly, shortly after the Allied victory in World War II in the United Kingdom, the (“socialist”) revolution should have occurred.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union launched a massive invasion of Europe and took over the entire continent with the exception of the United Kingdom. A third - this time nuclear - world war broke out between Oceania (led by the former USA), Eurasia (led by the former Soviet Union) and East Asia (led by the former China). Atomic bombs were dropped on Europe, western Russia and North America; in the later war, the use of nuclear weapons is dispensed with.

In the novel, Winston recalls a time when a hydrogen bomb was dropped on Colchester and caused a mass panic. The three great powers finally realized that the annihilation of the enemy would not be possible without one's own annihilation. Instead of ending the war, however, they first decided to fight for supremacy in Africa and then to be able to defeat their opponents by exploiting the raw materials and people of Africa. Although all three sides are aware that this plan can never work because as soon as a power threatens to achieve something like hegemony, the other two sides would ally against them, all sides adhere to this agreement. Because in the meantime they have recognized that the constant war allows them to keep the population in a state of constant fear and hustle and bustle without ever having to raise the standard of living in their countries, since the hard-earned goods are repeatedly destroyed at the front could. The party believes that a population that is constantly busy worrying about the most essential things in life has no time for critical thoughts and is therefore easy to control and manipulate.

The three great powers rarely fight on their territory, only the rocket bombs that hit them (which may only be detonated by the party itself) terrorize the population.

In the late fifties the revolution was betrayed by Big Brother, who created a terrorist state with his theory of "English socialism", until 1970 all functionaries disappeared next to him in great waves of purges and built up a gigantic personality cult around himself, although not even his Existence is assured because hardly anyone has ever seen it. In 1984, Airstrip One (formerly Great Britain) became the third richest region in Oceania, but that doesn't mean too much.

5.2 Society

Oceania society is divided into three major hierarchical groups. The structure and the mode of operation of these three classes can be found in Plato's vision of the “ideal state”. In this model of the state, devised by Plato, the philosophers are at the top. Your job is to think. This smallest caste is represented in the book by the inner party. The second caste is the guardian caste. In Orwell's book, this caste is embodied in the outside party. Their job is to enforce and monitor the guidelines set by the upper caste. Finally and lastly, there is the working people, who are represented in the book by the “proles”, that is, proletarians. This caste system is built up like a pyramid, with the workers having the largest number of members and the philosophers having the smallest number.

The members of the inner party make up two percent of the population. They represent the upper class and hold all leading positions.

They enjoy many privileges and are definitely not subject to the strict rationing that applies to the rest of society. You can switch off the tele screens in your work rooms (possibly also living rooms) yourself. The official O'Brien consumes wine while at work; a luxury that other people do not have. Julia also steals coffee, tea, and sugar on occasion - all things that only members of the inner party usually consume. On this occasion there is a faint hint of corruption among the members of the inner party.

Of course, these too are not immune to falling from grace overnight and becoming a non-person.

The members of the outer party represent the middle class and make up about 13% of the population. Members of the outer party work in the service of the party and only serve to maintain it. Some of them are engaged in intellectual fields (for example falsifying history or working on the new edition of the Newspeak Dictionary) and thus find themselves in a position in which they can be dangerous to the party. Many of them disappear sooner or later without a trace (expression in the novel: "vaporisiert" ("evaporated")), such as Syme, an acquaintance of Winston who is working on the dictionary of the new language.

The proles, the workers, make up 85 percent of the population, but they are deliberately kept stupid and passive by poverty and the media and pose no risk to the party's position even with the obvious nature of the party's dictatorship. This is achieved by using enormous economic resources do not benefit the poor, but are destroyed in a permanent war (e.g. building of sinfully expensive "floating fortresses"). This war also serves as an “excuse” for the fact that the country is constantly in dire straits and that it cannot afford any “luxuries” such as democracy, freedom or poverty reduction - no one from the class of the proles can rise. In addition, the state constantly produces cheap pompous songs, dime novels, porno films and other things that are only allowed to be consumed by the proles. The state also organizes a lottery in which the big winners are fictional - but the proles, for lack of other occupation, are carried away by these simple-minded activities. They have no time or no ambition to criticize the state, but still this caste is the only one that would be able to bring about an overthrow. If there is still hope for change after the failure of the protagonist, it comes from the proles. While members of the inner and outer parties more or less accept each other, they see nothing more than animals in the proles. The proles also have the lowest standard of living in society (their neighborhoods are so contaminated with rats that an unguarded toddler would be gnawed to the bone in a matter of minutes).

"The book" of the opposition Emmanuel Goldstein describes the emergence of these three classes in such a way that the "socialist" revolutionaries, who come from the former middle class and from whom the party functionaries are recruited, the original idea of ​​Marxism, the liberation of the working class provided that they have perverted to the extent that it enables them to maintain their power. Nevertheless, according to the official representation of the party, all citizens - including the proles - are doing better than before the revolution, although they live in shabby, monotonous tenements and only have the essentials of clothing and food. The picture of society before the revolution, which is conveyed in the history books, describes the oppression by exploitative capitalists, clergy and aristocrats, poverty, homelessness, child labor and the ius primae noctis that was moved from the Middle Ages to the industrial age. This is a caricature of the English class society before the Second World War, but also a reference to the historical image actually conveyed in socialist states, which was intended to divert attention from current problems and to confirm the party slogan of "liberation of mankind".

