Dystopian Elements In George Orwell’s 1984 And Animal Farm

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How do the dystopian elements in George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” present an oppressive society?

Oppression could be defined as “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment of authority”, thus is present in both George Orwell’s dystopian novels “Animal Farm” and “1984” as such simple and complex aspects of tyranny are integrated into the texts in order to create a perfect dystopian novel, introducing the reader into a world of repression and chaos. Orwell enhances the dystopias by presenting a tyrannical government who exploits and psychologically abuses their people, highlighting the victimization which occurs throughout the novel and novella. However, in the allegorical novella “Animal Farm” we are presented with the birth of a dystopia, where animals are subjected to humans, so they begin to revolt. They are later betrayed by their leaders, the pigs, who eventually end up acting worse than the humans ever did. Whereas, the dystopian novel “1984” presents a world trapped in a state of eternal war, citizens have no right to a personal life or personal thought, love is forbidden, and leisure activities are controlled through strict rules. Orwell is also known to be heavily influenced by historical events. Perhaps, “1984” and “Animal Farm” are books which express Orwell’s thoughts and feelings towards totalitarianism during the time the texts were written in order to warn future readers of the dangers of tyrannical rule and dictatorship.

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Orwell wrote “1984” and “Animal Farm” as a general warning to the readers. He expresses his feelings towards others being involved or following a dictatorial government as he uses powerful leaders, manipulated victims and a dystopian setting to create a chaotic world and show how overall absolute power corrupts. Both books use authoritarian leaders to show an oppressed society, “Animal Farm” uses Napoleon, the leader of an animal rebellion on Manor Farm and “1984” uses Big Brother to publicise the party’s intentions to control society. In “1984” we are immediately introduced to the face of the party as Winston, the protagonist describes the posters as “the enormous face gazed from the wall”, “the eyes follow you about when you move” and “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” (Orwell, 1984, book 1, chapter 1, page 3). It shows how he is unable to escape the gaze of Big Brother; his life is restricted and oppressed. Orwell uses verbs such as “gazed”, “follow” and “watching” to create a semantic field of monitorisation suggesting that individuals are stripped of their identity and are repressed into acting and behaving in ways the dictatorial government wants them to in order to stay in power. Orwell uses an unseen governmental force in order to strike fear upon society which perhaps could suggest a parallel ideological perspective of our own society, it is used to resemble the power and control of the party as the citizens are intimidated by something which is unknown and kept unidentified. Possibly, Orwell was influenced by Soviet propaganda at the time as posters were used to control and brainwash the public. It may be a critic of the types of governments he saw emerging and gaining power and he wrote the dystopian novel in order to warn future readers and the audience at the time it was published. Norman Podhoretz states “Orwell’s ruling passion was the fear and hatred of totalitarianism” this highlights Orwell’s desire to write about problems of an oppressed society due to a totalitarian dictatorship as he is influenced by political problems at the time and he may have wanted to discuss his thoughts by writing a dystopian novel. Further into the novel, chilling words are spoken by O’Brien “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face- forever’ (Orwell, 1984, book 3, chapter 3, page 280) to show the merciless act the party is committing in order to gain domination and power over its citizens. It suggests that inflicting pain and torture is the only way to gain absolute power, the only feelings left to feel in society is fear and distress but also anger and frustration. The use of the active verb “stamping” conveys the idea that when a weaker person suffers an individual is able to assert power over another showing the dictatorial government as torturous and pure evil. Similarly, “Animal Farm” uses dogs to show power and create intimidation, unlike Big Brother, the dogs are a physical force used to strike fear upon the other animals. The “nine enormous dogs” are described to be “wearing brass-studded collars” and having “snapping jaws” (Orwell, Animal Farm, chapter 5) , outlining Napoleon’s violent expulsion of Snowball from the farm which could perhaps parallel the tension between Stalin and Trotsky. The dogs are used to enforce his supremacy and manipulation, deception is used in order to build power and control, perhaps they are symbolic of the KGB, Stalin’s bodyguards as they constantly protect their leader and superior. The pre-modifiers “enormous” and “brass-studded” create intimidation, power and overt violence, showing Napoleon’s tactics as authoritarian and creating a dystopian setting. Highlighting the deterioration of the farm from being a place of equality to a place of betrayal and oppression. This is further shown by the sheep as they “burst out into a tremendous bleating of- ‘Four legs good, two legs better!”” (Orwell, Animal Farm). The juxtaposition creates irony as the pigs have formed a dictatorial authority and they now repress the animals instead of the humans repressing them; creating a dystopian novella. The semantic satiation of the sheep eventually leads to the phrase having a lack of meaning to the animals as they are repressed into accepting the pigs as leaders and they are forced to live on the farm with a hierarchal society; showing the lack of meaning as either way the animals will be oppressed into work . V.C Letemendia, a critic stated “The pigs are ultimately the most absurd of all the farm animals, for they are attempting to assume a human identity which cannot belong to them” suggesting that the actions of the pigs are preposterous and illogical as they are adapting to have human qualities which is somewhat impossible due to their animalistic appearance and instincts. However, it could be said that they were influenced by the humans to act this way and therefore they are not ‘absurd’ as that they have been taught to act violently and aggressively in order to gain power and control. This therefore could justify their actions as they have once been oppressed by humans creating their desire to oppress others in society. Perhaps, Orwell was influenced by 1940’s Russia as the novel reflects the events during the Stalin era up to World War 2 and the characterisation of Napoleon parallels with Stalin’s personality and actions. Possibly, the novel is mockery of the communist state of Russia and a general warning to the public of totalitarianism. Orwell uses fictional characters (animals) and a storyline based on politics to emphasise on the genre of political science and fiction in order to show the dangers of a hierarchical society. Therefore, both “1984” and “Animal Farm” uses a dystopia and tyrannical leaders to present a warning to readers about an oppressed society, propaganda is used to manipulate and control the public for the dictatorial authority to stay in power.

