The following essay was written by Project Academy English Teacher, Marko Beocanin.
- 8th in NSW for English Advanced (98/100)
- Rank 1 in English Advanced, Extension 1 and Extension 2
- School Captain of Normanhurst Boys High School
- 99.95 ATAR
Marko kindly agreed to share his essay and thorough annotations to help demystify for HSC students what comprises an upper Band 6 response!
Common Module: Nineteen Eighty-Four Essay Question
Marko’s following essay was written in response to the question:
“The representation of human experiences makes us more aware of the intricate nature of humanity.” In your response, discuss this statement with detailed reference to George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.
State-Ranking Common Module Essay Response
George Orwell’s 1949 Swiftian satire Nineteen Eighty-Four invites us to appreciate the intricate nature of humanity by representing how the abuse of power by totalitarian governments degrades our individual and collective experiences. (Link to rubric through individual/collective experiences, and a clear cause and effect argument: totalitarian governance -> degraded human experience. Also, comments on the genre of Swiftian satire. Value!) Orwell explores how oppressive authorities suppress the intricate societal pillars of culture, expression and freedom to maintain power. He then reveals how this suppression brutalises individual human behaviour and motivations because it undermines emotion and intricate thought. (Link to rubric through ‘human behaviour and motivations’, and extended cause and effect in which the first paragraph explores the collective ‘cause’ and the second paragraph explores the individual ‘effect’. This is an easy way to structure your arguments whilst continuously engaging with the rubric!) Ultimately, he argues that we must resist the political apathy that enables oppressive governments to maintain power and crush human intricacy. Therefore, his representation of human experiences not only challenges us to consider the intricate nature of humanity, but exhorts us to greater political vigilance so we can preserve it. (Concluding sentence that broadens the scope of the question and reaffirms the purpose of the text).
Orwell makes us aware of the intricate nature of humanity by representing how totalitarian authorities suppress intricate collective experiences of culture, expression and freedom in order to assert control. (This is the ‘collective’ paragraph – a cause and effect argument that relates the question to the loss of human intricacy in the collective as a result of totalitarian rule). His bleak vision was informed by Stalin’s USSR: a regime built upon the fabrication of history in Stalin’s ‘cult of personality’, and ruthlessly enforced by the NKVD. (Specific context – an actual specific regime is named and some details about its enforcement are given). The symbolic colourlessness and propaganda-poster motif he uses to describe London reflects the loss of human intricacy and culture under such leadership: “there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere.” (First example sets up the world of the text, and the degraded collective experience). Orwell uses the telescreens, dramatically capitalised “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” posters and allusions to Stalin in Big Brother’s “black-moustachio’d face” as metonyms for how governmental surveillance dominates both physical and cultural collective experiences. Winston’s metatextual construction of the fictitious “Comrade Ogilvy” serves as a symbol for the vast, worthless masses of information produced by totalitarian governments to undermine the intricacy of real human history: “Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed…would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.” Similarly, Orwell’s satirical representation of Newspeak ignites the idea that political slovenliness causes self-expression to degrade, which in turn destroys our capacity for intricate thought and resistance: “we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” (The examples above prove that the government’s leadership style truly is totalitarian, and that it results in a loss of intricacy and ‘humanity’ in the collective. It’s good to cover a variety of examples that explore different facets of the collective – for example, the first example establishes the extreme surveillance, the second example establishes the loss of ‘truth’/history, and the third example establishes the loss of language). The political bitterness that marks Nineteen Eighty-Four as a Swiftian satire (This is a link to the ‘Swiftian’ term used in the thesis statement. It’s important to refer back to any descriptive terms you use in your thesis) ultimately culminates in O’Brien’s monologue, where Orwell juxtaposes the politicised verb “abolish” to symbols of human intricacy, “we shall abolish the orgasm…there will be no art, no literature, no science…when we are omnipotent”, to express how totalitarian rulers suppress collective experiences to gain metaphoric omnipotence. Thus, Orwell makes us aware of the intricate nature of humanity by representing a future in which totalitarian governments suppress it. (A linking sentence that ties it all back to the question and rephrases the point)
Orwell then argues that the effect of this suppression is a loss of human intricacy that brutalises society and devalues individual experiences. (Cause and effect argument that links collective suppression to a loss of human intricacy on an individual scale – continuous engagement with the question and the rubric!) Orwell’s exposure to the widespread hysteria of Hitler’s Nazi regime, caused by the Nuremberg Rallies and Joseph Goebbels’ virulent anti-semitic propaganda, informs his representation of Oceania’s dehumanised masses. (More specific context around the Nazis, and a specific link to how it informed his work) The burlesque Two Minute Hate reveals human inconsistency by representing how even introspective, intelligent characters can be stripped of their intricacy and compassion by the experience of collective hysteria: even Winston wishes to “flog [Julia] to death with a rubber truncheon…ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax”, and is only restored by compliance to the Christ-like totalitarian authority, “My-Saviour!”, Big Brother. (A link to the rubric with the ‘human inconsistency’ point) Orwell frequently juxtaposes dehumanising representations of the proles, “the proles are not human beings”, to political sloganism: “As the Party slogan put it: ‘Proles and animals are free’”, to argue that in such a collectively suppressed society, the upper class grow insensitive towards the intricate nature of those less privileged. (It’s important to link the proles into your argument – they’re often forgotten, but they’re a big part of the text!) He asserts that this loss of empathy degrades the authenticity and intricacy of human relationships, characterised by Winson’s paradoxically hyperbolic repulsion towards his wife: “[Katharine] had without exception the most stupid, vulgar, empty mind that he had every encountered”. (Continuous engagement with the question and rubric: make sure to recycle rubric terms – here, done with ‘paradoxically’ – and question terms – here, with ‘intricacy’) Winston’s “betrayal” of Julia symbolises how totalitarianism ultimately brutalises individuals by replacing their compassion for intricate ideals such as love with selfish pragmatism: “Do it to Julia…Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me!” Therefore, Orwell makes us more aware of the intricate nature of humanity by demonstrating how it can be robbed by suppressive governments and collective hysteria. (A linking sentence that sums up the paragraph).
