Religion Essay

2235 words - 9 pages

A moral code governing human affairs, the reverence an all-powerful entity and the concept of an innate conviction in the authority of belief are factors of religion that Margaret Atwood and George Orwell have exploited in 'The Handmaid's Tale' and 'Nineteen Eight-Four' in order to convey the extremes of a totalitarian government.In both novels, religion is used as a tool to implement rules, change lifestyles and enforce control. Each novel makes its own comment on contemporary attitudes towards religion and the strong influential power that religion has over people as individuals and as a population.The premises of each novel are the same: a dictatorship ruling over a population. However, in Nineteen Eight-Four, Orwell uses a specific authority figure to exert control named 'Big Brother' while in The Handmaid's Tale there is no specific leader but a hierarchy of importance similar to the Hindu caste system. Just as there are 'Untouchables' in Hinduism, in Gilead there are 'Unwomen.' The 'Unwomen' are segregated from society in the same way as Untouchables are yet Atwood has chosen to use 'women' instead of a generic term. This supports the theme of inequality between sexes in religion that is presented in the novel. 'Big Brother' on the other hand is depicted as a supreme being, a God-like figure who is seen by the characters to be omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.In the opening chapter of Nineteen Eighty-Four, these ideas of 'Big Brother' are established. Telescreens that 'can never be turned off' and a poster with the caption 'BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU' are described. The capitalised lettering immediately grabs the attention of the reader and by placing the statement at the beginning of a sentence Orwell effectively projects the words to the reader. In this way, the reader is made acutely aware of the inescapable and ominous glare of Big Brother. Also, Orwell gives the dictator figure the title 'Big Brother' in order to disturb the reader. This title connotes a sense of comfort and protectiveness just as the name 'Father' given to God in Christianity offers Christians a sense of intimacy with God. The intimate title of 'Big Brother' and its use in this caption makes the reader feel unnerved as the expectation of a comforting and guiding authority is starkly contrasted with the invasion of privacy that Big Brother imposes on society.In addition, the poster that 'follows you about when you move' is described as having an 'enormous face' that 'gazed from the wall' on each landing of Winston's apartment block. Here, Orwell conveys the power of the threat of a ruler watching your every move, a feature of most organized religions. Orwell creates a physical reminder of a notion which is an essential component to many religious groups. Where the threat of hell or of the power God is present in most religions, in Oceania there is the threat of Big Brother.In the same way, the society of Gilead that is illustrated in The Handmaid's Tale relies...

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