The theme is a literary device that a writer uses to express his opinion as well as views and to explain his topic to his readers. Almost every poem, novel and drama contain one or more than one theme; some of them remain hidden whereas some are those that a reader can understand without any effort. It is one of the significant characteristics of a successful novel or drama that it contains universal themes. Hence, themes have much importance in a literary work. 1984 is a novel by George Orwell that represents many wonderful major as well as minor themes. Some of them are:
Impacts of Politics
There is no denying the fact that the novel is based on a story that is political in nature. The writer mainly focuses on the alarming dead-end condition of the totalitarian government and its struggle to save itself. Indeed, the writer tells the story from a political perspective; hence, the major themes of the novel 1984 are related to politics. The writer experienced Spain and the Russian administration trying to maintain and enhance their powers, for which they can go to any end. The administration does not just want to govern and see matters with the naked eye but also wishes to strengthen its power.
Although the novel contains universal subject matters yet it is also a matter of fact that the writer specifically wants to grab the attention of western countries. It was the time when prominent personalities promoted communism. In addition, they preferred to make a link between countries that are already in this state. The Soviet Union was an inspiration for them and they used to quote its examples in order to prove its superiority. Even it was considered a successful and satisfactory mode of governance.
The writer of the novel 1984 is entirely against communism and he points out its major drawbacks through such themes that become universal. He is against those who support it. One of the significant reasons behind opposing communism is the cruel administration. He considers it against humanity as it oppressed the poor people of society. The writer particularly sheds light on the use of technology that was used to see and manage the actions of people.
Fear and Destruction of Autocracy
George Orwell in the novel 1984 illustrates the future of humanity in respect of governance. Mostly the government is created for the welfare of citizens but the writer does not think so, so far as the real purpose of communism and totalitarianism is concerned. He creates an imaginary government that is against the norms of a civilised society. It has neither ethics nor values. It does not think for the people but about the people who may go against them one day and to stop them they monitor their actions with modern technology.
Indeed, the writer paints an imaginary world in the novel; however, his moto is to show that if such kinds of governments are not opposed then the tale may become a reality. In this way, he takes notice of the future of mankind which is in the hands of autocracy.
Speaking against cruelty and against a system in case it is not for the welfare of people is a basic right of every citizen. Everyone should have the freedom to talk about it but the writer shows how the administration considers it a threat.
The writer portrays a character Winston Smith whose activities are monitored 24/7. He is a member of the ruling party; however, he is against it. He tries to oppose but remains failed and is ultimately punished with his gravest fear of being bitten by rats. In this way, the writer shows a hopeless situation not only for the common citizens but also for party members who become slaves in their hands.
Physical and Mental Binding as Two Major Themes in 1984
The ruling party binds the minds. In order to do this it uses the latest technology. For instance, on many occasions, it is revealed that the administration thinks to invent a new language, the purpose of which is to completely remove rebellious words that people may use against it. Even the administration monitor and keep a historical record of citizens. In other words, the party wants to nip people’s freedom of thinking from the bud.
Apparently, the people of Oceania are independent and there is no slavery system but the writer portrays some major themes in his novel 1984 through which he illustrates that it may be called modern slavery. He forces his readers to think that it is certainly there though the people do not realise that it is there.
Ruling party projects upcoming dangerous events that may be used against it in future. Besides the new language, it tells its stories to people through big screens. Not only it hides failures but converts failure to success while showing it to the citizens. It is always said that the media can control the minds of people. No one can know this fact better than the ruling party, hence, it controls people’s minds through the media. So, physical and mental Binding are two other major themes of the novel 1984.
Boundaries and Limitations
In addition, the party monitor every member through others. Winston’s example is in front of us whom O’Brien continuously watches without revealing that he is a secret agent. The party trains spy children who can go against their own families if the party needs them. In case they remain failed to train someone, brainwashing is the ultimate option that the party adopts. Thus, boundaries and limitations as well as monitoring and controlling the minds become some major themes of this novel.
Many prominent examples of physical control are abundant in the novel. Not only speaking against the party but a small gesture is considered a crime. A small doubt in their minds regarding rebelliousness can alarm them and they appoint one of their best spies to detect and confirm it. One of the prominent techniques that the party uses is of keeping the citizens busy with work so that they cannot think of resistance. Thus, oppression is also a technique that the party uses against citizens. It is apparent when Winston is confined for many days and tortured. Furthermore, reeducation is system through which citizens are tortured physically.
