I have always wondered if perhaps the bullet in the back of the head thing was meant metaphorically. The first time I read the book I took the bullet entering the back of Winston's head line to mean he had finally dropped off the deep end. To me the very notion Winston could construct a narrative to tell the reader came from the fact he still had same tiny modicum of himself left somewhere. As far as being broken down in Room 101 was concerned: could it be possible that the hatred he was enduring galvanized some remote piece of Winston Smith deep down, on a subconscious level. The party knew he was still cast in the old dye and killing him with some of himself left, no matter how small, would violate their every principle. Being released back into the world, being allowed to become an alcoholic wash out in turn allowed the kernel of his true self to soften, and the meeting with Julia, the realisation that even the thought of sex made his skin crawl and meeting face to face a person he most likely thought dead by his own cowardice finally nipped out that final piece. At that point Winston smith died as an entity, essentially having his brain shoot itself. His conscious mind could no longer eke out the energy required to construct a narrative of his life. After that, well they may have shot him or left him as grey sludge walking, but to me, to write a book that is so deeply terrifying on such a primal level and just have a faceless mook shoot the protagonist in the back of the head at the end, it just doesn't seem like that was his real angle.
Surviellance system. It watches and controls everything. But it must have at least few breakdowns. Then Party member with brokean telescreen will simply bribe the technicians that arrived to repair it. Given the rickety state of Oceania's economics it cannot be absolutely effective.
A) Bribe them with what? The Outer Party lives in constant shortage of even the basest neccessities. B) If a telescreen is broken, then the people who are watching it on the other side obviously know that.
You obviously don't know much about socialism. In real life, almost everything in Soviet Union, which was a socialist state, was inefficent - and huge system of surviellance would be also prone to break down.
Thoughtpolice is even larger and more powerful then Gestapo and NKVD. These organisations had to be tamed by such incredibly strong leaders as Hitler and Stalin respectively, and after Stalin's death Beriya tried to take over. Because Big Brother probably doesn't exist, and the country is ruled by a bunch of oligarchs from Inner Party, then why Miniluv leaders don't simply kill their enemies and start rule Oceania? But then Miniluv will become corrupt and inefficent, focusing on in-party battles rather than on elimination of thoughtcriminals.
Because the Miniluv leaders are the Inner Party. It is their tool of oppression and torment.
But even then, they would need a strong personality to lead them, without it, they would think only about luxury, private riches and petty power - like soviet Nomenclatura after Stalin's death.
Party's activities violates postulates of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli
Because of Pop Cultural Osmosis most people think that 1984 is a direct representation of Machiavellian ideas. They are absolutely wrong. First of all, one of the most famous(and perverted by media) Machiavelli's ideas - you should be both feared and loved, and you must avoid hatred by all costs. To do the former, you must use Bread and Circuses methods, and eliminate the most dangerous of your enemies, but you should do it only at the start of your rule, to do the latter, Machiavelli told one to never encroach on your citizens' property and commit unnecessary massacres. Party does completely oposite of Machiavelli's advices. Party does nothing to be loved. It keeps its citizens(not only proles, but also white-shirt workers) in poverty and hunger, even the Inner Party members are said to be poorer than old-time capitalists and aristocrats, it wages endless war, which lies as a burden on whole society. It does many things to be feared, but it can't be eternally and absolutely effective. And finally, it does everything to be hated. It eliminates all the party members for every wrong thought, including Inner Party members, and they would hate it even more than they are afraid of it.
Sun Tzu warned against leading unnecessary wars. It spend much money, it provokes citizens to riots, it leadss to dissent of population and crises of economics. Party doen't follow this advices. Instead, it does absolutely oposite. THIRTY YEARS of wold-scale war would simply destroy Oceania's economic, completely devour its resources and ruin ecology.
Shouldn't Oceania economic system simply go bankrupt? I mean, it spends all the money and industrial resources and capabilities on military needs for several decades and plans to do it endlessly. In real life, war is a hardly profitable business. Nazi Germany actually had to attack Poland simply to rob its territories, and USSR became fatally dependent on export of oil and raw resources in exchange for grain, food and consumer goods. Oceania may have a badly equipped army like North Korea, but unlike it, Oceania has to spend much more resources, because it actually wages war. Oceania can't have endless money for endless war!
The Party has control over all of Oceania's resources, so there's no need to pay for something they already own. Oceania is also large enough (Great Britain, Australia, southern Africa, and both North and South America) to have access to pretty much any natural resources they'd need. I wonder what they would do when their resources are depleted, though.
But USSSR also had almost all resources it needed, but it also has to spen money, labour-time, industrial workers, while they didn't spen as much money as Oceania did, and they still had money for decent living of their citizens, for free education and medical care, while Oceania spends all fre money and resources on war, and eventually its economics will go bankrupt.
Corruption in Ministry of Plenty. Even the best State Sec system cannot be perfect, especially at solving financial crimes. Novel mentions a very large and important black market. Also, soviet Gosplan(State Plan) was an incredibly corrupt and inefficent structure. Ministry of plenty is even bigger, and it runs absolutely everyting in Oceania's economics, and it doesn't appear to be very effective, and problems will grow bigger. How can the state with such an inefficent economic system last forever?
The Soviets didn't have telescreens in each and every room of everyone's home. No matter who you are, you are under surveillance 24/7; even the Inner Party doesn't get more than 30 minutes free. Anyone handling stolen money or displaying even the inclination of wanting to steal money would be caught. Also, this stolen money would have to be cataloged somehow, and any ledgers would be spotted and read by the Thought Police like Winston's journal was. In any case, there isn't much to spend money on anyways. Winston describes the shortages of basic goods as the result of under-production, not a lack of money to purchase them with. Since the Inner Party probably isn't experiencing these shortages, and receive the basic necessities by way of rations, there's literally nothing they could buy and therefore no reason to embezzle funds.
Why wouldn't an important administrator and memeber of Inner Party simply bribe Thoughtpolice? Anyway, almighty Thoughtpolice, which can eliminate everyone would be also deeply corrupt, simply extorting money from high-standing thoughtcriminals.
The Perpetual War Is Pointless (For the Party)
Now, I get it, the war is to soak up resources yadda yadda. And I'm sure that Orwell had this really deep and convincing idea as to how this all worked, but it's still a stupid idea for any political entity to try. Let us assume—and since, all speculation aside, we have no reason to doubt what is said anymore than what isn't—that the Party really does control this vast, sprawling empire and has a gentleman's agreement with their "neighbors" not to use WM Ds and actually WIN the war. Why? Yes, resources, proles, control and all that...but why THAT way? Why the least efficient way possible? By my recollection Oceania is not only the largest but most densely populated by far of the three states. Even if we assume that they have a lower population, overall they have more resources, more land, more avenues of attack etc etc etc. There is NO logical, or even pragmatic Machiavellian reason, to do this thing. Any sane person—even INSANE person—if told "you have twice the land, resources, money and power of your enemies" would respond "kill them all, take their shit". And frankly there is no reason to believe, again, that East Asia and Eurasia have a snowball's chance in hell of resisting them, even if they have more money or people. The resource differences, the industrial differences, would win out (assuming that even SOME of America and the UK's industrial resources remain after the war, which they clearly do, or else the other two would never recognize Oceania at all). And even if they were all mauled during the war the sheer size and material wealth of Oceania by stint of simple landmass would win out eventually—they basically control some of the most fertile, energy and materials rich land on Earth. In short, there is no reason for them to go along with this war assuming that they are as powerful as they seem to be, and if they aren't then that opens a whole new can of worms. Why would the rest of the world, for any reason, allow them to exist when they're supposedly a nuclear armed state? That much, the very fact that they have nukes and ICB Ms, is made obvious by the supposedly "faked" attacks on their own territory and the fact they evolved from the UK, a nuclear power. Again even if they got mauled, they still would have some elements of their old nuclear resources and ICB Ms left. In short the entire idea, no matter how in depth it is or how impactful it is, is based on this notion that either: A—a known, pre-war nuclear power with ICBM capability is allowed to fall into totalitarianism with NO ONE stopping or even attempting to stop them; or B—the largest and most powerful state in the world is allowing two lesser states to exist simply because George Orwell says so with no practical, political or logical reason otherwise.
The purpose of the war isn't just to burn resources, but to keep the populace in line. If there were peace, you couldn't have almost-nonexistent rations or 15-hour workdays because there's no way to justify it without angering the people. In war, however, you can say "If you don't accept this, you will die" and the people have to accept it, doublethink or no. Simply lighting the surplus goods on fire produces the desired economic effect but not the societal one.
