The majority of thecitizenry, at least publicly, applauds
The Repressive Governments of Zamiatin’s We and Orwell’s 1984Benjamin BullochOutline: Thesis: Both Zamiatin’s We and Orwell’s 1984 have governments thatrepress actions and thoughts through the use of physical and psychological force.
I. Intro.II. We’s Government’s Use of Psychological Force A. Number system B. Sexual RegistrationIII.
1984’s Governments Use of Psychological Force A. Newspeak B. DoublethinkIV. Both Government’s Use of Physical Force A.
Torture of Winston B. Operation On FancyV. ConclusionThroughout time, people have wondered what happens when governmentgains complete control not only over people’s actions, but over the thoughtsthat precede them. Is it even possible to gain such omnipotence over humannature that human beings will renounce all individuality? If such a societycould exist, would human nature truly be conquered, or just subdued sufficientlythat the will of the few could be contorted into the will of the generalpopulation? The British author Eric Blair, better known by his pen name GeorgeOrwell, and the Russian born Eugene Zamiatin both attempt to address thesequestions in their respective books 1984 and We.
These novels depict, “. . . mechanized societies whose citizens aredeprived of freedom through physical and psychological conditioning.” (Bloom 17)The amazing thing about these civilizations is that the majority of thecitizenry, at least publicly, applauds the government’s totalitarian actions.
Both Zamiatin’s We and Orwell’s 1984 have governments that repress thought andaction through the use of physical and physiological force.One of the most visible ways the government of the United State is ableto control the thought and actions of its citizens is by the use and abuse of asystem by which each member of society receives a number at birth instead ofgiven a name (Goldstein 54). The numbers are assigned according to sex andoccupation. For example, D-503, the main character in We, is male, and is thusassigned a consonant for his prefix while his female partner, O-90, is assigneda vowel. As D-503 is an engineer, he receives a 5 as his first number.
Allstate poets such as O-90 have numbers under 100. (Zamiatin 46). This use ofnumbers instead of names creates a sense of unity and oneness of purpose in thecontented, complacent Numbers of the United State. “The most striking thingabout the Numbers’ “names”, is how easily they incorporate their assignment intotheir lives, and their contempt for the “old way” of naming.” (Gregg 549)The Numbers’ numbers are sewn onto their tunics called “unifs”, frontand back in large enough print that anyone, “.
. .up to one hundred meters awaycan read your Number from any direction.” (Zamiatin 123) While there are someadvantages to having your name known by everybody, such an innovation wouldcompletely rob one of any privacy they have.
This deprivation of privacy, andhow happy the people are about it, demonstrates exactly how the Well Doer isable to subtlety take away other rights.The most startling effect of the United State’s control of all actionsis their regulation governing the sexual act. “The United State, havingmathematically conquered hunger, directed its attack against the second ruler ofthe world, against love.” (Richards 547) The immortal Well Doer decreed overone thousand years prior to the current time of the novel that, “A Number mayobtain a permit to use any other Number as a sexual product.” (Zamiatin 22)This proclamation allowed any Number to file an application to enjoy theservices of another without their knowledge or consent. The Number wouldreceive a passbook by which he could visit the other Number and for fifteenminutes lower the curtains of his apartment.
The curtains normally stay wide open so that everyone can see inside atall times. Numbers are expected to watch each other for the most minute amountof impropriety, through the clear glass walls, floor, and ceiling of theapartments. Even this temporary lowering of the curtains doesn’t completelyconceal the activities of those inside. A closed circuit video recordertransmits every activity in every apartment to the Bureau of Guardians where itis watched constantly.
The purpose of this tyranny is to eliminate the human emotions of envyor jealousy that naturally arise from human sexual relations. (Richards 546)But by doing away with jealousy, love also is taken away, and thus theinstitution of marriage. The Numbers are free to pursue their lives free of anythought to the well being of a spouse or children while giving up the inherentneed of companionship and relationships (Gregg 549).
Replacing these vitalestablishments is the United State who orders the Numbers to accept of itssubstance and partake of its cold bureaucratic companionship.In 1984, tyrannical government is exemplified by the mandated use of analtered form of the English language called Newspeak. As Orwell explains in hisAppendix:”The purpose of Newspeak is not only to provide a medium of expression for theworld-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc (EnglishSocialism), but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”(246)By limiting the choice of words available to a bare minimum, thelanguage accomplishes its purpose of diminishing the range of human thought andexpression.
(Gardner 49). Big Brother’s entire fictitious existence is devotedto the principle of thought reduction that Newspeak embodies. By eliminatingeven the possibility of thoughts considered heretical by Oceania, thoughtcrimebecomes impossible by definition (Howe 32).
