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Propaganda in 1984: Essay

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World War II negatively impact the world as totalitarian political parties fought to control the world. George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 paints the picture of how the continuation of totalitarian governments would result in a fearful society. 1984 reveals how constant surveillance, low food rations, and propaganda allows for citizens to practically become government property. Orwell uses symbols to develop themes such as the telescreen to develop how government surveillance results in citizens with modified behavior, blue overalls to prove the theme of how under a dictatorship society individuality is taken away, propaganda to imply thought becomes corrupted as dictatorship is established and proles to draw a conclusion to how a happy society is achieved by allowing citizens to express themselves.

In Orwell’s novel, the telescreen is used as a symbol of fear which develops the theme, that government surveillance results in citizens with modified behavior. Orwell places telescreens throughout Oceania in public and private places for Party members as a watch mechanism. The telescreen allows for “ a sort of transparency “ (Orwell 117) as “any sound… above the level of a very low whisper would be picked up” (4). This symbol inputs authority above the people of Oceania, allowing a totalitarian society to unfold as citizens become fearful of the government and change their behavior to avoid punishment. As history draws a connection between 1984 and Hitler's charismatic personality used to persuade others into racism and antisemitism, the telescreen functions the same way as they create fear in the minds of citizens through propaganda and surveillance. Furthermore, in every event as Winston rebels against the Party, a reference to the telescreen is always made. For instants, as he writes in his journal, visits the parole sector to speak with the old man (95), or when viewing Mr. Charrington's room, Winston is always aware of his surroundings as he checks for telescreens. His change in attitude is seen on page 6 as “he had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism”. This fear can be depicted as he falsely creates an expression that acts as a conceal his thoughts, in hopes of pleasing Ingsoc. Therefore the telescreen is symbolic as it takes on the theme of how government surveillance results in citizens with modified behavior.

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Another symbol used in 1984 is the blue overalls which symbolize oppression to prove the theme, that under a dictatorship society individuals' identity is taken away. The blue overalls were worn by inner and outer party members of Oceania and are used to oppress the citizens by acting as an identification characteristic to those under the party. According to Vice News, during World War II overalls were used by fascist groups to input control over citizens as they attempted to gain ultimate control. Orwell uses overalls to draw a connection between Winston’s society and World War II, concluding the totalitarian government's goal which was to create minds to think alike in hopes of overpowering citizens. Since clothes allow for diversity, by removing them, overpowering becomes attainable or as Winston said it was, “an age of uniformity” (30). When Winston visits the pub it is mentioned how “ behind his back he can feel everyone eyeing his blue overalls” (91). This proves how he is different and is not seen as an individual but instead identified as one with the party and its concepts. Thus, the overalls allow for citizens to be overpowered by masking out their identity.

Furthermore, Propaganda is used as a symbol of control which aids in developing the theme that thought becomes corrupted as dictatorship is established. A dictatorship society uses propaganda which is the foundation of Oceania and is nearly found everywhere, such as Winston’s house. For example posters with says such as “Big Brother is Watching You” (4), “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” (6) are present in Oceania along with the two minutes of hate. Since words, pictures, and fake news easily penetrate the minds of people, Orwell chooses to use them as a control tool for its citizens to change their thoughts. World War II propaganda was used to manipulate people through images that lead to a change in their perception, accepting the ideas and further enforcing them. In the novel, Goldstein is a propaganda tool that the Party uses to convince citizens, that their society is safe and the outside world is dangerous. The Party's mischievous plans are seen on page 189 “The agents of Goldstein had been at work!...The Hate continued exactly as before, except the target changed”. This quote proves how the people in Oceania's beliefs are altered by a simple lie, resulting in the Party’s slogan “who controls the past...controls the future; who controls the present controls the past” (37) becoming a reality. Therefore, propaganda is used to imply the theme that thoughts become corrupted as dictatorship is enacted.

Finally, the proles are symbols of freedom which develops the theme, that a happy society is achieved by allowing citizens to express themselves. The proles are lower-class people which, “ grew up in the gutters... went to work at 12... married at 20...heavy physical work so long as they continue to work and breed, their other activities were without importance” (79). In the novel, the proles are seemingly the happiest people in Oceania in contrast to the protagonist, as they are not under surveillance and have little to no obligation to the Party. A significant slogan used by the party to express this can be found on page 75, “proles and animals are free”. This is continuously proved throughout the novel as their homes do not contain telescreens, they are not forced to wear uniforms, and also “the bird sang, the proles sang, the party did not sing” (230). All these distinctive features permitted to the proles and not Winston reveal how Orwell chooses them because even though they are not considered equal they are happy, whereas Winston is part of the Party yet is sad. As Winston constantly mentions if there’s “hope it lies in the proles”, he reveals inner compassion towards them along with a possible desire to be like them, free. Thus, the symbolic proles used by Orwell develops the theme a happy society is achieved by allowing citizens to be themselves.

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Propaganda in 1984: Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“Propaganda in 1984: Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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