Yeah but that's the point, even then it doesn't work. If the purpose was to keep everyone under control a huge, fully functional military with NO outside usurpers whatsoever and TOTAL control over information (the latter already in place) would do far better. There is no evidence whatsoever that people would rebel if suddenly the other two superstates ceased to exist, especially since the Outer Party, allegedly the "heart" of any possible resistance, is small and can be controlled by force of arms and the proles don't give a shit. Keep the proles under control—or better yet, kill them, it can't be that difficult when they're unarmed, uneducated and completely unorganized—and the Outer Party is impotent to resist. And ALL OF THAT is still completely unnecessary since you really don't need constant war to get people to do what you say if they have no capacity to fight back (no guns, no real organization) and you control the military exclusively. What would the proles or Outer Party do? Rebel...with what weapons? With what leaders? A simple riot, no matter how big, would result in a strafing run by a single jet fighter and that's that. The only reason real world rebellions like this—like the one in Egypt recently, for example—didn't collapse is because the leaders genuinely didn't feel like having a bomber drop a ton or two on the rioters. In Oceania this is not even a problem...in fact, I'd figure they'd consider it a plus, since it gets rid of a lot of mouths to feed. And even then any kind of rebellion requires the proles, Outer Party or both to even recognize they're enslaved, which they wouldn't because all opposition is gone, all information is controlled by the state, and the military can handily kill anyone who even gets near forming the thought of resistance. The war is just stupid. It's just not necessary. The war is totally pointless from any kind of practical standpoint—well other than the standpoint of wanting and needing the story to remain internally consistent and push his political message, but no in universe practical purpose.
Maybe the other two countries don't exist, and the war is just a lie that is kept by only the highest Party members. Nobody in the book has had a firsthand account of the enemy. They've only seen videos of foreign looking people, and been bombed. Perhaps the government shows different regions of their locus of control different videos (the video of rampaging Eastasians that Winston sees could be a propaganda video in favour of those same people elsewhere).
At one point, Winston joins a large crowd and watches a vehicle drive by with prisoners of war from another country, so it's possible that Eurasia and Eastasia exist; on the other hand, they could've just been some unlucky Oceanians who were passed off as foreign prisoners.
Newspeak would have eventually brought about a H. G. Wells like social system
Consider this, the entire idea of Newspeak is to simplify language and stupidfy the lower and middle class right? Well that may work out great for controlling the party, but how about actually running and ruling it, or keeping the entire system going for that matter? It's suggested that the only those of keen, substantial intelligence are drafted into the inner-party from the outer part and lower. But how is that possible if by 2050 or whenever, everyone is speaking the revised version of newspeak, nobody is taught old-speak, and no one is intelligent in the slightest? It would seem like either O'Brien was lying about power being passed through children, or citizens upon being admitted to the inner-party, have to go through rigorous training and education to learn-old speak. My reasoning for this is it just would seem incredibly difficult, almost impossible for the Inner-Party to still rule over society, making new laws, communicating cultural/economic information, speaking the actual truth of reality (For which Goldstein writes is still necessary to keep war/science going, 2+2 must = 4), as well as fighting their battles and engineering. One possibility I thought might be that they use 'doublethink' in this way, that they can somehow communicate oldspeak but only when deemed absolutely necessary. But then I realized that honesty the Inner Party in no way would ever accept having the same thing done to them, in order to maintain power they'd honestly need a sense of reality, not only to for that but also because of pride and superiority alone. (Material advantages aren't all being top-class offer) Obviously in RL, Hitler and Stalin and their colleagues would never let themselves be subject to their own propaganda and brain-washing, so they must maintain their old-speak somehow. Another possibility I thought was that they'd have specialist in old-speak that can run things for them simply because they can, but the party would probably never give them that right. (Control-freaks and all)
So overall, this lead me to the conclusion that assuming the party doesn't fall under it's own delusions, and new-speak really is implemented to it's fullest extent, you'd eventually have a sort of socio-race division, allude to H. G. Well's 'The Time Machine.' You'd have two different classes that not only are speaking different languages, but are subsisting in entirely different realms of thought, it'd be as if the inner-party (those that don't subject themselves to what the enforce on the proles) was a separate species, like the Morlocks and the Eloi. Of course they wouldn't really be a separate species, but the proles would think so differently and be basically work-bots, slaves almost to produce goods for the inner-party, who in turn would rely on either specialist or the proles' stupidity to keep things going, as eventually there wouldn't even be much of a need for any strategic or logistic planning. They'd intellectually descend to the level of sheep just like the ones they're dictating. At this point, neither would have any dose of reality or free-will, they'd just be slaves of 'big-brother', the political ideology would be more like a religion rather than a tool of the ruling elite, who might understand that BB isn't 'real' in some sense, but also realize the ideological concept is relating to their well-being and they may actually start to believe it exist. What happens from here when nobody is intelligent enough to understand reality? Are the scientist here still intelligent? Or do we have a 'Time-Machine' like scenario, or even one comparable to Warhammer 40,000?
In the Ministry of Love, how exactly is the rule of prisoners barely being allowed to move an inch enforced?
Is it because they've just been that cowed by this point that they'll obey when a voice shouts at them? That would be a bit understandable, but given that they're regularly being tortured with electric shocks, beatings and whatever else Big Brother can come up with, it's not like they have a lot to lose.
Truth in Television, really. History contains many ethnic cleansing efforts, the Holocaust not least among them, where the victims had nothing left to lose and could at least have tried to overwhelm the guards prodding them along towards the mass graves by sheer weight of numbers - and yet didn't. Being beaten, half-starved, unarmed, untrained in combat, and thoroughly intimidated generally is enough to prevent even desperate prisoners from rioting. And when it's not? That's what guard towers and heavy machine guns are for.
Well, that makes sense. The other question, though: Supposing a prisoner did defy the voice and move around after being warned. They can't kill them yet, that defeats the whole point of the Ministry. Another round of beatings on the spot?
Yes. Another round of beatings. Another shock. Another stoolie.
For the same reason that Hope is the one thing that didn't escape from Pandora's jar. Bullfinch put it as "while we have that, no amount of other ills can make us completely wretched." The Ministry of Love exists to break people entirely — people held there have nothing to lose, but they're also at the point where they see nothing to gain. The only thing they're capable of hoping for is to hold the next atrocity off a little longer.
Orwell gives another good reason in the book itself, by drawing a pointed contrast between the rowdy prole prisoners and the docile Party ditto. The latter have been just that well trained to obey, to not draw attention to themselves, to work within the system - they almost literally can't rebel.
Also there's less 'polits' than prole prisoners, since the Outer Party only makes up about 10%-ish of the population, so it's not too hard to keep an eye on them.
He Who Fights Aristocrats
Aren't the Inner and Outer party becoming an aristocracy? Evidence seems to suggest that children remain with their families (i.e. the family in Winston's building), and there is mention of any too intelligent child within the proles being assassinated - i.e. there is no promotion from the proles to the party. If this is the case, and the aristocracy will 'soon' (by 2050 or something) be speaking a different language (New Speak versus Old Speak), isn't that just asking for the proles to rebel against their overlords?
Well, when Winston is out observing the Proles, he seems to think they're pretty much apathetic to the idea of overthrowing the Party. The government keeps them stupid and pacified, isn't nearly as overt with the oppression, and freely uses its manipulation of the media to keep all resentment and hatred focused on the enemy du jour. As Winston notes, if the Party ever were to be toppled, the rebellion would have to involve the Proles to a significant degree, but it doesn't seem particularly likely to happen in the near future.
Yes, an aristocracy is exactly what they're becoming. Part of Orwell's anti-communist message was that, in time, the communist party becomes exactly like the oppressors they overthrew if not worse. This is even more clear in Animal Farm, which ends with the pigs walking, talking, and acting in exactly the same manner as the farmers they overthrew.
You're sort of correct. It's not strictly anti-communist though, it's anti-leninist. Specifically it's an attack on Lenin's "Vanguard Party" concept. Basically authoritarianism is anti-ethical to most communist and socialist thinkers, including Orwell. However, Lenin believed that the uneducated peasants of Russia couldn't be trusted under a democratic communist state because they were... well, uneducated. Communism prior to Lenin was post-capitalist, relying on capitalism's ability to create a large, better-educated and disastisfied population. The Vanguard Party was a means of trying to "skip" capitalism and socialism and move directly to communism, which Orwell disliked for the reasons you describe.
That... is a complete misunderstanding of the concept of a vanguard party. Also, according to Marxism there is no such thing as a 'democratic communist state' because 1: democracy is a form of state, and 2: communism is stateless. A vanguard party is a party of revolutionists who understand their political theory, are willing to take power, and are organised and disciplined in a pseudo-military fashion, and was considered by Lenin to be necessary in all countries. This was because Lenin considered the 'normal' ideology of the working class to be democratic trade-unionism, and so one couldn't just count on the working class to spontaneously come to accept socialism, but that a dedicated party of propagandists would be necessary to win it over. What is to be Done? aside, however, the view of history presented in the book is anti-communist: The upper class rule society and are eventually overthrown by the lower class under the leadership of the middle class. Through differentiation among the middle class and fusion with some elements of the former upper class, a new upper class is formed, and the new middle class struggles to gain power, again seeking to use the lower class in that effort. While one could say that the Leninist vanguard party is here the understood to be the 'conscious' element of the middle class, and that this is therefore a specifically anti-Leninist screed, what is actually being said is that there is no hope for a classless society because from every revolution a new ruling body, a new 'upper class' will form and we will end up back at square 1.
