George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: Modernist Fable

1753 words 8 pages

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.[1]

The world that Orwell presents in Nineteen Eighty-four has often been called a nightmare vision of the future. Writing sixteen years into that future, we can see that not all of Orwell’s predictions have been fulfilled in their entirety! Yet, “1984 expresses man’s fears of isolation and disintegration, cruelty and dehumanisation…Orwell’s repetition of obsessive ideas is an apocalyptic lamentation for the fate of modern man. His expression of the political experience of an entire generation gives 1984 a veritably mythic power and makes it one of the most influential books of the age, even for
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There is little invention or sophistication in the weapons or technology developed in Oceania. The only area in which the future seems to reveal any degree of real development is the whole enterprise of controlling people’s behaviour, thoughts and attitudes.

Orwell’s exploration of one of the recurrent themes of modernist fiction is clearly visible here. The elaborate machinery and processes devised by the totalitarian regime to rewrite history, the negation of fact and of time, both raise serious epistemological questions, that seem to be crystallised in Winston’s stubborn and hope-filled clinging on to the memory of the illegal photograph that for a few moments he had actually held in his hands. We see here a valorisation of personal experience over “received” knowledge that is very typical of the modern sensibility. In a sense, Winston’s efforts are damned before he begins, and he knows it even in the moments when he allows himself to hope in the remote possibility of a future that might perhaps be different, might offer something more than the drabness and the terror to which they had accustomed themselves.

In fact, one of the most frighteningly apocalyptic elements in Nineteen Eighty-four is not only