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Cami Vanderwolf

Period 4

Dystopian Societies: Foreshadowing the Future


Though many dystopian novels and films portray societies in which the society is
distorted and everyday problems are magnified and intensified, some aspects of the books and
movies are present in todays world. The novel, 1984, depicts a society in which a totalitarian
government constantly at war, called Ingsoc and led by Big Brother, controls everything from all
information given to the people to thoughts of their citizens. Citizens are monitored and watched
by telescreens and anyone who is thought to be a threat to the society is killed and erased from
memory. Winston, a member of the middle class, or Outer Party, tries to overthrow this society.
The society in which George Orwells novel, 1984, is written displays many similarities with
current-day United States including the altering of information, the monitoring of citizens, and
the usage of the taken information.
In both Oceania, the country in which 1984 is set, and the United States, information is
destroyed and changed. While Winston is at work, rewriting documents that compromise the
idea of Ingsoc being all-knowing and never wrong, Winston thinks, A number of the Times
which might, because of changes in political alignment, or mistaken prophecies uttered by Big
Brother, have been rewritten a dozen times still stood on the files bearing its original date, and no
other copy existed to contradict it. Books, also, were recalled and rewritten again and again, and
were invariably reissued without any admission that any altercation had been made (Orwell 37).
Today private information and controversial photos of celebrities are often leaked, but much of it
is forged. A Washington Post article on a recent Apple iCloud leak states, Not all posted [nude]
photos are deemed authentic Nude pictures of celebrities are frequently faked and posted
around the Internet (Peterson). In both societies, information is altered or unrightfully created in

Cami Vanderwolf
Period 4
order to change the perspective of things, whether it be hiding the governments mistakes or
negatively altering the way an icon is viewed.
The private life of both the citizens of Oceania and the U.S. are being compromised and
monitored. When Winston is alone in his home and finally has the time to recall the way he has
had to live since as far back as he can remember, thinking, You had to livedid live, from habit
that became instinctin the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in
darkness, every movement scrutinized (Orwell 6). The Washington Post, on the same issue of
privacy, quotes celebrity Mary Elizabeth Winstead who says, I took [those photos] with my
husband in the privacy of our home [These] photos were deleted log ago (Peterson). In
1984, people are constantly watched in their houses and everything they do is being monitored.
Information about celebrities and even ordinary people, nowadays, is being broadcasted and
stolen even though the information and photos are only shared with a few trustworthy people, if
at all. Current-day celebrities are constantly under surveillance, as are the people of Oceania.
The accumulation of personal information of the people of Oceania and the United States
is used to negatively affect their lives. After committing thoughtcrime, by continuously writing
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER in his journal, Winston starts panicking and remembers,
There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.
How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was
guessworkYou might dodge [ the Thought Police] successfully for a while, even for years, but
sooner or later they were bound to get [and kill those who have committed thoughtcrime]
(Orwell 6 and 19). Today many Americans backup their photos and information on internet
servers, but security measures are often not strong enough to prevent the data from being stolen.
Another Washington Post article about new smart phone applications and features being

Cami Vanderwolf
Period 4
implemented states, Having a company run your thermostat remotely and track something like
your electricity use may seem like a neat feature that doesnt reveal a lot of sensitive information
about you. But criminals could, for example, use those trends to figure out when youre home
and when youre on vacation (Tsukayama). Criminals can then use this personal information to
plan their thefts and to steal money from the bank accounts of others. In 1984, Oceanians,
especially members of the Outer Party are being watched twenty-four/seven and even personal
thoughts and opinions, if they do not mirror those that the government want, can lead to death. In
the United States and in Oceania, citizens have to cope with their information being known and
used without their consent. Their information may even be used to harm or steal from them.
The issues of changing original information, the constant surveillance of citizens, and the
negative ways in which accumulated personal information are used, though present in the society
depicted in 1984, are mirrored in current day society. The similarities between the problems of
the fictional society on which Orwell sets his novel and those of the current day societies
foreshadow what may happen if these issues are not acted upon or resolved.

Cami Vanderwolf
Period 4

Works Cited
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Published by Signet Classic, 1977. Print.
Peterson, Andrea, Emily Yahr, and Joby Warrick. "How Safe Are Files Stashed in the Cloud?"
Washington Post [Washington D.C.] 2 Sept. 2014: n. pag. Print.
Tsukayama, Hayley. "Backlash comes as Apple doubles down on the cloud." Washington Post
[Washington D.C.] 4 Sept. 2014: n. pag. Print.