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The ideas of power and corruption are displayed very well in George Orwell’s 1984 andKhaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. In 1984, Orwell created a totalitarian government which hesimply called ‘The Party’.

Big Brother personifies the Inner Party, as the ever-present faceshown in posters and the telescreens that constantly monitor each and every individual. TheParty rules over the fictional continent of Oceania, which comprises England, its capital; andother commonwealth nations such as the Americas and South Africa. The Kite Runner, however,sees the main setting of Afghanistan ruled by first a monarchy, then by the Soviet Union, andfinally the Taliban.The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistancurrently waging a holy war, called a jihad, within that country. Within each novel, the powerand corruption of each governing agent is showcased as working against to the main characters’interests.

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The theme of corruption is demonstrated through the government’s principles, itsabsolute power, and its use of torture..The principles of the ruling powers in each book are inherently corrupt and cruel. Thiscan be seen through the ideology, stance on gender, and divisions of class. The Party follows anideology they call Ingsoc, short for English Socialism.

Ingsoc establishes that all knowledge,meanings, values, and reality are contained in the Party’s tenets. This leads to corruption, as withtotal power, the Party can change anything they want to fit their ideology. The Ministry of Truth,for instance, is in charge of doctoring history books to reflect the Party’s ideology. To believeanything other than what the Party believes in is criminal, and usually results in the offender’sexecution. The Party is conceived of as a collective mind that may or may not endorse anindividual’s existence.

In other words, anyone who fails to comply with Party rules will loseexistence, either metaphorically or factually. Ingsoc also takes care of class division. The upperclass, a very small percentage of the population called the Inner Party, is composed of the rulersand enjoys all kinds of privileges, even the possibility of turning off the persecutory telescreens.The middle class, called the Outer Party, is subjected to the harshest restrictions and are closelywatched. The rulers think that this class—the one that, in real past history, rebelled againsttyrannical governments and often succeeded in overthrowing them—poses the greatest danger tothe regime. The lowest class, or Proles, comprises the majority of the population and is seen bythe Party as inferior, on the same level as animals.

They are, in relative terms, the most carefree.Its members are not under constant surveillance, and are kept “dormant” through booze, free sex,pornography, and other perks. This is a clearly unfair system in which only a tiny margin ofpeople have all the power and luxuries, where the vast majority of the population suffers as aresult. With power comes greed, and greed leads to a corrupt few with all the wealth. Thesuccess of the Party relies greatly on the role of Gender. The only use for gender is procreationof the Party and to make things seem like a family.

The Party attempts to make gender irrelevant.The Party made it so girls feel that sex is shameful and wrong, this makes it so that no one willbe having sex for pleasure and only for the Party to create life. “It was not merely that the sexinstinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party’s control and which therefore hadto be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria,which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leader-worship.”(Orwell 197) The Party has turned the sexual impulses of the members and turned it into hatredof Oceania’s enemies,this is the way the Party gets the people to get rid of their urges.

The Partymade marriage so it is not a matrimony of two people in love, but instead a man and a womanput together to help create for the Party.Those who held power in The Kite Runner had corrupt principles as well. Afghanistan,during the last portion of the novel, was run by the Taliban. The Taliban is a militaristic religiousregime who came to power when Afghani citizens were tired of the Soviet Union’s occupation,and supported the force in order to drive them out. They held a very strict anti-modern ideology,combining sharia law with Pashtun tribal codes, and believed in the militant Islamism andextreme Jihadism of Osama bin Laden. They banned many things they considered unholy thatwere previously lawful in Afghanistan, such as pork, different types of technology, alcohol, mosttypes of art like paintings and photography, and female sports. Men shaving their beards wasforbidden, and were required to wear a head covering. Their ideology was entirelyIslam-focused, and even then, it was their own interpretation.

They effectively outlawedanything that would go against their beliefs, much like the Party in 1984. The class difference isevident, especially through race. Hassan, for example, as a Hazara, was unable to attend school.He was harassed relentlessly by those around him, especially by the bully and primaryantagonist, Assef. These separations are consistent throughout the novel, even going as far asAmir refusing to accept Hassan as his friend, saying; “History isn’t easy to overcome. Neither isreligion. In the end, I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi’a, andnothing was ever going to change that.

