Censorship on 1984 by George Orwell

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Ethan Hawkins Mrs. Feinauer English 2200 2 February 2019 1984 – History Analysis As we dive into the world of the totalitarian society of Oceania in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, there is a connection between Orwell’s grim prediction of the future and of the world he lived in. Events going on in the world and in his own life have had an influence on the creation of the plot and structure of the novel. Just a few of the major events that occurred in the latter portion of his life and that affected the creation of the book are the events of World War II, the Spanish Civil War, and personal ailments. One of the major influences on the creation of the novel was World War II. The war stretched from the years 1939 to 1945, just a few years before the book was published. At this time, Orwell was working as a reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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For the three years he worked there, he was in charge of broadcasting propaganda as a ‘strong anti-fascist signal to India while at the same time attempting to strengthen India’s loyal support of the British war effort’ (Secino). However, in his line of work of voicing his opinions, he struggled with censorship coming from the United Kingdom’s government department, the Ministry of Information (Secino). Winston Smith had a very similar situation as Orwell as he worked in the Ministry of Truth which “concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts” (Orwell 4), but in truth, Winston’s primary responsibility was to rewrite articles to correct what the Party deemed as mistakes and replaced them with falsified information. Just as Smith faced the issue of knowingly altering the past, Orwell struggled with producing shows and information that would stretch the evident truth in order to draw more support from his audience.

From this, his objective at the BBC was to make the propaganda coming out of the station “slightly less disgusting that it might otherwise have been” (Secino). Before World War II, Orwell’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War explains his knowledge of warfare and his fear of everlasting war between nations. In 1936, he enlisted in a socialist militia to fight against the fascist party led by General Francisco Franco. With very little training and weapon knowledge, Orwell and the rest of the militia were sent to the front lines where he engaged in trench warfare (Secino). Here he witnessed the horrors of war and described his surroundings as “a war that moved nowhere”(Secino). This idea is relatable to the constant battle between the three superstates: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia.

In the novel, it is described as “warfare of limited aims between combatants who are unable to destroy one another” (Orwell 186). During his time on the front lines, he was shot in the throat and was fortunate to survive. After being shot and sent home to numerous hospitals, pro-Stalin communist forces in Spain turned on the [militia], branding them Trotskyist traitors” (Aaronovitch). As he and the men he fought with were being hunted down with the likelihood of being executed, Orwell managed to escape across the border of France (Secino). This betrayal most likely coincides with the alliances between the superstates and their deception towards one another every few years. As the accords between Oceania and Eurasia was broken, the Party is able to convince the citizens that “Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia” (Orwell 34). With firsthand experience of the dangers of totalitarianism and the wars it caused, Orwell based the whole book off of this idea with a communistic-like society with the head dictator, Big Brother.

Orwell has portrayed the dictator in the likes of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, the prominent tyrants during this period of time. Another one of the big influences that contributed more particularly to the dreary events of the story has to do with Orwell battling and struggling with illness. Growing up he had multiple cases of pneumonia, bronchitis, and other respiratory ailments (Live Science). Years later, it was determined that he was diagnosed with tuberculosis which he dealt with until he died in January of 1950. As Orwell began to write 1984, his medical conditions grew worse and he later hospitalized because of it. It is believed that during this time, the lung infections, chronic coughing up of blood, and other symptoms of tuberculosis “may have helped color the descriptions of the torture Winston undergoes at the Ministry of Love” (Eschner).

The deterioration of Winston’s body described in the mirror scene as “a bowed, gray-colored, skeletonlike thing” and “the truly frightening thing was the emancipation of his body” (Orwell 271). This depiction is most likely reflects on Orwell’s own physical state and the decline of his health with his conflicting illnesses. Another contributing factor to the decline in his mental health is when his wife Eileen Blair died on March 29, 1945. An event like this furthered his own torment of illness along with adding to his own depression and it added to the harshness of the events of the story. As Orwell struggled to complete the book, he managed to finish and publish it on June 8, 1949, just six months before he passed away. The became a classic of English literature. Although there are many other contributing factors to the production, these are just a few of the major influences that inspired Orwell to write one of the most well known and extraordinary novels of our time.

Works Cited

  1. Aaronovitch, David. “1984: George Orwell’s Road to Dystopia.” BBC News, BBC, 8 Feb. 2013, www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21337504. Eschner, Kat. “George Orwell Wrote ‘1984’ While Dying of Tuberculosis.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 24
  2. Mar. 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/george-orwell-wrote-1984-while-dying-tuberculosis-180962608/. Live Science Staff. “Study: George Orwell’s Illnesses Influenced ‘1984’.”
  3. LiveScience, Purch, 20 Oct. 2005, www.livescience.com/425-study-george-orwell-illnesses-influenced-1984.html. Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four: a Novel. Signet, 2003. Secino, Benjamin. “The Influences of George Orwell’s 1984.” Londonhua WIKI, 21 June 2017, https://londonhuawiki.wpi.edu/index.php/The_Influences_of_George_Orwell%27s_1984 
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