The ending of George Orwell’s 1984 was the complete opposite of what I had anticipated. After all the drama and excitement of Winston hating the party, plotting against and rebelling against Big Brother, and wanting the truth to be revealed, the ending on the novel was an enormous disappointment. Winston simply betrayed his own beliefs and learnt to love and respect both the party and Big Brother. His change of heart from despising both assets to loving them proves that he is extremely weak minded and influential. This is a disappointment because he could have been a very strong character, and remained an opposition to the party and Big Brother. Why would he just give up on everything he believed in? How can someone be so petty? I had expected Winston to defend his hatred and continue hating the party and Big Brother regardless of the pressure and torture. In most novels and movies, when the protagonist faces an obstacle, he/she usually risks his/her life and gets over said obstacle. Winston, however, compelled and simply let the obstacle win. I would have expected him to fight back in the end and ultimately die with the same beliefs he had at the beginning of the novel. At the end of the novel, when Winston is released, he writes “2 + 2 = 5” in some dust. The ease at which he wrote something he clearly did not agree with at the beginning was extremely surprising because it seemed as if the party and Big Brother had genuinely won him over. Overall, the ending was extremely disappointing and was absolutely nothing like what I imaged it would be. I had pictured Winston as a much stronger character, but the ending proved his pettiness and weak mind. Why would Orwell create an ending like that? Why was Winston not more heroic or strong willed?
The novel ends with Winston loving the Party and Big Brother because it is a dystopia. It could not have ended any other way; in the world Orwell created the Party controlled everything – there was no hope for Winston. The torture he endured was not merely physical, it was psychological, O'Brien forced him to believe that he was crazy, proving even though through illogic that Winston was a lunatic. Winston could not fight the belief of a whole nation when faced with pain and the questioning of his own truth and sanity. Furthermore, it cannot be said that Winston was weak and did not fight the Party. He fought as much as he could, until he was put in a situation that his instincts would respond to save him, not his own consciousness. During a conversation with O'Brien, who is trying to convince Winston that he is fighting a lost war, Winston remains strong with his opinion. Even though O'Brien argues that he is alone, he still believes that he is a man and that the "spirit of Man" is what is going to keep the Party and Big Brother from taking over. Although Winston trains himself and allows the Party to take control of his mind, until he is thrust in room 101, he does not let them get to his heart. Proving that Winston endured all that a man can endure psychologically. What he could not fight was the response his own body had to the torture that was imposed on him. At the sight of the rats it was not Winston who was in control of his own body, his instincts were in control, like O'Brien says, "There are occasions when a human being will stand out against pain, even to the point of death. But for everyone there is something unendurable - something that cannot be contemplated. Courage and cowardice are not involved" (Orwell 284). In addition, O'Brien explains how it is only natural to breath after coming out from the water for an extended period of time. They know that through Winston's irrational fear, his intellectual part, that which has prevented him from turning his heart to Big Brother and the Party even after all the torture, will be ignored by his body and only his instincts will prevail, allowing him to give in to the Party if it means salvation. For this reason I believe that the ending was the most important part of the novel. If the novel had ended any differently would it have the same meaning it has now? Could there be an alternate way of ending the novel that would still allow it to be so meaningful to the world we know today?
Winston Smith is NOT an Exception
Gabby, I understand your harsh criticism of Winston's character, as after all the apparent savior of this brutal reality ultimately submitted to the Party, O'Brien and Big Brother. When Winston surrendered to the Party's character-remodeling procedure and betrayed Julia and his own motives for existence, I also felt enraged by his attitudes. It was totally outrageous to conclude the novel with, “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother” (Orwell 298). All the hope that was built around Winston simply vanished with such cynical commentary. It is obvious he did not win victory over himself as he surrendered his own existence to that of the Party. I even felt as if this book was meaningless, and yet I understood that it can be if we analyze it simply as the story of Winston Smith’s life. Orwell did not write this with the objective of talking about the horrendous form of domination in Oceania and its destructive impact to this man’s life. Instead, Orwell contrived the plot as a way of warning humanity about the hitherto course of history, suggesting that intellectual domination, dehumanization and constant surveillance would be impending if there was not a transformation in the very foundation of human communities. The ample significance of this story requires us to scrutinize every aspect of this reality accordingly. Therefore, we should not perceive Winston's failure as the failure of an individual man. We should not consider him an anti-hero. We should not consider him an existentialist failure. We should not pass judgment on Winston as an individual. We should not consider him a minority of one. These actions would be adequate when directed to a man endowed with freedom of will and unrestrictive capacity of feeling and ratiocinating. However, Winston and any other member of this Orwellian dystopia are doomed to think, feel, act and ultimately become the personification of IngSoc. Thus, we should consider him a cell of the social body, a small part of an extensive whole and, above all, a victim of an oppressive system. Winston’s defeat is the inexorable failure of humanity in front of a horrendous reality we have all corroborated to create. I would even argue that Winston was heroic as, despite turning out to be the expected product of a failed reality, he persevered to the pinnacle of his will in opposing the oppressive reality in Oceania. Likewise John the Savage in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Winston courageously endured in finding an authentic existence among a sordid and tyrannical reality. Both of them ultimately fail, however their failures are more dependent on the society around them, instead of their own capacities of promoting change.