1984 was actually written against Stalinism, not Marxist-Leninism, as well as Totalitarianism in general, not communism or socialism; Orwell was a vocal Socialist (Trotskyist if memory serves correctly) and wished to speak out against the betrayal that was post-Lenin USSR as well as the dangers of sticking too closely to a single ideology. Even the main page states this... But yes, Oceania always was an aristocracy. At least, it has been ever since the Inner Party took over.
Yes and no. By systematically removing from the Prole population all people who possess any degree of intelligence or ambition, you remove the flashpoints for any potential rebellion. One of the points that is made by the book is that the "Low" NEVER actually rebel on their own accord. They are driven to rebel by dissatisfied members of the "Middle", who have the organisational skills to arrange a successful revolution. By assimilating all nascent "Middles" into the "High" before they start chafing at their oppression, the Party ensures that the cyclical replacement of the "High" by the "Middle" will never occur, because the "Middle" will not actually exist as a group - only the "High" and the "Low". Strange as it may seem, the world of 1984 is actually a meritocracy in many ways.
The Inner Party is fully ready to recruit their whole next generation among proles if that's what it takes to perpetuate itself. It's in the book.
Until the "High" start fighting among themselves, at which point all bets are off. A social system that looks uncrackable and perfectly stable now may fall apart entirely after a few generations, because sooner or later the people in charge will find a reason to start mucking with the way things are running for the sake of selfish Power.
The interesting thing about doublethink is that the "High" in this case may be trained to prevent just that. The terrifying amount of self-delusion necessary to be in the Inner Party, is, well, terrifying.
See, that makes it even more likely to fall apart. Terrifying amounts of self-delusion leads to becoming Too Dumb to Live.
O'brien also explicitely states that in the future children will be taken from their parents.
The Ministry of Love is the Greatest threat to Itself
Think about the ministry of love for a second. It's a group of sociopaths who are high enough up in the system to know both the cynical inner workings of Oceania, recognize that the war is an inconsequential farce (since they are implied to have written the Goldstein's book) and would be the first to know where any potential blind spots the state might have would be. And at the same time most of the people in the Ministry of Love would have to be low enough to recognize they could dramatically improve their own station in life by going outside the system. Wouldn't that just make the Ministry of Love the most potent danger to the party leadership? Maybe that's why Mini Love's real life counterpart, the NKVD and its successor KGB, turned out to be a major power player in the Soviet Union after Stalin died (though ultimately one that had to deal with countless other factions within the government).
How do we know that they don't do that? There are no laws, after all; from the description of O'Brien the highups already take everything that's available. It would fit relatively well within the system as it's described.
Going by the NKVD under Stalin, the Secret Police tended to suffer periodic purges that wiped out nearly all the higher-ups followed by restaffing with more 'pliant' (read: terrified and submissive) replacements, likely for just this reason. It wouldn't surprise me if every few years the Thought Police finds itself doing a bit of 'house cleaning' in regards to its membership, with a large proportion of them enjoying the same tender treatment Winston was given.
One of the book's major themes is the idea that the entire bureaucracy is controlled via "doublethink"; a systematic method of self-brainwashing that every person who is even vaguely intellectual is conditioned to apply virtually from birth. The premise of doublethink is that it allows one to "know" one thing, while "believing" something entirely at odds with it, and that one has the ability to automatically and unconsciously modify what one knows and believes at will. O'Brien might "know" the truth about how the world works, but he "believes" that everything he tells Winston is a carefully constructed lie in order to utterly and thoroughly break everything Winston is.
This is kinda the point of Syme; Winston notes early on in the book that he's too smart, that he's too clear a thinker, and as such he predicts fairly easily and correctly that he'll be eliminated. It's Parsons turning up at Mini Love that shocks him.
If the state was destroying all means for people to even think about dissenting from the system, wouldn't it only be a matter of time before the system wiped out a concept that was necessary for the state to function?
Say they decided to get rid of the concept of quantum superposition because they don't like the idea that Big Brother doesn't know where his electrons are (which the Nazis actually did try). Now that might not sound important until you realize that the concepts used to design and maintain televisions hinges on concepts like quantum superposition. And guess what Oceania's Ministry of Love depends on.
Doublethink. Either that or the factories precisely engineering warships and aircraft have accommodated the rule that 2+2=5 surprisingly well.
Goldstein's book discusses this - the scientific method is kept alive only to aid tyranny and war. It's this troper's opinion that the best source for an internal revolt would be a disgruntled scientist at the Ministry of Peace.
This is actually addressed in the book, when O'Brien says that it wouldn't be beyond the Party to have a dual system of astronomy where stars are small points of fire a few thousand miles away and other suns, depending on which explanation is more useful to the purposes of the Party. A similar dual system of physics could easily be adopted where quantum superposition exists when designing equipment in which it's a significant factor but doesn't exist at any other time.
Hmmm. If there's one type of person on Earth who's most comfortable with believing mutually incompossible things, that would have to be quantum physicists. Particles that are waves, Schrödinger's Cat which is everywhere and nowhere, anyone? Every quantum physicist needs to be a doubleplusgood doublethinker.
"mutually incompossible" is the coolest phrase ever. I could actually see the party embracing quantum physics as a vindication of their philosophy.
This is a serious weak point for most ideological states. What Jacques Barzun called "the practical ideology of results" is sometimes incompatible with state ideology and its Appeal to Force. One of the Soviet Union's causes for its famines is its suppression of applying Genetics in creating healthier crops, in favour of the blatantly unscientific Lysenkoism. The Nazis kicked Jewish scientists such as Albert Einstein out and look on the massive advantage the United States gained. The only country to have managed to get a state ideology and engineering to coexist was Japan in the Meiji Restoration; Oceania has failed to do so, and so their ideology is as doomed as Stalin's and Mao's — either they'll economically collapse like the USSR, or abandon their ideology like China, or collapse from a sort of moral and intellectual dry rot like Bourbon France. (My money's on the third of these possibilities. If the other two totalitarian world-states also exist, 2050 in Orwell's timeline is going to be extremely "interesting times.")
Winston Was Right in that Julia is a member of the Thought Police
Does anyone else wonder whether Julia was in on the plot to capture Winston? It seems slightly unbelievable that a pretty young woman would be interested in him or willing to take such risks when realistically there's only one outcome. There's nothing she says or does that couldn't have been planned with O'Brien beforehand. We only have her word for it that she went to the Ministry of Love and no longer loves him; the whole arrest at their love nest could have been staged.
Kinda the point of the book: Winston cannot trust anything he sees or hears, because anything could be a setup by the Thought Police.
Julia says, "They got to me long ago." (Either her or somebody says it about her; it's been a while) It makes sense that way. Julia is an agent for the Thought Police who lures men like Winston into traps so they can be captured and so on. Although it does seem odd that they would keep the facade up as long as they did, instead of grabbing Winston right away.
No, O'Brien says that about himself. Nothing in the book indicates that Julia is anything but exactly what she seems to be — and given that she serves an important role within the story as that person, it's likely that Orwell intended her that way.
They wanted him to become comfortable and happy in his new life first. All the better to break him, when he discovers his supposed friend and lover were his enemies all along.
But he doesn't discover that. As stated above, it is O'Brien that states that, not Julia. It is never hinted that Julia is a spy.
1984 = A case of Too Good For That Bastard?
It has really good ideas and the odd scene is well written, but the rest of it is very poorly executed. Goldstein's book is dire, the so-called love scenes even worse. At one point Winston says he thought about raping and murdering Julia. Rather than think he's a freak and flee, she laughs merrily? What on earth?
Julia probably had the same thoughts herself about other people. Think about how repressed these people are (the only emotions they are allowed to show are adoration for Big Brother, permanent enthusiasm for the Party line, and hatred for enemies of the Party; also sex for pleasure is forbidden). If Winston sees Julia every day and knows he can't have her, on top of living in constant fear, it's bound to cause him to have some, er, unhappy thoughts. Julia has probably been told the same thing by other Party members she's had trysts with.
There's also only one two minute period in every day that these people are allowed to express any kind of physical outburst of genuine emotion; whilst officially it's supposed to be about hating Goldstein, in practice it's pretty clearly a vent for all of those other little repressed thoughts and feelings that they feel about everything (including their government and situation), even if they don't fully understand them. Winston first expresses his desire to rape and murder Julia during a Two Minute Hate, so it seems pretty clear that what he's actually expressing is the intense physical attraction and desire to sleep with her that he feels but is unable to articulate in any other way except this moment of permitted rage.
The book actually says, during the Two Minutes Hate, "the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one subject to another", either voluntarily or involuntarily. Winston's hate is momentarily directed towards the Party and Big Brother, then an instant later he feels great adoration for Big Brother and deep loathing for Goldstein, and then he exerts a "violent effort" to direct his hate towards Julia (and has the rape/murder fantasies).
Not at all. Goldestein's book is actually one of the more interesting parts of the novel. 1984 is literature; it is more concerned with exploring and presenting political, economic, and societal themes and ideas than with entertaining, and Orwell does what he sets out to do (discuss his ideas) very well.