5.3 Monitoring

Orwell describes in 1984 a total surveillance that almost no one can escape. It is mainly practiced with the help of telescopes. The tele-screen is both a transmitting and receiving device that monitors the citizens of Oceania in every house of the inner and outer party, in public places and at work. Nobody knows whether you are being watched or not and you can only speculate about how often or according to which system the thought police intervene in the private sphere. It is therefore even conceivable that she is constantly observing everyone (see page 9 in the book). See also Panopticon, the concept of total surveillance.

Another means of surveillance are microphones, which are mostly used in rural areas and by the proles. These are particularly feared because, in contrast to the telescopic screens, they are small and easy to hide.

Another method of surveillance is spying. This occurs in two forms: On the one hand, the spying of citizens through televisions or microphones of the thought police. The second type of spying, the mutual betrayal of party members, is the more effective of the two (this is also shown by the Gestapo files). Even children are raised in the youth organization of the informers to spy on their parents and to betray them in an emergency. Parents are even proud when their children betray others or even their own parents. In addition, all party members are organized in associations and are called upon to spend as much time as possible in community houses so that everyone has everyone in view.

Helicopters of the thought police patrol through the residential areas at irregular intervals and peer directly into the windows, which is less used for actual surveillance, but rather to create a feeling of powerlessness and constant observation.

5.4 Ministries

The structure of the government in 1984 is a parody of a well-known speech by US President Roosevelt to Congress in 1941 on the "four freedoms" ("freedom of speech and religion, from want and fear"): freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the Freedom from deficiency and fear. George Orwell used this speech, along with his experience at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), to create the four ministries of Oceania:

  • Ministry for Peace (Minipax): This ministry deals with war, more precisely: with the war propaganda, and with it to keep the perpetual war going. Presumably it is also responsible for the attacks on its own cities in order to maintain the war mood.
  • Ministry of Abundance / Abundance (Mini Flow / Mini Abundance): This ministry is responsible for the economy and the elaboration of the three-year plans, which according to official reports are constantly being met or exceeded, while actual production is likely to be deliberately kept low reportedly producing 145 million boots a year while "half of Oceania's population goes barefoot". The ministry also ensures that there are never enough consumer goods or that the quality remains extremely poor (compare Winston's remarks about chocolate, cigarettes and Victory Gin).
  • Ministry of Love (Mini Love): This mysterious and feared ministry maintains the Thought Police, which tracks down deviants and brings them there. There they are tortured until they are "turned around", that is, they are completely on the party line again. Some are then released to live in Oceania for some time before being shot. Others are shot immediately.
  • Ministry of Truth (Mini Truth): This ministry deals with the past or with its constant manipulation. All books, films, writings, newspapers, sound recordings, etc. from the past are constantly revised here and adapted to the current line of the party, so that according to all the records that exist, the party is always right and has always been right.

"And if everyone else believed the lie spread by the party - if all the records were the same - then the lie would go down in history and become the truth." (See Part 1 from 1984)

6 Significance for the present

In his novel Orwell paints a literary picture of the mechanisms used by a totalitarian state. Hence, one can recognize many of the structures and practices in recent history and the present. The Western powers, for example, drew parallels between the socialist states and the totalitarian state from 1984.

The western states are repeatedly accused of using methods “à la 1984”. For example, Michael quotes Moore in the 1984 film Fahrenheit 9/11, which he produced, as saying that the Iraq war should not be won, but should last forever.

Orwell's euphemistic designation of ministries of war as ministries of defense or ministries of security - which is widespread nowadays - also seemed worthy of criticism.

Orwell foresaw some technical means (e.g. surveillance cameras, bugs, echelon, ...) as early as 1948 - long before they were massively used. Other aspects of privacy violating measures were suspected, but since 1984 appeared long before today's consumer and internet world, Orwell could not foresee that not only the state, but also private companies, often on its behalf, would be storing sensitive customer data one z. B. spied using RFIDs, manage and link.

In this context, civil rights organizations refer to alleged parallels between current developments in Western countries and George Orwell's visions. In Germany, too, there are attacks on fundamental rights, particularly in the “war on terrorism”. Critics therefore fear that terrorism is being used by the state as an excuse to establish a totalitarian system.

Some followers of the book view various present-day phenomena as fulfillment or fulfilled prophecies of the book. The dramatic plot, for example Winston's relationship to Julia and the betrayal of her, they put behind the social framework. So they interpret the role of certain rulers (some US presidents like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan and other heads of state) as new big brothers and assign others the role of the rebel Emmanuel Goldsteins. The powerless Winston Smith and Boxer (horse from Animal Farm) are the real losers.

In various states of the world that are still governed by dictatorship today, such as B. North Korea are elements of the totalitarian state according to George Orwell such as a pseudo-religious personality cult, deliberate falsification of the past and present (heroizing one's own past, conjuring up an external enemy to keep one's own population in check) in the service of propaganda in the mass media, total surveillance and total control of the state over its citizens is still widespread today. In the People's Republic of China, for. B. the Internet is specifically censored. Overall, however, Orwell's gloomy predictions have not yet been fully fulfilled: developments such as general human rights, disarmament, data protection and a freer sexual morality have also emerged from the confrontation with the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century, as Orwell describes them.

7 web links