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“1984” by G.Orwell, “Catch-22” by J.Heller Compared


Living in this world which is a complex of different processes influenced by people, it is difficult to understand for what people live, how they live. The most interesting thing is that this world is created by people also and people create everything they struggle against after. People create social systems, political systems and structures which are difficult for someone. It is almost impossible to reach agreement between people and it is so difficult to resist the system of worldviews which were formed by many who are satisfied with their life. People who oppose themselves to the system and common worldview are happy just to have inner freedom, but it is impossible to be free inside without having the outer freedom. Nowadays even democratic countries can not say that their people are absolutely free, because all of them people are under the influence of the great system of their state. The system can be changed if the citizens are not satisfied with it, but it is impossible to resist the system alone, especially if one is the element of this system. The aim of this essay is to show how the main characters of the novels “1984” by George Orwell and “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller fought against the state systems. They were real personalities and their aim was to prove it but not only to the state but to themselves as well. They wanted to change the world. And they just wanted to be free. That is the tragedy, they were brave enough having doubts and thinking about other ways in life.

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A person inside the system

In two novels “1984” and “Catch-22” two systems were showed. The authors showed them in such a way that it is clear that these systems are not for people but against them. In the novel “1984” George Orwell showed the future society of the world as a totalitarian hierarchical system which is based on enslavement in spiritual and physical way. The system is full of fear and hatred. It is possible to say that people who live in this system can only exist but not live and they are strictly controlled by the “Big brother”. Of course there were a lot of disputes about the image of the”Big brother” and if there are some similar features of Stalin. Speaking about the novel and about the struggle of a person against the system it would be appropriate to speak about the social disease which is in the atmosphere of the XX-th century. This disease can have different symptoms but it has some common features – such as killing the individuality and making the ideology and power stronger. It can be the power of Big Brother or the power of anonymous bureaucracy. So, it can be the ideology of Stalinism, the doctrine of racial and national superiority or the complex of ideas of aggressive technocracy. All these powers are aimed to destroy individuality and to achieve absolutism. According to this system any individuality should be turned into nothing even if there is some freedom formally. Power will always strive for the greater power. Any power should become stronger and stronger to keep its strength. It creates slavery and fear and it have no interests except itself. O’Brian said that “the aim of repression is repression, the aim of tortures is tortures and the aim of power is power”. (Orwell 1981) Everything that is done is interpreted as reasonable things and they have nothing in common with feelings. It should be admitted that the novel “1984” by George Orwell is one of the strongest novels in the world literature according to its pictures – Big brother, the policy of thoughts, sex crime, room 101. All these images are the indicators of the culture and they should be taken only in the context of reality. There could be found different interpretations of the novel – the warning against fascism, the warning against communism. Anyway the political system described in the novel is disgusting and should be avoided. Instead of depicting “people fired on the line” Orwell shows “people who have not undergone any psychological modifications, the consciousness of which is controlled by a purely cultural hypnosis: they perceive their parody without the slightest doubt about the existence and live in a world where language has changed so that very idea of freedom becomes inexpressible. They do not know and can not imagine anything else.” (Rodden and Cushman 2005). Orwell had expressed the concerns in this regard in a letter to Woodcock immediately after the war. He wrote that the mistreatment of government officials who are Communists is “part of the total collapse of the democratic world,” and added: “Meanwhile, the continuously growing general apathy about the freedom and it is much more important than any written law.” (Rodden and Cushman 2005) For Orwell, the key to success in tyranny was the psychological enslavement. In 1984, he describes in detail how the State succeeded in convincing their citizens to obey absolute power. For the ordinary people continuous propaganda is produced, and they eat it without any problems – especially when it goes about the endless wars. Erich Fromm pointed out in his Commentaries to the novel, that Orwell’s 1984 is an “expression of mood and even a warning. The mood that it is very close to despair for the future of people, but a warning is that if the rate of movement of history will not change, then people worldwide will lose their most human qualities, will become soulless automatons, and, moreover, even would not suspect this.” (Rodden and Cushman 2005) The mood of helplessness concerning the future of people is in the contrast with one of the most fundamental features of Western philosophy: the belief in human progress and human potential to create a just world. The main character of the novel is Winston Smith. Formally, he belongs to the ruling party and working in one of four ministries – the Ministry of Truth. He enjoys certain privileges in comparison with the masses of ordinary workers and performs intellectual work for the regime, he frames up in newspapers and books. In fact, Smith is suppressed even more than common people because the real power belongs not to any member of the “external” parties, but to the nomenclature of “inner party” and Smith does not belong to it. His actions are tightly controlled by the police of thought. Every hour of life is strictly scheduled, the work absorbs most of the time, after work, he is obliged to participate in the groups and campaigns. In the rare moments of rest in squalid apartment he is watched by a screen. But Winston has not yet become a part of the system. He was vaguely aware of the need to fight for the remnants of personal freedom. Initially, he spontaneously commits unlawful acts, begins to keep a diary, which expressed his dissatisfaction with the regime, has strictly forbidden romantic relationship with another member of the party, whose name is Julia. Then he comes to the idea to participate in the struggle against the regime. He appealed to the Inner Party member O’Brien, who, according to Winston, is connected with the underground rebels. However, O’Brien is a police officer. Smith and his lover are arrested and tortured. Under the influence of horrific torture Winston’s mind is changed, he renounces Julia and his desire to fight against the regime and even felt love for the hated leader “Big Brother”. After the “re-education” Winston is released as a terrible example for the other disgruntled people but then Smith should be destroyed physically. Another example of the person inside the senseless system is the novel “Catch 22” by George Heller. The Second World War is finished but people who rule the army process feel that they can earn more here and that is why they allow war to go on. People are killed and nobody thinks about this. Who is interested in life that is just starting? There are so many soldiers in the army…