Nothing.” (Hosseini, 28). This is different than in 1984,where the class division is treated as the same as the difference between humans and animals.Here, it is shown as a more hate-filled and hostile tension between race.

The theme of genderwas conveyed throughout the novel not only by the oppressive Taliban, but also in traditionalAfghani culture. The issue of oppression of women is shown through the character Soraya.Soraya and Amir only speak at the flea market when the general is not in their presence as hewould not allow it. When the general finds out about them speaking he tells Amir that it is notallowed, even if they are with Soraya’s mother.

Soraya has no choice in whether she wants tomarry Amir, it is General Taheri who must agree that Amir is suitable. This is a corrupt traditionto uphold, as it revokes the choice of who women want to spend their life with simply becausethey are a different gender.The overwhelming power of the novels’ governments are demonstrated in a variety ofmethods, including the loyalty of its citizens, the strictness of the law, and a constant state ofwar.

The might of the Party’s evil, corrupt power is in its citizen’s submission to the government.Citizens must be undyingly loyal to the Party morally, physically, and psychologically. Theymust live and breathe Ingsoc. Citizens must hate who the Party hates, think what the Partythinks, and work towards the Party’s ever-increasing power. A concept exists within thelanguage of the Party called ‘thoughtcrime’. When one holds holds in unspoken beliefs or doubtsabout the Party, it is called thoughtcrime.. This is considered the ultimate crime, as it precedesany other criminal or, more importantly, treasonous act.

As such, every member’s loyalty mustnot fall only to the way they behave, but to the very way they think. As the novel’s protagonist,Winston, writes in his illegal diary: “Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime ISdeath.” (Orwell 43). To sacrifice one’s loyalty to the Party is to sacrifice existence as a whole.

The absolute strictness of the Party and its ideology is corrupt in its unrelenting nature andswiftness. In this novel the thoughtpolice are the secret police force.They’re main job is touncover thoughtcrime and punish the criminals. Surveillance and psychological monitoring areused by the thought police to discover and remove threats to anyone who challenges the system.The severity of the punishment can range from incarceration in a forced labour camp, to’vaporization’. When one is vapourized, “Your name was removed from the registers, everyrecord of everything you had ever done was wiped out, and your one-time existence was deniedand then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.” (Orwell39).

If you opposed the Party, any record of your existence is erased. This removes anycompetition or freedom of thought from the people, and gives the Party all the power. The Partyis constantly at a state of war with one of the two other major superpowers of the world.

It is said”In one combination or another, these three super-states are permanently at war, and have beenso for the past twenty-five years. War, however, is no longer the desperate, annihilating strugglethat it was in the early decades of the twentieth century. It is a warfare of limited aims betweencombatants who are unable to destroy one another, have no material cause for fighting and arenot divided by any genuine ideological difference.” (Orwell 166) War has become not anecessity, but a tool to control the state’s constituents. Goldstein, a previous leader of therebellion and the number one enemy of the Party, said in his manifesto: “The essential act of waris destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor …. The socialatmosphere is that of a besieged city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes thedifference between wealth and poverty. And at the same time the consciousness of being at war,and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural,unavoidable condition of survival.” (Orwell 173).

By staying constantly at war, the Party cancontrol the standard of living, and keep the citizens minds and fears occupied by a commonenemy. The Inner Party seem like protectors, and keeps the idea of rebellion nonexistent.The corruption shown by those who held power in The Kite Runner is shown as well withthe massive amount of control those ruling hold over others. The idea of submission is shownshockingly through not only the Taliban’s control over its people, but through the powerful scenein which Hassan is raped by Assef.

Those who want power know that it can be gained fromrespect or fear. Assef, who is looking to be feared, does the unimaginable to demonstrate hiscontrol over the Hazara boy, who, knowing there is nothing he can do, submits. “Hassan didn’tstruggle. Didn’t even whimper.

