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1984 presents Orwell's vision of a dystopia and warns us of the dangers of totalitarianism, oppressive governments, propaganda, and thought control. His dystopia had an oppressive, tyrranical government who sought to squish individual thought, choice, and action. Through the Ministry of Love, Ministry of War, and the Ministry of Truth, Big Brother is able to make the inhabitants of 1984 conform to his wishes.
Specifically he is warning us to be aware of the potential for a civilization becoming like Oceania's. 1984 is a lesson in control. Society, the mind, the individual, constant war, marriage--they are all controlled. There is no freedom in 1984, everything is for the good and advancement of the party. If we do not take risks, stand up for the good of society and for the individual's rights than we might experience a sort of 1984. This is what Orwell had in mind when writing the dystopic novel. He wanted to demonstrate just how bad things could get if we let it. He succeeds in this task considerably. He has journey along with Winston Smith as he subjected to espionage, mind control, O'Brien and the ministry of love.
In considering what Orwell is warning us about in 1984, we should consider the context in which the novel was written. Published on the heels World War II, the novel is concerned with the dangers of government control. Orwell had just seen Hitler attempt to subjugate much of Europe and Stalin consolidate oppressive power in Russia. The possibility of government domination was not a fantasy, it was a reality.
Orwell combines the threat of government oppression with the potential for emerging technology to be used to control society. At this time, radio was still a relatively new invention, and television was being developed but was not yet commercially viable. Orwell saw these technologies as something that governments could use as surveillance tools to monitor their citizens. In the novel, Winston Smith and Julia are constantly on guard—worried about being listened to or seen. Virtually every house and building had telescreens that could both see and project images.
Orwell knew the potential for technology to be used to control others. It was not being used that way yet, at least not in the way or to the extent that Orwell describes in the book. But he was right—look at how many surveillance cameras there are now—intersections, buildings, etc. are under increasingly greater observation all the time. Orwell knew what he was talking about, and his vision has been slowly coming true for the past 70 years. That doesn’t mean that we will be living the life described in 1984, but the more vigilant we are in protecting our rights, the more freedom we will be able to hang on to. Orwell would certainly agree with that.
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