Literature is most successful when it is dealing with the big issues of the world

Talk about literature and why it is important.

O’brien – corrupting effect of power
Syme – manipulation of language
Winston – invasion of privacy

In the novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ written by George Orwell, the author uses the context of the novel to successfully discuss big issues in today’s society. These issues include invasions of privacy, the manipulation of language and ,

Connections essay

In today’s society of colloquial speech and slang, we place little value on the power of language. We see it as a means to communicate our thoughts and feelings, unaware that the way we use certain words and inflections on our voice can manipulate the opinion of the person we are speaking to. The aspect of language that we sometimes fail to consider, is how powerfully restriction on speech can restrict the way we think. If you do no have the words with which to express your opinions, you never share them, and your personal view gets lost, never leaving your mind. In the texts ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell, ‘Minority Report’ directed by Steven Spielberg, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ written by Margaret Atwood and ‘2+2=5’ performed by Radio head, visual and written language are used by those in power to repress rebellion. This issue of manipulation of language is prevalent in our current society. We see the manipulation of thoughts and opinions through language via political correctness, positions of power and the appeal of particular setting.

In the novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ written by George Orwell,  there is evidence of the government using language to repress rebellion from the very beginning, with the immediate introduction of newspeak.  Newspeak; the official language of Oceania, created by the Party (INGSOC) to meet the ideological requirements of an English Socialist society. The introduction of these new, altered words begins immediately, with the introduction of the character Syme. Syme represents the New Speak movement in Oceania, and is an author of the New speak dictionary. Through  this character, Orwell demonstrates the power of language, and how his knowledge and understanding of language complexity resulted in his inevitable death. Syme’s knowledge of the English language is a threat to the party. He understands that the narrowing of the range of words in the common vocabulary is the governments method of manipulating the opinions. “We’re cutting the language down to the bone.” Syme understands that the formation of Newspeak is not meant to build on the current language, but to destroy it in a way that discourages independent thought. “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” Orwell offers a warning about the effect of narrowing language on the way people think. If the language used to express unpopular opinions is subject to restricts, overtime those words fade from existence. We forget about them, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to express out personal thoughts and feelings. “Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meaning rubbed out and forgotten.” Orwell comments of how language can be used to manipulate the minds of people in society. By changing the dictionary, altering the meaning of a word to become something completely absolute, closed to any interpretation, INGSOC has effectively narrowed the range of thought. People not only struggle to speak out against the injustice of Oceania’s totalitarianism, but they are often unable to form conclusions about the state that are independent. Often, any opinion civilians form on their own terms have form through state manipulation based in the language they are able to think in and use to speak. This is relevant to modern society, as we can see a form of Newspeak in political correctness. In order to be politically correct, people go out of there way to keep opinions to themselves, because they fear the repercussions of offending others. Although rooted in the idea of having an open minded and accepting society, political correctness does not eliminate prejudice, it just restricts peoples ability to outwardly voice their personal views without being socially reprimanded. It can also have the opposite affect of acceptance, where people silently agree to dislike a person because of their race, religion, sexuality or gender, and there is very little discussion had about the issues that need to solved in our society, which are more often than not swept under the rug, ignored and never addressed. This is due to fear of not being politically correct and voicing an unpopular opinion.

