1984: Loyalty as the ultimate tool of Power
George Orwell's "1984" presents a haunting vision of one man's struggle to remain free within a totalitarian society. In a world where even free thought is a crime, Winston Smith chooses to revolt against the "Machine," as the anti-utopian government system, which uses a number of brainwashing and forceful techniques to control the citizens and their every day life. Loyalty of every man to Big Brother and consequently to the party is strictly enforced to ensure a continuous support for the system. However, Winston's loyalty changes with the first "free idea" he encounters and directs him to be involved in many forbidden activities. Through the character of Winston, George Orwell explores the idea that loyalty and the consequent betrayal can be, and is used as a very powerful weapon to control and direct the thought processes of people. Winston's loyalties change from devotion to the party to attachment to Julia and O'Brien who represent freedom of thought. Winston's weakening belief in the party then leads to his defeat and spiritual death.
As any other citizen of Oceania, Winston is taught to love Big Brother and not to question the intent of the party. Loyalty to the system and hate for Goldstein is instilled in him through the ever-present telescreens and the programs of Two Minute Hate. It is through these means that the government controls the feelings of all its members and deliberately obligates everyone to feel only the basic emotions, such as absolute loyalty to Big Brother. However, in Oceania loyalty is no longer a choice between the ideals of a man and his government. It is now the matter of life and death. Each occasion of thought crime against the party Winston is in danger of revealing his true feelings to the thought police. Winston as a part of his job destroys and rewrites history to fit the means of the party, but on one occasion discovers a concrete lie. This incident starts a process of loosing faith in the system surrounding him and he slowly uncovers all the monstrosities that surround him.
As an escape from this world Winston starts writing a journal and looks for people just like him. He discovers Julia who is a love interest that makes the escape from the everyday grayness possible and O'Brien, a member of the inner party who seems to be on the side of the opposition. Both of these people replace loyalty to Big Brother. Julia fulfills Winston's need for human affection and emotional freedom. In contrast, O'Brien is the representative of the potential change in the system. They both offer a new way of looking at the nightmarish political system of Oceania and Winston devotes himself to fighting against it.
To join the brotherhood in fight Winston comes to O'Brien to pledge his support and show his loyalty to Goldstein. The dialogue between the two reveals several key issues: "You are prepared to cheat, to forge, to blackmail, to corrupt the minds of the children , to distribute habit-forming drugs-to do anything which is likely to cause demoralization and weaken the power of the party? . . . You are prepared to commit suicide, if and when we order you to do so? "Yes" (p.142)" We can clearly see a displacement of one blind loyalty by the other. Orwell uses Winston to show the common human mistake of polarizing one's ideals to the extremes. Winston agrees to take his own life for the cause but has a very little idea that this decision is as fruitless as to follow the Big Brother without a doubt.
O'Brien who is just a tool of the party, tests Winston and discovers that the only barrier between him and the absolute devotion is his loyalty to Julia. But even this loyalty is broken when Winston is faced with the instincts of his self-preservation. "Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don't care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. (p.236)" Winston in this situation is an individual who no longer feels he can withhold the mental and physical torture and betrays Julia, the only thing he promised never to do. He is completely broken down and brainwashed and finally becomes what O'Brien and the party wanted from him: a mindless human being with only the core of what we see as the essence of a personality.
George Orwell warns us against the mindless following of ideologies. He sees the clear danger of locking onto a single idea and following it without any doubts. Time has proven Orwell right. We see that Communism, Nazism, and similar ideologies have had a disastrous effect on our planet yet at their time, loyalty has driven them to extreme heights of popularity. Although "1984" was only intended as a warning in a form of an anti-utopian fiction, the practices described within are almost factual and add to the power of this book.