1984 Essay - Big Brother Is Watching You

Word Count: 1150

Someone has always been there to tell you what to do in life. As a young child, you were told to behave properly and not to eat too many sweets. As you grew older and older, it seemed as if the responsibilities became greater and greater in number. Even as an adult, there was always an officious boss telling you what to do. There was always some higher force that bound your actions. Authority was the major theme in the novel 1984, by George Orwell. Authority was also a profound factor in Stanley Milgram’s experiment conducted in 1974. It seems that authority has been around longer than any of us can remember, and it is authority that dictates the way we act.
Authority is based on instinct. When we receive an order, we intuitively react and follow the command. At first, we do not think, nor contemplate the effects that come as a result of our actions. In 1984, we get a sense of a greater authority in Big Brother. Although we never come to know if Big Brother actually exists, the power and authority that this idol holds over the people is unimaginable.
The people of Oceania are divided into two classes, the members of the Party and the proletariat. The Party members are like machines that do the jobs of the government. In this world, never has anyone thought any different of his or her place in society. Due to this authority that attempts to control the human train of thought, paranoia among the people became common. Nobody would talk to each other. Bonds between one another were broken, and it was never thought to be any different than before. To hold on to what makes you human - emotions and the ability to speak freely - was considered a crime against Big Brother. Of course, with authority comes punishment. To break from traditional views essentially asks for some form of retribution. For Winston, this resulted in undergoing a painful stay at the Ministry of Love.
In the experiment conducted by Stanley Milgram, the power of authority over one’s personal conscience was laid bare. Subjects were asked to apply shocks to another person at increasing levels if questions were answered incorrectly. Although equipment was specious, 63% of the subjects followed through with the experiment and delivered the shocks at the highest intensity. “I was just following orders,” was the excuse of many of the subjects. Jack Washington implied that he would have behaved in whatever manner the experimenter required. He expressed total faith in the experimenter and accepted everything that was said. This strong faith stems from the experimenter’s powerful beliefs in the experiment.
To be a strong authority, you have to forcefully believe your own words. In 1984, O’Brien certainly was quite passionate about his beliefs. He gave me the impression that he truly wanted to see Winston changed and reintegrated. I feel that O’Brien did not enjoy shocking Winston at high voltage levels, but did so only because he felt it necessary to the task at hand. He seemed not to be serving a greater authority, but only himself. In the Milgram experiment, belief played an important part as well. It was the experimenter’s adamant retorts that made the difference for a hesitant subject. The experimenters had to have made themselves believe that participation in the experiment was absolutely essential, and that the shocks were not at all dangerous. Because the experimenter sounded genuinely assured in giving his commands, many subjects obeyed. We see a good instance of this with Fred Prozi. Despite his numerous, agitated objections and continuous dissent, Prozi continues to administer the shocks as ordered by the experimenter. After receiving determined answers from the experimenters, the subjects gained faith in the experimenter’s knowledge. If it seemed like the experimenters were lying, I think that many people would not have followed through with the experiment, and stopped right away.
In both instances, 1984 and the Milgram experiment, we have someone going against what they believe in at the hands of authority. In 1984, Winston finds himself in a precarious situation. O’Brien wants him to picture five fingers on his hand when O’Brien is only holding up four. Winston cries out desperately