Essay by cassiebukHigh School, 12th gradeB+, December 2007

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A moral code governing human affairs, the reverence an all-powerful entity and the concept of an innate conviction in the authority of belief are factors of religion that Margaret Atwood and George Orwell have exploited in 'The Handmaid's Tale' and 'Nineteen Eight-Four' in order to convey the extremes of a totalitarian government.

In both novels, religion is used as a tool to implement rules, change lifestyles and enforce control. Each novel makes its own comment on contemporary attitudes towards religion and the strong influential power that religion has over people as individuals and as a population.

The premises of each novel are the same: a dictatorship ruling over a population. However, in Nineteen Eight-Four, Orwell uses a specific authority figure to exert control named 'Big Brother' while in The Handmaid's Tale there is no specific leader but a hierarchy of importance similar to the Hindu caste system. Just as there are 'Untouchables' in Hinduism, in Gilead there are 'Unwomen.'

The 'Unwomen' are segregated from society in the same way as Untouchables are yet Atwood has chosen to use 'women' instead of a generic term. This supports the theme of inequality between sexes in religion that is presented in the novel. 'Big Brother' on the other hand is depicted as a supreme being, a God-like figure who is seen by the characters to be omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.

In the opening chapter of Nineteen Eighty-Four, these ideas of 'Big Brother' are established. Telescreens that 'can never be turned off' and a poster with the caption 'BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU' are described. The capitalised lettering immediately grabs the attention of the reader and by placing the statement at the beginning of a sentence Orwell effectively projects the words to the reader. In this way, the reader is made acutely...