Orwell in Modern-Day Context

Who would’ve thought that you can apply school-assigned reading to real-life events?


If you are a senior at Academic Magnet who elected to take AP English Literature and Composition, then you are well-acquainted with George Orwell’s 1984. Highlighting human gravitation toward power and control, this novel written in the 1940s continues to aggregate relevancy to the political atmosphere in 2018. Modern social media platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, have experienced a surge of Orwellian hashtags, all of which alluding to the contradictory behavior of American politicians. While the English author illustrated a far more advanced and totalitarian future, he managed to predict several points that can be contextualized in today’s climate.


JAMAL KHASHOGGI, journalist, who “mysteriously disappeared” in October 2018.

Jamal Khashoggi was a well-known journalist whose works often criticized the Saudi government, especially the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. While in Istanbul, he walked into the Saudi consulate in order to pick up divorce documents. He never walked out. Weeks later, damning evidence surfaced, incriminating several Saudi officials of murdering Khashoggi, many of whom were connected to Prince Mohammed. Alarmingly, this current event parallels with the actions of Orwell’s dystopian New Party government. In 1984, those who opposed the Party’s regulations/beliefs were immediately “vaporized”, a euphemistic phrase equivalent to “murdered”. Individuals that vocalized resistance to the totalitarian government became “unpeople” (Newspeak word), akin to Khashoggi’s situation with the Saudi authorities. The striking similarities between Orwell’s political-fiction novel and real-world events should raise concern among the global population: are human beings really so thirsty for control that they would completely neglect their morals?



Several of today’s politicians have been known to renounce statements and contradict themselves. Our president, Donald Trump, is certainly no exception. A recent example, however, would be his attempt to aggregate support for the Republican party prior to the 2018 Midterm Elections. Despite the fact that his administration continues to support a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and its protections for pre-existing conditions, President Trump claims that he has “always” sought to provide aid to those afflicted with such conditions. 

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This blatant contradiction highlights the accuracy of George Orwell’s predictions on the state of modern government, and also illuminates the lengths individuals will go to in order to maintain a position of power.



It is no secret that these recent at-home “smart devices” (such as Alexa by Amazon) are listening in on every spoken conversation. Much like these microphones that can monitor 24/7, George Orwell wrote about “telescreens”—devices installed within homes that could record every sound and movement within their range. The similarities are striking, and definitely alarming.


Additionally, the Internet is saturated with several anecdotes in which phones have picked up verbal conversations, and then “coincidentally” provided advertisements pertaining to previously discussed information. For example, a married couple chose to experiment with this theory, and spent an entire week mentioning “cat food” around their cell phones, despite the fact that they do not own any pets. The results? A cat food advertisement on their social media food. Similarly, from my personal experience, trivial topics such as “Chai Tea flavored Burt’s Bees” and the “Crazy Rich Asians” movie all coincidentally appeared in Spotify ads. It seems as though American citizens are now deprived of privacy. But then again, did the citizens in 1984 ever have any?



The fictional citizens of Orwell’s dystopian society often pushed through life with the wool over their eyes. Likewise, many youths in China are unfamiliar with historical events that their government has successfully concealed. The Tiananmen Square Massacre, which occurred in 1989, was a large-scale demonstration against the oppressive communist government within China. While the civilian fatalities were not recorded, estimates range from 300 to 10,000 deaths. Despite this monumental moment in history, many adolescents have never heard of the event, as the Chinese government controls the Internet’s search engine and has censored key terms related to the Massacre. As a result, modern-day China parallels with the Oceania government in 1984, who intentionally keeps their citizens in the dark in order to paint their authority in a positive light.



Deviating from 1984, but still comparing George Orwell’s works, his popular line in Animal Farm certainly applies to our modern day society in regards to social disparity. While progressive moments have implemented efforts to bridge the socioeconomic gap between differing demographics, the unfairly opportunistic attitudes of several government offices continue to persist. The aforementioned debate on the Affordable Care Act truly highlights the (arguably inconsiderate) nature of our current government, as a “criminal” caravan seems to pose a greater national threat than the deprivation of millions’ medical needs. While the United States advertises a patriotic sentiment of equality and freedom, the government continues to fall short in providing for less fortunate and abled citizens.


That being said, Orwell’s predictions have not been confirmed by solely one country. Rather, nations across the globe seem to be following in the New Party’s footsteps. While all of these points can be interpreted differently, and all can be up for debate, this rising political trend certainly raises a popular question regarding human nature. Does power corrupt?