Luke Melone, Valencia Community College
Author: George Orwell
Setting a precedent for all dystopian novels to follow, George Orwell’s 1984 illustrates a world where the worth of a society is based solely on the value of its government. Drawing on parallels from his own time in 1949, Orwell creates a relevant, fascinating, and terrifying work of fiction while formulating a cunning and alarming argument against those political leaders who believe that the answer to the vices of human nature is placing restrictions on free will. 1984 reminds the reader that the success of any government must be weighed on the liberty and sovereignty of its people, and not by the machinations of politicians who believe they are working in the public’s best interests by pursuing their own agendas.
Utilizing shock, violence, and horror, Orwell tells the story of a society where the mere act of thinking is punishable if caught in the act. The hero of the novel, Winston Smith, struggles throughout to define his argument against “Big Brother” government using what little knowledge he has of the past. Within this search, Smith comes to contemplate the virtues of capitalism and self-determination as opposed to the protection of an omnipresent dictatorial state. The reader is reminded not to take the principles of a republic for granted, and is warned of the dangers of a society where democracy can be manipulated by its leadership.
During the duration of the Cold War, 1984 was often interpreted as a direct assault upon communism. In reality, George Orwell was simply warning all politicians on the dangers of seeking personal ambitions over the interests of their constituencies. Purporting the progressive idea that government representatives must be more responsive to the interests and desires of their people, Orwell mocks the lofty ideals and principles of so-called utopias. In creating the government-run “Big Brother” and its enforcers the “Thought Police”, 1984 has the ability to remind politicians that mankind will always be governed best when its natural rights are not encroached upon.
By writing an allegory that is not only gripping, but also powerful and relevant, Orwell has assured that his work will span generations and constantly reach new audiences. In this message, citizens of all nations are encouraged to doggedly protect their own mandates for self-interest against the desires of political officials who thrive on the apathy and ignorance of the public. Readers are coerced into the necessary acknowledgement of such fundamental values as freedom and even free enterprise. Most directly, politicians may find in 1984 a direct counterargument to the guiding principles of such famous works as The Prince by Machiavelli. They are reminded that public officials are, in the sense, the embodiment of the will and interests of the people. To have modern-day politicians ignore this book and its compelling and nightmarish themes is not only foolish, it is downright dangerous.