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The Portrayal Of Government In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 And George Orwell's 1984

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Government is one of the constants of Human life on Earth, whether it be a freedom loving Democracy where everybody is equal, or a Totalitarian dictatorship in which human rights are quelled below the idols of money and power. Many pieces of popular culture display Governments as the latter. This is seen very well in ‘1984’ By George Orwell and ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ is set in The United States and follows Guy Montag a fireman, who in this society is someone who burns books, He begins to wonder whether there is any sense to burning these books, and decides to take one home and read one to find out for himself. He is quickly found out; yet allowed to read the book in order for him to see that the task at hand is futile. however, he doesn’t and instead seeks out an English professor who helps him to understand the joy of books and in turn to help bring books to everyone. He is later betrayed by his wife and made to burn down his house, in turn however he burns his superior officer alive and joins a book-based cult. The city is then bombed, and books are used to rebuild Society.

‘1984’ is set in the year 1984 in the land of Airstrip one (Britain) It follows Winston smith who is viewed constantly through telescreen, He is plagued by propaganda constantly and pressured to conform to a specific set of rules. He works in a section of the government called the Ministry of truth where he changes historical records in order to make them fit into the ideals of the ruling party. He notices a woman called Julia and they fall in love and have a relationship that is hidden from the Ruling party. They are indoctrinated into a brotherhood who act as a resistance against the ruling government by a high-ranking member of the government. However, he turns out to be a spy. He spends months torturing and brainwashing Winston, until finally he is sent to Room 101 where he is forced to confront his worst fear and is trapped in a cage full of rats. He pleads that Julia be given the punishment instead.

The novel ends with Winston’s spirit being broken, he encounters Julia yet no longer has any feelings towards her. He is well and truly indoctrinated into the party and learns to love the party.

Governmental Style

Governmental style in ‘1984’ is conveyed in a style of complete control, everyone is being observed and there is no true freedom, The World is split into many different supercontinents all at war with one another. Britain is Part of a supercontinent called Oceania after being absolved into the United States after World War 2. However, it is now called Airstrip one. This nation is led by a party called Ingsoc which in turn is led by ‘Big Brother’. This was inspired by the Nazi party, this is shown throughout the text by excessive use of propaganda such as ‘Victory Gin’ mentioned very early on. Which instils powerful words to implement a sense of national pride as well as hope in the system. This is also shown by Big Brother who is probably a reference to Hitler as he is the figurehead of the party as well as being the political leader. This paired with organisations, such as the spies and the youth organisations, give clear reflections to Nazi Germany, with the spies being the Gestapo and SS, and the youth organisations being based upon the Hitler youth. This link to Nazi-ism is especially important as the novel was written in 1948, shortly after

World War 2, when the concept of a dictatorship was fresh in most of the world’s minds. Orwell in this novel, conveys the government as a totalitarianist-dictatorship, with one person above all and absolute order.

Governmental Style in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ is based on total control, they tell people how to think instead of allowing them to think for themselves, this is due to their belief that if there was free thought then the government would not last and instead be brought down rather quickly. The people in this society were Forced to conform, some naturally and some brutally. One of the main ways they got rid of free thought was by the banning and subsequent burning of books. This is a rather Ironic concept as it is one of the main concepts yet is written in a book. Much like Orwell, Bradbury conveys the governmental style in this novel as a totalitarianist-dictatorship.

Comparisons

Both Novel’s share a relatively similar view on the government, being very controlling and removing free thought, this can be seen by the fact they Both rely on Conformity, one of the main differences is the way the endings are handled. In Fahrenheit, the protagonist escapes and begins society again with a new system of belief’s, whereas 1984 ends with the protagonist being re-integrated into the belief system they had tried so desperately to escape from. This provides an interesting comparison as it show’s two sides of a story of trying to win freedom, one successfully and one unsuccessfully.

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Both novels rely heavily on lack of information, in Fahrenheit it comes from the burning of books, and in 1984 it comes from the thought-police. These help to bring about the narrative of the nation’s being under complete government control and without freedom.

With reference to the texts, it can be seen that both are set in Post-Nuclear war worlds. In ‘1984’ it states “We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 2022” and “when the atom bomb was dropped on Coventry” This gives very clear insight into the fact that they are indeed post war societies, it’s incredibly likely that this amount of nuclear war has left the world in a nuclear winter-esque state and that it is indeed a post-apocalyptic society. The setting is seen less clearly in ‘Fahrenheit-451’ where it says “The city looks like a heap of baking powder” this can be linked to nuclear weapons as a society is unlikely to have found a weapon that rivals or beats the awesome power of a Nuclear weapon.

A similarity that encompasses these previous aspects however, is that they are both set in worlds ruled by totalitarian dictatorships. One person above all, forcing absolute order upon residents, where a lack of freedom and information is heavily enforced. The basis of any dictatorship is also front and centre in terms of themes for both novels, removing data which reflects badly upon a regime, and replacing it with only parts which convey it in a positive way.

