After reading George Orwell’s notorious book 1984, I endeavored to see the play. At The Playhouse Theatre I was enthralled by their take on the book.
For those who are intending to see it, read the book or didn’t really understand some of the concepts and want a (relatively) short explanation about the background if this story, without any spoilers, you are in the right place. Hopefully I will attempt to summarise what I think Orwell was trying to portray through this book.
Set in relatively modern (some time in the 20th century) England, which is perpetually at war with other nations. The party in charge can be compared to maybe communist Russia / Nazi Germany , basically every bad aspect of a political party. So there are 2 sets of people: party members and “proles” (those in poverty , kind of Cockney etc). The party has a leader called “big brother” and they know everything you do. Big brother probably isn’t real – he’s the embodiment of the party. The party seek to control every aspect of your life, but not really as a source of power to make everyone fear you akin to Hitler , but rather to make everyone love the party. In this way they will never lose their position of power, since all the citizens love them (much more effective than violence).
So how do they administer their control? This is the essence of the book. Firstly there are ” telescreens” placed in every room, equivalent to CCTV so the government knows exactly what you are doing. Yet the party doesn’t control the people by the sort of fear used, for example, by Hitler. Orwell is too clever for this. As mentioned, using propaganda etc people actually love “big brother ” and the party, so don’t want to rebel.
Yet the party realises that without a figure to hate, people may begin to see through the falseness of the party. By directing intense loathing towards traitors, other countries and a group called the “brotherhood” (led by “Goldstein”, they are supposedly citizens who are constantly trying to overthrow the party), the inadequacies of the party are overlooked. This hatred is exacerbated by the “two minutes hate” – 2 minutes set aside for workers to scream violently at images of traitors on a screen, an opportunity to let out anger but also to amplify it.
But Orwell goes deeper
This is the next stage in their complete jurisdiction over peoples actions and even thoughts- The party seek to make it mentally impossible to rebel – the ultimate means of control.
This sounds weird but I’ll explain.
The only way you can and would want to oppose the party is if you see the injustice, and you realise the party is making life worse, are losing wars etc ( the usual).
But in this book, the party controls all media, books, pictures (basically all written evidence). They do this by employing people to constantly change information in these books, delete and alter facts so there is never any evidence contrary to what the party claims is happening.
For example, if they increased chocolate rations last week to 20p, the next week any evidence of this is erased from media , so they can claim for a second time round that they’ve raised rations to 20 p, thus raising morale so everyone loves them. Even though nothing has been achieved.
However there is still one dilemma- people would still remember that the chocolate rations were raised last week.
The past is what’s remembered and what is written down. They’ve already controlled the latter ( by editing the media) but they haven’t controlled memories. This is where the next aspect of control comes in- called ” double think”. The party instill this way of thinking into people from a young age. It’s basically where you rewrite your own memories unconsciously to fit into whatever the party tells you. So, even though you know the rations were raised last week too, you kind of forget that and replace it with the new lies given.
Going back to opposition, now the party have conditioned people so In a way they won’t know any reason to rebel against the party- they simply don’t remember it and believe what the party tells them.
Orwell still takes it a step further.
Not only do people not know a reason to oppose the party , it also isn’t possible to think about rebelling. This is achieved through a new language the party create called ” newspeak”. It is essentially a language with so few words, that anyone in the future hating the party won’t actually know the words to express their hate! Only necessary words are included in the language. Eg, “bad” is a redundant word. In newspeak, you’d just use “ungood” For example, a future person won’t be able to say ” the party is bad”, because there isn’t a word for bad!
So this is my interpretation behind the life of the protagonist. The story of 1984 is about a man who is not fully converted by the parties attempts, and he does want to rebel. I would urge you to read it and then see the play, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!