1984 George Orwell Comparison Essay

Compare Orwell's 1984 To Our Government Today

When George Orwell's epic novel 1984 was published in 1949 it opened the public's imagination to a future world, where privacy and freedom had no meaning. The year 1984 has come and gone and recent advances in technology have emerged. These new developments have empowered the government, and help to highlight the similarities between the American government and the government in 1984. Although many cannot even begin to accept the disturbing similarities shared between America's government today and that of George Orwell's 1984, they do exist. Today's American government mirrors the government in 1984, because in both societies the government violates one's basic right to privacy, and misleads their citizens into supporting their war efforts.

The governments of 1984 and America both violate the privacy of their citizens. In Orwell's 1984, the government violates its citizen's privacy by monitoring them, using telescreens and the "thought police." Knowing that "at any rate they [the government] could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to," one could never achieve peace of mind. One has "to live-did live, from habit that became instinct-in the assumption that every sound they made was overheard…and every moment scrutinized." (49) The citizen's right to privacy has been taken away, and furthermore, citizens in Oceania are not just being watched, but every one of their actions is studied closely. If one is suspected of a "thought-crime," they are harshly punished. The people in each society are forced to bottle up their emotions and thoughts about their government, and suppress their urge to rebel against the Oceanic Party. This creates a sense of uneasiness for the citizens and a need for a safe place to go where they can freely express themselves without being watched. Likewise, the government today restricts the privacy of its citizens. Around every corner lay security cameras, often causing citizens discomfort. The cameras discourage citizens from expressing their opinions as they are being watched, and their reputations are at stake. Also, once someone is seen committing a "crime," or any other suspicious activity, they are certain to be caught by the police. At this point, one may believe that the Orwellian government monitors its citizens to a much greater extent than America's government, however, this is untrue. A recent news story covered by Fox News states that the average person is caught on camera 15-25 times a day- forcing American citizens to believe that their government's tactics are closer than ever to those exhibited by 1984's government. Much like the Orwellian...

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1984was published by George Orwell, or Eric Blair, in 1948. Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1951 by Ray Bradbury. Both are works of dystopian fiction, though of a somewhat different nature. In this essay, I hope to illustrate the differences and similarities between the two novels.

One of the most glaring similarities, perhaps, is the character development arc. Both main characters, at the start, lead meaningless, bland lives; one day, a girl (or woman) appears, changing them forever; they rebel completely against their society, but eventually they calm down.

However, the character of Guy Montag (Fahrenheit 451) ultimately triumphs – he evades the government, finds peace in a community of like-minded people, and escapes destruction in the nuclear war. Winston Smith, on the other hand, fails and eventually submits to brainwashing.

While the theme of a government which alters history is present in both of said books, the alteration is much more in the foreground of 1984than it is in Fahrenheit 451, and it is used extensively to indicate the nature of the regime itself.

This is shown in the way Orwell transitions from a war with Eurasia, changing suddenly to a war with Eastasia halfway through, to an ending of: “Oceania was at war with Eurasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia”.


In both novels, the idea of a hugely desensitised society, where (in Fahrenheit 451) children run people over and shoot one another for fun and (in 1984) such things as footage of “a ship full of refugees being bombed” and “a wonderful shot of a child’s arm going up” are used for amusement.

The role of Smith in the vast machine of the party is similar to that of the “Fireman” Guy Montag in that he frequently alters writing (as incineration is also a form of alteration) to suit the needs of those in power. However, the figures IN power are fundamentally different.

For example, while both of the books involve war as a background, the nature of war in 1984is fundamentally different from that of Fahrenheit 451, as Orwell’s concept of war is that of a tool for the perpetuation of scarcity and paranoia, while Bradbury’s is all-out total annihilation.

Furthermore, the government in 1984 relies largely on brainwashing and totalitarian policies that involve mass surveillance and spies, with organisations, namely the Spies and the Youth League, similar to the Hitler Youth: “’You’re a traitor!’ yelled the boy”. In short, the Party cares for the thought, not the act.

In contrast, Bradbury’s government keeps tabs on all those who deviate from the majority, but does not care too much about thoughts of rebellion. It prefers to use television to numb the minds of the population and it will gladly burn the opposition to reach this goal, be they books or humans.

In short, both societies are desensitised, with governments that control the people through the control of the flow of information and a system whereby deviants are simply marked down and eliminated. However, the novels are noticeably different on a fine level, from the writer’s perspective to the book’s atmosphere.

Apart from anything else, 1984 can also be considered a sort of satirical romance, whereas Fahrenheit 451 has no real element of romance whatsoever. It involves an inner conflict and occasionally uses Montag’s wife as a McGuffin, while in 1984 Julia’s relationship is the act of rebellion in itself.

The setting is in fact post-nuclear war for both books (“We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 2022”, “when the atom bomb was dropped on Coventry”), though of course the effects these wars have had on the respective settings of both books is very different.

For example, in Fahrenheit 451, the USA has emerged from at least two wars victorious and eventually embroils itself in another one, causing the obliteration of at least one of its cities (“City looks like a heap of baking powder”).

On the contrary, in 1984 the nuclear war has stopped any further use of atomic weapons and in fact has ensured the dictatorships will remain stable forever. The idea behind this is a possible reference to the theory of mutually-assured destruction, or MAD for short.


As well as this, in Orwell’s universe tactics revolve around the use of extremely large vessels known as “Floating Fortresses” to defend strategic areas (“the new Floating Fortress anchored between Iceland and the Faroe Islands”) and consciously fanciful research projects (“producing artificial earthquakes”).

The focus, it is to be noted, of Fahrenheit 451 is that of a silent revolution going on outside the vision of the government, whereas in 1984 it is that of a depressed world where there is no ‘outside the vision of the government’, because the government sees and knows all.

As well as this, there is the character of O’brien, seen as an intelligent, powerful and utterly invincible zealot, who is seen as the primary antagonist of the novel, contrasted with Beatty, a disillusioned but ultimately expendable character, killed off by Montag at the end of the book.

The government, although occasionally referred to in either novel, remains largely a mystery in Fahrenheit 451, but in 1984its structure is well-explained and understood; in fact, the inner workings of Smith’s rulers is key to the plot of the book.

In conclusion, I will re-state my earlier point that the two books have many fine, inconspicuous differences that nonetheless very much separate them under close examination. Therefore, one can safely say they are very different novels while at the same time putting them in the same category.

 

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