The chapter featuring Winston reading Goldstein's book was the worst part of the whole novel. Even one of the characters fell asleep by the end of it. Dumping your political ideals in a big Author Tract rather than subtly interlacing them with the narrative - something which Ayn Rand is so rightfully criticized for - is the worst form of literary exposition. 1984 is a novel, not an essay; it should entertain and inform in equal measures. And the fact is, this section was dreadfully boring. There is no discussion of ideas; it is just a man reading another man's essay. Only the most deluded Fan Dumb would say otherwise.
But it was a good essay!
Remember that Tropes Are Not Bad — even the Author Tract can be a worthwhile storytelling tool if it's written in an interesting manner or if it contains interesting ideas. It didn't interest you, obviously, but that doesn't make the reader who did find it interesting to be Fan Dumb. It should also be noted that one of the key criticisms of Ayn Rand isn't just her use of the Author Tract, but the sheer length of them — say what you will about Goldstein's essay, it takes up a lot less of the book than John Galt's speech.
Maybe I'm the only one, but I found the book to be very entertaining as a political/psychological thriller. I was fortunate enough to not have had the ending spoiled, and was always curious where the story was going. The Party made for an endlessly mysterious, frightening villain. The revelations later on, such as Mr. Charrington and O'Brien being members of the thought police, were among the most shocking plot twists I've ever seen, because I was so convinced of the prior relationship they appeared to have with Winston and actually thought of them as almost my own friends. It was one of the few "great" works of literature I've read where I really came to be involved in the story and the characters.
The whole point of Oceania is that it's completely fucked up as a society, especially concerning sex, which is naturally going to result in some rather fucked up people living in it.
Discussion of the literary merits of the novel aside, Winston's internalized hatred toward Julia (and Party women in general) is acceptably believable. It is within human nature to hate and resent what we desire but cannot have, and the Party is denying people that which is fundamentally human - sex, love, family, security, individuality, sometimes even basic needs like proper food and shelter. Winston's reaction to Julia is made vicious by the pitiful, juvenile form it takes, but that sort of immature response is to be expected in a population that has been emotionally and intellectually stunted, with group psychology geared toward violence and anger as the only acceptable outlets. If anything, Orwell was showing his readers how inhumane the Party members have become, a fact Winston himself comments on later on in the novel. ("We are the dead.")
Room 101 is not foolproof
One of the keys to Ingsoc's success is that it doesn't let anyone become a Doomed Moral Victor, making sure they're broken and changed, rather than dying embracing their ideals. So what happens when that doesn't work? In real life or fiction, some people just don't break, or at least don't break in a way that's at all useful to maintaining their control. They can cover it up like they cover up everything, but that only goes so far. They may be able to survive the first time they end up with a prisoner, like, say, V... but what about the tenth? Or the twentieth? Or the hundredth?
I think its mentioned somewhere that some people just never come back. If even repeated trips to Room 101 aren't enough, the defiant prisoner is probably liquidated. For the sake of the society, they probably would have to give some prisoners the satisfaction of being an unsung martyr, as they can't release the person back into the population at large. One also has to remember people that disappear into the Miniluv are quickly forgotten about. Also, the society has done an efficient job of quelling such tendencies quite well, as the proles can be quickly subdued, and the lower party members are sufficiently cowed.
The book operates with the premise that, with sufficiently advanced torture/psychology/brainwashing techniques, EVERYONE breaks eventually. You may disagree with this idea, but it is what is canon in the book. The whole miniluv ride breaks one's body and mind, and room 101 is the coup de grace on the soul. As O'Brien says "pain is not always enough. There are occasions when a human being will stand out against pain, even to the point of death. But for everyone there is something unendurable—something that cannot be contemplated. Courage and cowardice are not involved. If you are falling from a height it is not cowardly to clutch at a rope. If you have come up from deep water it is not cowardly to fill your lungs with air. It is merely an instinct which cannot be destroyed." According to 1984, everyone has a "worst thing in the world," and everyone will, when confronted with it in room 101, be willing to betray everything they hold dear in order to avoid it.
That doesn't work on psychopaths. They just don't fear anything, even if they should really do. So the only way to deal with them is, in fact, liquidation. Or promotion to the Inner Party.
Psychopaths aren't robots. They try to avoid pain and discomfort like every other sentient being.
Though that does bring up a good point. We tend to view psychopaths as serial killers, but when you get right down to it psychopathic serial killers are failed psychopaths. Psychopaths don't have the normal inhibitions against lying or cheating or causing harm to other people like you or me. Which, if they keep their wits about them, allows them to reach pretty high rank in modern society (this isn't a joke or social critique - it's just something that happens). None of the non-torture methods of control would work on a psychopath and said psychopath would have no problem exploiting others. Psychopaths also have a tendency to abandon ship whenever something bad might happen to them. In fact, random chance would suggest that eventually you would get the leaders of the party would all be psychopaths, something bad happens, and they all turn tail to save themselves (since they don't follow the indoctrination of the party-above-all-else). Free society might be recreated by psychopaths. How delicious.
Keep in mind that we only have O'Brien's word for things like Room 101 always working. He would logically want Winston to believe their methods always work even if they don't. All the Party's statements about the capabilities of the Ministry of Love and the Thought Police should be taken with skepticism. Remember, they've elevated having no respect for the truth to a philosophy and they would have every reason to want to make the people believe the Ministry of Love and the Thought Police are more formidable than they actually are.
But, isn't the Inner Party made up of psychopaths?
Psychopaths aren't superhuman (quite the opposite in fact); they still feel pain. They still bleed. They still generally tend to have self-preservation instincts. They're only human and have their breaking points; you starve, sleep-deprive and torture them long-enough, you'll probably break them down sufficiently at some point. In any case, it's hardly that great a dilemma for the Party; you get a psychopath in Room 101 and all-else fails, you just shoot them in the head and have done with it. Not like they're squeamish or gonna go "Oh go on, you win," and let them go or anything.
Read Solzhenitsyn: some people do indeed resist this sort of breaking, and can fake being broken — especially those with strong religious or ideological beliefs. Knight Templar terrorist campaign, anyone?
Those people are, by and large, exceptionally rare, though. And, of course, the whole point of Oceanian society is that it's set up precisely to make sure that as few people as possible, if anyone, holds any kind of strong religious or ideological beliefs which would enable them to resist this kind of control, except for love of the Party and Big Brother.
How in the world does Room 101 work? It contains the prisoner's worst fear, sure, but what if they are deathly afraid of, say, robots? Would the Party have to design a robot specifically for this one task, which is inefficient and pretty darn stupid? Or if the prisoner is afraid of an abstract concept, like an infinite void? Again, would the Party's best scientists get to work breaking the laws of reality to fit an infinite void inside a tiny room? It's an infinite drain on the Party's supplies to not just shoot them and be done with it. Of course, this would lead to their eventual downfall, but it's not like they've made any bones about doing things that can easily fall apart and rely on nobody in the future ever being defiant. And what if somebody is very, very good at pretending? If I were a profiler or something to that effect, could I trick the Thought Police that I were deathly afraid of fluffy kittens? Again, the Party relies on totally unrealistic odds, to the point where I'm surprised they haven't been taken down yet. They could have, of course, without us knowing, but still.
Mitchell and Webb did a sketch on this where a Miniluv employee admits that he has constantly made his fear of "beer" very well known.
How can a person be afraid of something they don't know? More to the point: in the Orwellian dystopia, how would anyone know about robots? It seems that imagination in general is not stimulated, so everyone having mundane and concrete fears are not "unrealistic odds". Even if they don't, the Party doesn't have to create a literal infinite void, just create the feeling of one(granted anyone would even know what an infinite void feels like or know what the heck is it to be afraid of). As for pretending... given the way the world works in 1984, that would be one heck of an "unrealistic odd". Isn't the book exactly about a guy who thinks he can fool the system? Doesn't the Party always know more about you than you think?
Well, yes, I suppose they might not know about the thing they're afraid of, but what happens to people who just aren't afraid of rats, buzz-saws, needles and the like? Are they just shot? Or what if they're so unbelievably stoic that the desired effect will not be reached before it becomes a strain on resources? Are they shot, too? Also, I believe in the book some form of autonomous war machine used against Eurasia is mentioned, though I might be wrong. Also, Winston was apparently around before the Party... so what if he and people of similar age to his are still afraid of the same things that they were growing up? Granted, it worked against Winston in his case, but there's a lot of people in England who are 40.
Very, very few people are completely unafraid of absolutely everything. In most cases, they'll find something. And frankly, very few people are stoic enough and have sufficient mettle to be unafraid of being cut to pieces by a bloody great buzz-saw. As for being afraid of things you were when you were growing up, fears and phobias tend to form in childhood and linger; if you have a bad experience with rats in your childhood, then the psychological trauma is more likely to hang around throughout your life and give you a fear of rats in adulthood. And yeah, in the unlikely event that all else fails and absolutely everything they do to try and break this person completely fails in the face of this person's superhuman stoicism, they probably are just shot. This is a totalitarian regime, after all, it's not like they're above that sort of thing.
