On a warm summer’s day some 221 years ago, it was said “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” (Benjamin Franklin Quotes). The accuracy of this statement could not better be displayed than in the book 1984. In a war torn world, a new government has come to power in the country once known as England, a government in which all are oppressed into a submissive way of life. By the same token, a new version of Britain emerges in V for Vendetta. The two pieces of literature describe the seemingly ordinary to be those who are the driving force behind the mutiny, the nature of how the government came to power given the publics fear and insecurity, and the extreme censorship purposefully done by the government in order to remain in control; the parallels between the stories is uncanny and remonstrate ones of feeling of trust in powerful governments.
In 1984, a middle aged commonplace man emerges as our central character, Mr. Winston Smith, who is described as “…thirty nine, and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times [up to his apartment]” (Orwell 1). However to consider him ordinary may prove to be a mistake. Similar to VFV, an internal desire for change soon conquers fear of death causing the two characters to become literal walking martyrs, fully committed to the cause. Though in the beginning, both are introduced as rather shallow and blindly following the government just as the rest of the population. Winston is brought in as a boring, lackluster man; meanwhile, Evey is a typical woman, one with few deep convictions other than an exterior appearance of loyalty to the party in power. Evey states “I was born towards the end of the millennium, the year 1997. My father use to say that people were so afraid that the world was going to end that they were willing it to happen” (V for Vendetta). Evey like Winston, had been born into this dystopian world and knew no different. Yet, though both individuals could be killed by the state for their ‘crimes’, an idea, a state of mind, a thought can never be killed. That which mulls around in human brain and is intangible will not ever be vanquished. In VFV, V makes the claim that; “Remember the idea, not the man, because man can fail. He can be caught. He can be killed and forgotten. But a hundred years later an idea can still change the world” (V for Vendetta). VFV demonstrates this passion for change as the effects of V’s anarchist actions come to full fruition with the destruction of Parliament by Evey, with hundreds of thousands watching, cheering. The symbolism of the destruction of Parliament instilled the idea of a better place without abuse in the onlookers. Though never directly stated, in 1984 the countless people massacred by the government had perished not in vain, their ideology carries on in every new generation, in every man, woman, and child, and in everyone who thinks independently of the ridged regimes philosophy.
The fascist government in VFV is run by the Norsefire Party which took control during political and economic turmoil in Britain during an unspecified number of years ago, as stated by Evey “I don’t remember much of the century’s turn. I don’t remember the market crash or the Plague or any of the Trafalgar Riots” (V for Vendetta). Similar to the Party in Orwell’s novel, this government continued to promote the idea that life has only gotten better since the “Reclamation” or “Revolution”. Though not much is truly learned of the Revolution in 1984 one can surmise that a unique national or international crisis led to the crumbling of the government which allowed a new government to take its place. The uncanny power held by this government grew out of the fear and insecurity of the masses. In times of chaos and confusion, a strong leader figure emerged to take charge. This demagogue preached what was needed to the people, almost as a father is to a son, this figure gave the masses peace of mind and a sense of wellbeing during an anarchic time in which there was no other option. The masses conceded a few rights at a time, gaining the temporary aura of safety and freedom. However, time has a way of making the cloudy water clear, and soon the government’s oppressive control was to strong and the people’s ability to fight back was too weak. Yet, the question posed of “Did the people want to fight back?” has no right or wrong answer. A perfectly executed plan on the governments part in both story’s start with the instilment of national pride and unity. Such examples include “England Prevails” (V for Vendetta) in VFV and the numerous Big Brother slogans such as “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength” (Orwell). If the people are proud of their nation, they will never see a need for change.
As time goes by, living standards should supposedly go up as new technology and greater knowledge allows for a better quality of life. Yet, the ability to prove any such thing appears nearly impossible in both novels as most all history books or culture such as art and music has been eradicated. Numerous cases are portrayed of those in ‘leadership’ positions such as O’Brien and Dietrich being passively aggressive and holding onto items of the past for their own pleasure. When few have knowledge of these items, it remonstrates any point that may claim the society is in any fashion educated, not merely just in the classroom but in the vast world which surrounds them, for instance, in 1984; “[Winston] tried to squeeze out a childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been this way” (Orwell 3). This removal of items from the past makes it so no standard can be set which allows for refute of the governments claims of the improvements and benefits that it has brought. The government’s desire to alter reality in 1984 with the rewriting of historical events suggests a deeper more diabolical plot, twisting the truth hinders the people uninformed and without an honest grasp on the world. The alteration of even minor things such as outdated predictions of crop yields suggests insecurity within the government itself that demonstrates their own fear of the masses becoming insubordinate if they were to learn of the lies. As the 1984 government saying went “’Who controls the past’ ran the party slogan, ‘controls the future; who controls the present, controls the past’” (Orwell 34). Similarly, after V destroys the Old Bailey with rigged explosions, the government quickly fabricates a cover story claiming it was intentional demolition conducted by the government, this allowed complete control over the story (V for Vendetta). In both cases, the main cause of the alternation of the truth occurs so that the government can uphold an image of security and stability.
The ability of a governing body should be itself governed by the people, rather than the select few in power. These two stories both paint the image of a ghastly life in which the government no longer is held to a check and balances system, rather, the society suffers and folds to the whims of those in power. Both 1984 and VFV parallel each other in the ways of the main characters; who appear common but are willing to lash back at their oppressors. Even the governments themselves are quite similar as there power stemmed from a time in the not so distant past; the masses were scared and insecure, vulnerable. This created a perfect storm which allowed power hungry individuals to arrogate the government while forcing the masses to concede their rights. Surely though, one would’ve hoped, history would’ve enlightened the followers to a time of more ethical governance. Unfortunately with the governing body rewriting history and destroying anything that contradicts their beliefs, the people are left ignorant and unable to come to the realization of the injustices being done unto them and others by the totalitarian governments.