Sample Term Paper

Words 1,500

Introduction

It is often the case that we can learn a great deal about the conditions of the real world by looking to the world of fiction. This is especially true if we are interested in understanding the nature of totalitarian regimes, which are by definition places where the truth cannot be told unless it is disguised (and often even not then). One of the most powerful condemnations of the ways in which totalitarian governments use language to shape reality and so to control the populations within their control is Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel.

From the very first line of the book, Zamyatin makes it clear to us that the world that he is describing to us is certainly less than ideal. And, moreover, is less than ideal in a very specific way – in the particular ways that totalitarian states fail their people by the ways in which they lie to them, the ways in which they destroy the relationship of trust that exists between a people and the language that defines them. From the time we read “This is merely a copy, word, for word, of what was published this morning in the State newspaper” we already know a great deal about the setting of this novel and the nature of totalitarian manipulation of language.

Totalitarian worlds are defined by a state newspaper, a voice that the government projects as speaking the only acceptable truth. And “merely” quoting from this publication provides sufficient ammunition – and sufficient information – to the careful observer to see the truths that lie behind and in back of the government’s official Truth (which is always, of course, a type of lie).

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