Saturday, 5 March 2011

Parsons: More than just a simple character

On the surface, Tom Parsons is a simple character.  As a reader, we do not get to know him on a personal level.  All we know about him is that he is a fervent believer in the doctrine of Big Brother and that his daughter turns him in to the Thought Police.  He is also, according to Winston, fat and sweats copious amounts.  However, he is crucial to the story in that he is the embodiment of the mindset of the Party members.  He is fervently devoted to Big Brother, a fact which Winston despises him for.  His entire family is the model of a perfect family: a son and a daughter who are ardent supporters of Big Brother and who are Spies.    Parsons also fits the ideals of Big Brother in that he constantly leads community hikes and activities, and is the treasurer for his block for Hate Week.  His doublethink is beyond reproach, as he follows the sudden change of enemy in the war without missing a beat.  Living conditions are by our modern standards horrible, but Parsons does not complain.  When he is turned into the Thought Police, he is grateful that he is caught before he causes any damage to the Party society.  He is even proud of his daughter for having the intelligence to turn him in.  All in all, Parsons is the embodiment of Big Brother's ideal Outer Party member.
Despite Parsons' portrayal as the embodiment of a loyal member of the Party population, he also provides the reader with hope for the fall of Big Brother.  At the end of the novel Orwell reveals that Parsons is turned into the Thought Police by his daughter for muttering “Down with Big Brother” in his sleep.  At least subconsciously, Parsons is not the perfect party member that he appears to be on the surface.  By writing such an end for Parsons, Orwell is suggesting that no matter how tight a tyrant’s grip on the population may seem, the population will always find a way to improve their lives.  After all, if Parsons, the model citizen of Oceania, subconsciously rebels against Big Brother, who could say that every single citizen of Oceania is not opposed to Big Brother’s rule?  This supposition, paired with the notion that the Appendix is written in the past tense, leads the reader to come to the conclude that Big Brother’s fall is eminent.  Parsons' friendliness towards Winston not only provides another aspect to Parsons' character, but also adds hope to the otherwise gloomy novel.  Despite Winston hatred towards Parsons, Parsons has always been friendly towards Winston.  Parsons even reprimands his own children, the apples of his eye, for having shot at Winston with a slingshot.  This seems to surpass the camaraderie expected between fellow citizens of Oceania.  Given Parson’s attitude towards Winston, one might start to think that friendship is possible under Big Brother’s rule.  All in all, despite Parsons’s apparent adherence to Big Brother’s doctrines, he is a symbol of hope for the end in the reign of the Party.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Loyalty / Betrayal: Explain how both emerge in the novel.

The development of the relationship between Winston and Julia is founded on the concepts of loyalty and individual betrayal. From the beginning of their relationship, the two recognize that their relationship will end with torture, betrayal, and death.  No other alternative is possible.  This only serves to strengthen the pair’s loyalty to each other, as they imagine themselves dying an idealized death of a martyr, loving each other until the end.  This sentiment is depicted in Winston’s statement: “I don’t mean confessing.  Confession is not betrayal.  What you say or do doesn’t matter: only feelings matter.  If they could make me stop loving you – that would be the real betrayal,” (173) and Julia’s refusal to believe that the Thought Police could ever stop her from loving him.  However, at the end of the novel, Winston betrays Julia.  In effect, he commits the greatest betrayal of all – he stops loving her.  By doing so, he not only betrays the Brotherhood and everything he ever believed in, but also betrays Julia on a intimate, individual level.  Winston’s terror of rats outweighs his love for her.  We later learn that Julia allowed her fear to outweigh her love for him as well.  Their love for each other was overpowered by their greatest fear.  All in all, Winston and Julia’s character development is based as much on individual betrayal as it is on loyalty and love.

Just as Julia and Winston’s relationship is determined by the concepts of loyalty and betrayal, the population’s relation with Big Brother is thus determined as well.  The Party is fiercely loyal to Big Brother.  Families are expected to allow loyalty to Big Brother to outweigh loyalty to any other person, be it son, daughter, mother, father, husband, or wife.  For example, Parsons is so loyal to the Party that he is glad to have been captured and brought to the Ministry of Love before he could do any harm to the Party.  Children frequently turn in their parents to the Thought Police, as they allow their love of Big Brother to tear apart their family.  Loyalty to the Party and to Big Brother is crucial to his reign, and betrayal is equally important to the survival of the Party.  The slightest infringement against the doctrine of Big Brother is punished swiftly and harshly.   As previously stated, betrayal of family members is not only commonplace, but encouraged by the government.  Betrayal of a fellow comrade allows the Party to purge the population of dissidents.  Also, in order to follow the Party, one must betray themselves by using doublethink.  In order to doublethink, one must unconsciously forget and remember conflicting information.  This is a betrayal in that you cannot formulate a true opinion about events while being essentially brainwashed by the government.  In this way, the Party repays its members’ loyalty with betrayal.  In brief, Big Brother is reliant on both his people’s loyalty and their individual betrayals to each other in order to remain in power.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Power: What is power within the book? In your opinion what makes a person powerful?

