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“What does your study of intertextual perspectives reveal about representations of

oppression in ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and ‘Metropolis’.


In your response make detailed reference to your prescribed texts and consider the role that
context plays in the representation of oppression.

Throughout history, aspects of oppression have been wielded by the few whilst imposed on the many in
the search for control over a particular group. Oppression is the act of destroying any forms of expression
to subjugate the individual into a life of conformity and uniformity. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) written
by George Orwell in 1949, explores a nightmare dystopian fantasy which relays a cautionary social
commentary on the potential dangers of totalitarian government during the post WWII period. Likewise,
the German expressionistic film Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang in 1927, portrays authoritarian control
yet provides a form of optimism for social reform through religious perspective, unlike 1984. George
Orwell explores oppression though the usurpation of the notion of ‘individual’ and ‘conscience’ through an
immortal concept of ‘Big Brother’ ideas of the individual and the fragility of the past while, likewise, Fritz
Lang makes comment of the disparity between moral and immoral individuals. Context ultimately shapes
the perspective of concerns during the composer’s time; the 20th century was a time of social and political
turmoil. These wars were often fought against totalitarian governments which oppressed the proletariats,
forming a validated fear on the world stage for both authors in their respective times.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a reflection of George Orwell’s apprehensions during the post World War II
period as he attacks some of the political philosophies and attitudes of the twentieth century. After WWI
brought an extreme rise in authoritarian regimes which looked to control the entire lives of their citizens.
This ideology only continued as modernization occurred. Orwell’s fears that the ‘intelligentsia’ of the time
would lose interest and succumb to becoming mindless followers of certain systems and regimes which
oppressed free thought, which would result in the destruction of the individualist mind. The loss of
individualism is a form of oppression explored in Orwell’s nightmare dystopian fantasy as the party
initiates drastic measures to erase individual conviction through propagandist setting. The language used
by the Party is a significant example of propaganda to suppress expressionism; newspeak development
rules the body and is used for political control rather than communication. The character Syme
encompasses this ideology through his view, “Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think.
Orthodoxy is unconsciousness". This auxesis confirms that the Party uses Newspeak as a bid to negate the
capabilities of citizens to have independent thought. The Party uses dull colours and dark shades to convey
the oppression of expression such as when Winston states, ‘there seemed to be no colour in anything. All
aspects of society are controlled to provide no inspiration for creation, the end result is loss of hope which
can be used to break seemingly factual convictions to such an extent where ‘2 + 2 = 5’. This was Orwell’s
fear, that the few would impose such oppressive ideals that it limited the ability to conceive seemingly
strong convictions.

Similarly, Fritz Lang’s totalitarian controlling society oppresses its adherents to a point where they are
analogous to robotic machines. The lifelessness of the individuals is depicted in the daily, monotonous
changing of the shift. The characterization of the workers with their robotic movements who all have their
head hung, deprives the audience of any sense of identity. This theme of extreme oppression leading to
uniformity can be viewed in Lang’s context to better understand the world he is portraying. The Post war
economic crisis of Germany, also known as the Weimar Republic Golden Years, before the Great
Depression, was an industrial revolution for the country. This provided society with the funds and the
ability to move forward economically, but essentially condemned the lower class to a life of constant work
to maintain for their families. The body language of the silent march, paired with the solemn music,
identical costuming and dark colours synonymous with German Expressionistic films adds supplementary
information to the viewer about the harsh oppressive reality in which they live. The forced denunciation of
their autonomy to subsequently subjugate their lives to the uniformity of their work has conveniently
broken them, turning into ‘machines’ themselves. This idea is further explored by the idea that they are no
longer referred to by name, but simply number, ‘Worker No. 11811’. This last human privilege is detached
from the proles as machines need not names, but rather serial numbers to identify faulty units. The same
theory applies to the workers, thus showing the total power the ruling class has over the lower, oppression
to such an extent that there is no indication of individuality. Although Lang expresses much of the ideal of
hopelessness, the hope in which Fritz Lang’s era brought to innovation can be juxtaposed through the
characters of Maria, Freder and Josephat, who do find some measure of individuality in their endeavors.
The power held by the few imposed on the many have differing classifications of severity, this hope
attempts to distinguish a gap between Metropolis and 1984, thus intern shaping our perspectives of the
time in which these composers lived.

