Understanding George Orwell’s famed novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) as a forceful warning about politically destructive forces rather than a future prophecy, the main critical concern of this thesis is to examine the mechanisms and potential of mind control and to discuss how language may serve as an instrument in such a process – this as perceived through the characteristic features of Newspeak totalitarian linguistics, as well as other expressions of language and control that are depicted in the novel.
Newspeak is certainly the most ‘audible’ expression of the obtrusive voices of the Oceanic Party, voices whose basic function it is to restrict and control the individual, or, in the words of Newspeak expert Syme, ‘to narrow the range of thought’, thus making it impossible to express – or even conceive of – a concept which deviates from the Party line. Newspeak is based on an essentially nominalist proposal, to which an extreme determinism is added. It must furthermore be understood as the prime example of what Mikhail M. Bakhtin considers as the centripetal forces in a language. I argue, however, that Newspeak is an important element of the general satirical thrust of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and that it serves as a fictional demonstration of how power may be exercised though language, especially in politics.
The thesis moreover addresses features of the novel which mark it as a polyphonic structure, and examines how aspects of language, style and narrative structure combine to produce literary meaning. A closer examination of the novel’s satirical targets and technique demonstrates that Nineteen Eighty-Four is a warning against totalitarian tendencies rather than particular historical regimes; it is an attack on politically destructive forces in the name of any political ideology.