From its release in 1949, George Orwell’s 1984 has been considered a stinging indictment of totalitarian ideology. Unlike many other texts, Orwell’s novel seems overtly to suggest its ideological underpinnings and place aesthetic considerations squarely in the background.1 For critics such as Richard Lowenthal (1983, 209) and Tosco R. Fyvel (1984, 73), Orwell provides a transparent — but nevertheless powerful — condemnation of Stalinism and a prescient warning against the proliferation of totalitarian methods. In this light, Orwell, working from a ‘common sense’ socialist position that eschews dogmatic rhetoric, exposes the dehumanizing qualities of systemic terror. Both sympathetic and hostile critics usually ground their discussions of 1984 in the assumption that Orwell offers ‘substantially little more than an extension into the near future of the present structure and policy of Stalinism’ (Rahv 1987, 14). For the inhabitants of Oceania, ideology — irrational and sadistic — crushes not only the feeble resistance of ‘rebels’ like Winston Smith and Julia, but also disintegrates the human spirit and transmogrifies it into a repository of platitudes. Aided by what Rob Kroes deems a ‘dislocation of human understanding by linguistic sabotage,’ the Inner Party employs ideology to eliminate the very possibility of thought (Kroes 1985, 85). According to such interpretations, Orwell sets his dystopia in England as a check against factions within British socialism that he feels are open to influence from Stalinism.
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- George Orwell’s 1984 and Political Ideology
James M. Decker
- Macmillan Education UK
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