198410 Essay

This essay has a total of 1161 words and 5 pages.


Someone has always been there to tell you what to do in life. As a young child, you were
told to behave properly and not to eat too many sweets. As you grew older and older, it
seemed as if the responsibilities became greater and greater in number. Even as an adult,
there was always an officious boss telling you what to do. There was always some higher
force that bound your actions. Authority was the major theme in the novel 1984, by George
Orwell. Authority was also a profound factor in Stanley Milgram’s experiment conducted in
1974. It seems that authority has been around longer than any of us can remember, and it
is authority that dictates the way we act. Authority is based on instinct. When we receive
an order, we intuitively react and follow the command. At first, we do not think, nor
contemplate the effects that come as a result of our actions. In 1984, we get a sense of a
greater authority in Big Brother. Although we never come to know if Big Brother actually
exists, the power and authority that this idol holds over the people is unimaginable. The
people of Oceania are divided into two classes, the members of the Party and the
proletariat. The Party members are like machines that do the jobs of the government. In
this world, never has anyone thought any different of his or her place in society. Due to
this authority that attempts to control the human train of thought, paranoia among the
people became common. Nobody would talk to each other. Bonds between one another were
broken, and it was never thought to be any different than before. To hold on to what makes
you human - emotions and the ability to speak freely - was considered a crime against Big
Brother. Of course, with authority comes punishment. To break from traditional views
essentially asks for some form of retribution. For Winston, this resulted in undergoing a
painful stay at the Ministry of Love. In the experiment conducted by Stanley Milgram, the
power of authority over one’s personal conscience was laid bare. Subjects were asked to
apply shocks to another person at increasing levels if questions were answered
incorrectly. Although equipment was specious, 63% of the subjects followed through with
the experiment and delivered the shocks at the highest intensity. “I was just following
orders,” was the excuse of many of the subjects. Jack Washington implied that he would
have behaved in whatever manner the experimenter required. He expressed total faith in the
experimenter and accepted everything that was said. This strong faith stems from the
experimenter’s powerful beliefs in the experiment. To be a strong authority, you have to
forcefully believe your own words. In 1984, O’Brien certainly was quite passionate about
his beliefs. He gave me the impression that he truly wanted to see Winston changed and
reintegrated. I feel that O’Brien did not enjoy shocking Winston at high voltage levels,
but did so only because he felt it necessary to the task at hand. He seemed not to be
serving a greater authority, but only himself. In the Milgram experiment, belief played an
important part as well. It was the experimenter’s adamant retorts that made the difference
for a hesitant subject. The experimenters had to have made themselves believe that
participation in the experiment was absolutely essential, and that the shocks were not at
all dangerous. Because the experimenter sounded genuinely assured in giving his commands,
many subjects obeyed. We see a good instance of this with Fred Prozi. Despite his
numerous, agitated objections and continuous dissent, Prozi continues to administer the
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