In the dystopian society of Oceania in George Orwell's novel 1984, power over the mind and power over the past are both necessary to ensure power over the population.  Striving to control the past is demonstrated by the party slogan "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”  Here, the Party promulgates the idea that whatever government is in power at a given time has the power to control everything that is, everything that was, and everything that ever will be.  The Party creates the illusion of its own immortality by claiming that it has always been right, is always right and will always be right by falsifying the records of the past.  By doing this, the population perceives that resistance is futile, and submits completely to the power of the Party.  Control of the past therefore ensures the survival of the Party.  Power over the mind of the population is also crucial to ensure the Party’s complete control.  The Party uses fear and intimidation to control the minds of its population. Surveillance is used to ensure that no deviation from Big Brother’s doctrine can take place.  This surveillance gives the Party a god-like appearence in that the Party seems to be all-knowing and ever-watching for your sins.  This changes the entire perception of the Party.  The Party essentially brainwashes its population through the skewed education it provides children (The Spies, Juniour Anti-Sex League) and through the malleability of the past under its' rule.  Self-control of the mind, in the form of “doublethink,” is also vital to the survival of the Party.  It allows the public to willingly accept all lies that the Party may disseminate.  This allows the Party to mutate the past and impose its hypocritical, contradictory values on the population.  All in all, power over the past and power over the mind are crucial to the survival of the power of the Party.

In order to be considered powerful a person must be in the possession of several qualities and attributes.  First and foremost, a person must be confident in themselves, and appear to be without doubt in their decisions.  In the novel, the Brotherhood represents self-doubt, as they deviate from the purpose of the entity that is Oceania.  The confidence of the Party is demonstarted by the "vapourization" of the dissidents.  The Party could not survive without the full support of each and every one of its members, which explains why heretics are tortured before they are killed.  Without the torture, the Brotherhood members would never submit to the ideals of the Party.  However, after the torture, the heretics embrace the Party's ideals wholeheartedly.  Secondly, in order to be truly powerful, one must have influence.  Sheer confidence is not enough to be powerful; one must actually be able to shape events in order to merit the description.  The actions of the Party leaders affect war strategy, the rations of the population, and the daily lives of each and every citizen of Oceania.  The Party goes one step further though, by actually changing history.  The Party is truly powerful in that it can influence the present, the past and the future.  Thirdly, in order to stay in power, one must appear to be compassionate.  Compassions implies a connectionwith the people and empathy for their situation.  If the ruler does not appear compassionate, people would be unlikely to support him, because they would perceive that the ruler would not have their best interests at heart and would be out of touch with what their lives are like.  Though Winston sees through the actions of Big Brother, the vast majority of the Party population thinks that whatever the Party leaders do, be it a wartime strategy, or cutting the ration of chocolate, it is in the best interest of the population.  Even Big Brother’s name creates the illusion of a compassionate, caring, approachable leader that is a memeber of your own family.  Even if it is not a compassionate system, the appearance of compassion renders the Party powerful.  All in all, one must be confident, influential, and compassionate in order to be powerful.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Government: What is Orwell trying to say about the state of England through this novel? Who is Big Brother?

Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the community as a whole should own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange; (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism (The Canadian Oxford Dictionary); the abolition of hierarchy (Wikipedia).

Orwell’s political views and his opinions of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) are apparent in many ways throughout the novel.  Firstly, he believed that politicians by nature lie, which he demonstrates by writing “But actually, he thought as he readjusted the Ministry of Plenty’s figures, it was not even forgery.  It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another," (43).  This reference to the Ministry of Truth’s actions of editing the past and lying about the present is symbolic of the lying that Orwell feels the ILP does on a regular basis.  In INGSOC, the disparity between the three classes – Inner Party, Outer Party, and Proles – does not actually fit with the principles of socialism.  In socialism, the population would be approximately equal.  This is yet another reference to how far the ILP strayed from the fundamental values of socialism.  Implied in the concept of socialism are the ideas of self-governance and the abolishment of hierarchical government.  This obviously is not the case in 1984, where the population has no voice in their government and they are ruled by a tyrannical leader, Big Brother, who purposefully keeps 85% of the population living in extreme poverty.  Lastly, all of the political manoeuvrings of the Party are for the sole purpose of staying in power.  One of Orwell's chief complaints with the ILP was that they abandonned their fundamental values in order to stay in power.  Orwell's dissatisfaction with the Independent Labour Party is apparent in 1984.

Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party government.  He is seen by Party members to be a protective, father-like figure who wages war on their behalf in order to protect them.  His wisdom is seen to be so great that he can accurately predict anything and everything.  He portrays himself as a compassionate individual who cares only for the well-being of his fellow Party members, while in reality he is quite simply a tyrant.  In order to make it appear as if he is always right, he has history rewritten again and again.  Surveillence measures put in place by him invade the privacy of Party members.  Party members are so excessively monitored that the slightest eye twitch, facial expression or whispered utterance is recorded.  If a Party member does not conform completely and utterly to the doctrines of Big Brother, that person is "vapourized" -  tortured, sent to a forced labour camp, or killed, their very existence wiped clean from history.  In order to ensure the survival of his hierarchical system of government, he keeps 85% of the population in poverty and wages a state of continuous war against his neighbouring countries, killing innocent people in the process.  Despite all this information about Big Brother's actions, as a reader, one never gets to know him on a personal level.  As Goldstein says in his book, The Theory and Practise of Oligarchical Collectivism, "Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself in the world."  Combining this statement with Goldstein's earlier statement that Big Brother has never actually been seen, Big Brother's very existence comes into doubt.  It would make strategic sense for the Party to create a single, fictional figure to head the Party.  People as a general rule would be more likely to trust a single figure than they would an organization.  All in all, Big Brother is the tyrannical embodiment of the Party government, but his very existence as a flesh-and-blood person is doubtful.