In the novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ written by Margaret Atwood,  a slightly different method is used to control the lesser people in society, but it is still in the form of manipulation of language. This is similar to Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, as the language manipulation we see is again based in power, fear and intimidation. In difference we see between the novels is that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has a type of language based manipulation that is set in a hierarchy . People in power have the ability to speak, whereas the maids are not even allowed to say their own names aloud.  This is the same idea that we see in ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, where the people in power have a stronger voice, and use their influence over language to control people in society. However, there is a difference between how the manipulation of language is presented in each novel. Whereas ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ has presented control via language as a change to vocabulary that has resulted in restrictions on speech and thought, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ presents the idea of language manipulation with restrictions of which people have the ability to voice their opinions. This idea of freedom of speech is supported by specific characters. Int he novel, Commanders and wives are free to speak their opinions whenever they please. They are the ones in power, and freely share their thoughts and ideas, which means their ideas are the only ones ever heard in society. “We learned to lipread, our heads flat on our beds, turned sideways, watching each others mouths. In this way we exchanged names from bed to bed.” The handmaids have strict restrictions on speech, which doesn’t only manipulate their language and thoughts, but their identity. They aren’t allowed to speak their own names, to humanize themselves, as that plants a seed of self empowerment, which could be fatal to the structure of the government. Phrases such as “Blessed be the fruit,” “Praise be,” and “Which I receive with joy,” are examples of the how speech is restricted for the handmaids. They are only allowed to speak respectfully, never disagreeing or giving personal opinions, just reciting common phrases to please those in a higher position of power than them.  This is another approach to manipulation of language that we can see in modern society. People are often influenced by people in power, for example politician and celebrities. These people have a platform to speak and share their ideas. They use media to convey their opinions, and they are able to convince society that they are correct, simply because they have a platform to express their ideas. They are the ones in power, and therefore it is their ideas that get heard. Although it differs in the method, both of these manipulations of language have the ability to alter the way society perceives those in power.  Through this selective freedom of speech, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ shows us how powerful silence can be. Those who are kept silent, under control and unable to speak are the people with the most intricate and valuable opinions regarding the way society works, as they see it all from the bottom of the social spectrum. They, however, are not able to voice that, so inequality is never acknowledged as a problem, and the laws made by the government are all that people will ever know. Another aspect of this novel that shows manipulation is the visual representation of the different groups of people, based on their place in society. Visual language is an important feature of this novel, but can also seen in other dystopian novels or visual texts.

In the film, ‘Minority Report’ directed by Steven Spielberg, visual language is used to show the viewer a whitewashed world from the eye of the people existing in that universe. The world looks as if it has been sanitized, rid of anything that could promote free thought or artistic expression. The visual language in the text creates an untrustworthy society, with the back bone of an escapist reality. Those who do not know the truth, are not harmed by the lies. This sanitized reality presents a false precedent. “There have been no murders in 6 years.” Precrime is shown to have rid the city of evil, completely eradicating the crime of murder being committed. However, the truth that not all of the people arrested would have become murderers if given the chance, is left out of the precrime adverts.The government paints itself as a pure and trustworthy entity, with the best interests of people as their only goal. We see this represented in visual language during a scene where John Anderton is in the city center, watching a group of young children look at a statue of the Precogs. The children are pure, dressed in white to represent the innocent. They are being lied to by their teacher, taught that the precrime system is just and right, and is always right. “Occasionally the Precogs disagree.” The system isn’t always accurate and sometimes the three precognitives disagree on whether the vision is correct or if the person has an alternative future. The vision of the children in white presents a clean slate. They are pure, completely blank canvasses that the government are using to convey the reliability of society. We see this similar kind of visual representation in ‘The Handmaids Tale,’ with the different colors each type of person wears to show their status in society. The handmaids are required to wear long, flowing red dresses that show Gilead their place in society; slaves the the high ranking commanders. This is a visual representation of their fertility, which is an attractive quality to the Commanders. Red is also often associated with woman and sin. In contrast, we see the wives dressed in blue, which is a color often used to represent the Virgin Mary. They are viewed by the society as untouchable, whereas the Handmaids are of very low ranking and impure. These texts share a theme of visual language being used to convey an important aspect of the texts foundation. Whereas the social status of the handmaids is a vital aspect of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale”, the pristine, whitewashed quality given to the setting in ‘Minority Report’ is key is showing how the government has manipulated society. As we see this whitewashed landscape, we are seeing it from the point of view of te citizens who reside in the city. All they see is a world clean and free of crime. The government have them believe they are completely safe, hiding their corrupt system behind the sanitized vision they present to the world. All of these texts tie into the theme of a government entity using their power of spoken or visual language to manipulate the ideas, and control peoples ability to maintain free and independent thought.