He moved his head slightly and I caught a glimpse of his face.Saw the resignation in it.” (Husseini 64). This is an absolutely corrupt act by Assef, who uses hisposition to inflict meaningless pain and trauma onto Hassan.

While submission in 1984 isachieved by enforcing loyalty on the Party’s subjects, Assef dominates over Hassan withphysical violence and humiliation. Those with power in the novel are shown to be incrediblystrict with their punishments. The Taliban is seen patrolling the streets with rifles, and inflictingthe death penalty on those they see as heretical. When Amir returns to Kabul, he and Farid attenda soccer game. During which, a group of Taliban soldiers conduct the execution of two peoplecharged with adultery. The executioner proclaims loudly: “We listen to what God says and weobey because we are nothing but humble, powerless creatures before God’s greatness. And whatdoes God say? I ask you! WHAT DOES GOD SAY? God says that every sinner must bepunished in a manner befitting his sin.

Those are not my words, nor the words of my brothers.Those are the words of GOD!” (Husseini 232). The couple is buried up to their torsos in sand andstoned to death. They receive the ultimate punishment for something which, in our society, is noteven illegal.

The Taliban use their self-proclaimed connection with God as an excuse to use theirpower to kill innocent civilians. This is similar to 1984 in that a comparably minor offence istreated with the same punishment as any number of worse and more violent crimes, though theTaliban believes they are acting on God’s will rather than the Party vaporizing thought criminalsfor the pure sake of power. Warfare is a major tool used by the Taliban to increase their power.As a very violent regime, the Taliban spread their influence through Afghanistan by killing.

Though they originally acquired support for pushing out the invading Russians, they keptbuilding their war-based empire by using violence as a means to increase their size. Eventually,violence and death becomes a norm in Afghanistan, as Amir reflects as he walks through thestreets of Kabul: “I saw a dead body near the restaurant. There had been a hanging. A young mandangled from the end of a rope tied to a beam, his face puffy and blue, the clothes he’d worn onthe last day of his life shredded, bloody. Hardly anyone seemed to notice him.” (Husseini 222).With a consistent stream of attacks and murders, the Afghani people are left to feel afraid of theirnew rulers.

This is a different method of using warfare as power over their people as the Partydisplayed. The Taliban’s method is more direct, instilling fear into their citizens to preventrevolt, whereas the Party uses warfare as a means to keep their citizens distracted from reality.The height of the corruption in each novel’s government is the use of torture, be itphysical, psychological, or to an individual’s integrity. In 1984, rebels and thoughtcriminals aretaken to the Ministry of Love, the center of torture and reeducation for the purpose of loving theParty and Big Brother. When Winston was captured by Thought Police, he was brought to theMinistry and tortured for months. He was starved and beaten consistently throughout the day, sohe would confess any multitude of crimes he may or may not have committed: “With that firstblow on the elbow the nightmare had started. Later he was to realize that all that then happenedwas merely a preliminary, a routine interrogation to which nearly all prisoners were subjected.There was a long range of crimes – espionage, sabotage, and the like – to which everyone had toconfess as a matter of course.

The confession was a formality, though the torture wasreal.”(Orwell 241). The Party did not care what confessions were true or not, Winston’s bodywas tortured so violently for so long as an act of dominance. With a man’s body broken, they canmove onto his mind. After, a time, the fear of torture itself was enough to make Winston confess.He was kept in a state of constant fear and ignorance.

Eventually, he is forced to look in a mirror.”He had stopped because he was frightened. A bowed, grey colored, skeleton-like thing wascoming towards him. Its actual appearance was frightening, and not merely the fact that he knewit to be himself. He moved closer to the glass.

The creature’s face seemed to be protruded,because of its bent carriage …

. Certainly it was his own face, but it seemed to him that it hadchanged more than he had changed inside …. But the truly frightening thing was theemaciation of his body. The barrel of the ribs was as narrow as that of a skeleton: the legs hadshrunk so that the knees were thicker than the thighs …. The curvature of the spine wasastonishing.

