Orwell's Perception of the Political Power of Language Essay

Orwell's Perception of the Political Power of Language Essay

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Orwell's Perception of the Political Power of Language


As an author, George Orwell is concerned with the modern use and misuse of the English language. He notes the recognized ability of language to distort truth and deceive masses in his essay "Politics and the English Language", and attempts to alert the public of this power in his novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four . Depicting dystopia of a totalitarian system at a complete extreme, Orwelll's novel is essentially about psychological control of the public. In the creation of "Newspeak", Orwell portrays the effects of recurring abuse of language by government, and demonstrates how language can be used politically to manipulate minds on a monumental scale, eventually birthing a society in which people obey the government unquestionably. As argued in his essay and actualized in the novel, language acts as an instrument of mind-control, with the goal of perpetual elimination of individual consciousness and maintenance of a totalitarian regime.

Orwell's essay begins with the understanding that "…the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language". In evaluating trends in current language, such as the use of pretentious diction and meaningless words, he argues that an individual morphs into a type of human machine , simply regurgitating information without involving any of his or her own thoughts. As Orwell says in the essay, "Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind" . In Nineteen-Eighty-Four, this phenomenon is depicted in the development of Newspeak. Developed chiefly to restrict the range of one's thought and shorten memory, Newspeak is an ideal language for a totali...


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...mps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements" . Thus the use of Newspeak in Oceania similarly serves to uphold political obedience. As the Inner Party has the ability to alter the structure of language in Nineteen-Eighty-Four, it makes the conception of nonconformist and rebellious thought impossible, thus eliminating any questioning of the Party's absolute power.

Both Orwell's novel and essay carry a grave warning about the political powers of language. He uses his media to demonstrate not only how language can cloak truth, but also how language can be used as an ultimate tool for maintenance of totalitarian regimes. While language is usually thought to extend cultural considerations and improve one's understanding of the world, Orwell's works illustrate how it can, when used in a vicious political way, become an instrument against human consciousness.

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