Theme Of Double-Think In Orwellian Writing: Analysis Of Thematic Similarities In A Hanging And 1984

“We walked out of the gallows yard, past the condemned cells with their waiting prisoners, into the big central yard of the prison… it seemed quite a homely, jolly scene, after the hanging. An enormous relief had come upon us now that the job was done. One felt an impulse to sing, to break into a run, to snigger. All at once everyone began chattering gaily” – A Hanging, Orwell In A Hanging, Orwell recounts the experience of an official witnessing the hanging of a Hindu prisoner at a Burmese prison. Similarly to how the prisoners are shackled by their cages, the protagonists and citizens of the dystopian society, depicted in 1984, are also imprisoned under the constant vigilance of Big Brother. Not only are these people physically intered but so are their minds. This specific theme is present in both Orwellian pieces, with intense manipulation of reality and conciousness being experienced by both prisoners and officials in A Hanging and is even reffered to as “double-think” in the novel 1984. Such control of the human psyche involves victims being fully aware of horrific condictions and circumstances but believing and behaving entirely otherwise. The present analysis will further explore the presence of this theme in A Hanging and 1984.

Winston, the protagonist of 1984, introduces the concept of double-think early on in the novel, “‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’” (Orwell). He equates the phenomenon to a method which controls reality, and this is an exemplary description of it. The people of Oceania are fully aware of the constant surveillance and complete lack of freedom they have under The Party, however they are forced to maintain a mentality which disregards these very obvious components of society and to believe otherwise and behave with an air of gratitude and false contentment. This is similar to the attitudes and actions portrayed by prisoners and officials alike in A Hanging. Despite being aware and watching the entirety of the hanging, all members silently disregard the event and are “chattering gaily” while the deceased hangs a few feet away. This themes is further discussed in 1984, “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic … the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness…”. Winston’s experience within the labyrinth of double-think, echoes the experience of the narrator in A Hanging. Winston overrides the truth in his mind, despite abhorring the Party and its control over him he must repress such opinions and thoughts, he numbs his mind and induces an unconscious consciousness. The official in A Hanging, also acknowledges the truly terrible reality of killing a very living man, and fully-aware and holding an opposing opinion to the act, he accepts it and decides to carry on as if it never occurred along with his colleagues. In 1984, “The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated the proles from bondage… But simultaneously, true to the Principles of doublethink, the Party taught that the proles were natural inferiors who must be kept in subjection, like animals …”.

Despite Winston and other’s being aware of the re-written and falsified history, they are expected to believe and act accordingly regarding the poor treatment of the proles. This parallels the treatment of prisoners in A Hanging, the narrator and surely other officials are aware of how wrong the hanging is, however they execute the act under the taught concept that they are doing righteousness under British rule and subsequently force themselves into believing that it is acceptable.

Conclusively, throughout the majority of George Orwell’s writings there are many reoccurring themes and motifs. In A Hanging and 1984, the theme of double-think is present as it manipulates the perspectives, thoughts and behaviors of characters depicted in both pieces. While Winston is forced to believe in The Party and to be obedient to it, the narrator in A Hanging, is forced to ignore his awareness of the “unspeakable wrongness” occurring before him and carry on his endeavors as an official of the British government (Orwell, A Hanging).

Works Cited

  1. Orwell, George. 1984. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 1977. Orwell, George. 'A Hanging. ' Orwell, George. Shooting anf lephant and Other Essays. London: Secker and Warburg, 1950
10 December 2020
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now