1984: the Power of Words

Last year around this time, I was reading the book “1984” by George Orwell. I was on a school science trip in Costa Rica and the beautiful scenery made me feel more insightful and gave me time for reflection. Normally in a relaxed tropical setting people tend to lose themselves to an airy, lighthearted mindset.  I tend to retreat further and further inward to think. So during this deep period of thinking and reading 1984, I realized just how much language controls the way we think and our ability to be able to think deeply or analytically. The novel is basically about a dystopian society and a civil servant, Winston, who works at editing and producing the government’s propaganda. Well, in the novel, they use a language called “Newspeak” where they basically get rid of all the words they deem superfluous. Essentially, they make everything simplistic and by reducing vocabulary, they begin to put boundaries on how an individual can think. By converting to this, it makes it so that the citizens won’t be able to realize what is going on around them. If one is angry they say something along the lines of “I’m doubleplus mad.” There is no infuriating, or enraged, or any of the numerous words expressing anger that could have a different nuance and produce a different level of meaning for a certain sentiment. Reading about this made me more appreciative of words. I usually never think about it, but I’m so glad that our language allows us to express ourselves in so many different, multidimensional ways. But these many open nuances leave space for a lot of interpretation and can lead to misunderstandings in the way something was meant to be read. I guess this could be one downside to language, but in the end it’s better than being confined to simple feelings.

-Margaret Daly

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