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Nineteen Eighty-Four
Michael Radford’s, Nineteen Eighty-Four shows a society that, after and atomic war has evolved into a totalitarian society with “Big Brother” as the leader. The movie starts off by showing people all dressed in the same attire watching a movie that is put on by Big Brother. This is meant to show the total subordination of the individuals to their leaders. In the scene all of the individuals listen to Big Brother and by saluting and chanting they show how they have submitted themselves to total control by the higher ups. This can be equated to Plato’s vision in The Republic that people fall into one of three classes. He felt that people were Philosopher-Kings, Workers, or Guardians. This movie is a perfect depiction of what Plato’s vision could have looked like.
Plato felt that one was put into a social group by their own development of their rational intellects. Basically it was developed around ones wisdom. The wisest would be the philosopher-Kings, then workers, then guardians. Education would play a major role in deciding who would be in what class. Obviously the most educated would be most likely to be at the top of the social hierarchy. Plato makes it seem that a person cannot really develop abilities later on in life that weren’t apparent in the beginning. He believes that a person can move freely within their own class in society but they cannot really move up to another class. The only way to move up would be if one were educated and had the possibility of becoming a Philosopher-King. If a person did develop abilities as they grew older in Plato’s society, this would cause mass unrest. This person being able to move from one class to another would make others wonder if it were possible for themselves. This would eventually throw his ideal society into chaos. If someone went against what you were told all of your life and they succeeded, one might start to doubt the authority and power of the leaders. This is what “Big Brother” was trying to suppress with Winston Smith. He committed the crime of falling in love with Julia and Big Brother didn’t want others to see that it was possible so they suppressed this idea by ousting Winston and Julia from society, and portraying them as bad people who went against the rule of Big Brother.
Nineteen Eighty-Four does not promote a sense of individualism. What the leaders want is for everyone to be similar in the ways they live, work, speak, and conduct themselves. By having “Big Brother” always watching this idea was made possible. Plato also shared this idea in the Republic. “He {Plato} felt that ordinary citizens were too easily swayed by appeals to irrational emotions and illogical arguments. He had witnessed firsthand the destructive power of an irrational group of citizens when they condemned his mentor and friend Socrates to death” (Chaffee pg 507). In order for this perfect society to run smoothly, the individual must not be able to make his own assumptions and views. By having a system in place like “Big Brother” this system could run smoothly.
In the movie home life is related very closely to work life. There is not much freedom and one must always have the best interest of the society in mind. The rules that are set outside of work are very similar to those set in the workplace. There is not much that a person can do that is not being monitored by someone. This is just like in the workplace, a boss or manager is in place to watch over their employees to make sure things are being accomplished and that no rules are broken. The movie depicts an extreme version of being watched over, by having cameras and Televisions everywhere, as well as the “thought police” that monitor people who are capable of the mere thought of challenging authority. It effectively shows the tight relationship between the individual and society. The individual is very closely related to the good of society. Every minute of their lives is dedicated to the betterment of the society as a whole. “Justice exists in the state and the individual when all the elements perform their distinctive function and work together as a smoothly articulated and balanced whole. In contrast, injustice occurs when the parts of the state or the individual fail to perform the functions for which they were designated, or they fail to work with the other members in a harmonious way.” (Plato in Chaffee Pg 508) Plato’s ideal society follows a similar ideal of the movie’s. If one person doesn’t do their individual job then the society as a whole will be hurt. So in some ways it could be said that in the movie there was a sense of individualism due to that fact that every individual person was required to do their own respective job, but as far as self expression, there was no individualism.
The sense of challenging power I found in the film was the journal that Winston kept in a secret compartment in the wall, defying O’Brien when he was attempting to brainwash Winston, and Julia and Winston's relationship. He kept this to collect his own thoughts and think for himself not only what Big Brother wanted. If they had found this he surely would have been imprisoned. A major way that he showed challenging authority was by not giving into O’Brien when he was brainwashing him. An example would be the question Winston always thought about, 2+2=4. Winston knew this to be true but Big Brother wanted everyone to believe 2+2= 5. So when O’Brien asked Winston what 2+2 equaled, he defiantly said 4 until O’Brien eventually tortured Winston enough to make him say that it equaled 5. O’Brien also did this with the number of fingers that he held up. But the most major way he challenged authority was by having a relationship with Julia. In this society it was frowned upon to have a relationship. Big Brother always mentioned how the number of marriages kept decreasing by tremendous numbers over the years.
The people in Nineteen Eighty-Four go along with the rules because they feel that they have to fit in and follow the structure of the system. This would go right along with Aristotle’s ideals in Politics. “Humans are naturally social creatures- Political Animals- in the same way that many other species instinctively form herds or packs.” (Chaffee on Aristotle pg 513) Aristotle believed that people can only achieve their highest potential being by interacting socially. He believed that “Any individual who can exist independently of human community must either be a beast or a god” (Aristotle in Chaffee pg 512). An individual cannot operate separate from a society, therefore like in the movie people will instinctually try to fit in and follow a society in order to have a sense of belonging and companionship.
Nineteen Eighty-Four goes along with both the ideas of Plato and Aristotle in respect to their Social and Political philosophy. In Plato’s case, Winston smith fits into the working class of his perfect society. It shows how a person who tries to go against the beliefs of the leaders/ Philosopher-Kings would be treated in Plato’s society. As far as Aristotle, his idea that people inherently need others in order to function as an individual is show through how Winston has a relationship with Julia, and the fact that everyone follows the rules of Big Brother due to fear of what could happen to society if they did not. Although it may seem that this type of society is unattainable and undesirable, the movie depicts how Plato’s perfect society would play out.

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