What major ideas about human nature and government does Orwell communicate in the novel?Specific quote please! Thanks!

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timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I think his ideas about government are very simple:  a government will take as much power as we, the people, will give them.  If we're not careful, they will take it all.  The founders of our country were keenly aware of this.


"... God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950)

"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."  Thomas Jefferson

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."  George Washington

A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicity.  Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address.

There are many more such quotes, but they point to the reality that Orwell was only too aware of.  Orwell seemed to sense our willingness to trade in our freedom for security, and we were warned about this a long time ago by Benjamin Franklin:

"Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

It is clear that the Founding Fathers were interested in protecting US from the government (Orwell's government?), since they had just fought a war to free themselves from tyranny.

Many more thoughts of the founders are available at the ite below.

akannan's profile pic

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

Posted on

Orwell's major link between human nature and government is one predicated upon power, control, and submission.  The vision he gives of government and human nature can be seen in this quote:

"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."

In this particular quote, human nature is seen as something that is not to be trusted.  Government is not a vessel that allows human expression to be fostered.  Rather it is an institution that must be rooted in the notion of control and the exercise of power.  The mere title of "thought police" shows that human nature is something that cannot be trusted and should not be fostered under any circumstance.  Any personal expression has to be channeled through the state and only the notions of identity that are convergent with state goals can be permitted.  Human nature and free will are seen as elements that must be fed to the larger, collective entity, notions that have to be controlled.  There is a disbelief in the authenticity of human nature, in the goodness of human actions when it exists outside of the state apparatus.  In this vision, human nature is something to dominated by power and must not subvert the institutional framework under any circumstance.

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