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One example of a question that could lead to discussion and controversy would be how the political control of Big Brother is relevant to the modern setting. It is easy to dismiss Orwell's work as something that exists only in Oceania, that it means nothing today because we are "free." A good discussion point would be to examine how government is able to use the elements of control and repression in order to advance their own political agenda. Is government monitoring of personal web browsing habits or the expansion of government intrusion into phone call listening elements that Big Brother would appreciate? Essentially, is the way in which citizens today understand the need to sacrifice some personal liberties in "the war on terror" similar to the perpetual state of war in which Oceania is immersed? This would instigate healthy and reflective discussion.
Another point of discussion that could be very healthy would be to examine the role of schooling in Oceania and in the modern setting. In Oceania, children are bred to "love" the Party. Their schooling is controlled by the Party. It has moved to a particular point that children have no problem turning in their parents in accordance to the Party's wishes. Here, again, examining the presence of centralized government's control of education might be enlightening. High stakes standardized initiatives such as No Child Left Behind has created a very governmental approach to teaching and learning. Centralized governmental authority in the realm of education can be a challenging notion. Examining how governmental authority in education influences children and to what extent modern governmental control influences education today can result in some interesting debate.
I think that another question that can be seen in the early part of the novel to initiate debate is the fundamental role of human freedom. Winston depicts a world in which individuals have been relegated to having no power. The Party has done its best to suppress all individual control and power. This is a condition of being that can be debated. Is human freedom something undeniable? At some point, do authoritarian structures crumble? South African Apartheid, as strong and dominant as it seemed, fell apart. Soviet- style Communism withered. Even dictators like Qadaffi were toppled. All of these systems broke down, in large part, to public mobilization and the undeniable presence and sacrifice that comes with individual voice. Winston depicts a world in which this voice is silenced. Debating whether voice can be silenced, in general, might be another interesting and illuminating topic as it brings out the understanding of the world and our place in it.
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