In the song ‘2+2=5’ performed by Radio Head, language manipulation is discussed from the perspective of someone who is experiencing manipulation but does not agree with the people in power.  The song lyrics have relevance in both ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘Minority Report,’ as they discuss the overarching idea of government control, which is related to the manipulation of language and the mind. “It’s the devils way now, there is no way out.” The devil is named in reference to those in power. We see the relevance of this line in ‘Minority Report,” where they have allowed the government to take complete control, putting their unwavering faith the precrime system and the government, who give their word that it is 100% correct, and they would never punish innocence for crimes they didn’t intend to truly commit. “I’ll stay home forever, where two plus two always makes five.” These lyrics are again relevant to the texts, most notably ‘The Handmaids Tale.” The line is scorning dreamers who attempt to look outside of themselves, and the society that has been created for them, to find other meaning in life. This is a similar sentiment to the fear of punishment seen in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, where the governments actions have encouraged mass hysteria, effectively preventing almost all individual thought being expressed. The song was written as a tribute to George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, specifically referencing the conclusion of the novel, where Winston is brainwashed to believe whatever the Party tells him is true, including that two plus two equals five. The entire premise of the song is based on how perceptible to manipulation the human brain can be. “Because you have not been paying attention.” This idea of language manipulating people without them noticing is parallel to the idea of new speak in ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The party controsl what people think and feel, simply by taking out the words they would use to express negative opinions or feelings towards the party. People don’t have the vocabulary to fight back against injustice, so they simply don’t. The subjects in all four pieces have let themselves be manipulated, because they were not paying attention to their thoughts being altered by changes in language. If they had recognized the importance of their right to use whatever vocabulary they want, the people in power would never have succeeded in narrowing their range of thought.

These texts, which all fall under the dystopian fiction genre, are all effective in conveying a warning about the power of language. Freedom of speech is a right in most first world countries, and our ability to freely express our thoughts and ideas is something we often overlook. “Because you have not been paying attention.” This quote presents a very important idea to people living in modern society. All of these texts encourage us to pay attention, to never let our right to an opinion be taken via manipulation of any kind. Even if your opinion is unpopular, you have the right to express it, which is the beauty of our current society. if we submit to fear of being judge, it is a form of succumbing to fear, a form of manipulation. These texts show all show a different version of the same warning; this is what society looks like if we relinquish our control over our minds. It can happen via visual or spoken manipulation of language, but it is an issue that is relevant to today’s society, and a warning that should not be ignored.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.”

School education is a waste of the best years of our lives

‘High school is the best years of your life’

People often refer to a school education as the best years of our lives. The years where we are young, free and reckless. These are the years we should be living, thriving, taking every single opportunity that life presents to us. So why is it that while we are at the peak of physical health, it is mandatory for us to attend 6 hours worth of scheduled classes, five days a week? All adults who have been through school, have had to experience the better part of their lives stuck in a classroom, agree that there time could have been better spent elsewhere. Doing productive things with their day that don’t include spending 6 hours inside a classroom, mingling with acquaintances that they will never see after those 13 years are over, surrounded by insecurity and failure. Couldn’t children’s time be better spent playing outdoors, learning about real life? We waste so much of their time trying force core subjects and cram information into their brains that will immediately be forgotten once the exam or test is over, never truly pushing our students to the limits of our potential. For example, only 41% of American school day is spend 50% less time of their day studying the core subjects (Maths, Science, History, English) than French or Japanese students. Another study shows that the increased amount of time we are forcing children to spend in this type of learning environment, is likely to lower achievement. Students fall behind because they are bored of spending so much time indoors, learning unnecessary facts. Even if students were to pay attention during classes, how likely is it that they would actually be taught the skills they need to survive in the real world? The school curriculum is not comprised of any skills that will help kids be functioning adults. There is no importance placed on cooking, cleaning, paying bills or learning about taxes. The distribution of spending and how it will effect our adult lives. School days are just 6 hours of learning facts that will not come in handy, nine times out of ten.

