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Propose an argument as to why we should continue studying 1984 by George Orwell.

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stmark | eNoter

Posted September 22, 2013 at 11:06 AM via web

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Propose an argument as to why we should continue studying 1984 by George Orwell.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 22, 2013 at 8:15 PM (Answer #2)

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Here is a more critical, and somewhat satiric, perspective that can be taken as an argument for continuing to read 1984:

  • Big Brother

One needs only to listen to the news and political commentaries to hear people allude to this novel. In fact, it would seem that 1984 is fast becoming a handbook with the tremendous growth and intrusiveness of governmental bureaucracies into the lives of U.S. citizens. The news is replete with reports of the National Security Administration's recording of phone conversations with the cooperation of A T & T, the IRS's targeting of certain political groups, etc.

  • Thought Police

The "Thought Police" are at work as citizens are being villified for expressing certain opinions that not "politically correct," even to the point of losing jobs and business contracts. Also, as in 1984, children report their parents to authorities for things that they have said and done. Some of the "Thought Police" are teaching on the college campuses. For instance, a leftist professor at Michigan State University, who teaches creative writing--not political science--lectured to his first day students in an anti-Republican rant, contending that Republicans want to prevent "black people" from voting. Further, he described Republicans as "a bunch of dead white people--or dying white people" [http://tinyurl.com/Ive4te7]. This professor received MSU's Distinguished Faculty Award in 2003, so he must be acting appropriately for the college and its ideologies. Another professor at the University of California has the same opinion in his classroom. Last fall, he ranted that Republicans are "stupid and racist" and "the last vestige of antry old white people" [http://tinyrl.com185khtk].

  • The Ministry of Truth

Certainly, the Ministry of Truth has been at work in the recent political and international conversations about the debacle of Benghazi, as well as the scandals of the IRS and NSA, and the chemical weapons situation in Syria as figures of government have said things, contradicted themselves in "Doublespeak," or perjured themselves in official hearings. There are many connected to the Benghazi Scandal who have been prohibited from talking. In addition, recent scientific reports conclude that the affect of carbon dioxide emissions from coal and other human manufactured emissions is negligible in inducing global warming. Yet the government continues to argue against coal production, oil pipelines, etc.

Orwell's warnings about Communism need to be read with the new threats of the likes of Putin and the burgeoning ideals of bigger government (Stalin had a huge government with many bureaucracies) and the renewed ideas of "sharing the wealth"--e.g. the Take Down Wall Street protests.

  • Doublespeak

There have been any number of politicians who have said contradictory things in contemporary times. Recently however, the "Red line" that the president drew became the "red line" that the world drew. In an interview in the past, a reporter asked a question in a press conference seven months ago, and received this answer, "This isn't a politics of the moment, this has to do with what we can do now" [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfZTT0JP5EQ] Political cartoons abound with jabs at this "doublespeak." Chicago Trbune's "Cartoon gallery" of 14 September 2013 has several, for instance.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:12 PM (Answer #1)

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While the Cold War is over and the world has embraced globalization as opposed to fascism, a reader who picks up 1984and begins to absorb the ideas in the book will find themselves fundamentally transformed.  While the exact political context in which Orwell writes his book might not be present today, what Orwell says is still relevant.  This relevance is justification as to why we should continue to study 1984.

The preservation of the private in the face of the encroaching public is one reason why1984still needs to be studied.  The power of "Big Brother" is symbolic of a condition in which individual rights are absorbed by an external force that seeks to control.  In the modern setting, that could be seen as the world of globalization, a condition that so many blindly accept and do little in terms of questioning.  It could also be a dependence on technology where individuals willingly post in a public forum so much that is private.  The idea of individuals so easily sacrificing their private worlds into that which is public is something that Orwell would find terrifying.  We still have instances where private citizens are monitored by public entities. All of these demonstrate that the battle Winston was fighting in terms of seeking to establish a realm of privacy in an ever encroaching realm of the public was a worthy one in the novel and a relevant one in the modern setting.  This is one reason why 1984 should continue to be studied.

Another reason why 1984should be studied because it reaffirms the theme of individual and society.  This is a condition in which the reader absorbs what Winston endures and reflectively apply it to their own being.  Through Winston's narrative, the work advocates the need to remain an individual in a world that seeks to control and create homogeneity.  The most basic way to see Winston's struggle is to see a man seeking to be the agent of his own world.  For readers who find themselves battling with issues of conformity and individual identity, 1984is a loud call to fight conformity through the voice of dissent at all costs.  After reading the final pages in which a gutted shell of a man sits at the bar, the opposite is not something anyone would wish to choose.

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