Literature is essential to human society for many reasons; it helps us think deeper about ourselves, our lives, the world we live in, and makes us more aware about the world we live in. Through literature we are able to consider alternative perspectives and ideas in which we may hold. This idea is key, and is commonly seen in dystopian novels revolving around communism and a totalitarian government. Through the following texts, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell, ‘Minority Report’ directed by Steven Spielberg, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess and lastly the lyrics of ‘2+2=5’ by Radiohead, I will identify the connection between them, and how they all share similarities when trying to achieve the same goal: to warn the reader about the growing dangers of totalitarianism.
George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ serves as a clear warning to the reader about the growing dangers of communism and the methods used by a totalitarian government to control the population. This text communicates the idea of control over the population via; “ThoughtPolice” and manipulation of the language. Orwell uses the thoughtpolice to control the state of Oceania by closely monitoring their actions and thoughts. The Party forces the population to think and act toward The Party’s interests and goals, any thoughts contrary being an act of ‘thoughtcrime’. “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called”. None of the population can escape this, as the Party has installed telescreens in each home. “The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork… You had to live-did live, from habit that became instinct- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” Even in his private life, Winston is unable to think freely without his thoughts being scrutinized by a higher authority constantly watching over him. The Party forces the population to remain in an emotionless state, similar to creating a population of robots whose only job is to work for and worship “Big Brother”. This is ultimately what the party wants in the end; emotionless robots who cannot think contrary to the party, and become unable to process thoughts contrary. By punishing those who do think contrary and making it public that they do so, the population are also controlled by fear. The people of Oceania are made to suppress their thoughts as they fear death. “Thoughtcrime does not entail death, thoughtcrime is death”. The Party also manipulates their language, in order to control the minds of its population. Orwell realises that language has the power in politics to mask the truth and mislead the public, aiming to increase public awareness of this power. Therefore, he shows how language can be used to deceive and manipulate people, leading to a society in which the people unquestioningly obey their government and mindless accept all propaganda as reality. Language becomes a mind-control, with the ultimate goal being the destruction of will and imagination. “Newspeak” narrows the range of thought and shortens people’s memories. “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.” In the end thoughtcrime will become impossible. It is therefore ideal for Orwell’s totalitarian system, in which the government has to rely on a suppressed, passive public which lacks independent thoughts. Conversely, to restrict a language, as with “Newspeak”, is to restrict the range of thought. Orwell was influenced and inspired by totalitarian regimes of the time, including Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. Both regimes glorified their respective leaders as demi-gods and saviours, required the destruction of all individuality in order to promote the Party’s needs over the individuals, demanded absolute loyalty from their citizens, and resorted to violence whenever disloyalty was suspected. Orwell wrote ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ as a warning to modern society of the damage that can come from embracing totalitarian regimes. The novel shows the loss of personal identity while demonstrating how to effectively riv a person of their independance.
Similar to ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report’ is a representation of how technology is being used to benefit the population. Like ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ the invasion of privacy has reached an extreme level. Technology is used to anticipate the crimes of individuals, and catch them before they have committed the crime. ‘Pre Crime’ controls the population through the ‘precogs’, similar to how the ‘Thought Police’ control the population through ‘thoughtcrime’. Precogs are three human beings with powers of precognition that allow them to visualize crimes about to happen. With this knowledge, Lamar Burgess, who created precrime, uses this to control the population through a basis of predicting what people do, before they actually do it. “Precogs don’t see what you intend to do, only what you will do”. This is similar to ‘thoughtcrime’, as both authorities convict people for thinking of doing an act of crime, not completely committing it. Thus posing a philosophical question, how can one be sure that what they intend to do is true? John Anderton answers this question in the film by rolling one of the red victim balls off a table. He explains how Danny Witwer catching that ball before it lands is similar to the precog crimes. The ball is going to fall, however Danny caught it. Which is how the person is always going to commit the crime, but the precog system catches the victim before they commit the crime, catching them in midair. John presents his argument as if all humans follow the force of gravity like the ball does. However, the murderers in the film do not follow the force of gravity, and potentially have the will to not commit the crime, however are sentenced as if they have already, on the basis that they will as if it’s their destiny. Complete control in ‘Minority Report’ can also be represented within the spider scene. The scene exposes to what extent that the state has invaded the privacy of the intimate lives of the population. The spiders, pre crimes “instrument of choice” invade the homes and demand clarification. Spielberg uses the bird’s eye view shot to emphasise the complete power that the government has over the people. No closed door, no roof, nothing can hide you from them. It is near impossible to escape the control of the government. They have removed all privacy completely. The government wants the population to believe that the advanced technology is a form of benefit society. However, the government deceive the population and use technology as another major tool for controlling the population. Also, the idea of destroying individuality can be seen as a common theme seen within this text, and in the next.