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Creative Writing 3.4 Writing Portfolio

It was a lazy Friday afternoon in the downtown streets of New York City. The air hung heavy, clinging to the sweat soaked bodies of the less fortunate. Emory wandered aimlessly down the ravaged streets of her home, a slight breeze  washing over her. Her street was an abandoned mess of shattered pavement and plant life filling every crack and crevice. Faded, dusty light filtering in and out of the shadows. Discarded chunks of metal and plastic from now useless machines, scattered around the overgrown fields. She glanced around the hollow buildings, the terracotta pink of the walls wearing down to grey, assaulted by weather and time. She could hear the sweet sound of her mother’s voice, softly singing her way through the day’s chores.

Emory jolted back into consciousness. In the back of her mind, she could hear the steady sound of water leaking into her cell, coupled with the feel of her tears, warm against her cheeks. Each droplet felt like the earth moving beneath her body, oversensitive nerves alert to every movement in the dark, dank unit. Despite the damp concrete scraping her already scarred bare skin, and the eerie silence interrupted with the dry retching and heaving of her companions, this cell was the only place she felt a sense of safety anymore. Finally alone, after hours of vigorous tests and looks of disapproval, she was able to escape.

Emory was lucky, she got a cell with a window. Grasping the rusted bars of her cell, she dragged herself off the floor, ignoring the familiar sensation of blood trickling from the scraps on her knees. She clambered slowly onto her feet, stomach heaving with the effort to hold herself upright. Gasping at the intense pain that she had come to associate with standing, the feeling of her protruding ribs digging sharply into her side. Starved and dehydrated, just like the rest of the poor souls she saw leave the testing rooms each day, she craved the pain caused by gripping the jagged metal bars of her cell just a little too tightly, hard enough to draw blood, her only connection left to the life she had once lived. A lifeline to the world, a reminder of the cruelty that was swallowing all of them whole. She knew what happened to them in there, it was the same thing that happened to them all. Cold, mechanical doctors dressed in white, using there power to tighten the noose around the necks of people’s freedom. The pain reminded her of her reality, gave her a brief release from the numbness she was drowning in. Aside from the sting of betrayal she felt every time she saw the emotionless faces of the people she had once known, some she had even loved, gazing out of the well lit square embedded in the concrete wall of her cell was all that was left to provide her with comfort. The gap between the end of her bars and the wall was the most difficult part of her journey, her only compensation being the purpose that small carved space gave her. A reason to wake up in the morning, a way to surface from the injustice that was eating her alive. This particular morning, the window gave way to a chilling scene of ice and mist. Cloud hung close to the ground, lingering between the trunks of the trees, planted to thinly veil the tall, barbed fence that seemed to close closer in on all of their throats with every passing day. Emory let her mind drift and flow from one detached thought to another. It was easier for her to focus on the picture in front of her, the subtle changes in the landscape, rather than focus on the happiness she had left behind, forsaken the day she had taken the test.

“Today’s the day,” Emory forced herself to roll over, blinking at the glaring morning light her mother had left into her dark room, “We don’t have much time, Em. Get up.”
The aptitude test. A compulsory analysis of the inner works of every young adult on their eighteenth birthday. She groaned, burying her body further into the warm, soft comfort of her bed. Her mother huffed, gripping the blanket around her and stripping it from her body, “If you don’t get up soon, they’ll accuse you of treason.” The ultimate punishment for refusing to attend you aptitude test; arrested for treason and sentenced to death. “Okay, okay. I’m getting up,” Her mother cast one more disapproving look before softly closing the door. Twisting herself from the sheets, Emory noticed a large yellow poster, tapped to the wall across from her window, flapping slowly in the wind. The words were bold, shouting from the paper “Get Your Aptitude Tested Today.” Beneath a picture. A mother, smiling as her children look up at her. The very depiction of the happiness the government run testing can provide. Knowing your place in the world, knowing where you belong. Emory swallowed, nerves boiling in her lower stomach. The posters never show the truth. They never reveal what happens when the test doesn’t work, when your mind refuses to conform. Emory shuddered, casting her eyes over the empty copper frame in the corner of her bedroom, that had once held the smiling face her older brother. Now it sat in the center, noticeably blank, surrounded by the photos of family and friends. A tribute to him, erased from her life without warning, on the day her turned eighteen. “Emory! We’re going to be late.” 

