'A' Paper from Spring 1999

Big Brother says: "Reality is Inside the Skull"

Things to note (in order of importance):

1) The student never rests at paraprase but always seeks to interpret the descriptions s/he provides. What you have here is an argument that enlightens the text not a mere rehashing of plot. The student is also offerring up a fascinating application of a theoretical text, Baudrillard's "Precession of Simulacra."

2) The student has used a good deal of textual evidence from the work s/he examines to support his/her case. S/he also provides insight into these passages and incorporates her quotations well.

3) Rather than making numerous points briefly, the student has chosen to concentrate on a specific topic so that s/he can provide an in-depth and extensive interpretation of the work at hand.

4) The paper has a clearly articulated thesis in the introduction, one that is developed in different ways in each of the paragraphs of the paper.

5) The paper proceeds logically from sentence to sentence, from point to point, from paragraph to paragraph.

6) The paper has almost no grammatical and stylistic problems.

 

Reality can have a more fluid and complicated definition than we might realize. Instead of being a concrete ability to see 'black-and-white' differences between ideas and basing beliefs on outside evidence [awkward], a person's conception of reality might accommodate contradicting beliefs, reject and ignore truth when convenient, or embrace concepts seemingly preposterous in a 'sane' world. A postmodern work of fiction allows for the shifting and changing of reality, thus giving the audience an alternate reality to compare to the perceived reality outside the work. To this end, postmodernism employs the simulacrum to blot out reality and insert a fabricated concept in its place. In a passage involving Winston and O'Brien from George Orwell's 1984, we witness part of the process of such a replacement of a simulacra-filled world for conventional reality. Winston's forced acceptance of the simulacra in place of reality leaves him quite unable to question the power of the state. The replacement of reality by the Party's simulacra in 1984 illustrates the flexibility of reality in the use of creating simulacra to support the apparently illogical, contradictory world of Big Brother ideology.

Before examining the replacement of reality with the simulacrum, one might first examine the idea of reality itself. ˝Realityţ, as explained by Orwell's 1984 character O'Brien, "exists within the human mind, and nowhere else" (Orwell 205). [Excellent quotation!] What the human mind sees, it absorbs as truth. The novel's protagonist, Winston, believes [by contrast?] "that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right...that the nature of reality is self-evident" (Orwell 205). He sees reality as bigger than life, untouchable by any one person or the power-hungry group mind of the Party. Winston contends that what is, is. None of the state's lies and deceptions could change any part of reality, although the state could, and did, obscure the truth of reality for its purposes. O'Brien tells Winston that he is mistaken in this idea of reality. In a reeducation session, O'Brien challenges Winston's belief, telling him "reality is not external" (Orwell 205). He claims that it is only existent within the mind. In other words, "it's all in your head." O'Brien essentially says that the outside world does not contain anything real until the mind perceives it, and the mind should not perceive it until given permission by the Party. What the mind believes to be true, to be real, affects the world outside of that mind. As an introduction to this idea, O'Brien tries to convince Winston he sees five fingers, when his senses, conscious to a reality [idiom] independent of Big Brother, report only four. The audience finds that a person could actually see five fingers instead of four if the person's reality allows for the possibility and existence of such things. Winston himself, his sense of an external reality dulled by pain and drugs, sees the five fingers instead of four (Orwell 213). For a moment, he shares the reality of the Party. He felt a "luminous certainty" (Orwell 213) and briefly absorbed the Party ideology before "everything was normal again" (Orwell 213). After a few more "teaching" sessions, Winston let go of his earlier concept of independent, external reality and willingly embraced the structured reality incorporating the Party's simulacra. The Party replaced the reality of the physical world with the reality of dictated thought--the real replaced by the simulacrum.

The simulacra constructed by the Party serves to enforce, and reinforce the supremacy of the Party. A simulacrum, as explained by Jean Baudrillard, is a matter of "substituting the signs of the real for the real" (Baudrillard 2). For the Party, this means constructing for the citizens of Oceania every aspect of existence, from entertainment to occupation [?] to the very language they speak, and replacing inconvenient concepts with safer, standardized simulacra. Big Brother himself is a simulacrum, the idea and image of a leader in place of a flesh and blood person, given to the people as a symbol of the Party. [Excellent] Winston asks if Big Brother exists (Orwell 214). O'Brien answers "of course he exists" (Orwell 214). Though Big Brother cannot be touched or seen by the physical senses, he exists because he is created "within the human mind" (Orwell 205) of the Party's reality. That is, he exists because the Party says he exists. His corporeal existence is irrelevant because Big Brother is important in idea form. The Big Brother simulacrum fits in neatly to plug the space vacated for it by reality:

an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double, a programmatic, metastable, perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes" (Baudrillard 2) [great quotation!]

