Essay on The Hell of 1984

7886 Words May 30th, 2013 32 Pages
The Hell of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
). Did Orwell realise quite what he had done in Nineteen Eighty-Four? His post-publication glosses on its meaning reveal either blankness or bad faith even about its contemporary political implications. He insisted, for example, that his 'recent novel [was] NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter)'.(1) He may well not have intended it but that is what it can reasonably be taken to be. Warburg saw this immediately he had read the manuscript, and predicted that Nineteen Eighty-Four '[was] worth a cool million votes to the Conservative Party';(2) the literary editor of the Evening Standard 'sarcastically prescribed it as "required reading" for Labour
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might be invaded by Soviet troops',(7) and was later also made use of by West Germany as 'warning . . . about what a future under Stalin might be like'.(8) There is much in the novel, of course, which allowed it to be interpreted as an attack on Soviet Communism and its allegedly aggressive intentions. Nonetheless, such an interpretation does not quite fit: Ingsoc has been established in Oceania by internal revolution and not by military invasion or external pressure. The model is Trotsky rather than Stalin.
With the slackening of the Cold War, there were attempts, notably by Orwell's first biographer, Bernard Crick, to claim that Nineteen Eighty-Four was directed as much at the West as at the East.(9) But whatever minor swipes at the West Nineteen Eighty-Four could be said to be taking (the regime's encouragement of pornography and gambling among the working-class for example), such an interpretation, at any rate on a literal level, is perverse - a perverseness exemplified by Crick's extraordinary claim that in the terrible last paragraph of the novel the 'two gin-scented tears' which trickled down the sides of Winston's nose represents 'comic distancing'.(10)
Beside these divergent political interpretations, there were others which sought to interpret Nineteen Eighty-Four non-politically as either a study of the mental illness of the protagonist or a psychological document revealing the obsessions of the author. The mental illness

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