Nineteen Eighty-Four was written by a major contributor to anticommunist literature around the World War II period, and is one of the greatest stories of an anti-utopian society ever. Nineteen Eighty-Four was not written solely as an entertaining piece of literature or as a dream of what the future could be like, it was written as a warning of what could happen as a result of communism and totalitarianism. This was not necessarily a widely popular vision of the future at the time of publication, but it was certainly considered a possibility by many people. The popular vision of the future, if analyzed as from a character in the book’s point of view, sometimes changes, depending on the character. The mass of people, the proletarians, have a single vision of what the future is. However, Winston, and others who have had the same experience as him, have a different view of the future after leaving the Ministry of Love.
Their were many different visions of the future at the time when Nineteen Eighty-Four was written. Some people believed that the world superpowers would conquer the weak nations of the world and democracy would rule everything. Some believed that the world would stay as it was in 1948, as many individual nations, and somewhere in the future we would drive cars through the air and live on the moon. Others feared that communism, totalitarianism, and socialism would spread throughout the world, and that everyone would suffer under these undesirable economic and political structures. It was on this basis that Nineteen Eighty-Four was written. George Orwell’s idea of a totalitarian society is frighteningly realistic, and could easily have been construed as a possibility of what the world might have been like in 1984.
In the 19th century many different visions of the future have entertained our society, been marketed, and teased the minds of millions. Television shows such as the Jetsons and countless movies like Star Wars, Logan’s Run, Back to the Future, and many others have greatly influenced how we as a society view and have viewed the future. The recurring ideas we seem to have are of flying cars, robots that do our chores, faster modes of transportation; basically anything that will make our lives easier. One of the most evident examples of this today is the remote control. By using the remote control no one has to get up to change the channel, therefore using less energy and making life that much easier. By making everything easier it is believed by many that they will be happier with less things to do, but in actuality it will eventually stamp out existence.
This same idea is present in Nineteen Eighty-Four, starting with the concept of Newspeak. Newspeak is a concise edition of the English language in which some words are combined and many words are cut out in order to enhance the ease of speaking. Syme, one of Winston’s friends said in the novel, “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? . . . Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word . . . all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.” The obvious idea presented by this statement is that humankind is lazy and that Newspeak will make it easier for humans to communicate. However, there is a much deeper meaning behind Newspeak and why it was created. By eliminating words from people’s vocabularies, their ability to revolt against the Party or to express their feelings about the Party is therefore eliminated as well. The Party will therefore be everlasting once, “all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared.” as Syme said.
The Party is able to control the vision of the future and the future itself by controlling the past. It hires people like Winston to make sure that everything that has ever happened agrees exactly with what the Party said or predicted. In some cases, the past is changed to make it look like the Party did even better than they had originally predicted. By controlling what happened in the past, the Party, in the eyes of the public, can do no wrong, and no one will ever question the Party or its “laws” or any of its actions. If the proles believe what the Party says is happening and what happened, then the Party will control Oceania.
The proles’ vision of the future is that of an never ending cycle of birth and death. It seems as if the proles could care less about many important things and be traumatized by trivial things. Winston realizes this when he sees the woman outside of Mr. Charrington’s shop who hangs diapers all day every day. He says, “in the . . . court below a monstrous woman, solid as a Norman pillar, with brawny red forearms and a sacking apron strapped about her middle, was stumping to and fro between a washtub and a clothesline, pegging out a series of square white things which Winston recognized as babies’ diapers. Whenever her mouth was not corked with clothes pegs she was singing in powerful contralto: . . .” This is a perfect example of how the prole population is suppressed by the Party. The Party published songs for the benefit of the proles, as to keep them right where they wanted, drudging on day after day doing the same thing, and being perfectly content with it.
Winston’s view of the future and what it held for him changed throughout the course of the novel. At the beginning, Winston’s general mood is a dismal one. All the descriptions in the beginning are glum and colorless, cold and windy. From the description of him waking up that is given, “Winston wrenched his body out of bed . . .” it is easy to tell that Winston doesn’t look forward to waking up every morning. His routine is much like that of a prole, except that Winston dreads his daily routine, whereas the proles enjoy their routine. Every day Winston must be woken up and do the Physical Jerks, followed by a mundane day of repetitive work, three meager meals, the Two Minute Hate, and various other forced habits. After the loss of his mother and sister, and the unhappy relationship with his ex-wife Katharine, it is quite obvious that Winston isn’t exactly a happy man and doesn’t have much to look forward to in the beginning of the novel.
While Winston is being treated in the Ministry of Love, the vision of the future that he learns to believe in is that of what O’Brien described, “Children will be taken from their mothers at birth . . . The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science.” According to the beliefs of the Party, this is what a perfect society would be described as. Once Winston is treated, he believes this with no doubt whatsoever, and is content with it.