Reflection upon present day society

Many believe that the world today is very much like the worlds explored in these novels. One prominence of this has come rather recently, where in a rally in Kansas City, President Donald Trump stated “Stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news… what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening”[footnoteRef:1], This goes hand in hand with 1984, in which the protagonist Winston’s job is to erase public data which is deemed to be politically “inconvenient” with the slogan “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”, the use of solely capital letters here indicates power, and a will to express that power in ways which may be dangerous. The decision Donald Trump took to say this co-aligns with this, choosing to remove data which incriminates or reflects badly upon his regime, and replace it with only the good. The basis of a Dictatorship. [1: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/25/politics/donald-trump-vfw-unreality/index.html]

Another situation that puts this into play is the regime in the DPRK, or North Korea. This regime is built heavily upon censorship, in which citizens view the supreme leader ‘Kim Jong-Un’ as a god like figure “There are no independent media in the country; all media are strictly censored and no deviation from the official government line is tolerated. The government allows no editorial freedom; all stories are centrally directed and reviewed to ensure that they are in line with the state ideology. The government also controls academic and cultural content. Authorities prohibit listening to foreign media broadcasts and take steps to jam foreign radio broadcasts. Various ministries are responsible for modifying television and radio equipment to prevent users from accessing material from overseas and other material deemed illegal by the government. Individuals accused of viewing foreign films are reportedly subject to imprisonment or even execution”[footnoteRef:2] This shows that the situation in North Korea is, from an outside perspective, Orwellian in nature, Where people are executed for ingesting media that may in any way harm the lie that the Kim dynasty has so perfectly crafted in order to create obedience and loyalty. [2: https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/259366.htm]

A book burning incident occurred in Cuba in 2005, where private organisations attempted to set up libraries outside of the government, to which the Government, under Fidel Castro, incinerated so called “Offensive” books such as “The universal declaration of Human Rights” Ray Bradbury spoke out against this stating “I stand against any library or any librarian anywhere in the world being imprisoned or punished in any way for the books they circulate” This is an incident straight out of Fahrenheit 451, with books being burned in order to destroy knowledge and halt people thinking or speaking out against the government, with books such as “Fidel’s secret wars” amongst those being burned.[footnoteRef:3] [3: https://www.wnd.com/2005/06/31082/]

All in all, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘1984’ share astounding similarities, as well as differences. The worlds in which they are set in are both post-apocalyptic Totalitarian Dictatorships, strife with Propaganda, and misinformation. They both convey the governments as being in complete control, with 1984 being very observation based with constant surveillance, where the government is attempting to control thoughts, whereas the government in Fahrenheit 451 is more about dumbing down the population in a bid to get it to a point where they are incredibly easy to control. Both are based in alternate realities that have been ravaged by nuclear war. This is used in the novels to show the governments as having taken power, either by making use of these weapons, or exploiting the populations that have been affected by these.

1984 especially considers a recent event in history, World war 2 which had ended 3 years prior to the novels release. The references within 1984 to World War 2 and especially the Nazi party are very prominent. The thought police are probably inspired by the SS and Gestapo, whereas Big Brother is probably based upon Hitler. World War 2 was ended when the US dropped nuclear bombs on japan. The first use of Nuclear weapons in warfare, this is very relevant as the world 1984 is set in is one that has been ravaged by nuclear war. More specifically an alternate world where the Axis won the war.

Pivotally however, these two novels cover the basis of what a dictatorship is. Covering up the bad in a regime, whilst forcing the good. Especially with how much news events of the present time relate to these. It is incredibly important that people pay attention to what is happening to the world, as both authors have done a scarily accurate job of portraying dictatorships stemming from red tape covering the important truths. Is the world we live in today the world from these novels?

Bibliography

  1. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/25/politics/donald-trump-vfw-unreality/index.html
  2. https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/259366.htm
  3. https://www.wnd.com/2005/06/31082/

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The Portrayal Of Government In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 And George Orwell’s 1984. (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-portrayal-of-government-in-ray-bradburys-fahrenheit-451-and-george-orwells-1984/
“The Portrayal Of Government In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 And George Orwell’s 1984.” Edubirdie, 08 Jul. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-portrayal-of-government-in-ray-bradburys-fahrenheit-451-and-george-orwells-1984/
The Portrayal Of Government In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 And George Orwell’s 1984. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-portrayal-of-government-in-ray-bradburys-fahrenheit-451-and-george-orwells-1984/> [Accessed 8 Jun. 2023].
The Portrayal Of Government In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 And George Orwell’s 1984 [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 08 [cited 2023 Jun 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-portrayal-of-government-in-ray-bradburys-fahrenheit-451-and-george-orwells-1984/
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