Date of Thesis

Spring 2021


As modern writers of the totalitarian century, George Orwell and Ralph Ellison in their most popular novel, 1984 and Invisible Man respectively, craft stories that end in the beginning. Though dissimilar in fictional milieu, both novels can be examined as circular stories of literary resistance against the allure of totalitarian tendencies. These tendencies, identified as growing trends of metaphysical isolation and scientistic practices of technocracy, derive from the larger ethos of Western modern ontology. Orwell and Ellison re-imagine these oppressive elements of totalitarianism through literary tropes of circularity. This thesis observes the various patterns of what this study calls hegemonic circularity in 1984 and Invisible Man. I develop the term hegemonic circularity, informed by anti-totalitarian scholarship, to emphasize the noticeable patterns and movements manifesting in the oppressive structures of each fiction. By using Martin Heidegger’s critiques on modern metaphysics, this project explores how this circularity breeds out of a dwelling-less era of modernity, one in which individuals become detached from others and objectified into a totalizing system of oppression. The novels’ protagonists run parallel in their mutual experience, and their stories represent the authors’ own efforts to write back into the hegemonic frame. Thus, the art of the novel endures as the very house of Orwell and Ellison’s spirit of dwelling. Ultimately, this project seeks to explore the philosophical dimension of modern oppression, be it in the setting of totalitarian dystopia or modern racism, in the hopes of revealing elements of totalitarianism that can be discerned in one’s current political reality.


modernity, circularity, totalitarianism, racism, oppression, resistance

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Paul Siewers