Could I please have some help looking at the destruction of the individual in George Orwell's '1984' and Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale'? The question is 'Dystopian literature has been...

Could I please have some help looking at the destruction of the individual in George Orwell's '1984' and Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale'? The question is 'Dystopian literature has been characterised as fiction that presents totalitarian social control leading to the destruction of the individual'. I really need a smashing essay as this goes towards my final grade and I've recently been experiencing severe writer's block. Thank you! 

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

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Based on the statement above that, 'Dystopian literature has been characterised as fiction that presents totalitarian social control leading to the destruction of the individual', it is evident that this is exactly the gist of the novels ‘1984’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ I will take up each novel individually to show how each is a story about the suppression of the individual and their rights.

1984

In George Orwell's '1984', the power is with the totalitarian regimes. The individual has little, if any, power. The individual must conform to the dictates of the totalitarian system. In this system, in the book ‘1984’, “The Party” is in control in Oceania and issues its decrees, laws and such. The duty of humankind, according to The Party is to obey these issuances and to do so without complaint or uprisings.

The Party seeks to control individuals and therefore engages in continuing reconnaissance or surveillance of the populace. The core aspect of this novel is that Big Brother is always watching – therefore, one must always behave accordingly, or else face the wrath of the totalitarian system.

Individuals are pretty well forced to adapt to the ways of the regime for the sake of their own lives. They must defer to the system and not seek to promote their own agendas that conflict with the agendas of the totalitarian regime.

So it is precisely true that totalitarian social control leads to the destruction of the individual in this novel. To The Party, the populace is one big entity that must think and behave the same. Individualism that tries to question the regime is looked upon as an anathema by The Party. Winston Smith seeks to combat this, and this gives the novel its dramatic force.

The Handmaid’s Tale

In Canadian writer Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ the Republic of Gilead continually represses women. The government controls what women can and cannot do. Therefore, there is no freedom for the women to do what they feel is best for them. They, like individuals in ‘1984’, must adhere to what the government has planned for them.

In this novel, women are slotted into diverse classes. One of these classes is the handmaids who are responsible for bearing children. However, these women do not keep these children as their own. These children are given to women deemed suitably moral – and the government decides who these women are – no freedom to keep the children is bestowed on the handmaids from this harsh government. The children end up in the hands of the privileged in this society.

As a result, women are suppressed. Their opinion means little. Their agendas are also suppressed so that they conform to the will of the leaders of the Republic of Gilead. Like the novel ‘1984’, surveillance is used to control the handmaids. ‘The Eyes’, which is the state secret police, keeps continual tabs on the handmaids to control them. Individuality is quashed so that the aims of the totalitarian government can be realized unhindered.

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