Close to reality

Taking into account the real facts of the Second World War, it should be mentioned that a great number of people were killed and they even did not have any chance to stay alive because they were thrown to the war by those who had never tasted it. The same is in the novel “Catch-22”. Very often everything is hidden under the great idea of patriotism and nobody is interested in somebody’s life and wishes. But it is natural when people want better life for themselves and they do not want to die. The only thing that is needed is just to have choice. (Kávássy 2008)

In the world which is described in the novel “1984” after the Second World War and a small period of peace the nuclear war between the former allies started. As a result the continental Europe goes to the USSR, and the socialist revolutions take place in Britain and in the United States. The possibility of such a war was historically justified. There were too different interests between the anti-Hitler coalitions, which were united only against the face of fascist aggression. The options for further armed division of the world after the victory over Germany were considered by Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt. The war machine of the Red Army, recruited by the end of the war an unprecedented power, could “liberate” the whole Europe, and only the opening of the second front has forced Stalin to confine with the eastern half. The Allies, in turn, were not averse to crush “the communist plague”. After the war actually two superpowers appeared – the USSR and the United States, and by the early 50’s they had atomic weapons, and between them there was a struggle for world domination. But in the real world nuclear arsenals have grown too quickly, making it impossible to win the nuclear war. Also Stalin’s death led to some relaxation, and nuclear war of 50’s did not happen. But it is possible to remember the Cuban missile crisis that nearly led to nuclear war of 60’s. There were no socialist revolutions in the capitalist countries in the real world. But it is precisely in these years in the West there were the major strikes, ultra-terrorist organizations were created. In general, the geopolitical map created by Orwell is very similar to map of the real world. (Rodden and Cushman 2005) The three superpowers – Oceania (including the United States and the entire American continent, the British Empire with most of the colonies), Eurasia (USSR and Europe) and China (with the adjacent areas) divided the world between them and fought on the outskirts of the empire without using nuclear weapons. One of the slogans of Oceanic propaganda is: “War – this is world”. (Orwell 1981) Orwell decodes the deeper meaning of this slogan. It turns out that the ruling elite of these countries do not benefit from real nuclear war, as well as lead to the complete destruction of civilization, and, consequently, their power. But peace is also bad for them because it would be impossible to deduct the economic difficulties, to use the labor of millions of workers in defense industries, it will be difficult to maintain the level of mass hysteria and hatred, which is based on totalitarian government. Therefore, the boundaries of spheres of influence of the superpowers are constant battles with conventional weapons, support the necessary level of tension, but they never grow into a world war. However, George Orwell could not foresee that after the Second World War the traditional empires would depart to the past. They would be replaced by so-called “spheres of influence” of superpowers. Entering such a “sphere”, the ruling class in a small state received the guarantees of the stability of its power. The local capitalist oligarchy or a communist government protected themselves by the “limited number” of the metropolis of external danger and internal opposition. In turn the State lost many of the attributes of independence, lost its independent foreign policy; the economy was surrendered by the colonialists. The process of changing of the technology has not changed the enslavement of the general picture of relations of world empires. Thus, Orwell could fairly accurately predict the three nuclear divisions of the world empires, that is, U.S. Oceania, Eurasia, the Soviet Union and China, and to show the political motives of such thing as “cold war”.