WMG: The party deliberately conditions people to develop crippling phobias they can exploit later. Orwell's choice of rats for Winston's phobia could be an allusion to the Little Albert study.
Room 101 is not about pain. They'll find something.
Personally, if Room 101 doesn't come across as completely foolproof, I think it's because it isn't completely foolproof. Like another troper mentioned above, we only have O'Brien's word that it is, and he and the party would naturally benefit from having a prisoner believe that to be the case to make their struggle seem all the more hopeless. It's the same thing with the rest of the diabolical machinery that is Oceania, Ingsoc and Big Brother and the other two superpowers: of course O'Brien would claim that it'll last forever and is invulnerable to any attempts to subvert or overthrow it - what megalomaniacal totalitarian wouldn't? There may very well be vulnerabilities that will eventually cause the whole thing to collapse on itself, but for now The Party doesn't want anyone, including themselves, to even contemplate them. This is assuming that the world even looks the way the Party, and Goldstein's book, says it does - for all we know, Oceania is composed solely of the British Isles existing in isolation and Eurasia and East-Asia don't even exist. In the end, the book is the story about Winston Smith's personal journey in a terrifying world, we see everything from his perspective and almost everything he knows comes in some way from the propagandists of the Party. There are probably billions of other potential stories in the world of 1984, and any of them might turn out very differently, perhaps even better.
Winston knew the Brotherhood never helps its members, yet he assumes they do
Okay, when he is first captured, Winston takes some solace from the following idea: "O'Brien might know that he had been arrested. The Brotherhood, he had said, never tried to save its members. But there was the razor blade; they would send the razor blade if they could. There would be perhaps five seconds before the guard could rush into the cell. The blade would bite into him with a sort of burning coldness, and even the fingers that held it would be cut to the bone." However, back when he was talking to O'Brien with Julia, O'Brien explained that "When finally you are caught, you will get no help. We never help our members. At most, when it is absolutely necessary that someone should be silenced, we are occasionally able to smuggle a razor blade into a prisoner's cell." How did Winston make the mental leap from "when it is absolutely necessary that someone should be silenced" to "they send the razor to everyone they can"? Surely he must know that he isn't important enough to need silencing; he had yet to do anything at all as part of the Brotherhood and knows only another newbie member (Julia), Martin, and O'Brien. Of course, this is because he wasn't in the real Brotherhood, if it exists, but he didn't know that at the time. Was he just too nervous to think straight?
I assume he was just grasping at straws.
Real-Life Soviet Russia doesn't care about what impotent schmucks think
How did the Thought Police know Winston would specifically head into Mr. Charrington's shop? And why do they even bother wasting so much time and energy spying on and playing elaborate games with such an impotent schmuck for seven years? He was absolutely no political threat. Another thing: thoughtcrime. Everything that I've read about Communist regimes like Soviet Russia says that they don't actually care if you believe state propaganda or not as long as you pretend to, one author going as far as to say that it isn't *supposed* to be believed: forcing citizens to repeat what they know to be lies is great a way to humiliate and demoralize them. In this sense, I think the book fails as a satire.
I am pretty sure they didn't know Winston would head into that particular shop; they rather just keep the shop open and see which party member drops by with unorthodox intentions. As for thoughtcrime, O'Brien does a rather lengthy explanation of the party's philosophy regarding this and why it is superior to the tactics of their communist and nazi predecessors; just re-read this chapter. Also, 1984 isn't satire; unlike with Animal Farm, the party isn't supposed to be directly analogous to a then-present day totalitarian regime, but is rather meant to represent the culmination of totalitarian regimes in general once they had achieved the perfection of their art.
And that theory that propaganda is just meant to humiliate the people who repeat it is unsubstantiated. The USSR really did want the citizenry to believe what they said.
Propaganda is never made to be believed on its own merits. It's made to saturate all media to the point where you can't think without having it be a part of your mental landscape. Even if you know it's wrong, you still have it in your head. You think "I know for a fact that is wrong", but you still think that, like when you see an ad about an oil company pretending to go green. But if you see that enough times, you'll think of that by association with any part of the message.
Wasn't it implied that Charrington himself was an agent of the Thought Police? A keeper of things from the past that would be alluring to Outer Party members who want to go back to a time before the Party existed would be a perfect position for a Thought Police agent.
It is quite clear that Charrington was an agent of the Thought Police, and that his whole reason for being their was to push Winston along before finally setting the trap for him. As for why they would go to that effort, the central premise of the book is that the Party wishes to perpetuate its control through absolute control over the hearts and minds of every, single human being, to prevent their own collapse. Winston may be a random nobody, but if he is even capable of considering dissent, he needs to be utterly destroyed to prevent the possibility that his dissent might spread. To that purpose, the moment they get a hint that he might not be a total mind-slave, the Thought Police focus a greater amount of their time and resources learning absolutely everything about him, and manipulating every aspect of his life, so that, when the time comes, they will have everything necessary to systematically destroy him and wipe out the possibility that his existence will start any manner of dissent. They kill the plant before it even has an oppurtunity to take root.
And yet, in the spirit of doublethink, they crave dissent as much as they loathe it. The Party exists only for power, the only satisfaction they find legitimate, and without dissenters to torture they cannot truly exercize their power. If the Party ever achieved its stated goal of absolute control over the thoughts of all Oceania, it would lose its true reason for existing.
Cognitive dissonance. Maybe the people really do realize, on some level, that what they're being told is not true. However, they also know that if they don't act like they believe the lies, they'll be killed ... at best. The "following lies" idea is dissonant with the "I'm a good person who only follows the truth" idea (which, I assume, most people hold). Now, this dissonance can be resolved in two ways: stop pretending to follow the lies or rationalize to yourself that they aren't lies. Combined with the aforementioned "killed if you don't believe", it's pretty simple to see what the result is.
God Is Power
This might just be from a revision conspiracy, but why does Winston write "God is Power" on the blackboard? Isn't the Party stronger than God? Something like that, at least.
In Room 101, O'Brien says "We are the priests of power. God is power." I think this means power is what the Party worships. They devote themselves to ever increasing the Party's power - not because they want to do something with that power, but for its own sake.
Newspeak is not foolproof
If he entire point of Newspeak is to make it impossible to express anti-party thoughts, what is there to stop someone saying "Bigbrother watching is plus ungood bellyfeel" as a substitute for "being watched makes people feel uncomfortable"? Or to stop potential rebels from inventing their own meanings for words (or entirely new words) to communicate?
Oh, sure, you can make crude statements of fact like that, but you lack the vocabulary necessary to make a compelling argument. The Newspeak Appendix (which was also written by Orwell) observes "It would have been possible, for example, to say Big Brother is ungood. But this statement, which to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self-evident absurdity, could not have been sustained by reasoned argument, because the necessary words were not available. Ideas inimical to Ingsoc could only be entertained in a vague wordless form, and could only be named in very broad terms which lumped together and condemned whole groups of heresies without defining them in doing so. One could, in fact, only use Newspeak for unorthodox purposes by illegitimately translating some of the words back into Oldspeak. For example, All mans are equal was a possible Newspeak sentence, but only in the same sense in which All men are red-haired is a possible Oldspeak sentence. It did not contain a grammatical error, but it expressed a palpable untruth-i.e. that all men are of equal size, weight, or strength. The concept of political equality no longer existed, and this secondary meaning had accordingly been purged out of the word equal." Read the appendix here. Making up words would be difficult. First of all, people prevent themselves from having unorthodox thoughts, via the principle of crimestop. Newspeak makes this process much easier. If someone creates a bunch of new words with new meanings, then teaching them to someone else is essentially teaching them a new language, with all the complications implied by that idea.
This is a case of science marches on. New Speak assumes the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is true.
Partially. But it also has to do with the fact that we treat people who sound dumb as if they were. Which is more inspiring: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." or "All people should be like equal and stuff like in terms of how their treated by the law because that just makes sense, you know." ? Without the words to express what they're feeling, it becomes even harder to articulate those feelings in convincing ways. New Speak isn't entirely about being unable for one person to rebel (which is the part which relies on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis), but on making it impossible for dissidents to gain followings.
I've been wondering about New Speak for a little while now. New Speak is supposed to be some sort of Restraining Bolt, right? Does Big Brother speak it? What language do they speak? English? How many people make up "Big Brother"? My point is, how many generations can the members of Big Brother (the oppressors, not the ones being oppressed) last before being forced to inbreed? They certainly can't have sex with the people being oppressed; if the Party had its way, the oppressed wouldn't even be able to form an articulate sentence, let alone speak the same language! This may or may not be Fridge Brilliance in that not only is dystopia difficult to maintain, but humans truly are bastards who only live for the moment with no thought whatsoever for the future.
No one makes up 'Big Brother', don't you see? And everyone will speak Newspeak. The point is that the current higher-ups are oppressing their own 'heirs', too. Before long no one will be able to think free thoughts. The goal is to turn the civilization into an anthill, with everyone happy to work blindly and blither out slogans.
And the High can certainly reproduce with whom ever they please. All you need is systematic rape and the removal of children from their mothers immediately upon birth.
