1984 Essay by EBK

1984: A Life of Dreams

            In 1984 by George Orwell, dreams, flashbacks and memories are an important mental guide for the main character, Winston Smith.  Living in a time where Big Brother wields complete control over the mind, Winston does all he can to maintain his human nature, particularly his loving emotions.  However, he cannot fight Big Brother by simply using his innate moral compass, so he uses his dreams to strengthen his identity and morals.  Mostly of his mother and lover, Winston’s dreams are filled with important values and ideas that he uses to build his identity in defiance of Big Brother.  In dreaming of his mother, he is inspired by her compassionate gestures and loyalty toward him.  While dreaming of Julia, love and romance fill his mind, as he incorporates these aspects into his identity as well.  In each dream, Winston takes another step towards maintaining his humanity, as they teach and inspire him to maintain his love, compassion and loyalty, thus allowing him to grasp his humanity until the very end. Through Winston’s flashbacks and ultimate love of Big Brother, George Orwell demonstrates how dreams guide, reinforce and reflect one’s personal values, for Winston only loses his humanity once he disconnects from his original dreams.

Winston’s dreams of his mother remind him of the compassion and natural gestures of the past, values he incorporates while building his identity in opposition to Big Brother.  In his first dream, Winston remembers some valuable information about his mother, including that she “died loving him,” and “sacrificed herself to a conception of loyalty [to him] that was private and unalterable”(Orwell 30), demonstrating his admiration for her.  In Oceania, all forms of private and unalterable loyalty are eliminated by Big Brother, for “today there were fear, pain and hatred, but no dignity of emotion”(Orwell 30), proving the rarity of his mother’s love for Winston.  In a later dream, Winston remembers when he gave his mother a hard time over his chocolate ration, ultimately running away from her and never seeing her again.  Yet, the part that most stands out to him is the “enveloping, protecting gesture of [his mother’s] arm”(Orwell 164) over his younger sister as he ran out of the door.  He genuinely admires this gesture, as he covets the compassion and natural love embedded in such a simple action.  Later, Winston remarks that “the terrible thing The Party had done was to persuade you that mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account”(Orwell 164), demonstrating his acute awareness of The Party’s elimination of all humane gestures.  As a result of this awareness, Winston recognizes the significance of the values exhibited by his mother, for they are extremely rare in a world controlled by Big Brother.  Thus, Winston learns to greatly appreciate genuine love, loyalty and humane gestures, for he desperately tries to maintain his humanity and become an exception to the emotionless people Big Brother has created.  Thus, through his dreams, his mother’s compassion and humane gestures become an important part of Winston’s own identity, as Winston later covets his relationship with Julia, while he also expresses his deep sympathy and admiration for a hard-working prole mother.  And through this integration of compassion, his humanity is strengthened, demonstrating how his dreams reinforce and bolster his identity.  All in all, Winston’s flashbacks shed light on Big Brother’s atrocities and provide him with a basis for a moral barometer contrary to Big Brother, as he also defies The Party’s attempt to eliminate the pleasure of romance through his dreams.

Winston’s dream of Julia reveals to him the natural pleasure in romance and intimacy, leading him to incorporate these values into his identity and once again strengthening his humanity in defiance of Big Brother.  In his first dream of Julia, before they begin their intimacy, he dreams of her tearing off her clothes.  Afterwards, he explains that what stands out is not the desire it arouses in him, but rather that he has great “admiration for the gesture with which she had thrown her clothes aside”(Orwell 31).  He realizes the significance of such a gesture, for “Big Brother and The Party and the Though Police could all be swept to nothingness by a single splendid movement of the arm”(Orwell 31), as he is well aware of Big Brother’s attempt to “prevent men and women from forming loyalties” and “remove all pleasure from the sexual act”(Orwell 65).  Thus, the thought of the simple gesture of ripping off one’s clothes excites Winston, for he understands the rarity of such an act.  Therefore, the dream provides Winston with an important aspect necessary to strengthen his humanity, as it inspires him to incorporate romance into his identity, as this will once again defy the attempts by Big Brother to eliminate human nature.  True to form, Winston later goes out and finds a private room where he and Julia can have the privacy to make love, demonstrating the growing role of romance in Winston’s identity.  Therefore, Winston’s dream of Julia helps him to grasp and utilize his unique love.  Additionally, the dream serves as a mental reminder for Winston, as because there are few instances of romance present in Oceania, the dream of Julia serves as an internal mental reinforcement for Winston, further inspiring him to maintain his humanity.  Dreams guide Winston to integrate compassion, love, loyalty, romance and sex into his identity, but a switch in dreams marks his loss of humanity.

Winston’s final dream, where he no longer dreams of love and compassion, demonstrates his change in alliance, as he finally loves Big Brother.  Just prior to this final dream, he once again dreams of his mother.  He remembers a rainy day where he caused a racket, so his mother dutifully went out and bought him a Snakes and Ladders board game.  He particularly remembers the true happiness he felt on this day, playing a game with his mother and sister.   Thus, even after supposedly being stripped of his humanity by O’Brien, Winston still demonstrates the will to hold on to his humanity.  No matter his change in actions, the values within his previous dreams are still exhibited, portraying a man whose identity is rooted in natural emotions, in this case happiness.  However, the difference with this dream is that he immediately thinks of it as a fallacy, demonstrating his slow transition into orthodoxy as a result of O’Brien’s torturing.  Sure enough, soon after, while sitting in the Chestnut Tree Café, drinking his Victory Gin, he slips into another dream.  He pictures himself “in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody”(Orwell 297) who opposes Big Brother.  This is a major change, for while in his dreams of his mother he admires her loyalty towards him, he now happily dreams of betrayal.  Furthermore, in this dream he says, “The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain”(Orwell 297), and ultimately, “He loved Big Brother”(Orwell 298).  Throughout O’Brien’s torturing, Winston does all he can to avoid Big Brother’s ideological bullet from entering his brain, yet the dream demonstrates that he has finally been converted to orthodoxy, ultimately as a result of O’Brien’s torture.  Prior to this final dream, all of Winston’s flashbacks center around values necessary to maintain his humanity.  Now that he dreams of Big Brother, the epitome of non-humanity, his new identity is revealed.   No matter how many times he says he agrees with the ideals of The Party as a result of O’Brien’s torture, he does not truly agree with them until he reaches this final dream, the marker of his dehumanization.  Thus, dreams reflect Winston’s values throughout the novel, and once he disconnects from his original flashbacks, he simultaneously disconnects from his original identity.

Throughout the novel, Winston demonstrates the connection between one’s dreams and one’s identity, for his loss in humanity coincides with his loss in emotion-filled dreams.  As a manifestation of one’s subconscious, dreams and flashbacks often become an emotional and intellectual barometer, guiding one’s actions and decisions.  For Winston, important rebellious emotions and ideas are embedded in his dreams, demonstrating the psychological and ideological assistance they provide for him.  Additionally, one often subconsciously gravitates toward a reoccurring theme in one’s dreams, as the content within the flashbacks is sacred to the heart of one’s identity.  Winston’s dreams and memories inspire him throughout the novel, proving the importance they have in his identity. In 1984, Winston constantly dreams in order to reinforce his own humanity; but in a time where the loss of human nature is not in danger, dreams can instead be used to reinforce and reflect one’s identity.  As Winston exemplifies, dreams and memories are both made from and make up the indistinguishable morals rooted within each and every individual.

1984 Essay by E.B.K.

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