Conformity Vs Individuality In 1984 And V For Vendetta

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1984, by George Orwell, and V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue, explore the human experience through the motif of conformity and the ways in which governments influence the individual and collective experience of citizens. Conformity is the act of changing attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in order to fit group norms of politics. Both texts present a dystopian world controlled by a powerful government system, which induces fear into the individuals so that they conform to the norms of the society created. Whilst these related texts both explore the motif of conformity deeply, the two composers have represented this idea in different ways. In 1984, we see how Winston loses all individuality when he finally turns to Big Brother, however, V for Vendetta represents the gaining of individuality through the resistance to conform.

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With the use of third person limited narratorial perspective focalized through Winston, and the representation of a dystopian world, George Orwell demonstrates that even an inflicting, totalitarianism government cannot completely control society, as the individuals are ultimately the ones that align themselves to conform with the ideals of the party. Uniformity within society makes individuals easier to control and Orwell reveals conformity at its most basic very early in the novel by telling the reader that each member of the party wears a uniform. Representation of loss of individual freedom of thought through conforming to Big Brother in, “an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise” portrays Winston as having no control in his actions as he is being influences by the collective. As the audience, we see inconsistencies in Winston’s human experience as he is an anomaly portrayed as an outsider not believing in the practices of Big Brother but the quote, “The horrible thing about the two-minute hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in” represents the power that the collective has in conforming individuals like Winston. Orwell’s use of synecdoche in “he kicked the thing into the gutter” reinforces the dehumanisation as a result of indoctrination by the party making Winston just as conditioned as every other citizen. The book ends with the figurative death of Winston represented through the loss of his individuality. This is seen in “almost unconsciously he traced with his finger in the dust on the table: 2+2=5”, as it reveals that Winston allowed himself to conform to the party by letting their power take charge of his thoughts, opinions and actions.

Throughout the film V for Vendetta, director James McTeigue uses symbolism to juxtapose the idea of individuality and the resistance of forced conformity to an oppressive government. In a scene before V dies, he says “behind this mask there is more than flesh, there are ideas” which links back to the opening of the film when the voiceover mentions “the power of ideas”, revealing what V was aiming to achieve, for people to being able to stand up and voice their own opinions and resist government power. One of the key techniques used in the film is dialogue for example, Gordon states, “when you wear a mask for so long, you begin to forget who you were beneath it”, which reinforces the idea of hiding amongst the collective and blindly following. In the ending scene of the film, thousands of citizens all wearing Vs mask, gather together and walk as a powerful army towards parliament. The symbolism of Vs mask being taken off by the collective, represents that the people are no longer going to allow themselves to be forced to conform with the government or the rest of society and can voice their true feelings, opinions and individuality without hiding behind a mask or in a crowd. Evie says to Mr Finch, “this country needs more than a building right now, it needs hope”, and the use of close up camera angles of the violence of parliament blowing up which pans back to Evie seeing the same scene from a distance as fireworks, reveals that she is finally able to break away from the constraints of the government power and see the world through her own eyes.

McTeigue and Orwell portray the importance of individuality within the collective through the motif of conformity that is common to both texts. V’s ending desire for anarchy and change is embodied through Evie’s character much like how Orwell uses Winston’s character to demonstrate the power of oppressive governments to conform citizens. Symbolism is highly effective in both texts in conveying important ideas about conformity and individuality. As the audience, we learn that individuals ultimately have to power to choose whether they conform to society or resist the influences of others.  

16 December 2021

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