Jean-Jacques Rousseau stated eloquently: “Man was born free, yet he has chains everywhere.” The idea behind Rousseau is that man, while born a free human being, may not be able to achieve true freedom because of the countless political and social limitations he has been subjected to. Winston Smith, Hyenseo Ley and George Orwell struggle to free themselves from the chains of government in Hyenseo lee’s The Girl with Seven Names and George Orwell 1984. The Girl with Seven Names may be a memoir and 1984 science fiction but both books depict totalitarian states where freedoms and social values are restricted by propaganda. To gain individuality and freedom, the characters don’t follow the government’s views. The characters’ exploration of their autonomy is a testament to the fact that they were used by their own fears. Orwell argues that fear could be weaponized and used as a control tool.
Orwell’s 1984 posits that the Party uses fear to maintain absolute power. This is done through Winston’s blind obedience to the thought police and his excessive awareness of Party surveillance. Winston drifts into the Party’s past when performing Physical Jerks before the telescreens. A voice on the telescreens criticizes Winston for not doing the exercises correctly. He quickly reminds himself to “Never show dismay!” Never express resentment. “A single flicker in the eye could reveal you.” (Orwell). Winston is instantly terrified that the telescreens will catch him thinking thoughts contrary to the Party’s beliefs and that he may be soon killed because of them. Winston fears the consequences of his actions due to the constant surveillance by the telescreens. Winston’s fear is best exemplified by the thought police’s invasion of Winston and Julia’s apartments to arrest them both for refusing to comply with the Party’s Rules. Winston describes the moment in which he feels and acts like “nakedness, with your hands behind your head”, and “dared never to turn his gaze even a millimetre”, but sometimes his livid face, gasping for air, was just within his view. The thought-police beat Julia and Winston, who claimed to love her most, does not attempt to defend him or to save his beloved. Winston is showing his submission to the police thought because of his fear. Winston is forced to confront his fear by refusing to obey the government controls (telescreens, thought-police). The fear of losing power is used by governments.
Lee’s portrayal and promotion of propaganda by education is a way of arguing that an autoritarian regime uses fear to force citizens into submission. North Korea’s secret police force, the Bowibu, punishes citizens who commit political crimes. The Bowibu have no interest in crime that has an impact on the population, they only care about political crimes. Lee is aware of the deep-seated fear in her community and that her and others’ lives could be at risk if there was even a hint of defiance. Citizens are afraid of the Bowibu. North Korea’s government would be in ruins if they didn’t fear this. Fear is also used by the government to control the curriculum in schools. North Korea uses fear to indoctrinate its citizens, through the idolization of their leaders and glorification North Korea. Lee was also described by North Koreans as “snarling” jackals who were running South Korea like a “hell-on-earth”. Lee said that “the teachers never failed to remind of us their villainy”. The idea that Americans are evil forces leads people to be loyal and committed to their leader, and develop an aversion for outsiders. The government can easily control the minds of the people when they are united in a fear.
Fear is a constant theme in both Orwell and Lee’s novels. As demonstrated, it’s something that allows governments to stay in control and rob citizens of their liberties. Even though we might overlook the importance of freedom, we cannot ignore its importance. Freedom to speak and act freely is a key to a fulfilling life. Americans are more comfortable today expressing themselves freely. They are not worried about whether or not they will survive the day. These freedoms are unknown to Oceania’s citizens and North Koreans, who have never experienced anything like it. We can only hope for a similar future.