What is the society of 1949 present or absent in Orwell's 1984?

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

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I think that the fundamental question as to how the world following World War II will look drives Orwell's work.  Certainly, there is the ever present fear of consolidated and centralized government.  This was something that Orwell automatically understood with the Soviet Union.  Not only was he committed against Stalin in his political actions, Orwell's literary background included the satire, Animal Farm, which directly attacked Soviet- style Communism as a dictatorship where the few govern the many.  This is the government of Big Brother in Orwell's 1984.  Yet, this fear is also present in how Orwell viewed the United States.  The fact that the world was only being led by the United States represented consolidated power in the hands of one nation that could easily be maniuplated into self- serving ends.  In this, the critique of television and technology is evident.  Orwell understood that in the hands of a consolidated government driven to centralize everything including the basic elements of human experience, technology such as television could be used as a form of coopting human action for state sanctioned ends.  The world that Orwell is writing about is one in which this fear is not easily quelled and one that drives both the society Orwell writes about in his book and the one he exists in as he writes it.  Finally, I would suggest the idea of using war as a means to keep and control power is something that Orwell recognizes after World War II.  Orwell does not seem to be of the mindset that the Second World War would serve to finish off the concept of war.  Rather, he believes that the emergence of the superpowers and the advent and use of the nuclear bomb are elements that will continue to feed the desire for war as a way to keep and control the populace.   This is evident in Orwell's world and while it is not a direct fear that manifests itself in the 1949 society, it is an element that Orwell believes is something that could happen and could be seen as a political opportunity by centralized governments who are working against the interests of individual voice and world peace.


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