With party membership running at about 10% of the population of — at post WW 2 levels for Britain about 40 million — 4 million constitutes a more than adequate gene pool.
My major issue with 1984 is the linguistic stuff. Changing Oldspeak into Newspeak looks, at first glance, like a terrific way to abolish treasonous thoughts. The problem is that it would work too well - when fully and entirely implemented Newspeak wouldn't, at least as far as I can see, allow for the concept of treason itself. After all, that's the point. But what happens when someone does have a treasonous thought, even if it is only as crude as "Big Brother is ungood"? I acknowledge the above argument that it would simply be a palpable untruth, but disagree that such an idea can hold sway once Oldspeak is forgotten. Someone would concoct an idea which they were unable to express, and would proceed to find a new way to express it. That's how we created languages in the first place, after all. The thing is that as best I can tell nobody else would have the intellectual tools needed to criticize the new idea. They wouldn't even be aware that the idea could be ungood, in fact. The Party might never be overthrown, but it looks to me that it's inevitably going to collapse for this reason.
I tried convincing my English teacher this. Languages simply don't remain static, no matter how many annual dictionaries one publishes. Ungood will inevitably end up connotating the exact same thing as bad, due to natural semantic drift. Unfortunately, this lead to a prolonged discussion on cognitive linguistics in the middle of class that eventually got me sent out.
I'd probably assume that Orwell gave a lot more credence to Language Equals Thought than it warrants (or at least the story itself does). As a note, the Book of the New Sun has a society clearly modeled on 1984 in terms of language, and their is a character who explicitly criticizes the government using their Newspeak-like language.
You have to remember, the party is still monitoring these people. It's much easier to detect whether someone is speaking out against big brother when they bluntly say "I don't like big brother" then it is when they hide it through language.
The thing is, though, who would come up with a new idea? Newspeak makes is specifically incredibly difficult to come up with new ideas. You're only half right when you say language isn't static; in truth, culture as a whole isn't static, and language is just a reflection of culture. The thing is, though, that a helluva lot of the party's energy is spent making culture static. You only come up with new words for things when there's a new object or idea to describe. The party makes it incredibly difficult for the average Newspeaker to ever encounter a new scenario or object or idea, though. In the end, you can't come up for new words for things that don't exist. If there is no 'freedom', why come up with a word for 'freedom'? You won't notice its absence, you've never heard of or seen or experienced freedom before. To prove this point to a friend, this troper asked him to come up with a new color and name it. Of course he couldn't, because how do you come up with a new color? There are only the ones he's been using his whole life, and he's never needed any other ones, or felt their losses. It's true that if you don't have a word for 'dog' and then one day you encounter a dog, you'll need a word for it, but if the party keeps everything as static as the book implies it does, no one will ever see that dog, or that color, or that freedom that they don't have a word for.
But you yourself proved that you don't have to see something to know that it exists, at least on a purely theoretical level. Intellectally, you can conceive of the idea that there is a color that you've never seen and has never been named; just because you don't know what that color is, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Don't forget that Descartes managed to go a hell of a long way having started from nothing more than himself. Whether you agree with Descartes or not—and I sure as hell don't—you can see how little is actually needed for a thought to take root and grow into something huge—and more importantly, potentially subversive to the Party. I think Orwell would agree; my interpretation was that, as hard as the Party fights for control over the minds of its citizens, it has yet to learn that control is an illusion. There is absolutely no guarantee that the Party will be able to maintain control tomorrow just because it has it today; it will never be able to stomp out opposition completely, no matter how hard it tries, and the only way the Party can maintain control is if the people willingly give it to them.
Descartes, not having been raised in a sensory deprivation suite, was as much a product of a society and a culture as anyone else.
And Newspeak was just one prong of the Party's attack. There was also crimestop - people trained themselves to abandon lines of thought that looked like they were leading to thoughtcrime. And duckspeak - people were trained not to value rational argument, but to admire people who spoke without thinking. (Of all Orwell's inventions, duckspeak is the one that seems most chillingly familiar to me.) Both of these mean that, even if someone could articulate an argument against Ingsoc in Newspeak, nobody would be prepared to listen.
It's mentioned in the text and in the appendix that the target date for final adoption of Newspeak is 2050. Like much of the party's stated and unstated goals, I don't think the transition to Newspeak or the complete obliteration of Oldspeak was ever really intended by the party (just as total world domination would not serve the party's aims as well as perpetual war between three evenly matched rivals.) The degradation of the language inherent in the Newspeak project served the party, and Orwell cites how similar means were used in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany to enable control and obfuscate reality.
This Troper believes that Newspeak was never meant to replace English. But like the efforts to end families just part of the system. O'Brian even states that Goldstein's ideas would always be mocked and traitors would always be needed.
Isn't that the point though? The Party wants to control everything, but, if Hope in the Proles is well placed, they won't succeed. Newspeak would just be another futile attempt at power that ultimately can't last.
Outer Party members should be extinct
Parson, who's pretty much exactly what Ingsoc wants it's Outer Party members to be, getting arrested makes the Party's setup make much less sense. He was arrested for something his daughter blatantly made up (if he was really saying "Down with Big Brother!" in his sleep wouldn't the Thought Police know that first). The standards for "orthodoxy" are already insanely high and if you can even get arrested for thoughtcrime just because your bratty, often party-obsessed kids says so, then wouldn't nearly everyone in the Outer Party get arrested eventually? By the end of the book every Outer Party member in more than one scene was liquidated (or would eventually be) or turned out to be an agent of the Thought Police, and that just doesn't add up considering the respective sizes of the Inner and Outer Party.
I think that's part of the point of the book. A totalitarian system has something on you no matter what. You can blindly follow the orders, or you can understand the system and love it, or you can rebel against it, outwardly or inwardly. In the end, it does not matter. It's always possible to come up with a crime you committed. Heck, the paranoia created by this is what keeps such systems alive.
I thought the implication was that Parson would probably get off lightly, as it'd be evident enough to the Thought Police that there was nothing they needed to do with him.
As for numbers adding up, in 1989 Stasi (the East German secret police) employed at least 174,000 informants, or about 2.5% of the population between the ages of 18 and 60. These are numbers from the surviving official records. Some estimates put the actual number of occasional informants as high as 2 millions, out of a population of 16 millions.
It's also worth noting that Real Life totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany encouraged kids to inform on their parents.
Personally, I thought that the point being made was that it didn't matter to the party if you were innocent or not. If there's any possibilty of rebellion, they'd crush it. That in itself is a show of power.
Why is there even a word for doublethink?
It shows that there *could* be another way of thinking. Wouldn't it be easier to ignore the fact that doublethink exists, so that people would do it without even knowing they do just that? Also, wouldn't people who use doublethink wrong (for example, believe things that they are not supposed to while trying to believe things that they should) constitute a subversive element even *against* their will?
The word for the other way of thinking is thoughtcrime. I think the Party would agree that it's quite possible to commit thoughtcrime against your will, and you must work hard training yourself at crimestop if you want to be a doubleplusgood doublethinker.
Actually, the word 'thoughtcrime' wouldn't exist in Newspeak, due to the elimination of 'thought'. The two forms of thinking would be 'goodthink' and 'crimethink'. Goodthink and doublethink would be synonymous. Of course, synonyms don't exist, but hey, that's doublethink for you.
No An Heroism, anyone?
Why don't they just commit suicide? They first disguise themselves emotionally (ala doublethink), walk up in the middle of the proles, and shout DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER in oldspeak then kill himself. There, you got an instant Doomed Moral Victor! Using doublethink for a while then suddenly fueling a mass conversation in public with the proles (that way, the thought police will have to capture all the proles who listened) and then killing oneself ala Socrates might also work. Also, suicide attacks. This troper believes that to die for something is better than to live for nothing. Why did nobody in Oceania care for the art of literal an heroism? (not the meme that means suicide in general, but suicide for the sake of personal idea)
They have an entire Ministry devoted to purging the memories of undesirables from history, Winston works there. You would be denounced as a Goldstein agent to those who saw it and then collectively purged from the records and memories until your death was completely and totally meaningless. As for suicide attacks, what would they use? Wilson could barely get his hands on a shaving razor, much less a bomb or a gun. How would he learn how to build one? Who would he attack? Everyone he knows or has access to is just as cowed and directionless as he is. To even contemplate the idea would expose him to arrest for thoughtcrime. Despite the modern rhetoric, martyrdom requires courage and strength of conviction, and Oceania is in short supply of both.
It might not be possible to be a martyr that can be remembered, but they can commit suicide just for the heck of it. Winston mentioned buying razor blades. Oh, and there are prole buildings. After all, the proles are as free as animals ("Proles and animals are free"). Why didn't Winston commit suicide? (This Troper made a fitting situation via doublethink: "I'm alive!" and dies)
If the proles even care about a person's anti-Big Brother rhetoric (their conditioning is intended to make their likely reaction more along the lines of "sure, isn't that guy stupid for killing himself"), then they can easily be taken care of. Set of a bunch of bombs to wipe out anyone who may have witnessed the event, and blame it on enemy missiles. Problem sorted.
