|Big Brother, Please Censor Yourself
Author: Miss Badwolf PM
An analysis of George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984, for my English lite class. Covers the themes of the book and its lasting effect on society.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 1,341 - Published: 02-15-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3101264
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Nineteen Eighty-Four: Dear Big Brother, Please Censor Yourself
The dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (usually abbreviated to simply 1984 for convenience) by English writer George Orwell, originally published in 1949, tells the story editor Winston Smith and his seemingly private resistance against Oceania, the totalitarian state in which he lives. Originally, the novel was to be named The Last Man In Europe, later changed by Orwell on the suggestion of his editor; the reasons behind the current and final title are unknown, and many theories exist. ["Background Information for George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four."] 1984 has been one of the most frequently challenged novels of modern times. It holds the fifth place on Spacious Planet's list of the 21 Most Surprising Banned Books [Ally], and is currently ninth on the ALA's list of Banned and/or Challenged Books; previously, between 1965 and 1982, it ranked fifth for being "immoral and pro-communist." ["Banned and Challenged Classics."] The novel expands upon the topics of Orwell's 1945 essay "Notes on Nationalism," such as obsession, instability, indifference to reality, and communism. [Orwell] These topics, along with sexual repression, futurology, censorship, and surveillance, are the driving themes of the critical, essential novel 1984.
The 20th and 21st centuries are those of war, terrorism, and increasing paranoia. Terms like ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common usage; the governments' power over their subjects was put into question, and people started fearing for their rights and privacy. It was no wonder that a novel like 1984 caused such a commotion; at the time, the very idea of Orwell's proposed dystopian future under a totalitarian government would have been terrifying and, moreover, possible. According to the blurb on deletecensorship, 1984 has been challenged numerous times due to communist and sexual content. This allegation has not been doubted, though the only recorded incident was in Jackson County, Florida in 1981 because the novel is "pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter" and on the claims of "anti-Semitism." [Penguin Classics][Harris] It was banned in the U.S.S.R. shortly after it was translated into Russian for "criticism of the Soviet regime." ["Banned Books List."]
George Orwell was famously anti-communist, a belief that is exhibited constantly throughout his works, and the idea that arguably his greatest novel could be pro- is absurd and ludicrous. Orwell's goal was always to show the world what could happen, not to glorify something he detested. As to the allegations of "explicit sexual content," there are a few passages in the novel that mention or allude to sex; however, it is in no way graphic, neither is it extreme, and the passages are essential to the plot. [Orwell] Perhaps the most explicit part is Julia calls herself a "rebel from the waist downwards," referring to her sexual promiscuity and tendency to have sex with high-ranking Party members. All other references to the sex act are made in passing, vague and insignificant except to further the theme of sexual repression. Oddly, the novel has also been challenged for being "anti-government" and "pro-communism" at the same time. [Baldassarro] This is a perfect example of the Orwellian concept of doublethink, with the novel challenged for being for a particular governmental form while also not supporting any government system. By arguing this point, the challenger was actually proving the necessity of the novel.
1984 has had an extensive, lasting effect on cultures world over, permanently cemented into history for mainstreaming phrases such as "Orwellian," "Room 101," "Big Brother," and "Newspeak." The themes and ideas of Orwell's frightening novel have infiltrated the day-to-day lexicon, appearing in and influencing literature, music, video games, television and movies, and comics. "Big Brother" has come to be a synonym for any prying or exceedingly controlling authority figures, especially the government and its attempts to increase surveillance on its citizens. The concept of "Room 101" features in the Doctor Who episode "The God Complex," an episode that also quoted the nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons." The title of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother is a direct reference to 1984's Big Brother, and the leitmotifs of surveillance and infringement on personal rights. The endorsed ruses, hush-hush surveillance, and everyday manipulations of the unspecified government became described by the new adjective Orwellian, something that persists to the here and now. George Orwell's revolutionary novel did not only mention the metaphorical and clichéd mastodon in the room—in this case, the fear of governmental authority—but aimed the spotlight, handed out flyers, and created the flashing neon sign that said THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE, CONSPIRACY HERE, FACE IT AND CONFRONT IT. His novel did more than make people think; more than that, it forced them to confront their worst fears, that they were not safe from the ones they chose to trust; it still does, an essential part of discovering oneself and one's beliefs. Even to the present day, Orwell's 1984 is used as a reference and template for questioning the extent of the government's influence over its subjects. As the world becomes more dependent on technology, and telescreens, video phones, and constant surveillance become more common, it wouldn't be a stretch to draw parallels between our world and Orwell's nightmare: the world seems to be at perpetual war, more and more people are living in poverty, and censorship is a very real threat to free thinking and free expression. It seems everywhere one looks, there is a security camera watching, recording our every moves; we are tracked by every move we make. There are GPSs in our phones and cars, credit and debit transactions are monitored, our patterns and habits are recorded and evaluated, and anything that seems suspicious can make one a target. There is nothing we can do about that, because the government has that power, and that is more than a little frightening.
This book should be required reading at the high school level. Nearly three decades since the year 1984 and six decades since its publication, the themes and ideas of Orwell's novel still ring with an ominous, resounding, au fait truth that cannot be disregarded because of petty concerns about topics freely available to anyone. The different forms of government are commonly taught in schools, and any mildly determined sixth grader with a smart phone can easily find pornography; the objections based on "pro-communist and sexual content" are unfounded and arbitrary. The only thing that is achieved by depriving students of this necessary novel is homage paid to Big Brother by attempting to control how and what they think. Ignorance is neither bliss nor strength, as 1984 suggests, but a nightmare that is all too real.
Ally. "The 21 Most Surprising Banned Books." Spacious Planet. N.p., 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. world/new/the-21-most-surprising-banned-books.
"Background Information for George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four." Background Information for Orwell's 1984 - George Orwell Links. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. . .
Baldassarro, R. Wolf. "Banned Books Awareness: "1984" | Banned Book Awareness." Banned Books Awareness. Deep Forest Productions, 17 July 2011. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. .edu/2011/07/17/banned-books-awareness-1984/.
"Banned and Challenged Classics." American Library Association. American Library Association, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedclassics.
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Harris, Jennie. "1984 by George Orwell." Squidoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. 1984.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 1977. Print.
Orwell, George. Notes on Nationalism. 1945. MS. George Orwell: "Notes on Nationalism" Web. 10 Oct. 2012. ~ .
"Penguin Classics (Australia)." Penguin Classics (Australia). Penguin Classics, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. . ?id=170.
This is an essay I wrote on George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four for my lit class. I just wanted to hear any feedback or get any advice.