The struggle against the great system

The events, described in the novel by George Orwell “1984”, take place in a totalitarian empire Oceania. The official ideology of the state and the name of its social system is English socialism. Society is divided into clearly defined classes – castes, the transition between them is practically impossible. At the very bottom of the social hierarchy there is the “proletariat”. This is a simple working class. They work wherever physical labor is needed, live in slums and ruins on the periphery of the cities, feed and dress poorly. But they have the greatest degree of personal freedom in Oceania – there is almost no “thought police” for them, they have a relative freedom of movement and screen is not necessarily for them. The ruling class believes that “the proletariat” can not threaten the dictatorship, because they have low intellectual level and can not organize a meaningful fight. The next in the social hierarchy there are the members of the external party. The party is one who governs the country. But party members are divided into two categories – external and internal. External party members – this is a fairly large number of intellectually developed people capable of performing mental work. They work in ministries on small jobs; manage complex mechanisms that lead scientific development. It is this class is the most dangerous for the regime. Therefore, the members of the foreign parties are continuing ideological “dog training”, surveillance, repression. They have some privileges, for example, they can drink gin “Victory”, live in more comfortable homes like “Victory”. However, these privileges do not so much improve their lives but separate them from common people. They wear special uniform. At the top of the social ladder there is an internal party. The head of the internal party is Big brother. The members of the inner party live much better than the members of the external one. They have private mansions, cars, official servants. One of the slogans of English socialism is “Freedom is slavery.” (Orwell 1981) In accordance with the principle of doublethink, to feel free means to understand that slavery is freedom, in fact. At every stage of life, the State helps people reassure that they live happily. Since the birth the fate of every citizen is predetermined. The children of common people will stay common, and the children of party members will stay members of the party. Special attention is paid to the management of sexual needs of the party. Even in adolescence, they explain that sex is a necessary evil, and deal with them can only be for procreation. Women have classes in school where the strong complexes are formed, not giving them the opportunity to enjoy making love. Marriages are allowed by party and only if the spouses do not like each other. The extramarital affairs are strictly prohibited. Thus, two objectives are achieved. First of all, family is destroyed as an institution, which can be opposed to the regime. A Party member can not love anyone more than Big Brother, even their wife or children. Secondly, the party workers accumulate powerful charge of sexual energy. This energy is directed to regime propaganda, universal enthusiasm, hysteria and hatred. According to the words of Julia the demonstrations are based on this “rancid sex”, with the help of this energy “the weeks of hatred” are organized. An important element of the impact is the deprivation of the individuality of the party member. People wear the uniform, eat the same food and all the things they have are named “Victory”. It is a front side of the similarity. The inner similarity is more important. To achieve this inner similarity different psychological methods are used. Here screens, situated at home, are the most important. People get the official information from them and in addition everyone is watched by the state – Big brother. Even at home people do not believe each other and can not speak about anything they want. The very wish to want something is strange for the party. A spy can be everywhere and that is why people are afraid. People even do not have time to create their own world with the individual features. Every minute of spare time should be busy with the additional work and overtime work. The main character of the novel decides to struggle against this system and he does it by his actions – he falls in love, wants to join the underground rebels. His struggle is active and he tries to win. To my mind he won at the moment when he thought about freedom from the system. Another novel “Catch-22” is full of funny situations. For example, a new soldier comes to the army and then he is killed, but he is not registered and that is the problem because there is no such name in the list of soldiers. The main character of the novel wants just to escape from war and he wants have a quite life. His struggle is passive, nevertheless he is brave enough to resist the system. The doctor says to him: “You are not adapted to the war. You desperately want to survive!” (Heller 1996) – That is the psychology of people who do not care about anything except the things they are told to do. It means that the wish to be alive is not good for the system and people should be ready to die every time without asking any questions, because the system does not want to explain anything. (Kávássy 2008) The soldiers are killed and new soldiers come to their place and they are not clever enough to take care about their lives. So there is no answer in the novel what is better to save the life like the main character of the novel or not to understand anything as the rest of people.