Response to Marina:
“If the novel had ended any differently would it have the same meaning it has now? Could there be an alternate way of ending the novel that would still allow it to be so meaningful to the world we know today?”
I think this is a really important question to ask ourselves about the ending of the book. It seems obvious that we all had preconceived notions of how the novel would end, creating a large amount of sadness or disappointment with the actual results. Although I gained a lot of mental stimulation regarding the complex situations and arguments, I still feel like my time reading the novel was essentially wasted. I had begun reading with a hope that the novel would end differently than “Brave New World”, and that we would actually see change and resolution within the plot line. I saw a great deal of character development in Winston and as the plot unfolded, it seemed like he was getting closer to the heart of the rebellion, to make his mark and change society for the better. On the contrary, everything took a full 360 turn, and we ended up with the same situation from the beginning of the novel, a cruel government and society, with no one to oppose them. This is the same thing that occurred in “Brave New World” and this is another reason why I thoroughly disliked reading both books. Although they both gave strong warning of the possible future our current life system could lead to, ultimately, they stripped me of my hope and faith in humanity’s ability to overcome all obstacles which makes the thought of rebellion seem worthless. If Orwell is trying to say that our system, combined with the humanistic need for power, will lead to a dead end, then what is the point in trying to stop it? If it is human nature to divide and abuse then how can we prevent this reality from ever happening? On top of that, once society reaches such a point there is no return or salvation. Inevitably, society is doomed and if Orwell thinks such an end cannot be prevented or stopped, then there must be no point in living. As O’Brien states several times, “The part seeks power entirely for its own sake” (263). Is this not simply a crueler reality than the one we live in today? People, communities, and governments still search for reasons to divide and opportunities to gain more power. If the novel had ended as we all had hoped, then I think some of the meaning would have been lost. The novel would have lost its pessimism, and its message that some things are unpreventable and unstoppable. Had there been a positive result to Winston’s suffering, then we could still retain our faith in the future of humanity. For now, everything remains uncertain.
Prompt 6: Reflect on how Winston or another character might answer the essential question, “How does language control thought/behavior?” “How do we know who we are?”
Words Create the Individual
While John the Savage discovers the power of language to express his thoughts, the society in 1984 uses language to suppress the thoughts of the people. Newspeak is an example of limiting language and in this society, if there is no word for it, the concept becomes inherently non-existent. For example, the narrator says, “political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless” (Orwell 300). By limiting the use of the word “free” in such contexts such as individual freedom, the society attempted to destroy thought related to rebellion or individual uprising. Does this concept actually work? In 1984, it is through the use of doublethink that limiting words can limit thought. People only hear one version of a word, and they suppress any other words, or meanings of words that are not approved by Newspeak. It is true that words do have a power to increase emotion and thought. John the Savage discovers this with Shakespeare and is able to convey his emotions, whether it be love or hate, to others. Without words, there is no communication, and the more the lack of words, the decreased ability one has to communicate emotion. Words are powerful, we think with words, we dream with words, we express with words. However, taking away the human right to words, is taking away the individual.
Without words, we may not have the power to recognize who we are. If there was no word for “I” or “me” and instead only words for “we” or “us”, the society could destroy the concept of the individual and place all power in the power of the group. As Orwell states, “The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual” (Orwell 264). 1984’s attempt to wipe out individual thought succeeds by limiting words. Individual expression is hindered without words and the only collective thought remains. In response to the question, “how do we know who we are?”, the answer is that without words we never know who we are. We are a part of society, a piece of the game, building up the walls and foundations of society, but without words, we can’t define ourselves. Today, have we begun to lose our sense of who we are? Have we become pieces of a game of chess? Destroyed by the inherent fact that our existence means nothing in regards to the collective existence of the universe?