Being a product of its context, George Orwell’s 1984 is evidently heavily based on his experiences with
totalitarian and fascist ideologies. He once state that “every line of serious work that I have written since
1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I
understand it”. This view contributes to the science fiction horror he produces, demonstrating the
totalitarian and extreme view of ‘who controls the present, controls the past’, and ‘who controls the past
controls the future’. The fragility of history comes into question when analyzing this anaphora, for "If the
party could thrust its hand into the past and say this or that event, it never happened-that surely, was more
terrifying than mere torture and death?". Orwell poses the idea that the past is malleable and easily
manipulated with enough power and control. Once all evidence associated with it has been destroyed the
mutilation has taken place. This profound and terrifying thought stems heavily from Orwell’s historical
context where in Nazi Germany Joseph Goebbels and his “Ministry of Public Enlightenment and
Propaganda’ were used to influence the ideas and opinions of the people. Orwell questions the validity of
facts and how something as concrete as factual evidence can be ‘rectified’ through the oxymoron, “For,
after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past
is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is
controllable – what then?”. Orwell is portraying a society that has so much oppressive control that the
seemingly strong convictions pale in comparison to Big Brother. Orwell’s ideals of doublethink expresses
his innovative ability to construct his dystopian world. Double think is revolutionary for his time as Orwell
views the notion that reality isn’t important so long as one controls one's own perceptions to what the Party
wills. Then any corporeal act is possible, in the accordance of the principles of double think.

The mutability of history is more prevalent in 1984 due to the more controlling, irrefutable and
indomitable figure of Big Brother to govern history. Yet Metropolis demonstrates the fragility of the past
in the devaluing of all things that constituted the past and gave meaning to the present, such values as
family and liberty paired with the story of the ‘Tower of Babel’. The catacombs of Metropolis, home to the
proletariat body of society, are both metaphorically and physically located beneath the privileged upper
class. This representation of class division is indicative of the social divide that plagued the contemporary
Weimar Republic. By locking the lower class proletariats into a perpetual cycle of work, Joh Fredersen has
prevented them from enjoying lives of their own, essentially destroying their previous lives and future.
This can be viewed successfully through the scene where the flood nearly kills their children,
demonstrating the lengths in which the government will act to keep the adherents working as machine. By
having condemned happiness to be overwritten by long days and forced negative emotions, the past still
exists, but contains no relevance. Metropolis contains many religious allusions, yet the story of the ‘tower
of babel’ is seemingly insensitively manipulated to demonstrate the power of the elites. In Genesis chapter
10 a tower was being constructed in the town of babel, with the aim to reach the heavens. God feared their
unity and that they could accomplish anything, one day over throwing him. Thus God dispersed the
people, making them speak different languages so they could never unite again. The highest structure in
Metropolis is titled ‘Tower of Babel’ and it was constructed by the Proles yet never informed of this story.
Maria sparks emotions underground with revolutionary ideas in which she informs of this biblical wrong
doing. The upper class society has kept these nuances out of the proletariat knowledge demonstrating how
the past has become irrelevant for the class subjugated to oppression. Yet the fact that these revolutionary
ideas are able to foster should be noted as a weakness in the totalitarian control. Compared to the society in
1984, there is hope for social reform, demonstrated by Lang’s perception of of history at that point in time
as he was positioned in a time of positive industrial growth and democratic prosperity where all had a
chance at social reforms. Rather than a process of muting the past, it is more likely that the dystopian
world of Metropolis is the result of the past being mutable. This thus can be viewed as representing the
effects an oppressive totalitarian society can have on its citizens, a cautionary tale. Lang explored the
thematic concern of dehumanization of totalitarian and oppressive societies as a cautionary tale to
generations to come in an attempt to prevent it from reality. He has done this through degrading and
demoralizing concepts which are portrayed though the workers, shaping understanding of his view of
values in his own context of oppressive societies.
Comparing Metropolis and Nineteen Eighty-Four allows us to see how contextual fears about politics and
industry shape Lang’s and Orwell’s ideas about oppression. Visualizing these intertextual comparisons
allows for the identifying of similarities and differences between the two mediums in regards to how each
society deals with totalitarian and oppressive ideals. Both composers demonstrate how the individual can
be subjected to oppression yet will always inwardly rebel when given hope. Again, both composers
attempt to suppress these expressionistic thoughts through their perceived totalitarian socieites and their
control of the past. Whilst both portray governments with strong authoritative positions, it has been seen
that the context of the authors will reflect the ability of the protagonist to resist conformity.