NCEA 3.7 – Significant Connections

Oppressive Totalitarian Control

A dystopian world exists when a government gains control of its citizens through skilful manipulation and indoctrination. A minute group establishing control over the rest of the world is hard to fathom. However,  dystopian literature takes us to a place where we not only believe these societies exist, but begin to question our own. It points to issues current in today’s society, leaving us to question wether we are already living in a dystopian world.

It can be argued that this genre should be taken as a warning for readers. These warnings are particularly evident in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen-Eighty Four. The novel describes a dystopia in which a totalitarian state possesses all power over its citizens. More than one method makes it possible for the dystopian government to gain control. This is illustrated in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and additionally in the novels Anthem by Ayn Rand and The hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 

  1. Control through Surveillance and Invasion of Privacy 

Computer hacking, convert bugging and GPS tracking are a part of our  society today. These features were all predicted in dystopian literature. George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four novel has proven the power of a totalitarian state and pointed out, how surveillance and the invasion of privacy made it possible for the government to control their citizens.

Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing.

Winston describes the presence of “tele screens” as a standard item in every room of a party member. Without the possibility of turning it off, the screens record every movement and conversation. The uncertainty of knowing when somebody is watching leaves citizens of Oceania living a life of fear and anxiety about being caught by the thought police.


By conveying this message to its constituents, the totalitarian state’s aim is to influence and make them aware of the constant surveillance. This justifies why everybody conforms to the state’s norms. 

Additionally, the method of control through survelliance can be related to the novel Handmaid’s Tale in which the “Eyes” are spies who work for the government and are situated throughout Gilead.  The Handmaids, women who are used as reproductive objects, are to have a shielded view of life. All rights have been taken from them and they are fearful to open up,  even to the other handmaids, as they cannot be certain who is a spy.

It occurs to me that she may be a spy, a plant, set to trap me; such is the soil in which we grow. 

Being found as noncompliant to Gilead’s teachings is so frightening that even if an escape was available, the brainwashing by the government prevents them from doing so. 

2. Loss of individual identity

Individuality makes people who they are. It distinguishes them from others of the same kind and makes them unique as an individual. Dystopian literature takes away the ability to be seen as an independent human being.  The totalitarian government controls its citizen through the natural human instinct of acceptance. Familiarity is the social glue that bonds people together and enables individuals to fit society’s expectations. 

We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike.

The society’s significant feature in the novel Anthem in the fact that every individuals purpose is to serve their “fellow brothers” while everybody can only speak of themselves as “WE” and not in the first person.

Men never see their own faces and never ask their brothers about it, for it is evil to have concern for their own faces or bodies.

In Anthem, to think of themselves as an individual or to stand out as one is forbidden and is considered as socially unaccepted. This leaves the “great we” group identity, being the only identity they have.

The reproductive objects known as the Handmaid’s in Margaret Atwood’s novel are ripped of all their rights. Everyone has been renamed and repositioned while the woman are grouped into classes.

We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names from bed to bed.

The disconnection between names and people allows the society to entirely vanish the woman’s individual personalities.

3. Language

Language is used for much more than linguistic communication; we also express our feelings, moods and ideas. Language made the growth of civilisation possible and developed societies.

“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.

The Party, in 1984, narrows the range of thought by erasing essential words from their language. This is intended to make a thoughtcrime impossible. Through the manipulation of language, the state of Oceania gains control and makes thinking innately pure. Newspeak is invented from the government as a reassurance to maintain the control of its citizens minds.

We are one in all and all in one.
There are no men but only the great WE,
One, indivisible and forever.

Similarly, in Anthem, the society of Equality 7-2521 has forbidden individuals to have an own identity. This is possible through the nonexistence of the word “I”, which makes thinking or speaking of themselves as individuals impossible.

I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.

Due to the fact that everybody considers themselves as a member of one big and collective state, the individuals can just speak in the first-person plural. This is allowing the idea of the life purpose, which is serving the state. By restricting the ability to express their thoughts in language, the totalitarian government is eliminating any individuals activity against the state. 

4. Controlling citizen through fear

Anxiety and fear have become daily companions. Trepidation is the justification for security precautions and surveillance. These omnipresent precautions, approved by the government, are considered essential for safety but also grant control over citizens. The sophisticated idea of the novel Nineteen-Eighty Fours is promoting that war is a tool the party uses to keep the standard of living in check whilst maintaining that there are no inequalities in the totalitarian state. 

The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.

The character Winston reads about the importance of warfare in Goldstein’s Manifesto which reveals that the state has been controlling its citizens through their fear. Warfare encourages the people to be peaceful due to the fact that rebellion is far from their minds.

In one combination or another, these three super-states are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years.

Winston had always suspected the Party of changing the enemies systematically over time. Goldstein’s Manifesto proved his theory right, indicating the manipulative motive of the totalitarian government. 

In The Hunger Games the meaning of the white colour, controversial to its innocence meaning, a colour of fear. It is worn by the authorities and so called peacekeepers which are dedicated to keep the districts in order.

Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth obliterated.

The fear of execution hinders the citizens to stand uo for themselves. The formation of the 12 districts, including the execution of district 13, is teaching a lesson whilst extinguishing all thoughts of a possible rebellion.


While oppressive control is significant in every dystopian novel, each of the texts above express a unique feature of representing it. While observing  citizens through “tele screens” in Oceania, the Handmaids are watched by unknown spies called eyes,  sent from the government. Frightened by the constant surveillance, the individuals are forced to play by the state’s rules in order to prevent getting caught. In comparison to surveillance, Equality 7-2521 society removes individuals identities to achieve full power. This however is indicating the variability of a state to manipulate its citizens. The Hunger Games society uses the colour white to establish constant fear, through the uniform of peacekeepers. Constant fear is also well known in 1984 in which the government uses warfare to trigger its citizens into fear and anxiety. These features show more than one method of control through a totalitarian government. This is prove of the idea that dystopian literature  describes oppressive control and total loss of freedom for individuals. 

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