With this, I reiterate the importance of words. How else could I have been able to communicate just now the idea of losing the individual to the larger goals of society? I am using words now to communicate. You are reading words. With this, I hope that twitter and texting don’t become tools to limit communication but instead enhance and further expression. Perhaps the internet destroys personal interaction, but we must never allow it to limit our use of words.
2.Quote lines from the section you enjoyed (not too long a section please) and reflect on why they appealed to you.
“The old feeling, that at bottom it did not matter whether O’Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back. O’Brien was a person who could be talked to. Perhaps one did not want to be loved as much as to be understood” (Orwell 252). This quote on chapter II reveals Winston’s view of O’Brien during his torture session in the Ministry of Love. Although O’Brien is responsible for pulling the lever arm, the protagonist ultimately looks upon him as if he were a friend. The depiction of O’Brien as both friend and enemy struck me due to the idea it exposes- the tenuous line that sets love and hatred apart, previously observed in Julia and Winston’s relationship. Interestingly, the juxtaposition of love and hatred in their relationship exists because, as the narrator comments, “perhaps one did not want to be loved as much as to be understood”. The comment can be used as an indicator of how the couple started to bond- for both claimed similar positions against the Inner Party. Furthermore, the quote exposes how Winston’s viewpoint applies to all other members of society. All individuals in Oceania see their greatest enemies, IngSoc and Big Brother, as friends and guardians of everlasting happiness and stability. The fact that the party provides convenient explanations to nearly all problems they have (thus trapping the population into a cage of conformity), transformed Oceania into men’s greatest friend- a friend who bravely wins battles and does not let Eastasia or Eurasia take over the state. Failed attempts to distinguish between good and evil and enemy and friend have always been part of society, especially in the dark years of the military dictatorship in Brazil. In that time, political prisoners, especially women, often fell in love for their torturers despite of the atrocities they performed. Being slightly more lenient in their torture methods than others was enough to convert a full-time monster into an admirable human being, which is why many tortured women ended up getting married to their own torturers. In fact, there’s a scientific name for this condition- Stockholm Syndrome, when hostages express empathy and sympathy toward their captors. But does Winston consider O’Brien as a friend due to the human tendency of sympathizing towards their captors, or because he still thinks that deep inside, they share the same political ideology?
In response to Athavan
I agree with Athavan in some aspects, especially in regards to the development of the story, since once again we read a book where the protagonist dies as a result of the effects of a totalitarian system. Yet, I strongly disagree about the analysis of Orwell’s authorial intent. What is you’re doing is an inversion or misrepresentation of perspectives, since Orwell should (and indeed he is) be the figurative pessimistic one and you should be the one reflecting upon his exposition and trying to come up with resolutions and ideas about it. I believe that Orwell’s point is not to affirm that humanity is doomed to live under an oppressive regime and there is not hope at all, but to make us aware of the outcomes or possibilities that surround us in a world where power instigates humans to use all means to control one another. Moreover, I believe that the social and historical context in which the book was written must be definitely taken into consideration. If we take into account that Orwell wrote it in 1949, we must also consider that it was a post-war scenario and in which multiple countries were under a dictatorship due to the instability. Thus, analyzing the fragility of the peoples around the globe and the succumbing of countries under the dominance of leaders such as Stalin, I believe that Orwell’s novel works as a preventive measure, as an explicit materialization, of the chaotic descending path which humanity can go through. If we analyze it universally however, disregarding the context, we can also conclude that it successfully proves how ignorance, apathy and conformity, independent of the government, can eventually lead us to live in a state of infinite dominance, not necessarily physical dominance, but mental dominance. As a matter of fact, what is today’s media if not an instrument used to try to persuade us and to control us? Do we really know how if government is working for us or if it is only an institution which devotes most of the time to fight internal political disputes to maintain its own power? As you quoted O’Brien’s line, “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake (Orwell 263).Orwell is not declaring that there is not hope for humanity if we do not do anything, aspects of such reality are already here, not as extreme as in 1984, but it undeniably they are. Winston’s death at the end of the novel does not mean hope has been exterminated, but it makes us aware that we should not stagnate and dispose ourselves from our responsibilities (someone mentioned it in class) to strive for true improvement.
Please click on the above link to review blog expectations. The instructions for this assignment as well as the reading calendar are downloadable in the document to your left.