Comparing Orwell's "1984" And Machiavelli's "The Prince"

1932 words - 8 pages

When examining the totalitarian government of 1984 by George Orwell, a direct connection can be drawn to the motives and ideals associated with Niccoló Machiavelli’s The Prince. Machiavelli’s support of the political necessity as a means to remain in power resonate with the government whose aim is to “extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought” as a way to ensure complete political orthodoxy within the country (193). Specifically, Machiavellian thought plays an important part in 1984 as its ideas on reputation, revolution, avoiding hatred, and the use of fear to control a populace are used by INGSOC in order to maintain complete control throughout the story. In the following paragraphs, the connections between these two works above will be elaborated on in an attempt to show the Machiavellian influence of the government in 1984.
In the writings of both 1984 and The Prince, revolution and ideas surrounding it are presented as major themes. In 1984, the idea of revolution is present in INGSOC’s existence from both the past to the present. Initially, INGSOC is described as coming to power through a popular uprising revolting against the horrors of the previous capitalist system. This is important as having the support of the people from the beginning drastically increases the Party’s power. Machiavelli puts it perfectly when he states that, “he who attains princely rule through the favor of the people finds himself there alone and has no one, or very few, around him who are not ready to obey him” (41). So it seems then that the Party was able to rise to such preeminence off the relative support of the people after the revolution against the previous social system. As time progressed however, the government obviously realized that it would not have public support forever and thus took on a campaign to control any treasonous actions and thoughts that would go against the Party. One of these policies is described when Orwell states “It is deliberate policy to keep even the favored groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increase the importance of small privileges” (191). This idea of maintaining constant hardship in order to increase the importance of small actions is an important tool used by the government in the book. It allows them to garner public support incredibly easily by means of very small or near inconsequential actions, thus reducing the chance of revolution. Revolution against the government is further prevented by the society present in the story. This is due to the fact that although some citizens decidedly are against the Party, the restrictive atmosphere prevents them from networking with other like-minded individuals. This idea is characterized well by Winston when he explains that, “they talked of engaging in active rebellion against the Party, but with no notion of how to take the first step”. Thus, the difficulty in creating a popular revolutionary movement is...

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