In “1984” and “Animal Farm” present a central theme of total faithfulness by using vulnerable characters whom easily obey to the rules of a totalitarian government; throughout the texts we see that victimisation is always current in those who are weaker. Ultimately, the weaker characters are still oppressed in society, but they are just able to accept their leaders and support them. The weaker characters may seem simple and unimportant, they are indeed crucial to the story as they show how a believer of the dictatorial government are treated and impacted by the events. In “1984” The Parsons are extremely convenient as they are the total embodiment of the mindset of the party members. Tom Parsons is passionately devoted to the party and his children are supporters; his family is the epitome of a perfect family. Orwell shows that the children are willing to betray their own father in order to gain support and respect from The Party “She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying and nipped off to the patrols the very next day.” followed with “I don’t bear her any grudge for it. In fact, I’m proud of her.” This suggests that The Parsons are so overcome with appreciation and love for The Party, they are even willing to hand in their own family to feel worthy and important in the oppressed society. The use of the repeated possessive pronoun “her” suggests the father’s proudness of his daughter and how the societal rules are significantly more important than a bond between them; it highlights how children work as an extra surveillance force for The Party. Orwell perhaps, wrote The Parsons as representation of the middle class, demonstrating how basic society has been destroyed and everted to have more traditional values and restrictions. During 1948, families were rarely intact with divorce and children were very respectful to their parents; it was growing. Therefore, presenting a family in such chaos contrasts with the futuristic portrayal of a typical middle-class family. A soviet journal pravada stated “In describing a most monstrous future in store for man, he imputed every evil to the people’ suggesting that the impact of a dictatorial government leads to complete evil, creating a dystopia. As the daughter betrayed her father this action highlights how all individuals were easily manipulated to go against their own family in order to gain respect. The verb phrase “nipped off to the patrols” suggests that going to the patrols is generalised and you are expected to go against anyone whom has broken the rules of the tyrannical government. The colloquialism shows the father’s lack of care towards the actions of his daughter as he believes it is justified and he appreciates her willingness to support The Party. Similarly,” Animal Farm” explores the theme of faithfulness through the characterisation of Boxer, A hardworking, strong and loyal horse whom is easily manipulated by his leader Napoleon due to his stupidity and vulnerability. The repetition of “I will work harder” highlights Boxer’s determination to impress his leader Napoleon, this later foreshadows his downfall when he is taken away to the knacker to be what we think slaughtered as he has become weak due to working for the rebellion and the pigs. In conjunction with the repetition of “Napoleon is always right” shows his loyalty towards the leader, emphasising on the betrayal of Napoleon to Boxer. Therefore, suggesting that supporting a tyrannical dictator will eventually lead to the downfall of others; creating a dystopia for the other animals. The adverb “always” reflects Boxer’s naivety, he is the strongest animal on the farm but the most simple-minded. Perhaps, Orwell was influenced to write Boxer as a symbol of the Russian working class (proletariat). It could be possible that Orwell blames the working class for being responsible to Stalin’s rise to power as the pigs would not have been this powerful without the help of Boxer, this shown through his anti-Soviet satire. George Soule, a critic stated, “But these spontaneous creatures seem in action like circus animals performing mechanically to the crack of the story-teller’s whip.”, suggesting that Orwell purposely gave the characters vivid personalities in order to create distress throughout the novel as these faithful creatures are used in order to present Orwell’s thoughts on totalitarianism. The emotive description of Boxer whilst he is “toiling up the slope inch by inch, his breath coming fast, the tips of his hoofs clawing at the ground, and his great sides matted with sweat” suggests that his loyalty will forever be with Napoleon as he is constantly motivated to support and work for him. The verbs “toiling” and “clawing” create sympathy as ultimately his stupidity leads to his downfall which emphasises on victimisation as a tyrannical dictator will manipulate the vulnerable individuals as it allows them to gain power and control easily. Therefore, both “1984” and “Animal Farm” present a theme of victimisation as they portray characters who are weak minded and so they are simply manipulated by their leader to labour.