By making us aware of how totalitarian governments suppress meaningful human experiences both individually and collectively, Orwell challenges us to resist so we can preserve our intricate nature. (This third paragraph discusses Orwell’s purpose as a composer. This can in general be a helpful way to structure paragraphs: Collective, Individual, Purpose) Orwell’s service in the 1930s Spanish Civil War as part of the Republican militia fighting against fascist-supported rebels positions him to satirise the political apathy of his audience. (Integration of personal context is useful here to justify Orwell’s motivations. It’s also a lot fresher than just including another totalitarian regime Orwell was exposed to) Orwell alludes to this through the metaphor of Winston’s diarising as an anomalous individual experience of resistance, ““[Winston] was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear,” which highlights how his intricate nature persists even in a suppressive society. Often, Orwell meta-fictively addresses his own context, as “a time when thought is free…when truth exists”, to establish an imperative to preserve our intricate human nature while we still can. The Julia romance trope (It’s good to include terms such as ‘trope’ which reflect your understanding of narrative structure and the overall form of the work.) represents how Winston’s gradual rejection of his political apathy empowered him to experience an authentic, intricately human relationship that subverts his totalitarian society: “the gesture with which [Julia] had thrown her clothes aside…[belonged] to an ancient time. Winston woke up with the word ‘Shakespeare’ on his lips.” Orwell juxtaposes Julia’s sexuality to Shakespeare, an immediately-recognisable metonym for culture and history, to argue that human intricacy can only be restored by actively resisting the dehumanising influence of the government. Orwell also represents Winston’s desensitised and immediate devotion to the Brotherhood to reflect how the preservation of human intricacy is a cause worth rebelling for, even by paradoxically unjust means: “[Winston was] prepared to commit murder…acts of sabotage which may cause the deaths of hundreds of innocent people…throw sulphuric acid in a child’s face.” (More chronological examples that show Winston’s transformation throughout the text. It’s useful to explore and contrast those who resist with those who don’t resist, and how just the act of resistance in some way restores our humanity! That’s why this paragraph comes after the ‘brutalised individual experience’ paragraph) However, Orwell ultimately asserts that it is too late for Winston to meaningfully restore humanity’s intricate nature, and concludes the text with his symbolic death and acceptance of the regime, “[Winston] had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” (It’s important to remember that Orwell ends the text so miserably so that he can motivate his audiences not to do the same thing). The futility of this ending ignites the idea that we must not only be aware of our intricate nature, but must actively resist oppressive governments while we still can in order to preserve it. (A linking sentence that ties the paragraph together and justifies the futility of the ending)
Therefore, Orwell’s representation of human experiences in Nineteen Eighty-Four encourages us to reflect personally on our own intricate human nature, and challenges us to fight to preserve it. (Engages with the question (through the reflection point), and includes Orwell’s purpose as a composer). His depiction of a totalitarian government’s unchecked assertion of power on human culture and freedom, and the brutalising impact this has on individual and collective experiences, ultimately galvanises us to reject political apathy. (Your argument summaries can often be combined into a sentence or two in the conclusion now that the marker knows what you’re talking about. This reinforces the cause and effect structure as well.) Thus, the role of storytelling for Orwell is not only to make us more aware of our intricate nature, but to prove that we must actively resist oppressive governments while we still can in order to preserve it. (The clincher! It’s often useful to add “not only” in your final sentence to reinforce the massive scope of the text)
If reading this essay has helped you, you may also enjoy reading Marko’s ultimate guide to writing 20/20 HSC English essays.