Personality is an individual focus and expression of social relations and functions of people, the subject of knowledge and of the world, the rights and responsibilities, ethical, aesthetic, biotic and all other social norms. Personal qualities of the man in this case are a product of their social life and self-conscious mind. The person is always a socially developed being. Here it is surprising how it is possible that person, like the main characters of the novels, were brought up by the social system and now they want to resist it. Personality is formed in process of activity and communication. This process occurs through the internal forming of their unique image. The socialization process requires from the individual the productive activity which is reflected in the permanent correction of their actions and behavior. The main character works and behaves in the way he must according to the laws of the political system but he has the inner struggle inside himself and later he starts to express it by the actions – love, for example. It is not occasionally that a person from the party was chosen to be the main character of the novel. The author wanted to show that this struggle is rather complicated for the character, because he knows much about the mechanism of the political system and he does not want to obey and on the contrary he tries to resist it by feelings. His struggle was active and the struggle of another character of the novel “Catch-22” was rather passive because he tries to save himself by escaping from the war. The need for freedom is hidden inside of every person and is connected with the essence of their nature. The laws of social development make the way for themselves through the plenty of individual solutions. People do not follow the social need every time and sometimes they can show their freedom and consciousness as the two main characters of the novels. It means that there is an area for the individual choice always. Freedom is the product of social development and its level depends on the historical conditions. The conditions of unfair world and its laws inspired the main characters of the novels to struggle against the system. But it was impossible to win it because they were lonely in their struggle and they could not win the great political machine created by people.

It should be admitted that there is a question that is present in two novels. This is the question of philosophical, anthropological, psychological, and religious character in some way. It is the question if the mankind can be changed in such a way that it could forget about the freedom and people will not strive for honor, love and if they could forget that they are people. It should be noted also that the authors do not take the position of simple relativism which is quite popular. The authors proved that any human is not a clean paper where society can write. They say that it is a feature of every human to strive for love, truth, justice.

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Reference List

Heller, Joseph. 1996. Catch-22. Simon & Schuster: Reprint edition: NY.

Kávássy, János. 2008. Society in Flashlight: Analyzing Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. VDM Verlag.

Rodden, John and Cushman, Thomas. 2005. George Orwell: Into the Twenty-First Century. Paradigm Publishers: Boulder, Col.

Orwell, George. 1981. 1984. Signet Classic: NY.

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"“1984” by G.Orwell, “Catch-22” by J.Heller Compared." StudyCorgi, 9 Nov. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“1984” by G.Orwell, “Catch-22” by J.Heller Compared." November 9, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“1984” by G.Orwell, “Catch-22” by J.Heller Compared." November 9, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“1984” by G.Orwell, “Catch-22” by J.Heller Compared." November 9, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“1984” by G.Orwell, “Catch-22” by J.Heller Compared'. 9 November.

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