In place of a "real flesh and blood" leader, the Party kindly supplied a simulated one--Big Brother, complete with personality, image, voice, and background information. Big Brother, embodying all of the merits of the Party and receiving the love and admiration of the people, plays the part of a leader (albeit a simulated one) to pacify or arouse the emotions of the masses and dictate the Party's will to the people of Oceania. [Excellent!]

The revolutionary Brotherhood is another simulacrum furnished by the Party to anchor its power. Although Winston believes in the underground Brotherhood's existence, his lover Julia disbelieves it as "rubbish which the Party had invented for its own purposes and which you had to pretend to believe in" (Orwell 126). [Great quotation!} Whom do we believe? O'Brien is no more helpful to us, telling Winston he "will never know...whether the answer to that question [of the Brotherhood's existence] is Yes or No" (Orwell 214). As with Big Brother, the actual concrete existence of the Brotherhood is not relevant. The important point is the idea of the Brotherhood in 1984. Baudrillard writes: "simulation threatens the difference between the 'true' and the 'false,' the 'real' and the imaginary" (Baudrillard 3). The Brotherhood smudges the line between truth and fiction. Here, Winston believes the Brotherhood to exist independently of the influence of the Party. Julia, on the other hand, sees the Brotherhood as a creation of the Party. As we see, the promise of the Brotherhood is used to entrap dissidents, like Winston and Julia, who have committed thoughtcrime, thinking differently from the Party's doctrine. The Brotherhood is 'true' in that a network of contacts and ideological literature (the book) exist for those wishing to join the Brotherhood (Orwell 144-146). Yet the Brotherhood is also 'false' in that it has been fabricated by the Party as an elaborate trap for dissenters. The Brotherhood is what it seems, yet it is not what is seems. [?] The simulacrum of the Brotherhood takes the place of an actual revolutionary movement, (as Big Brother takes the place of a leader) thus preventing a real movement from arising and threatening the will of the Party. [Excellent!]

[Transition here should be smoother] The practice of doublethink helps Winston to embrace the simulacra, and therefore the ideologies, of the Party. Doublethink involves "holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them" (Orwell 176). O'Brien tells Winston that he is being reeducated because he has not controlled his mind (Orwell 205). Winston has failed to "make the act of submission which is the price of sanity" (Orwell 205) in Big Brother's world. If he allowed himself to believe only that which the Party instructed him to believe, Winston might be regarded as sane. However, Winston insisted on believing in concrete information, such as a photograph of traitors that contradicted their confession of guilt (Orwell 203). The Party claimed that the men were guilty, therefore the photograph did not exist. To resolve this conflict, a good Party member would see the picture, barely realize what it was, destroy it, and forget the incident completely. The Party's simulated view of reality is to take precedence over definitive proof--the simulacrum is to replace reality. After his reeducation, Winston no longer thinks in ways contradictory to the Party. We might assume that he can

tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them,...forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed,...deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies" (Orwell 177). [Great quotation!]

With this skill of doublethink, Winston can reconcile both his reality and embrace the doctrines and simulacrums of the Party. He can support Oceania against Eurasia or Eastasia (no matter which was the enemy before) or believe chocolate rations are increased when he remembers the decrease from the day before. He demonstrates this irrevocable indoctrination with the tenets of the Party by tracing "2+2=5" (Orwell 239) in dust upon a tabletop, illustrating that he accepts, or at least acknowledges the ideas of the Party. No longer trying to contradict the logic behind the simulacrum, Winston believes in the Party--"he loved Big Brother" (Orwell 245). [Excellent!]

In Orwell's 1984, the postmodern concept of the simulacrum is used by the Party to consolidate its power over its citizenry. Simulacra, in the form of Big Brother and the Brotherhood, serve to support the Party--Big Brother by encouraging obedience, the Brotherhood by uncovering thoughtcriminals (those guilty of thinking differently, against the Party's doctrine). As seen in the example made of Winston, the Party cannot allow anyone to perceive only the external reality because such perceptions threaten the power of the Party. The simulacra offered by the Party, however, can be accepted using doublethink, thereby eliminating the struggle between external reality, "existing in its own right," and the simulacrum, existing "in the human mind, and no where else" (Orwell 205).

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