The thin shoulders were hunched forward so as to make a cavity of the chest, thescraggy neck seemed to be bending double under the weight of the skull. At a guess he wouldhave said that it was the body of a man of sixty, suffering from some malignant disease.” (Orwell248) This takes a major psychological toll on Winston as he sees what his government has doneto him. He feels that this is what he received for rebelling against a corrupt government.However, this still isn’t enough for the Party.

He still is not loyal. He still holds a shred ofintegrity. They want him to sever the one last loyalty he holds, to his love and partner-in-crime,Julia.

He’s taken to Room 101, the greatest fear of any rebel. In Room 101, victims are subjectedto their greatest fear. In Winston’s case, a cage of rats is attached to his face, and he is warnedthat if the cage’s door opens, they will eat their way out though his face.

He screams for them notto do it, to do it to Julia instead. With that, his torturers are satisfied. Winston had finally brokenhis last bonds of loyalty with anyone other than Big Brother. He had succumbed to the Party andwas willing to accept its way of life. The use of torture by the Party in 1984 is beyond corrupt, itis evil.The use of torture is recurring in Husseini’s The Kite Runner. While there are no scenesof literal torture being used in an interrogation, characters are shown to be tortured by those withpower on a more personal level.

Using physical violence to gain something from another personis corrupt in nature, and is seen often by Assef. In a pivotal scene, Amir describes the beating hereceives from Assef when he confronts him for the last time. “The knuckles shattering my jaw.Choking on my own teeth, swallowing them, thinking about all the countless hours I’d spentflossing and brushing. Getting hurled against the wall.

Lying on the floor, blood from my splitupper lip staining the mauve carpet, pain ripping through my belly, and wondering when I’d beable to breathe again. The sound of my ribs snapping like the tree branches Hassan and I used tobreak to sword fight like Sinbad in those old movies.” (Husseini 248). Assef goes far beyondwhere he could have stopped. He tries to inflict as much pain on Amir as he can, only because hecan. Now that he is a leader in the Taliban, he has the power to beat anyone senseless withoutrepercussion. Like in 1984, Assef gains nothing out of hurting Amir this much, he does it only asan act of power. Earlier, Assef tortures Amir in a different way, in his mind.

While attendingAmir’s birthday party, he gives him a gift. “I tore the wrapping paper from Assef’s present andtilted the book cover in the moonlight. It was a biography of Hitler” (Husseini, 82). Assef isplaying with Amir, and gave him that book to purposely offend him.

He knows that Amir andHassan are friends, and that Hassan, being a race seen as ‘inferior’, falls under the same ideologyHitler shared with the Jews. He taunts Amir, showing that he should be ashamed to have such afriend. This is in contrast to 1984, where the psychological torture to which Winston was subjectwas to demoralize his feelings about himself.

Here, it is used to make Amir feel ashamed of hisloyalties and to distance him from the more ‘pure’ Pashtun Afghans. Finally, we see theshattering of one’s integrity as a power move. While escaping Kabul the first time, Baba andAmir’s van is stopped by Soviet soldiers. “Karim cleared his throat, dropped his head.

Said thesoldier wanted a half hour with the lady in the back of the truck. … ‘It’s his price for letting uspass,’ Karim said.

” (Husseini 95). This corrupt soldier, who had already been bribed, was nowlooking to get more out of the deal. He wanted to solicit the prostitution of a man’s wife so theserefugees could leave their own country. This shameful act is corrupt in nature as the soldier holdsthe power, and was trying to get them to pay not only with money but with their integrity.

Justlike in 1984, the person with power attempted to sever the bond between a man and a woman forpersonal gain.In conclusion, both George Orwell’s 1984 and Khaled Husseini’s The Kite Runner dealheavily with the concepts of corruption of those with power. Both novels successfully use theconcept of power used irresponsibly and cruelly in creating turmoil for the protagonists. Winstonis at the mercy of the Party, where Amir is antagonized by Assef and the Taliban. The novelsexplore the subject of corruption through corrupt principles, absolute power, and torture.

Byplacing the protagonists in a position with less power than their opponents, readers can see whatkind of corrupt acts a person or organization with power can inflict upon those without.


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