Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nineteen Eighty-Four Review Questions

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Here are my answers to review questions from The Well-Educated Mind:


George Orwell
Grammar Stage: What is the most important event in which the main character changes?  

The main character, Winston Smith, changes at the end of the novel after he has been tortured for a long period. He is difficult to break, but when he faces his greatest fear, he snaps.  Winston is broken and accepts the Party's control over him.

Logic Stage: What does the main character want, what is standing in his way, and what does he do to get it?

Winston wants:
1. to know "...was life better before the Revolution than it is now?";
2. if people are still human enough - what would cause them to rise up against the Party;
3. to understand the motives of the Party - why they do what they do in order to control people.

The Party's control of every move, every word, and every thought prevent Winston from being able to easily seek these answers.

The only way he can overcome his obstacle is to join the Brotherhood, an organization fighting against the Party.  Winston connects with an Inner Party member, O'Brien, whom he believes is really with the Brotherhood but actually represents the Party; this ultimately leads to Winston's arrest, and only then he is able to get his answers about the past and the Party's motives, albeit, not promising.

Rhetoric Stage: What is the author trying to tell us?  Do I agree?

1. George Orwell wants the reader to be aware of the dangers of totalitarian power.  He envisioned and described a world only thirty or so years ahead (from 1949) under an oppressive and authoritarian government.  I agree because history demonstrates the truth about such regimes.

2. Orwell believed that these systems sought total control and power over the masses for the sake of power alone with no concern for man or his survival.  In other words, government does not care about man - only its own collective power; and yes, I agree.

3. Also, Orwell makes the case that if man has to choose between freedom and happiness, he rather think he has happiness.  Winston believes he knows that O'Brien will explain the Party's motive for power is because men are:
"...frail, cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves."
Winston then tells O'Brien that the Party rules
"over us for our own good...that human beings are not fit to govern themselves..."  
O'Brien dismisses this answer, but I think Orwell knows government does believe this about the masses, too, - not that government has compassion for the people - but rather it is to their benefit to take advantage of the people.

I agree because I believe overreaching government sees common man as ignorant, wrong, and incapable of caring for his needs and that of his family.  It is a good argument to grow government: convince man that he cannot take care of himself and that government will.  Hence, Man sees his freedom as too overwhelming and risky; therefore, he relinquishes it to government while being distracted by "entertainment."  

4. One final argument I believe Orwell makes is that while it takes a lot to break a man, at some level he has a breaking point. Governments may control man by restricting his liberties, removing his individuality, discouraging relationships and emotions for others (except those loyal to the Party), revising the truth, and controlling his private, personal thoughts.  But the last two areas of control are rather difficult.  So long as Winston is able to remember the truth and control his own thoughts, he knew he was freer than most.  As Winston states:
They (the Party) could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable.
Yes, I totally agree because it is really difficult for anyone to read your mind and change or control your own thoughts.  Certain groups today with selfish agendas (I won't mention) are trying to change people's fundamental beliefs by bullying them; but deep down it irks them to the core that they cannot totally succeed because they cannot control the mind or heart of individuals. It just cannot happen that easily.

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