Through studying George Orwell’s essay, ‘Politics and the English Language’, as well as his novel, ‘1984’, I’ve come to understand how powerful language can be, and how politicians, journalists and psychologists can carelessly or intentionally use words to mask the truth.
In Orwell’s essay, Orwell provides an example of how a person of authority can waffle and not actually answer the question when being asked about a humanitarian crisis where the public have the right to know the truth:
While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigours which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.
Instead of outright saying: “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so”.
In 1984, Orwell’s employment of paradoxes in the first chapter, such as “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength” exemplifies the manipulative propaganda the inner party enforces over the outer party and the proles, creating a dystopian society.
The ironic slogans of the party such as, “The Ministry of Truth” and “The Ministry of Love”, which is referred to as “Minitrue” and “Miniluv” in “Newspeak”, are considered to be coded messages that heighten the actual truth of the situation, as the word ‘mini’ means ‘minimum’, which suggests that these ministries actually contain a small amount of love and truth.
The lack of freedom and privacy in the working society is also evident in the first chapter. The recurring phrase, “Big brother is watching you” displayed on a television screen, serves as a symbol of constant surveillance and gives the reader an understanding about how much power and control the inner party have over the outer party and the proles. The recurring phrase also highlights how the totalitarian government repeatedly misuses language to threaten them.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1949. Print.
Ramazani, Jahan, Jon Stallworthy, and Stephen Greenblatt. The Twentieth Century And After. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 2012. Print.