For as long as literature has been around, culture and society are repeatedly being judged and criticized. For varying purposes, their interpretations have varied throughout time. First, culture as a term used in academic or daily speeches refers to different concepts and understandings, however, the original meaning, which came from ancient Greek and Roman cultures, has obtained different meanings today built of the different needs and uses of any field.
On the other hand, society stands for “the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community” [Oxford Dictionaries] (or it could simply be an organization/club formed for a specific purpose.
These two concepts, though similar, are very different. Culture represents the learned schemas/behaviors, while on society at the most basic level is the interaction of group individuals. However, through said interaction, individuals develop and communicate a manifestation of culture.
In George Orwell’s “1984” dystopian novel, the concept of society is represented as a concept in which individuals have neither freedom nor hope nor feeling. The novel uncovers Winston Smith’s struggle to fight the oppressive political system known as the Party. The ultimate goal of the party is to have absolute power over its people and to control every aspect of human life.
Not too far from that, the society in The Reader is presented as lacking in tolerance and acceptance of lesser educated people. They discriminated people who were not able to read in a society where books and education were easily accessed (and free) and the common thing among the community, so to them, it was odd for an individual to not take advantage of it. In Germany at the time, the population valued education and intelligence greatly and viewed these as an indicator of success and a “normal” life.
The illiterate were considered a lower class whom most people would look down on and treat as idiots or ignorants not worth their time. For these reasons, Hanna Schmitz, the lover of Michael Berg – protagonist of the story, kept her illiteracy a secret because of her fear of being ridiculed and judged, and, her shame revealed just how much people were prejudiced and judgmental towards the uneducated lower class.
Like I mentioned previously, the 1984 society was very oppressive and hostile. It is meant to represent Freud’s theory on the inner workings of our mind: Ego, Superego, and Id. His theory explained that our mind and consciousness levels are divided into 3 parts. First, the ID represents our primal impulses, our pleasures, and our urges and wishes. Next comes the SUPEREGO. The superego enforces moral codes of the ego and censors the id.
Finally, the EGO helps balance the id and superego. It is concerned with the rational, moral, and more self-aware aspect of the mind. Using this psychoanalytic point of view, Winston Smith’s rebellion from the party is described as a mind where the id is ruling over the other two. Freud describes this psychoanalytic process as a method normally used to treat patients with mental disorders, so in the eyes of the Party, Winston is seen as someone with a mental disorder who needs to be “fixed”. The Party
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