There are themes like big brother, relativism, surveillance, collectivism, freedom, reality, manipulation, indoctrination and the biggest threat of all, love. The communist idea that the individual is replaceable, a casualty, while the system is important, is a big theme. At the same time, the system rests on the people, and therefor it is important to control them. There is no freedom of speech or even thought. The thought police arrests everyone that protest against the truth. The massive surveillance controls the people. Even though Orwell doesn’t take it as far as Karin Boye’s Kallocain, with the truth serum with the same name, he lets the thought police be able to read face expressions and tones of voice. The least deviant gets arrested and probably killed.
According to Orwell, there are four ways to bring down a totalitarian state, and in most cases it is a flaw in the system itself, or the powerful people behind it, to make it possible to overthrow. This is where this book becomes not only frightening, but disturbing. Orwell shows us that it is possible to control an entire population, and diminish the risk of being destroyed. He has thought of everything, using the mistakes of earlier dictatorships, forming a flawless oligarchy. The main character, Winston Smith, a member of the Outer party, works for the Ministry of Truth, where history is rewritten all the time, which causes a great confusion and loss of orientation, preventing people from learning, getting inspired of other people, and making comparison with other believes impossible. If all information is constantly changed, and there is no way of confirming one's memory, what is the truth, then? If you are the only source, can you be sure the information is correct? Can you trust your own mind, your memory?
Another factor for a strong oligarchy is the power of language. How words make thoughts possible. In Oceania, the political party is restricting the language through a new way of speech, without words like freedom and democracy. A restricted language means unthinking, unintelligent individuals.
The scariest part of the book is the control from within. There can be no love besides the love for Big Brother, hence the sexualpuritarism. The system is above the individual, and relationships between people are unnecessary, even a liability. The children being the worst spies reminds me of the witch hunt in the 18th century. Children don't understand the seriousness of their deeds. For them, it's just a game, and they are rewarded for it. They never learn to love their parents as their parents love them. Therefor, they don’t mind reporting them to the authorities. This totalitarian ideology depends on children scaring people and helping the system, never trusting the population. The children are brought up to be hooligans, and are justified by the ideology. The part of justifying a certain behaviour that is not humane is not totally uncommon today, when governments justify wars. The simple idea that there are two sides and the other one is always wrong is a way of uniting people. When returning from a war, soldiers are treated like heroes, despite the damage they have caused.
Oceania constantly changes enemy. Just as in the fictional world, the winner writes history, which is a kind of censure function, and yesterday's hero might end up tomorrow's enemy. In that way, it is relevant today. It emphasizes general structures and values to an extent where they become visible and easy to question.
The proles, the ordinary, poor people that don’t belong to the political party, are not so different from us. They are easy to manipulate and not in need of indoctrination. They live simple lives with hard work, family life, sports, beer, gambling and fighting with neighbours. In what way do they differ from us? Are we not easy to control because we are busy working and consuming products that are advertised, seldom evolving into more spiritual, philosophical individuals that might discover and question flaws in the society? According to Orwell, the people that knows what really happens are the ones who are least able to see the world as it really is. The people who have information are unable to face it. The more insight, the more delusion. The powerful people in the book that know the situation, and that Oceania will never win or loose the war, are the ones who believe it the most. I wonder whether that is true for the real world, as well.
The totalitarian machine does not just oppress people. It makes them oppress themselves. Through the terms dubblethink and thoughtcrime, people repress their memories and force certain opinions.
Orwell wasn't right in his prediction about a totalitarian society taking place in 1984, not in the western world, but he was right in some cases. The dystopian novel is very disturbing to read, because in a way, the book is more relevant today than ever. We are being watched, our telephone calls are being monitored, and we leave fingerprints everywhere on the internet. Is it possible to be free? What is freedom?