The proles are being conditioned just as much as the Inner and Outer Party members; except where the Party members are being conditioned to love Big Brother unconditionally, the proles are being conditioned to not give a single flying shit about politics, intellectualism or anything that might wake them up to realize that they're living in a decaying society. So even if this theoretical martyr did manage to break through his conditioning long enough to do such a thing, the proles who saw it would not be lit up with revolutionary fervour, but would instead think something along the lines of "huh, what a stupid dickhead," and start talking about their lotto strategies again.
Why do Winston and Julia think it's "unrealistic" to run away and live disguised as proles or commit suicide together? The book inadvertently shows that the telescreens are not as omnipresent as they are made out to be and the prole sector is pretty much left alone (only animals and proles are free) and lacks any telescreens, and how long does it take to die from slit wrists about two minutes! is the "Political system of Oceania so flawless and indestructible" (it isn't by the way most sociologists or economists can tell its so unstable that its only being held together by the stuff that keeps the Discworld up and running) that the thought police are so swift that they can realise what's going on get there in time to patch them up JUST SO THEY CAN EXECUTE THEM!!! in fact why would they, their suicide could be used for propaganda (thought crime leads to self destruction) so can someone tell why it's unrealistic!!!
Because that's what they've been trained to think and they haven't been able to cast off that conditioning in that time frame. Oceania, of course, is inevitably doomed as soon as anything even remotely unusual happens... but that's not the point :)
There is at least some surveillance among the proles; I believe it is mentioned that the smarter among them get offed regularly. As for suicide, that would depend on whether they had anything to commit the deed with.
Winston mentioned buying razor blades.
He was essentially unable to find any even just to shave with. The best way would just be to jump headfirst off the tallest prole building you can find.
Nobody would want the Party to rise in the first place!
What just bugs me: Why did the Party rise to power in the first place? What the heck, nobody, I mean nobody, would like an oppressive government powered by cognitive dissonance, unless they're masochists or horribly stupid.
You're assuming that people just let the Party take power, fully knowing its ideals?
The history of the Party is lost forever, even to the Inner Party. But, given that the Party is basically Stalinism turned Up to Eleven, we can guess the way it happened is something like:
The USA and British Empire unite to form Oceania, an Imperialist capitalist regime.
Big Brother and Goldstein lead a socialist revolution, promising freedom for all, and overthrow the rulers of Oceania on a wave of popular support.
The war with Eastasia and/or Eurasia begins.
The party passes more and more draconian laws, and strictly rations resources to all but the Inner Party, on the pretext of the war. They increase their control over information, banning all but officially sanctioned sources of news and versions of history, on the pretext of security.
Goldstein protests against these moves.
A purge sweeps through Oceania, rooting out and locking up all Goldstein's followers - and many, many innocent people accused of being Goldstein's followers.
In the years that follow, it becomes easier and easier to be accused of being a follower of Goldstein. People become afraid of saying or doing anything that shows they are not 100% Party supporters.
And three major totalitarian parties and their puppet states arose in the three decades before Orwell wrote his book, and one of them, the USSR, seemed incredibly stable. The rise of another wasn't implausible in the least.
Also, the backstory has what appears to be a quite severe atomic war. (Winston remembers an atomic bomb falling on Colchester, which is not a major industrial center or strategic target, though it is close to a number of important air bases. Goldstein's book said the effect of the war almost destroyed civilization and badly scared the ruling classes of the day.) Presumably, in the aftermath of the war, draconian measures to restore order were taken by the world's governments and the hellish regimes of 1984 were just a development of that. (Orwell mentioned that one of the inspirations for 1984 was the way that English socialists had been corrupted by the power they achieved during World War Two.)
Big Brother probably rose to power the same way Hitler did. Hitler was a master of telling the people what they wanted to hear, and of course by the time anyone figured out what his real goal was, he was already in power and it took the combined military force of most of the rest of the world to stop him. Is it so improbable that the same thing could happen again? Even if you take the view (as some do) that all three world powers—Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania—are just three arms of the same global superpower, and that the war is simply another method of controlling the people, it would just be a matter of applying Hitler's methods on a much larger scale; difficult, but not impossible.
Doublethink is not foolproof
As for the concept of doublethink preventing rebellion from the higher, middle and lower classes of the party, I really don't think it will last. I'm sure it will go on for many generations, but its my opinion that any thing, no matter how stable or proof it may seem, will inevitably change or fall. If that were the case, absolutely nothing would occur, everything would remain the same (which this troper finds, in conjuction to the movements of the universe, outright impossible). There will always be a chance that the doublethink system will inherit a "bug" that may cause unforseen changes or even break the system as a whole. For example, during his torture in the ministry of love, Winston contemplated using doublethink to let himself be a conscious loyal supporter of the party but at the same time letting his hatred of the party persist in his unconcious mind. There is also the possibility that one contradicting fact may have more power over another contradicting fact, the constant measure to equal them out would take too much of the party's time.
I'm not sure how permanent Orwell meant for Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia to be, or how relevant that permanence is to the story. What Orwell was commenting on was the unending cycle of revolution and corruption and the steps a society may take to short-circuit it with the aid of omnipresent technology and total control over culture-not necessarily whether such a society would be permanently successful. The point is that such a society is possible now in our day and age, not whether it would still be around 100, 500, or 1000 years afterward.
1984's largest Hope Spot: Mother Nature?
Here's another problem, in the book the party is so obsessed with controlling its populace and crushing any dissent in any way possible that it appears to ignore the fact that certain other nonhuman circumstances could decimate them. Sure, alone, no thought criminal can ever fight the system, but what will the Party do with mass scale disasters? For example, what if a large earthquake occurred and destroyed a part of Oceania or whatever. At that point in time communications could go down and the party would be temporarily blinded from that particular spot, and during that time something would occur there that would potentially undermine their power. No matter what technology they have, not everything can be proved for certain. Or what happens if they had an economic crisis....? Disregarding doublethink, there's only so much a populace can take before it decides something has to be done to continue its survival.
The people in the disaster zone have a shattered social infrastructure and a good chunk of their resources wiped out. The people outside of it have an intact social infrastructure, including guns, tanks and bombs. No matter how pissed off the people in the disaster zone are, it would be very easy for those outside of it to seal it off and let everyone in there starve to death or be shot.
Something like asteroids, or telescreen-killing solar flare strikes, or the Global Warming caused by all those war machines, or a good ol' zombie apocalypsenote not that the Party are already at their core a bunch of zombies that is born from the Proles' filth and kills off important Minilove members like how the Black Death almost undermined the Church's order in The Late Middle Ages, would certainly be more plausible in undermining Party rule. That said, the complete monstrosity of the Party] makes even a naturally-induced class X apocalypse look optimistic.
Telescreens are not foolproof
Orwell failed to do sufficient research when describing most integral part of Big Brother's regime: the telescreen. While Orwell explains most of the Party's tyrannical methods, he never explains any aspect of the telescreen or how the Party is able to spy on everyone. The result is a system that is Hilarious in Hindsight because in order for a telescreen system like the one in 1984 to work, a decentralized system would be necessary, and that system would place control out of the hands of the Party. The Party needs people smart enough to run the machines, yet these people are also seen as threats. At some point, those smart Party members will realize the potential of the system and the danger they face, hack into the telescreens, and take them over. These rebels can escape into the prole system where they will remain undetected by the Party, turn off the telescreen in those areas, and teach the proles how to use the screen themselves. Once that happens, Big Brother will fall. And there WILL be someone that uses their knowledge of the telescreen to rebel because, as O'Brien said, "There will always be traitors."
What you suggest doesn't work for a few reasons. It can't be all that hard to install cameras into telescreens and have programs that make people watched randomly, by the appropriate authorities. Even if that actually *is* too hard, and it would have to be more directly administered, the people who would have to administer the telescreen systems would logically be watched more closely than any other; probably by others, in person, ready to deal with the problem if they ever so much as thought about using the system for their benefit. Smart, independent-thinking people tend to disappear rather quick, remember (it's not as if they can really trust each other; anyone could be a plant). They couldn't teach most proles how to use the telescreens; they are, as a whole, too ignorant and stupid to use them (remember they have an aptitude test of sorts into entry into the Party; and smart and potentially dangerous people among the proles are found and executed by plants within the class). Even if they managed to overcome all of those obstacles, they still wouldn't necessarily gain control of Oceania. Either it's implied or stated outright in the book that London is merely a regional capital (why would you have the capital of your world-striding nation be near the front of another nation when it could be safely over in the Americas?), meaning that the country is already decentralized, with each part effectively controlling its subjects.
This is illogical. With millions of cameras covering every public and private area in London, there is no way the party could have enough people to focus on every single screen and every single person as well as overseers to watch the people who are watching the screens. Someone can very easily slip through the cracks. Also, the whole "proles are too stupid" idea is a cop-out. The telescreen has become real in the form of the iPhone, and YouTube videos of toddlers using the iPhone can be found. If children can learn how to use communication tools, so can the proles. Finally, the fact that Oceania is decentralized only increases the chance of an uprising. It doesn't need to be replaced by a new government that overlooks the entire empire. It simply needs to be fragmented into smaller states determined by the telescreen networks.