Love and Distrust as Major Themes on 1984
Love and distrust are two major themes of the novel 1984. Julia sends a note to Winston in which she solemnly declares that she loves him. She is a dark-haired girl and attracts Winston. He falls in love with her. They start an affair. Though Julia is dissimilar in traits to Winston yet they have a common cause of bringing revolution against the party. It is one of the main causes due to which they both meet and start an affair. Winston thinks that their love is not everlasting but Julia thinks the opposite; compared to Winston, she is optimistic. Their love affair ends when the Thought Police catch them red-handedly manipulating the ruling party with the help of Mr Charrington.
O’Brien portrays the theme of distrust in the novel. He shows himself a spy of the Brotherhood due to which Julia and Winston create a close bond with him. Finally, at the end of the novel he shows himself as a sincere member of the ruling party who just pretends that he is a spy Brotherhood. Mr Charrington is also revealed as a member of the Thought Police which promotes the theme of distrust in the novel. On top of it, at the time Winston is punished with rats to eat his face, he pleads to do this to Julia and not to him.
Loyalty, Rebelliousness and Revolution
Loyalty, rebelliousness and revolution are three major themes that are apparent from the very beginning of the novel 1984. Everyone seems loyal to the party and at the same time keeps a secrete of challenging its authority. Winston does not know who is spy. Julia is also unaware of it. They apparently show themselves loyal members of the party but secretly they are planting against it. O’Brien seems an agent of the Brotherhood to Winston but soon he realises that he is actually a spy of the ruling party.
Winston and Julia’s activities are not only monitored through modern devices but also through spies. O’Brien watches them wherever they go and what they do. This is a case that the writer portrays in the novel through which he shows that there is a spy on everyone. It may be possible that O’Brien is also watched through another agent. The party spare nobody nor does it trusts anyone. It trains children to find people who seem revolutionary. The children inform the party about people who may manipulate it. The incident of Mr Parson’s son is obvious in the novel.
The party has spies everywhere even at shops to sell tools. It wants to maintain loyalty for which it uses force. It seems that the administration maintains it by hook or by crook. There seems no chance of rebelliousness against it. In order to keep citizens loyal to the party and to suppress rebelliousness, the party can go to any end. Hence, the novel 1984 depicts themes of loyalty, revolution and rebelliousness.
Themes regarding Two Major Classes in 1984
Winston lives in a small apartment. He has no freedom to enjoy the luxuries of life. Thus, he belongs to the ordinary class who can do nothing except work. People in this class also cannot do anything to change their miserable conditions. A revolution is an option but it does not seem possible from any angle. Media feeds them loyalty to party and they have to sit and watch. They are not permitted to go anywhere. At the beginning of the novel, Winston wants to get rid of the oppression of the party as it restrains him from thinking, doing sex and living with freedom. In short, the people from the ordinary class are modern slaves. Prisoners of jail are other words that may be used to describe the lifestyle of people like Winston.
On the opposite, the people of the elite class live in luxury apartments. The writer compares Winston with O’Brien to define and differentiate the two major classes in Oceania. Elite-class people have servants and they are somewhat better than the people who belong to an ordinary class. However, it does not mean that people from the elite class have permission to live individual life. It is the party that decides what they can think and how they can live. In other words, the party creates boundaries for both classes. In this way, the class system becomes one of the major themes of 1984.
Technology and Language
The party uses language to suppress people’s emotions whereas it uses technology to control minds. In the novel, there are many occasions where the use of technology can be seen. The boards to make people aware that they are being watched, the telescreens to show them so-called success stories of the party, and the cameras to monitor their actions and activities are evidence that the writer uses technology not only as a tool but as one the major themes of novel 1984.
Newspeak is a language that the party wants to invent. It is not the use of a language but the abuse of a language. The administration wants to omit such words that may provoke emotions of revolution. They want to raise communication barriers to prevent people from doing activities that can bring destruction to the party. Hence, the use of technology and the invention of a new language are two major themes of the novel 1984.