"George Orwell" and the Mad World: The Anti-Universe of 1984.

Essay by lolita76 June 2004

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"I shall save you, Winston, I shall make you perfect." So O'Brien, the Grand Inquisitor of 1984, has said to the antihero Winston Smith, in one of the dream sequences which strangely go almost unnoticed in that inverted Platonic dialogue which is Orwell's monument. It is as if the lives of the Platonic philosopher-kings were viewed from the point of view of one of the Auxiliaries. But it is not the old style of dialogue, in which there is a certain amount of free interchange of ideas, even between master and disciple. Rather, in this new style of dialogue, one party has the ability to inflict pain on the other party in any degree desired, even while the two proceed to discuss the most abstruse political questions. Dialogue implies the ability to have one's mind changed, but in the condition of "controlled insanity" which is 1984, communication consists in the imposition of an insane view of reality by the strong few upon the weak many, through overwhelming force.

O'Brien must "save" Winston, but this is religious salvation turned backward, and its purpose is to prevent even one "just man" from existing anywhere in the world, by convincing that man that he is insane. "Is it possible that a whole society can be insane?" asked Orwell in one of his essays, speaking of Hitler's Germany.

Orwell's 1984 is about religion reversed, law and government reversed, and above all, language reversed: not simply corrupted, but reversed. In the world of 1984, the mad world which Orwell sought by his writing to lead men to avoid--for he was a political activist not interested in simple prediction--in this world, which I call Orwell's "antiuniverse," because of his conversion of all the positives of Western civilization into their negatives, all of the channels of communication...