- Establishes the over-arching idea/aspect
- Identify the texts you will refer to
- Expand on what conclusions this has lead you to
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. John Dalberg-Acton is widely believed to have meant that when the individual is placed in positions of absolute power they are corrupted absolutely. So what occurs when the collective has absolute power over the individual?
There is no text in the canon of English literature that wholly exemplifies this idea better than George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. The ‘Party’ is presented as having absolute power over the individual and the corrupting effects of this power are clear to see, once absolute power was attained the inner party introduced a number of policies to ensure that the individual found it impossible to rebel. “Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing.” The telescreens in Nineteen Eighty-Four show one of the tangible ways in which the parties power has corrupted absolutely, by existing in the homes of every individual privacy no longer exists, their every word or action tracked. More importantly, the widespread surveillance creates a culture within which every civilian has accepted this intrusion, it is seen simply as a necessary evil to ensure that any renegades are quickly and effectively dealt with. This culture of surveillance means that even when a telescreen isn’t present or it seems safe the individual would still not dare to act against the state, it is engrained in the minds of these civilians that they are being watched. Winston dares to act against this instinct and pays the ultimate price because of course, the party is always watching, whether or not they can see you. “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own.” Those who exist in the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four have been indoctrinated into knowing that the party can observe things that are not possibly observable due to their absolute power, this corruption of thought is present throughout this novel and is a feature of the genre. Manipulation of language is used in conjunction with this widespread surveillance to ensure that the individual becomes an extension of the state and it’s ideals, by editing what has occurred and what can be written in the future the state essentially controls all thought. What you knew yesterday has changed today and it’s impossible to resist, not because you are scared of the consequences but due to the reality, your brain has already accepted this alteration as fact. “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” Sime’s description of Newspeak represents one of the greatest ironies that exist in Nineteen Eighty-Four, through their work in the ministry of truth citizens serve the party by eliminating words and reconstructing the English language, this work narrows their range of thought and prevents rebellion meaning that they essentially become an extension of the state. Free of all individuality and self-expression they are able to serve the parties purpose in whatever might be required, the successful implementation of surveillance alongside the repression of thought creates a mindless population, energy doesn’t have to be exerted controlling those beneath you if their very being serves your purpose.
Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession.
“Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. he had committed — would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper — the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it.” The over-arching idea of control over the thoughts of the individual is a mainstay of the dystopian genre, mainly because it represents the horrifying effects that absolute power can have. George Orwell uses the ideas of thought crime and the thought police as his medium to convey this message, in the Film ‘Minority report’ director Steven Spielberg adapts author Philip K Dicks novel to portray this same message in a different way. The pre-cogs and the authority provided to the pre-crime unit link this visual text to the same conventions that can be seen throughout the genre as a whole, the control of thought. Through the use of visual techniques the director displays to us the way in which choice is removed and thoughts dictate law enforcement before any actual action is taken. In much the same way as Nineteen Eighty-Four the population has lost control over their thought and freedom of choice, if someone has an incriminating thought – one that disagrees with what is societally agreeable – then it is perceived to be as prosecutable as the crime itself and is punished as such. This form of absolute power, an unrelinquishing control over how individuals think and what the consequences are if they step out of line is what links these texts together. A great visual example of this from ‘Minority Report’ is the scene in which John hides from the robotic ‘spiders’, a tool used by law enforcement to scan peoples retina and locate wanted ‘criminals’.
Concentrate on control over thoughts.