"George Orwell" And The Mad World: The Anti Universe Of 1984.

3672 words - 15 pages

"I shall save you, Winston, I shall make you perfect." So O'Brien, the Grand Inquisitor of 1984, has said to the antihero Winston Smith, in one of the dream sequences which strangely go almost unnoticed in that inverted Platonic dialogue which is Orwell's monument. It is as if the lives of the Platonic philosopher-kings were viewed from the point of view of one of the Auxiliaries. But it is not the old style of dialogue, in which there is a certain amount of free interchange of ideas, even between master and disciple. Rather, in this new style of dialogue, one party has the ability to inflict pain on the other party in any degree desired, even while the two proceed to discuss the most abstruse political questions. Dialogue implies the ability to have one's mind changed, but in the condition of "controlled insanity" which is 1984, communication consists in the imposition of an insane view of reality by the strong few upon the weak many, through overwhelming force. O'Brien must "save" Winston, but this is religious salvation turned backward, and its purpose is to prevent even one "just man" from existing anywhere in the world, by convincing that man that he is insane. "Is it possible that a whole society can be insane?" asked Orwell in one of his essays, speaking of Hitler's Germany.Orwell's 1984 is about religion reversed, law and government reversed, and above all, language reversed: not simply corrupted, but reversed. In the world of 1984, the mad world which Orwell sought by his writing to lead men to avoid--for he was a political activist not interested in simple prediction--in this world, which I call Orwell's "antiuniverse," because of his conversion of all the positives of Western civilization into their negatives, all of the channels of communication are systematically being closed down, restricted to just the minimums necessary for the technical functioning of society. For Orwell, as for his master, Swift, language and politics are equivalents, and political corruption is always preceded by linguistic corruption, of which the phrases "two plus two equals five" and "black is white" are only the ultimate logical (and mad) projections. Communication will become, if the political tendencies which Orwell saw in the forties continue, not the transmission of meaning, but the attempt to avoid meaning in furtherance of a political end which we feel must be mad but are unable to prove, even as Winston Smith cannot prove to his tormentor the madness of the Party's doctrines.Instead of the Electric Age resulting in a quantum jump in communication, as Professor McLuhan asserts in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, when he says that "as electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village," what McLuhan calls both "cool" and "hot" media have been, in the Orwellian view, dampened down as between individual and individual, and distorted terribly as between the individual and the State. I mention McLuhan not only because his book is...

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