At this very moment, I have no courage left to precisely tell you about all the exposes presented to the class those past few weeks… Actually, I missed quite a few of them: I was away last week and out of the five exposes I listened to, I missed the beginning of two of them (Can’t remember what happened to me…). Anyway, enough with my weird explanations! We have basically been talking about various subjects: “orphans and education”, “Orwell and totalitarianism”, “Child labor”, “The living conditions in the 19th century”… But I’ll only be focusing on one today: “Orwell and Totalitarianism”.
Orwell is a British author from the 20th century. In 1949, he wrote a novel: “1984”, which is now a classic, in order to denounce totalitarianism. He was mainly inspired by communism and the USSR. At that time, communism had (and still has!) a very strong influence on the West of Europe.
Extract 1 (Chapter 1): No freedom
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug-in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
- “received” and “transmitted” : Those two verbs are opposed to each other but are complimentary. It shows the government and the people are always linked, denounces the control of the population and the propaganda.
- “any time“, “very low“, “as well as” : Show the lack of freedom and privacy.
- “Of course” : Ironic touch from the author, it emphasizes the fact that human rights are violated.
- “Thought police” : expression created for the novel : Even the minds are controlled.
- “No way of knowing” and “guesswork“: People are very vulnerable and weak, they can’t fight this power.
- “All“, “Everybody“: No one can be trusted,paranoia appears.
- “Habit” : People got used to it, find it normal.
- Anaphora of “any“: no freedom, no uniqueness, no privacy, human beings are deprived from everything. They cannot ever escape.
- Anaphora of “every” and “scrutinized” : People are constantly watched over.
Extract 2 (Chapter 3): Oppressed human beings
There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.
- Anaphora of “loyalty“: feeling of patriotism.
- Opposition between affirmative and negative forms: “no + noun” and “except + noun“: The only thing that matters is the government, the rest is rubbish. They can only identify themselves to the Party.
- “Party” with a capital letter: stresses the importance of this governments, almost like an idol.
- Anaphora of “except” : The government controls everything and everything is limited.
- Antithesis: “no distinction” and “beauty and ugliness“: Shows there is a loss of values, of the notion on uniqueness. Emotions are no longer accepted.
- “All” : generalisation of human beings.
- “Always” associated with “stamping” and “trampling“: Gives the sensation of a crushing and violent power.
- Lexical field of oppression and domination: Human being is nothing.
- Metaphor of the “boot stamping on a human face“: represents totalitarianism and oppression.
Through his novel, Orwell shows the consequences of such a dictatorship. Human souls gradually disappear to become some kind of robotic or mechanic minds who accept any kind of humiliation. Orwell’s literature has had a great impact on society, it was like a huge warning sign. Literature is used by the author as a political tool.