It still baffled her, these people and their ability to forsake all empathy, have so little compassion for those who were different. They filled cell block after cell block with pathetic pawns of the government, those who were different to what society wanted, by no fault of their own. People whose minds were alive, able to freely move and think, to accomplish more than one thing in a lifetime. As a child she had believed in the system, believed it was fair that the test was used to delegate jobs, so people go to do a job they had a natural talent for. Now, sitting in her damp cell, lonely but never truly alone anymore, she understood the true purpose of the test; to induce fear over the population, to identify those who threaten to overthrow the system. Emory had been so lost in thought, taking in the subtle changes in the outside world, that she had failed to noticed the sound of heavy, leather boots thudding against the concrete of the hallway. She was wrenched from her reminiscence by a guard in uniform. A tight black suit, strapped with weaponry, a government soldier ready to do their duty and nothing more. In the beginning, Emory would have kicked and screamed, held onto the bars of the window and refused to move. That was before the life had drained out to her, the fight dragged from her body with every invasion of her consciousness. Now, all she could do was take the support he offered, letting the numbness settle back over her, like a wave washing away her awareness.

Emory shuffled, unused to the comfortable feeling of the smooth seat beneath her. The room was different from what she remembered. The usually plain white wall seemed longer, mounted with metal equipment. Using her last ounce of energy, she shifted to glance around the unfamiliar room. The wall moved in front of her, the sterile white surface giving way to fathomless black. She snapped her neck back to the ceiling. It was better when she didn’t see the emotionless faces of the people who had been compromised. Their pale complexions and cautious movements stung in the back of her throat, pity pulling her back under water. Emory tensed, the familiar scent of sunshine setting her nerve endings alight. A sense of comfort swallowing her before she knew what was happening. Her body reacted, to fast for her mind to comprehend, she sat upright, all exhaustion forgotten. Mind racing, she willed her eyes to focus on the figure in front of her. Her mind reeled, brain barely processing flashes of different memories she associated with that smell. Late nights huddled in front a roaring fire, watching sparks light the night sky. The smell of the weeks rations being changed, manipulated into something edible. The warmth of sunlight streaming in through towering windows, illuminating the faces of her family, for once absent of desperation and despair. Family. She swallowed gulps of filtered oxygen, blinking to clear her mind, focusing on the eyes of the person in front of her. A vibrant blue, fused with forest green. Emory had the sensation of falling, like she was being torn away from what she’d come to know as her reality. She remembered the day they came for her, brutal guards destroying her family home. The sound of her family shouting after her, the thud of them hitting the ground echoing in her mind. She clung to the life line in front of her. Those luminous eyes, like a thread dragging her back to her past. Lungs burning, Emory felt the dry unused skin of her face crack and strain. Expending every last drop of hope, she let out a breathless “Mom?”
The withered, kind face of the women in front of her sparked some kind of fight in the depths of her body. Her mother. Still alive. She scrambled forward, limbs all of a sudden mobile. Clasping her mother’s weak hands in her own, watching as they crumbled before her eyes. Skin, bone, the foundation of her mother decaying to ash from where she had touched, “Mom? Mom!”
Her screams echoed through the empty room, her mother fading into a pile of dust at at the foot of her seat. Tears streaming down her face, Emory starred as a man in a long white coat stepped from behind where her mother had just stood. He quirked an eyebrow, glancing quickly from her to the floor, “And to think you were doing such a good job of playing dumb, they were two seconds away from writing you off as brain dead.”