The Role Of Political Criticism In Nineteen Eighty-Four By George Orwell

George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four has been extolled by Western critics for its incisive political commentary on the social and cultural ramifications of a totalitarian government. After witnessing the alarming extent to which totalitarian governments in Russia and Spain would exercise their power over the proletariat, Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949 to alert Western nations on how to approach the imminent rise of communism. The text is generally received as a “negative dystopian” novel that focuses on depicting the degeneration of humanity through the ubiquitous influence of technology, propaganda and political discourse. As Orwell rightfully avowed in his essay, Why I Write, “every line of serious work that I have written…show more content…
New Historicism will focus on how language produces political hegemony and discourse within the text’s political and historical context. Structuralism will extend these conclusions and will hold the system of language in 1984 “under erasure” to determine how effective it is as an instrument of political hegemony (Derrida 1994). Nineteen Eighty-Four can be interpreted as a dystopian novel. A ‘dystopian novel’ is classified as a genre of literature that explores social and political structures. The features of dystopian fiction present themselves in Orwell’s novel through the creation of a degenerated society that is entirely controlled by the Inner Party. The Inner Party is personified through the ubiquitous figure of Big Brother, whose face is omnipresent in propaganda posters and the telescreens, which monitor the civilians’ everyday actions. The society in 1984 is totalitarian, in that a centralized party state and its bureaucratic apparatus control every area of life from labour, to culture, to thought, to language, to sexuality and everyday functioning. Upon first reading the novel, the grave ramifications of totalitarianism and its threat to human…show more content…
Structuralism, developed in the early decades of the 20th century by Saussure, focuses on the “underlying system of language” and its ability to “govern the individual and thus determine meaning” (Metzker 2010). Saussure’s development of semiotics, the study of the relationships between words and their meanings, can be applied to the Inner Party’s political agenda to create a ‘stable’ society. Ultimately, 1984 explores the ontological uncertainty of whether or not the construction of political reality and free human expression is tied up with our existing system of language – and if a social institution were to alter this system of language to execute a political ideology, would they be successful? The Party’s use of language, or Newspeak , enables them to eradicate any possibility of Thoughtcrime by erasing any words – and their subsidiaries - that may lead to or even infer political anarchy. Newspeak contains no negative terms. For instance, instead of saying “bad”, one would express their feelings through the word “ungood”. Orwell conceded that the purpose of Newspeak was “not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc (English Socialism), but to make all other modes of thought impossible”, thus confirming the power of language as an instrument of political discourse

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