“Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation.” In the dystopian genre, we see the power of language from complete control of a civilisation to destroying the individuality of people. These texts use the power of language to open our perspective to those in our society who abuse this use of language to achieve power and control. The dystopian genre exists as a warning to what will happen if society does nothing, and gives us the knowledge and power to question and challenge those in control.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four By George Orwell the power of language is evident. Shown through the government and the effect it has on Winston our main protagonist and his fellow comrades, the people of Oceania. We see the power of the language through the language of Oceania, Newspeak. Syme Winston’s friend from work says “don’t you see 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.” This shows the power of language and that it doesn’t just give power but it gives the people a way to rebel. The Party, however, decides to destroy words that could be used to express revolution and by that make rebellion impossible as there will be no way to express thoughts that sway from the ideas of The Party. George Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language he says “If thought corrupts language then language can also corrupt thought” This idea shows the basis for the idea of Newspeak that it can corrupt thought by making rebellion inexpressible to others. George Orwell talks about those who deny this form of English is incurable that it “merely reflects existing social conditions.” If everyone were to believe this idea and we talked with the Newspeak language we would believe that everything we are possible of expressing is based on society the reason there is no way to express certain things as they do not exist in our world, therefore, will never need fixing. Thought corrupts language if Newspeak was real the only people who could save those under the control of the Party would be those who don’t speak Newspeak.
Minority Report by Steven Spielberg is set in a dystopian future and focuses on a New police division the ‘Pre-crime’ working with the Precogs special humans who can see into the future predicting murders and crime that can be stopped before they occur. Pre-crime a word that sounds innocent but has a deeper meaning, it could be defined as being arrested for a crime you haven’t committed or might not go through with. The people are so accustomed to the word it becomes another accepted part of society. George Orwell talks about how the word people are using “is one [they] are accustomed to making over and over again, [they] may be almost unconscious of what [they] are saying.” Pre-crime loses its true meaning and becomes another noun for a police division and not a word that challenges the freedom of the people. We can see this effect in the mall we see an over the shoulder shot of John showing the blurry faces of the overexposed people walking behind him, this shows how the precogs and Pre-crime removed the people from their individuality and turns them into machines accepting the impact of Pre-crime. George Orwell says “this reduced state of consciousness… is at any rate favourable to the political conformity” This is the goal of Pre-crime to remove the people from being themselves to turn into more accepting beings for the party in charge to take control of. This shows the corruption of language being manipulative and being used by those in control to become more in control.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess takes a different path on the power of Language and uses the reader themselves to show its effectiveness. A Clockwork Orange focuses on Alex our (main character) who lives in a society that struggles with Violence caused by the youth. The characters in the book speak Nadsat a combination of English and Russian words. The whole meaning of the language is to hide the truth from the reader who doesn’t understand what’s happening for the majority of the book. We can see from a scene where Alex is out at night he gets into a fight with an older lady where she “scratched my litso, So then I screeched … and upped with the malekny like silver statue and cracked her a fine tolchok on the gulliver and that shut her up real horrorshow and lovely.” The use of Nadsat in this situation creates a confusion as to what is really happening. If the reader was unaware of the reality of the situation they would have little idea as to what was really happening. In reality what is really happening is she “scratched my face, So then I screeched… and upped with the little like silver statue and cracked her a fine hit on the head and that shut her up real good and lovely.” The use of Nadsat here works perfectly for a first-time reader who has no clue of the plot line the Nadsat leaves them in the dark with little or even no idea what is happening in the story to Alex. In George Orwell’s essay he talks about modern English lacking precision and being too vague is exactly the same effect Nadsat gives the reader, complicated foreign words used to give a blank image in the readers head. Nadsat achieves the same result as modern English according to George Orwell that it hides the true meaning of the text and leaves the reader more confused and mislead. George Orwell says “No one seems able to think for themselves: prose seems to consists less of words chosen for their meanings and more of phrases tacked together” English will end up how Nadsat is being vague and hard to decipher a meaning. Our language on the journey Geroge Orwell predicts will not be spoken using words chosen for a purpose but with phrases and prefabricated sentences limiting us from expressing our true meanings, again going back to “If thought can corrupt language then Langauge must be able to corrupt thought” if our language becomes a prewritten guideline then our thoughts will as well. We won’t be able to think and express our thoughts with meaning or persuasion but only with phrases to vague and complicated to convey a precise idea left unable to challenge those in power and leaving us in the control we only imagine existed in fiction.
Dystopians try to warn us of what those in charge can do especially with language. The limitation of words used in Nineteen Eighty-Four to eliminate the ability to challenge those in power. Nadsat representing complicated writing can hide us from the true meanings of sentences and push us to use prefabricated phrases to vague to convey any new ideas. Also, Minority report turning a challenging idea into an everyday word removing it from its true meaning. George Orwell’s essay shows the effect of this using real writing from our society and uses his writing as a way for us to use as evidence to challenge those in power keeping us confident we are free in today’s society and making sure we can keep it that way. Using the newfound knowledge from the texts and George Orwell’s essay we can be aware of the techniques of language and who might use them against us. Our new ideas can be used to keep our individual views and identity present in the minds of our leaders.