Essay #2: Beware of Big Brother
For this essay, we will be reading George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 and considering how the novel compares to our own world. This is a compare and contrast essay which asks you to find and consider specific similarities and differences between the world that Orwell creates and our own world. There are many different themes or topics within the novel that you can explore, some of these include:
Surveillance and Privacy
Freedom and Individuality
The role of technology in all of the above
In addition to comparing and contrasting the novel with our real world, and looking closely at the themes and ideas in the novel and how they impact us, you will also form some opinion as to what can/should/shouldn’t be done to prevent the world of 1984, and/or to either preserve and/or improve our own world.
You might consider one or all of the following prompts/questions as you write:
1. The world of Big Brother has three main slogans:
WAR IS PEACE; FREEDOM IS SLAVERY; IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
These slogans seem to be paradoxical and contradictory on the surface, but in the world of Big Brother, they make a kind of sense. Each is like an equation, but how can one thing equal its opposite? Perhaps it would be better to ask “How can one thing lead to its opposite?” Could war abroad lead to peace at home? Could absolute freedom make you a slave to your own desires? Could knowing too much make you think more than act? Choose one of these slogans and explore what it means in 1984, using examples from the book. Then think about how the slogan might apply in our own society.
2. 1984 provides a cautionary tale about the potential of surveillance technology to allow an authoritarian government to control the population. At present, current technology, including smartphones, web cams, GPS tracking, internet-connected home appliances, and many other items, is being used to make daily life more convenient. However, each of these is potentially a very powerful surveillance technology that the totalitarian oligarchy of 1984 would have been overjoyed to use. At this moment, the government, or another entity, could easily see every Web site you have visited, read every message you ever sent, and listen to every phone call. In what ways does 1984 suggest that we should be worried that our use of electronic devices could someday lead to totalitarian control? If Big Brother really might use our electronics to watch us, what could we do to stop it?
3. Science fiction novels don’t always try to predict the future, but in 1984, Orwell is trying to warn us of what might happen if new propaganda techniques and technology were combined in the hands of an authoritarian leader. As a prediction of the future, how accurate is 1984?
4. “Newspeak” is attempt by Big Brother to control thought by reducing the number of words in the language and eliminating words that might lead to “thoughtcrime,” which is itself a Newspeak word. Is it possible to control thought through controlling language? Does our own society have similar tendencies? Discuss examples of Newspeak in the novel and how this kind of control might function in our own society.
Compare and Contrast Essay Guidelines: A. 7-10 pages minimum.
B. The essay should compare and contrast George Orwell’s 1984 with our own world in the present.
C. The essay should have a specific thesis which tells the reader the similarity/difference you will be exploring, as well as your solution or why you don’t think we need a solution.
D. The essay should have a title and an introductory paragraph that promote interest.
E. The essay should support claims through textual evidence from the book, your research, and your own experience(s).
F. The essay should have effective transitions (between sentences, paragraphs, and larger sections).
G. The essay should be mostly free of mechanical, grammatical, and usage errors.
H. The essay must be in MLA format, and include at least 4 secondary sources,
one of which must come from a source other than the class readings. The book, 1984 is your primary source, and does not count as one of the 4 secondary sources. You must have a works cited page, also in MLA format.
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