A Clockwork Orange. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is another dystopia which features control through a cruel aversion therapy, called “Ludovico’s Technique”, as a means of depopulating prisons and reducing violence within society. 15 year old Alex is a sociopath who commits acts of violence for his own amusement, knowing full well such behaviour is morally wrong, saying “you can’t have a society with everybody behaving in my matter of the night”. Alex finds himself in prison for a crime he and his droogs committed, and is recommended for the Ludovico Technique, an experimental treatment designed to eliminate all criminal impulses. Alex is injected with substances which make him violently ill, while being forced to watch violent scenes on a telescreen. The treatment makes Alex associate bodily sickness with violence, becoming extremely ill at the mere thought of violence. The government believe this is the cure for Alex and his evil tendencies. “What is happening to you now is what should happen to any normal healthy human organism contemplating the actions of the forces of evil, the workings of the principle of destruction. You are being made sane, you are being made healthy.” The state believes in forcing people to conform to a “norm” of human instincts and behaviour. Control is seen through forcing Alex to act as someone he is not, stripping away his free will. Effectively making Alex no longer human, as he cannot make his own decisions, letting a higher power decide for him. Transforming Alex into a clockwork orange, a nonhuman, an automaton without moral choice and free will. Dr. Brodsky says “You felt ill this afternoon, because you’re getting better. When we’re healthy we respond to the presence of the hateful with fear and nausea. You’re becoming healthy, that’s all. You’ll be healthier still this time tomorrow.” The doctor says this as if he is curing Alex from a disease, when in actuality he is stripping Alex of his individuality. Burgess asks, if even the worst of us have a right to free will? F. Alexander says “They have turned you into something other than a human being. You have no power of choice any longer. You are committed to socially acceptable acts, a little machine capable of only good. F. Alexander verbalises a key point of the novel. Stripped of his free will and choice to commit evil acts, only able to perform socially acceptable acts, Alex is no longer a human being. “A man who cannot choose ceases to be a man.” Before the treatment, Alex enjoyed violence, rape and all this we deem as ‘wrong’. After the treatment, Alex can no longer make his own decisions. Burgess emphasises the idea that if you have no free will and cannot choose, you’re not human. The title itself has a deeper meaning. Control in the novel is seen as the government tries to make something organic, free of evil, the orange (Alex), trying to make it work like a machine. A clockwork orange.
2+2=5 by Radiohead.
“2+2=5” by Radiohead can be seen as an accurate representation of the themes studied above, and how they have entered our everyday lives. ‘2+2=5’ is a reference that people can be made to believe anything even when the truth is clear. Because of this, some will use this to their advantage to control people. Similar to the control methods seen in ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’. This song is about exploitation of people bt those in control through mind control and how people are oblivious to what is going on, even when it is very obvious. “Are you such a dreamer
To put the world to rights?
I stay at home forever
Where two and two always makes five”
This is a reference to not questioning the common thought, staying home and being brainwashed instead of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to question what they are told is true. Seen in ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ when Winston says “You would be told that 2+2=5 and you would believe it”.
“It’s the devil’s way now
There is no way out
You can scream and you can shout
It is too late now
Because you have not been
These songs represent the message that the author of the novels and films studied, and how they have become present and can be seen within our society. Those who have read and studied the books may now realise how the government is increasingly trying to control the population today. This song may be referring to the population being ignorant and not paying attention to the subtle controls the government implement on us. Eventually the population may realise, however it is too late, “You can scream and shout. It is too late now”. Similar to how Winston makes connections towards the control schemes emplaced on his society, but is unable to rebell as it is too late.
“Dont question my authority or put me in the dock
‘Cause I’m not
‘Cause I’m not
Oh, go and tell the king that the sky is falling in
When it’s not
When it’s not
The very last line, “Go and tell the king that the sky is falling in, maybe not” shows that even when disaster is clear, people are still blind to the truth, because of the reality that exists within their mind is difficult to change after believing in something. They are the victim of a high authority planting a clearly false idea/concept in their head.
The dystopian genre has a common theme, which has been demonstrated in the texts above. A governing state will try to control the population through stripping them of their free will, and forcing them to conform to adopt new values and interests. The authors from the texts above are trying to communicate a message, to warn the readers of the dangers of a totalitarian government. Which is achieved through in a setting where all privacy and individuality is removed in order to benefit higher authorities.