Opinion: The Relevance of Orwell’s 1984

Haley Saffren ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

In 1949, George Orwell created a classic novel about a dystopian society that takes place in, what seemed at the time, a futuristic version of the year 1984. The story follows a man named Winston who is entrenched in a corrupt society that uses lies and propaganda to ensure that its citizens follow the Inner Party without any questions. Winston harbors a strong hatred for the party and yearns for a rebellion to one day overthrow it. When Donald Trump became president, sales of this book, which has been in publication for many decades, began to spike because of the eerie similarities to what is going on today in the US government. It is not difficult to understand why.

In the novel, extreme oppression of independent thoughts and ideas is rampant, especially if these thoughts and ideas present a challenge to the government.  If someone is even suspected of being a traitor to the government, they are manipulated into revealing their position, captured, and tortured.  From just the first few weeks of Trump’s presidency, his methods seem eerily similar to those of the followers of Big Brother and the Inner Party in 1984.  While no one has been treated as harshly by the US government as they were in 1984 (so far), extreme occurrences of discrimination and oppression of freedom of speech already have occurred. Police arrested journalists at Trump’s inauguration protests, holding some of them overnight just for doing their jobs.

This was a clear attempt to stop them from reporting accurate accounts of events and highlighting how more people seemed to show up for the protests against the new president than for his inauguration. Trump’s administration tried to manipulate the media coverage to trick the public into believing that more people showed up for his inauguration than Obama’s in 2009 and 2013. When the Muslim Ban was put forth, Trump’s staff tried to say it was not a ban, even though Muslims were being explicitly held at airports and arriving Muslims were sent out of the country. Trump’s methods are not as extreme as the atrocities Big Brother committed in 1984, but Trump’s administration is showing signs of taking the government down a similar, dark path to the ruling body in the book.

Increased sales may also be due to the fact that some people are scared. They know the near future looks bleak as long as Trump is in power. 1984 shows readers how far Trump could go with the power he has. However, this book also reminds us to never stop fighting for civil rights so that the US government cannot take the terrible turn Winston’s government did in the novel. If people stop fighting wrongs and exercising their rights, Trump will be allowed to do whatever he wants. Even though most believe it could never happen, it could get to the point where he is willing to torture people who remotely oppose him. In 1984, when Winston was suspected of being a rebel, the government had one of his coworkers pretend to be an ally and gain his trust. Once this so-called friend figured out Winston was against Big Brother, he exposed him.

They tried to change his way of thinking by using torturous methods including electroshock therapy and drastically exposing him to his worst fear (which involved him being nearly eaten by rats). Although this is the worst case scenario, it is still a possibility in our world. The book is a marvelous showcase of what effects a government under the worst form of dictatorship could have on society. Although it is hard to imagine America falling to this level, the US is entering unknown waters and a period of a horrifying use of power.

The increase in sales of 1984 reveals the terror and resolve people are feeling in order to address this dark era. People are trying to understand what government looks like under extreme, oppressive leadership, especially since Trump is already exhibiting these characteristics. Not only is this book informative, but also it gives people hope that things are not as bad as they could be, and, unlike the citizens in 1984, a lot of people in the United States are actively standing up for what they believe is right.


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