Is there any relief to the grimness in section one of 1984?
In the dystopian society Orwell creates in 1984 there is an overwhelming, yet unsettlingly familiar sense of irony; the omnipotent leaders of Oceania, Big Brother and the inner party members, claim to be controlling the everyday lives of the citizens in order to bring them a better life, ‘for the good of the party’ and ‘our new, happy life’. However, this is the distinct opposite to the reality Winston Smith lives in; a totalitarian state which professes to bring hope and happiness, yet in actuality drains any sense of optimism and joy.
In a place bereft of any hope, Winston Smith finds himself desperately searching for a sense of individuality and relief. It would be wrong to assume, however, that Orwell’s society is completely and utterly deprived of solace, there are, at least in section, one faint glimmers of hope, small fragments to which Winston clings; a person he sees in the corridor, the masses of lower classes, the diary in which he writes. There are little details in Winston’s life that do bring a sense of relief; the fact that luckily his room contains an area in which he can remain unseen by the telescreens.
This offers him a minute place of solitude in a society where Big Brother is omnipresent. The presence of his diary and his pen, there is relief in the fact that he is able to write, even if it is extremely dangerous to do so. Remnants of the past can still be found in some places, the paper weight Winston finds, for example becomes something beautiful and rare that brings colour to the grimness of his situation. The shop in itself appears to be a place of hope, Winston finds himself strangely drawn back to it.
Full of memories and paraphernalia of the past it offers some relief to the dark and bleak present. Winston also finds relief in people, evidently the wrong ones as the reader later finds out, but nonetheless the character of O’Brien appeals to him, ” we shall meet in a place where there is no darkness” Winston is told by him and this gives him hope. He writes his diary to O’ Brien and thinks this may be the only person who understands and feels the same way, offering him a sense of comfort ‘”I am with you….
I am on your side” O’ Brien seems to be saying’ and although Winston is gravely mistaken, there is some relief that he believes somebody empathises with him, this gives him faith. “Proles and animals are free” states the party slogan, and Winston believes with conviction that the only prominent hope are within these ‘swarming disregarded masses’. The proles seem free, whereas the rest of the population is indoctrinated and docile. The proles can express themselves, they are allowed to be passionate even if it only about beer and the lottery.
It is ironic that passion can also be evoked in the outer and inner party members, yet this passion is in relation to ‘the two minute hate’ and to Big Brother, rather than a passion for freedom and for hope. Thus continuously Orwell writes that ‘if there is hope, it lies in the Proles’. Orwell himself states that the proles “represent real human beings with their emotions intact and not driven out of them. ” Winston recognises that the Proles are the key to change, as they are the only people capable of thinking for themselves.
However this is only a limited relief, the proles have been tamed and occupied by the party, they are allowed certain freedom because they do not have the ability to rebel, as Orwell writes they are not conscious of their own strength, “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious. ” To that end hope may indeed lie with the proles yet it seems unlikely to amount to the rebellion needed to bring relief to Oceania.
The idea that logic, tautologies and mathematics can never be truly altered is a key theme throughout 1984, in section one there is still hope and optimism in these fields, or so Winston beliefs. “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows. ” This belief gives Winston something to hold on to, he knows that it is true and it offers a sort of promise that at least something is inalterable. Winston wonders whether if everybody believed that two plus two makes five, it be considered truth.
Yet the fact remains that although history is rewritten, and events and people erased, no bureaucracy can alter the universal laws of maths. In section one Memory features as an outlet for relief and a place of hope, although it is evident that people do not remember the past as well as they should, Winston still has vague recollections and images from his past, the images of his mother and sister haunt him, but at least they show that there was something before. proles remember lottery….. remembers songs….. … shop keeper memory…. man in pub… 984 is often described as a warning to the future; Oceania has strong parallels with Stalin’s Russia and the message still resonates with the modern reader familiar with the sense of paranoia and increasing government restrictions in light of international events. Perhaps hope can be drawn from Orwell’s footnote in the beginning pages, stating that ‘newspeak’ was the official language, the past tense suggests, as propounded by Margaret Atwood, that the dystopia was not eternal. For Winston Smith, in the immediate present of Oceania, there is a small sense of relief, yet only perhaps because he is looking for it.
He perceives himself to be different from the rest of the outer party members and this helps him to find some relief, yet at the same time also mentally tortures him as he wonders if he is a lunatic, ‘ a minority of one’. Although there is some relief to the grimness in section one, there is not quite enough to combat the totalitarian control of Big Brother, it seems that Winston Smith eventually starts to take risks, not because he is hopeful or experience relief, but because he becomes even more apathetic towards his own existence.