The entire purpose of Newspeak isreduce the amount of thought possible by the citizenry thereby making itimpossible to rebel against the indomitable, but fragile despotism.The most noticeable way that Newspeak alters the public’s perception ofreality is through the use of an intentional distortion of truth known inOceania as Doublethink. Doublethink, immortalized in phrases such as “War isPeace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, and “Ignorance is Strength”, serves as afoundation upon which the government of Oceania can selectively change historyand reality by convincing the population that history is what Oceania says it is(Bloom 147).”Even the names of the four Ministries by which they are governed exhibit a sortof impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. The Ministry of Peaceconcerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Lovewith torture, and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictionsare not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they aredeliberate exercises in doublethink.” (Orwell 178)By using obvious contradictions the government can hold powerindefinitely because the only state of mind conceivable in such an environmentis insanity, and exclusively by controlled mass insanity can the power of thefew can be maintained (Lief 267).
Although all conceivable attempts at control are made, some people,either through their own questioning of authority, or prompting by an externalsource, will try to exceed the boundaries of law and order (Crick 283). Onesuch citizen is Winston Smith, the main character in 1984. When limitations areignored by a citizen in a totalitarianism, action must be taken by thegovernment to restore order not only to the offender’s actions, but to histhought process. When Winston is arrested for his treasonous behavior, he firstgoes to a Ministry of Love holding cell. After being held without food forseveral days he is severely beaten to the point of death many times.
He admitsto hundreds of crimes everyday simply to make the pain of the beating go away.Then his battered body is taken to the dreaded Room 101. He is attachedto a machine whereby pain is administered by means of electrical shock. Fourfingers are held in front of him and he is asked how many fingers are held up.He responds, “Four.” Pain racks his body. He is shocked until his joints popout of socket from muscle tension and spasms.
You are a slow learner, Winston,” said O’Brian gently.”How can I help it,” he blubbered. “How can I help what is in front ofmy eyes? Two and two are four.
“”Sometimes Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three.Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy tobecome sane.” (Orwell 207)By torturing his body, the government, personified by O’Brian, isactually able to change his entire conception of number theory.
This example ofpower over Winston, exemplifies the basis for Oceania’s government, that truepower is power over human beings (Rees 54).In We this power over humanity is ultimately achieved not by physicalconditioning, but rather by surgical operation. The state newspaper describingthe procedure reads:”. .
.there in paradise they know no desires any longer, no pity, no love; therethey are all blessed. An operation has been performed on their center of fancy;that is why they are blessed angels, servants of God the Well-Doer.” (Zamiatin167)The government of the United State isn’t confident enough in it’s own preceptsand principles that it is forced to rely upon a surgical procedure to exertcontrol over its Numbers. It isn’t enough to torture them into submission, orschedule every second of time for them on the table of hours, it isn’t enough tohave them convinced that their leader was the creator of the Universe or havethem live in transparent homes. It is necessary to turn the population into anarmy of human robots. A mechanized force of drones is required to carry outorders without thought or pause, simply because if thought and imaginationaren’t medically terminated then the United State would lose it’s workers, andthus power.
Although these worlds of oppressive governments that torture their owncitizens may seem distant and detached from our perception of reality, how closereally are we? Like in We, many people live and die by their schedules whichmust be followed to the most minute detail. During World War II, our owngovernment, the supposed bastion of freedom, detained thousands of Japanese-American citizens simply because their parents were born in the wrong country.Americans are required to have We-like Social Security numbers which allows”our” I.R.S.
to track our money to make sure we’re “contributing” our fair shareof taxes. Orwell himself summed up the feelings many Americans have about theirgovernment in a disclaimer published after publication of 1984:”My recent novel 1984 in not intended as an attack on Socialism or the BritishLabor Party (of which I am a supporter) but as a show up of the perversions towhich a centralized economy is liable and which have been realized in Communismand Fascism. I don’t believe that the society I describe necessarily willarrive, but I believe that something resembling it could arrive.
” (Gardner 82)While practically no one wants to think about the possibility oftotalitarianism in our country, it is something with which our country must deal.One can only have supreme faith in the triumph of human nature, with all itsflaws and imperfections, over the evil forces of those who would subject us totheir will for personal gain.Works Cited:Bloom, Herold, ed.
George Orwell. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.Crick, Bernard. George Orwell: A Life.
New York: Little Brown Publishing Co.,1980.Gardner, Averil. George Orwell.
Boston: Twaine Publishing Co., 1987Gregg, Richard. “Two Adams and Eve in the Cyrstal Palace.
” Twentieth CenturyLiterary Criticism. Volume 8. Editor Sharon K. Hall. Detroit: Gale ResearchCompany, 1982.
549-50.Howe, Irving. 1984 Revisited: Totalitarianism In Our Century. New York: Harper; Row, 1983.Lief, Ruth Ann. Homage to Oceania: The Prophetic Vision of George Orwell.Cleveland: Ohio State University Press, 1969.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Penguin Group, 1992.Richards, D.J.. “Zamiatin: A Soviet Heretic.
” Twentieth Century LiteraryCriticism. Volume 8. Editor Sharon K. Hall.
Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982.546-49.Zamiatin, Eugene.
We. New York: E.P. Dutton ; Co.,Inc.,1952.