This report will examine a connecting idea/aspect that is prominent throughout multiple texts: 1984 by George Orwell, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Minority Report by Steven Spielberg and The Handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood. The idea that links these texts is the idea of conflict – the conflict between internal thoughts and desires and the external factors that suppress them and prevent them from being realised.
The novel 1984 by George Orwell portrays conflict between the protagonist Winston’s internal thoughts and desires, and the rulings/teachings of the party of which cause his desires to remain internal. Like any human being, Winston has thoughts, feelings, opinions and desires, but these are all conflicted by the dictatorial government that he is ruled by. There are multiple external factors put in place by the party that conflict any display of these personal, internal happenings. the first factor is the laws and regulations put in place by the party, of which, if broken (by the showing of emotion, voicing of opinion or satisfaction of desires) will result in punishment such as torture or death. These laws and their punishments are the reason for the existence of the conflict as the fear of torture and death causes the suppression of natural thoughts and desires. “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull”, this highlights the conflict between one’s own mind and the opposing ways and laws of the party. A significant conflict that Winston faced was his desire for sex vs. his inability to satisfy it due to the fact that he is unmarried and sex outside of marriage is frowned upon by the party and therefore society as a whole. “He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity”, this statement directly addresses the conflict between Winston’s sexual desires and the societal and governmental standards (him wanting to go to bed with a woman vs. her chastity sash). Another external factor put in place by the party which results in conflict is surveillance. Surveillance by the telescreens acts as a constant reminder of the party’s existence and with the belief that he is being watched, Winston is constantly conflicted between his thoughts and actions. “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself”, this shows the effect of the constant surveillance in that the easiest way to avoid the conflict caused by it is to lie to yourself. Another conflict that is slowly becoming realised during the novel 1984 is the one caused by language. Newspeak is the process of decreasing and simplifying society’s vocabulary, this will cause conflict in that people won’t even be able to articulate internal emotions, thoughts and opinions. “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” – Syme, this shows the evolution of the party’s control – from causing conflict between mind and law to making the conflict be due to the inabilities of the mind itself. The novel 1984 is a dystopia and the theme of conflict throughout it display a warning that through law and control our freedom of speech and sense of identity can be taken away from us.
The novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, very much like George Orwell’s 1984, portrays conflict between the protagonist, Offred’s internal thoughts and desires and the state/society due to both laws and surveillance. Throughout the novel Offred constantly explores her opinions and desires to do things such as escape, engage in lustful and romantic activities and share her thoughts and opinions with others. But she knows that this is all in conflict with what is expected of her by those around and ruling her. She must only speak when spoken to and cannot hold opinions or aspirations other than her aim to bear a child for her masters. “It’s impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because of what you say can never be exact, you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts, sides, crosscurrents, nuances; too many gestures, which could mean this or that, too many shapes which can never be fully described, too many flavours, in the air or on the tongue, half-colours, too many.” This represents the conflict between all of the thoughts and feelings that Offred would wish to express and the laws that restrict her from expressing them to anyone but herself, just as Winston did in 1984. Much like in 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale has a form of surveillance that ensures the conflict between desire and law is constant. Unlike in 1984 however, the surveillance is unknown to those that it’s watching – the Eyes as they’re called, are known to exist but Offred and other handmaids do not know who they are exactly. This ensures for constant uncertainty and therefore constant self preservation by abiding all laws and expectations. “You can’t help what you feel, but you can help how you behave”, this mindset of conflict between how one feels and how one behaves is instilled by the fear of being caught under the surveillance of an eye and the punishments that follow. The Handmaid’s Tale, like 1984 is also a dystopia and shows the value of freedom and individuality through the loss of the two due to conflict caused by patriarchal, totalitarian state laws. “There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” This shows the importance of all forms of freedom, in that one can be said to have freedom yet not the right type. Freedom to is the freedom to aim for as it will bring freedom from.
The novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is similar to both 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale in that state/government action is used to create conflict within the protagonist (Alex) between what he desires/wishes to do and what the state and society would rather have him do. It differs from the last two however, in the fact that the government uses different approaches/strategies to achieve their desired effect. Alex experiences a more frustrating conflict than those in 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale, instead of one caused by law and surveilllance, the government have treated him to be repulsed by his own violent and sexual desires. Though he still has these desires, when he thinks too much about them or is directly confronted with the need to satisfy them, his own body conflicts him by inducing sickness. “Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses to be bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?” This quote from the priest is one that tells us of the conflict that Alex is experiencing, in that it is not a conflict between what is right and wrong or between what he wants to do and he should do, but instead is a conflict that he has no choosing over. He would still choose to be a violent sex pest no matter what the consequences, but the only thing stopping him is his physical inability due to treatment induced nausea. “Badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self.” This quote from Alex himself shows that much like in The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984, the state’s actions results in a conflict between self (one’s identity) and the government’s ideals by suppressing/disallowing the ‘self’ and pushing for their image of perfection. This dystopia shows that even those that live to rebel and are the most set in their ways can be turned into a pawn/product of those who are in power through the creation of conflict.
The film Minority Report by Steven Spielberg is similar to both 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale in that the law is a factor that causes conflict between it and the protagonist (John Anderton). It is also similar to A Clockwork Orange in that the conflict is surrounding the protagonist’s life purpose/career. For John Anderton this is the prevention of murders (Alex’s was the thrill of violence and sex). John Anderton’s conflict develops from a system that he is devotedly a part of, turning against him and attempting to convince him that he will commit a murder. This results in conflict between John and the system as he does not believe that he will commit this murder, especially considering he has never met the man he is supposed to kill. “I have no idea! I’ve never heard of him! But I’m supposed to kill him in less than thirty-six hours.” This shows the conflict between what John is being told/shown he will do and what he believes he will do based on his morals and his limited understanding of the situation. Like 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale, the Law is what is causing such conflict for John as the law is telling him what he must not do and despite his best efforts to abide he seemingly opposes it as well as his own beliefs. Another conflict that is present in both Minority Report and A Clockwork Orange is the conflict between what they love and are passionate about (fighting crime for John and violence for Alex) and the fact that it became their weakness/downfall. “The system is perfect until it comes after you”, this shows the conflict between the system John loved and trusted and the system that began to rule and threaten his life. External factors (previsions), cause conflict between what John believes and trusts and what the legal system and him are led to believe. This dystopia shows, through conflict that even the systems and people that you think you trust can be corrupted by power.
This connecting feature of conflict between what one feels, believes, thinks and desires and external factors in a dystopian setting is a warning that freedom of speech and identity is valuable and that even the most devout can be changed or even the most trustworthy be corrupted. Conflict between us and others more powerful than us can cause us to lose our strongest beliefs and values or commit acts we would have never thought possible.