Relevance of Orwell’s “1984” in Today’s World
The novel Nineteen Eighty-Four or 1984 has become one of Orwell’s most famous works and one of the best-known dystopian works. The author used themes and plots that he saw in the world of his day (Bradfield, 2019). In this context, 1984 was never a prediction but rather a reflection of harsh reality and a call to pay attention to emerging trends. However, it was written more than 70 years ago, and the world has changed significantly since then. Nevertheless, 1984 retains its thematic relevance even in a different order of society. This essay aims to analyze this thesis and answer the question of which Orwell’s ideas remain relevant after so many years.
There are several central themes on which the narrative was built in 1984. One of them is censorship, which can be traced in almost the entire text. Censoring and destroying objectionable records extends even to people: “Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out” (Orwell, 2013, p. 19). In such an atmosphere, any dissent is suppressed, and only the course chosen by the Party remains. Another prominent theme is the manifestation of intense nationalism, both positive in the case of Big Brother and negative in the case of hatred of Goldstein (Orwell, 2013). Simultaneously, the direction of the crowd’s hatred changes at the government’s will. Finally, Oceania and its ideology are impossible without constant surveillance, including through telescreens: “The instrument… could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely” (Orwell, 2013, p. 4). It is constant surveillance and the fear of the Thought Police that keep Oceanian society in its current order.
Most of these themes, as stated earlier, were based on Orwell’s observations; however, along with the development of technology, Big Brother has also adapted to the changing world. At the moment, there is very little open censorship that shuts down independent media. On the other hand, there is a widespread “cancel culture” on the Internet, in which a person can lose all their influence due to careless thought (Packer, 2019). Vibrant nationalism is often displayed in the slogans of politicians, especially those as radical as Trump. In his speeches, the former president repeatedly turned the people against migrants, leading to xenophobic sentiments (“The impact of Trump’s immigration agenda,” 2019). Finally, the clearest example of total surveillance is the Internet space, in which a massive number of sites constantly collect user data (Bradfield, 2019). People who use media giants’ products like Facebook are monitored continuously to improve the quality of services. However, theoretically, there can be a variety of motives behind these formulations.
Virtually all of the significant themes Orwell touched on in 1984 survive, albeit modified, in modern society. Therefore, the author’s warning is still relevant and worth paying attention to. It is necessary to explore the deep essence of the work: doublethink, censorship, and surveillance. Although the political regimes in the modern world are different from 1984, some aspects of Orwell’s world are still found in it. A prime example is Donald Trump’s inauguration, during which his spokesman made extensive use of what the administration says are alternative facts (Packer, 2019). Another confirmation is the corporate politics of enormous media holdings tied to surveillance and information gathering. Although the world has changed tremendously since the book’s release, it still contains the same elements that troubled Orwell.
Consequently, his work remains relevant in the modern world, as it retains the applicability of the main message – a warning about the consequences of excessive power in political regimes. Although the analogs of Oceania and other states do not exist now, their aspects have not disappeared. The total surveillance of intelligence services on the streets has been replaced by the management of activity on the Internet, and the media actively use doublethink to form the necessary opinion. Thus, in today’s world, just as in the world of Orwell, it is imperative to hold on to actual values and not allow regimes to control human life altogether.
Bradfield, S. (2019). Why ‘1984’ is still relevant today — But not for the reason you may expect. Los Angeles Times.
Orwell, G. (2013). 1984. HarperCollins.
Packer, G. (2019). Doublethink is stronger than Orwell imagined. The Atlantic.
The impact of Trump’s immigration agenda (2020). FWD.us.