4 June 2007

Very Brief Comment On Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the saddest, most tragic books I have ever read.

I admit it wouldn’t be unexpected for someone to think “How can a book that describes a totalitarian regime be more tragic than one about the Holocaust or any other misfortune like it, for instance?” (Human nature and existene do not seem to lack happenings of this kind, somehow.) There is a big difference between the society Orwell invents –I will come to this later– and the similar dictatorships that have chastised different peoples in different periods of History: in all places and at all times, people have been allowed to remain exactly this, people, whereas Ingsoc completely and explicitly denies its citizens this right (and duty).

Why? To obtain power, and power as an end, not a means. With the elimination of words in the language –Newspeak– it reduces the possibility of thought (as far as it depends on language, of course); it utterly forbids all kind of privacy and also of individuality; it takes possession of records and also of people’s memory, thus controlling the past, which ends up in controlling the present and the future; in short, it establishes itself as the master of all minds to attain it. Ingsoc reduces the members of the Party, the people it deems worthy, somehow (in opposition to the proles), and all their feelings, emotions, intelligence, memories, to walking automats that do not even think anymore, that do not seem to have the self-consciousness, discernment, freedom, soul, even, that make a human being different to a crocodile or a dandelion, for the sake of absolute power.

Having said that, it is very interesting to see that Winston, if not Julia too, realises the fullness of this question, especially when he remarks that while the proles are human beings, they –Winston and Julia, and I suppose this is extendable to all Party members– are not. The importance of feelings, of nature (human nature, especially), of loyalty from one being to another, of love, of individual relationships, is stressed, and both Winston and Julia think this is a part “they” –The Thought Police, the Party, the authorities– will never be able to take from one.

However, the saddest thing of the book is that they do appear to be able to do that. The last sentence of the book, “He loved Big Brother”, seems to me as of utter defeat and abjection; it was a great disappointment. Admitting “victory over himself” is the same as admitting that an individual can be wiped out totally; that a soul can be eliminated; that fullness can be replaced by emptiness.

I was talking recently to a friend of mine, who has not read the book yet. He asked me if it was fiction. I was very happy and relieved to be able to say yes, it is fiction, something like that has not happened, is not happening, will not happen; in the worst trials, prosecutions and abuses the self has not been consciously and purposefully obliterated like in Ingsoc –even O’Brien explains clearly the difference between both the Mediaeval Inquisitors and the twentieth century totalitarians and what he himself supports and works for–. Nor can it ever be; unlike Winston, I believe in a God who will never let human wickedness reach this point. Not yet, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Me ha gustado mucho... sí, sí, está muy bien.
¡Suerte con los exámenes!

LSEP said...

Guais… Avui, dia 22, que hem anat a buscar les notes (i.e., les avaluacions ja estàn fetes i tot) m'ha comunicat la profe d'anglès que ni se l'ha llegida, la redacció… Ja em podia esforçar, ja (tampoc ho he fet), que pel que ha valgut la pena…