During his final encounter with O'Brien, Winston argues that, if all else fails, the inherent nature of the individual—the "spirit of man"—is strong enough to undermine a society such as that...

During his final encounter with O'Brien, Winston argues that, if all else fails, the inherent nature of the individual—the "spirit of man"—is strong enough to undermine a society such as that created by The Party. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? Is Winston's belief applicable to the world we live in today? Cite examples in recent history that support or refute Winston's belief in the resiliency and righteousness of the human spirit? 

Asked on by kshiro648

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

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

Posted on

I think that Winston is absolutely correct in that the "spirit of man" possesses the strength to undermine authority and that this can be seen in the modern setting.

Prior to speaking of the "spirit of man" concept, Winston details how the vision of total power that the Party believes it has is not entirely accurate. The totalizing idea of control that the Party seeks is impossible: "No. I believe it. I know that you will fail. There is something in the universe -- I don't know, some spirit, some principle -- that you will never overcome."  Winston speaks vaguely. However, I think that Orwell is deliberate in this ambiguity. The Party might wish to exert totalizing power that covers all human beings like a thick blanket. Yet, Winston speaks of "something" that will lie beyond the reach of the Party.  I think that this might be where one of the most redemptive portions of the text lies, something not immediately associated with 1984.

This "spirit" can be seen in the modern setting. One such example is in Afghanistan with organizations such as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). RAWA is dedicated to fighting repressive fundamentalism in Afghanistan. Any organization that actively speaks out agains the Taliban is a modern example of the "spirit of" humanity that Winston articulates. Like the Party, the Taliban seeks to control through silencing voices. However, try as they might, they cannot stop this organization from getting its message out. While women are still brutalized under Taliban rule, RAWA represents how the desire to be heard is representative of "the spirit of man."

A similar example from the same region can be found in the life of Malala Yousafzai. Speaking out against the Taliban in defense of education for girls, she  survived being shot in the head. She has gone on to be an advocate of women's rights in the region and, in doing so, embodies what it means to be "something" that oppressive forces cannot overcome.

It can be argued that social and political movements like the Arab Spring is an example of resistance in the face of overwhelming control. In Arab Spring, Mohamed Bouazizi was a fruit vendor who had felt he had enough. He lit himself on fire in the hopes of bringing attention to what he felt was abuses of political power. Anyone who embraces self- immolation is an example of Winston's "spirit of man."  It represents a commitment to one's beliefs that cannot be controlled by a totalizing power.  Bouazizi's actions resulted in large scale change throughout the region.  One person's actions changed many lives and transformed nations. Such an idea proves that Winston was right and that political and social structures like The Party can be undermined.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,928 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question