21 October, 1949
Dear Mr. Orwell,
It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book.
It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is.
May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution?
The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual's psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf.
The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.
Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful.
My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.
I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.
Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers
and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government.
Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations.
Another lucky accident was Freud's inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism.
This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years.
But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.
Within the next generation I believe that the world's rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.
In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World.
The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency.
Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.
Thank you once again for the book.
Brave New World and 1984 are alike in envisioning a dystopic future in which the state robs individuals of their deepest humanity. The two governments depicted, however, are different in the ways they attempt achieve their goals. Brave New World's government succeeds by making life very comfortable for its citizens through conditioning, consumerism, orgies, and the drug soma. The citizens, thinking they are happy, don't realize they are being cheated of the pain, art, religion, and deep relationships that make us fully human. 1984's government succeeds in maintaining power by crushing outer Party members into conformity through fear, surveillance, dumbing down the language, and economic deprivation.
A comparison/contrast paper could compare and contrast Winston Smith to John the Savage. Both rebel against their dystopic worlds. However, Winston fights back through pursuing such comforts as a loving relationship. He also fights back by trying to join a purported underground rebellion. He does not want to die, but to live.
In contrast, John the Savage embraces an austere lifestyle without a woman to prevent himself from being corrupted by the comforts of his new world, and in the end, he commits suicide as a way out.
A thesis might say something like this: Both Winston Smith and John the Savage rebel against the soulless conformity of their dystopic worlds, but the different natures of their dystopias dictate different modes of rebellion: for Smith, rebellion involves embracing ordinary human comforts and a love relationship, while for John it means rejecting the temptations of both materialism and superficial sexual relations.