In both “1984” and “Animal Farm” it is present that the idea of individuality and freedom of thought has been abolished, there is a lack of individuality due to being in an oppressed society under the rule of a totalitarian leader. As an act of stripping society from having any sense of identity many rebel or revolt in secretive ways as they fear the consequences. In “1984” Winston fantasises about Julia “a single movement she tore off her clothes and flung them disdainfully aside” and “Her body was white and smooth”. The freedom of thought allows Winston to escape the oppression from The Party and he can rebel against The Party’s rule. This shows that Winston is so sexually repressed he is willing to transgress The Party; his freedom to love has been so restricted that he can only imagine what it is like to love again. Perhaps, Orwell wrote Winston to be an average person, so it was easier for the reader to identify him as some much of his individuality had already been taken from him in the novel. Having him as an every-man character allows the reader to somewhat connect with him even if he has a plain and ordinary personality. Daniel Beel, a critic from 1949 stated “A human society stripped of the last shreds of community’ this shows that because society has a lack of freedom to think, feel or communicate, they are unable to connect with each other. The lack of identity throughout the individuals prevents them from being able to sympathise with one another and therefore they are unable to form a community where they feel safe and not oppressed. Eventually, Winston is punished for his crimes as his head is placed in a cage with rats however, before the rats reach him “he came out of the blackness clutching an idea”, “He must interpose another human being, the body of another human being, between himself and the rats” showing that power as well as using physical torture it also uses phycological torture as it strikes fear upon the individual. Winston finally breaks due to amount of fear he feels, showing that ultimately psychological torture is more powerful than rebellion; emphasising that The Party has stripped every aspect of individuality from Winston as he even fears to think about Julia. Similarly, in “Animal Farm” Orwell emphasises on the loss of individuality and identity however, he presents this through a motif of hopes and dreams. “All year the animals worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work.” (Orwell, Animal Farm, Chapter 6) this shows that the animals appreciate working for the pigs as it helps them achieve their goal of creating a utopia however, a modern audience would perhaps see this as a dystopia as forced labour has connotations of captivity and punishment; the animals believe if they stop working the utopia will cease to exist. The simile “worked like slaves” foreshadows the destruction of the windmill during ‘The Battle of the Windmill’ as the animals have worked in order to create a utopia but ultimately it is destroyed due to the tension between the humans and the pigs. When the Windmill is destroyed so has the animals’ hopes and dreams, emphasising on the loss of identity. The Windmill could possibly represent the infrastructure constructions projects that soviet leaders instituted immediately after the Russian Revolution. The animals continue to believe that the Windmill benefits all animals when realistically it only helps the pigs gain more power and further allows them to manipulate the animals to work more. Kathleen Elkins stated “The idea expressed is that wealth and integrity cannot coexist” suggesting honesty cannot exist in an oppressed society while power and control is present in a tyrannical dictator; the Pigs will forever manipulate the animals. “Animal Farm and “1984” both present a theme of loss of identity however, “1984” shows this through a sense of rebellion whereas “Animal Farm” presents this through a motif of hopes and dreams.

In conclusion, “Animal Farm” and “1984” by George Orwell have very similar approaches of an oppressed society under totalitarian rule, he explores the impact of a tyrannical dictator manipulating its people in order to gain power and control. He shows this through dystopian elements such as rebellion, torture, manipulation, vulnerability and control. Orwell was extremely influenced by historical events and therefore his novels present his personal views and opinions through a set of unusual characters and a storyline that has a particularly bad ending; therefore creating a dystopia.     


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