But then couldn't any revolution be contained at a regional level? Oceania would simply use its military might to crush a rebellion before it spread to other regions.
This would be true if a rebellion began in a single region, but a rebellion through the telescreen would not go through a single route. The nature of the network — with its decentralized connections and quick spread of information — creates a Memetic Mutation and rebellion that spreads like wildfire (Think of how the Internet increased anonymous activism and prevented corrupt governments from keeping secrets). There's no way the system could knock out every single rebel with anything short of a blanket bombing, which would cripple the labor needed from the Outer Party and proles. Furthermore, couldn't the hackers use the telescreen against the military as well? Peter Huber's novel, 'Orwell's Revenge', which addresses this telescreen problem, creates a situation in which the hackers feed a loop into the military stations consisting of Big Brother telling them to stand by for further instructions.
The party could easily assign a quarter of all people to observe the telescreens, but that is not even needed. Remember, it's in the future. Sure, it looks like the past, but that's because the party only advances military and oppression technology. A machine, for example, that is able to temporarily lobotomize someone is mentioned, or a machine that is able to produce movies, songs and novels on its own. Even Winston works with a device that has perfect speech to text - so it's fair to assume that the party has computers and programs with speech and image recognition and maybe even some sort of artificial intelligence, which of course would have no problems to simultaneously monitor millions of people. All the party has to do is tap in when the program spots an expression of thoughtcrime.
The key word in that argument is ASSUME. Orwell wants us to ASSUME that the Party has futuristic tools that he doesn't need to explain that keeps the people in check. He wants us to ASSUME that these devices always work to their end. He wants us to ASSUME that the proles will always be stupid. Unlike Aldous Huxley, who went into detailed explanations of the technology behind the World State in Brave New World, Orwell just magically invents these gadgets and then expects us to believe that they will always work no matter what rather than explain how these machines can function, and it makes his dystopia much less believable
"The machines have always worked. The machines will always work because Big Brother says so." The population has already been terrorized for at least two generations, and the Big Brother regime works to maintain the terror. It's not even necessary for all of the telescreens to work both ways in order to maintain the bluff. The minute someone calls the bluff (Winston's diary was a form of bluff-calling) is when the Thought Police intervene. It's easier to police the Party than the entire population—all you have to do is convince the proles they're being watched, and maintain a constant state of emergency. You don't have to actually watch them. And the Party is sufficiently small enough that they can receive more intense scrutiny.
There's a concept called Bentham's Panopticon which might apply here; to sum up, the Panopticon is essentially a design for a prison by a man called Jeremy Bentham in which the cells are all arranged in a circular fashion around a large guard tower in the centre. The doors of the cells are unobscured so that anyone inside the tower can at any moment see what is happening inside any one of the cells; however, the tower is covered in mirrored glass (or something else which enables a guard to see out but no one to see in), so no one inside the cells can see what is happening in the tower. As far as the prisoners are concerned, they are under twenty-four hour surveillance, because they never know when the guards might be looking directly at them; however, theoretically there might not actually be anyone in the tower at all. The idea is that this enables not only convenient surveillance on the part of the guard, but also self-surveillance on part of the prisoner; since they never know if the guard is actually observing them, they behave just in case. The telescreen is arguably this principle writ large; the Party installs these in every home and tells everyone they're under constant surveillance (using tricks such as the exercise program, where the exercise leader can at any point address someone via the telescreen, to underscore this); theoretically there might be no one watching the monitors on the other end at all, but because the citizens of Oceania have been so heavily bombarded with propaganda about the omniscence of the Party and are so dulled to the idea of resistance, they accept this so easily that they end up monitoring their own behaviour. In essence, the prisoners (or the citizens of Oceania) become their own guards.
True, but again this constant surveillance only extends to the Outer Party. Again, this all comes back to the proles. The proles are left to their own devices, and though they often deal with vices like porno and booze, they do have their own way of interacting. All of the major forms of repression are used up on the Outer Party, and the proles are ignored under the pretense, again, that they are too stupid. It's all the proles and the telescreen. Orwell's system has allowed for the two to be combined, and when they do, the result will be disaster for the Inner Party. I'm not saying that Orwell isn't wrong in suggesting that the telescreen can be used for tyranny. The use of technology for Nazi propaganda is what inspired him to write '1984' in the first place, and state control of media in North Korea has indeed led to a real-life Oceania. But Orwell never acknowledged the power the telescreen had as a tool against centralization and the state, as seen today through the Wiki Leaks releases.
This, to be fair, is because Orwell lived and wrote well before the Internet as a concept was even a pipe-dream, never mind before GUI or Julian Assange and Wikileaks or Web 2.0 or anything came along to make it into a tool for the masses to oppose centralized and state control of media and change Cyber Punk to Post-Cyberpunk. In Orwell's time, television and radio were by and large centralized and ran by the state; he based part of the novel on his experiences working for the BBC, which monopolized the British radio and (what passed for the) television networks as a monopoly up until pretty much the 1950s. There were pretty much no other broadcasters in Britain when Orwell was writing, what few there were paled in comparison to the BBC for a good long while and even when they did pop up it's fair to say that they weren't tools for the masses to broadcast their views to the public at large; they were still by and large dependant on what a handful of corporations were giving them rather than being able to put content out themselves, and not anyone could just go on TV or the radio and talk about whatever they wanted. Similarly, in the novel the proles might be able to watch telescreens, but they can't make their own programs and put them on or anything, so there's really not a lot of potential for them to use it as a tool of mass-uprisings. The reason Orwell didn't really write about the potential of the telescreen for resistance to state control and centralization was because in the environment he was living in writing in, there was really very little observable potential that he could see for the real-life equivalents of the telescreen to act as such a tool.
It's also not just 'a pretence that the proles are too stupid' — it's something that the Party is actively working on ensuring. What tends to be forgotten in the "one good prole could bring down the system" arguments is that the proles are not just ignored, and are in fact subject to the same kinds of conditioning as the Party members — except where the Party members are subject to conditioning about loyalty and love of Big Brother, the proles are being conditioned to not give a flying fuck about politics, intellectualism, or anything that might help them realize their current circumstances and organise resistance to them. As such, a prole who starts showing interest in these kinds of things is going to stick out as much as Winston did — and consequently, is going to easy to spot and bring in.
You're forgetting one really important thing: the party actually pretty much creates all the traitors. One single person can't take down the party, and thus would seek out the brotherhood, at which point they would be captured. The people operating the telescreens would no doubt also be inner party members, who are probably very unlikely to betray the party.
Science writer Nigel Calder once wrote a criticism of 1984 where he commented that the telescreens are using broadcast technology (cable television wouldn't exist for several decades after Orwell's time) and as such, wouldn't work if there were mountains in the way. He suggested that rebels against the Party might congregate in mountainous areas like Wales and organize the overthrow of Ing Soc. Fridge Logic would suggest that in such areas, it might be very difficult to maintain the constant surveillance that seems essential to maintaining the Party's rule - then again, maybe they did develop cable telescreens for use in such areas.
Or simply relocated those people to major population centers. Or, for that matter, developed microwave repeaters which could (and historically did) fill the gaps.
Even without relocation, cable telescreens, or microwave repeaters, there's still all manner of measures the Party could take against potentially "unmonitorable" zones and their populations. There's nothing preventing, for instance, Minipax saturation-bombing isolated villages, and their very isolation would work against them in getting word out of such things to the rest of the world (not that such news would ever survive Minitrue's scrutiny even then).
Here's a real life example to help clear things up- I work for a chain retailer that has security cameras all over the place, on the sales floor, over each cash register, in the backroom, everywhere. Here's a little secret; there is never anyone actually watching those things. Their only purpose is to make people FEEL like they're being watched (we used to have regular PA announcements about 'Security scan zone 68' or other gibberish) and so we have incontestable evidence of your crimes when our Loss Prevention people grab you for acting shifty. Oh, and the number one tip-off to Loss Prevention that you're steal? Walking around looking at the security cameras and trying to find somewhere you think they can't see.
In the right hands, the telescreen may actually become a weapon against the Party. Let's say that a thought criminal (you may call him V) is sent to the Ministry of Love but, instead of being broken, he manages to overcome the guards and escape, still with all his ideas in place. What can a guy like this do? Yes, he can go to the place where telescreens are managed, beat up the guys guarding them, and get a magnificent "Do Not Adjust Your Set" moment. It will get into ALL houses, it will be heard by ALL people.
"Good evening, London, capital of Britain. Yes, you have heard well, Britain, not Airstrip whatever. Allow me first to apologise for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of everyday routine—the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. For most of you, today is a day like any other, a day to wake up, hear military marchs, go to work, get back home and sleep, just like yesterday, the day before yesterday and so on. The very concept of date and year may seem useless, but it is not. Today is November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, of the year 1984. I thought we could mark this day by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are, of course, those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, the thought police is on their way, technicians are working hard to shut down the telescreens, and the ministry of lies tries to erase those words from existence. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once upon a time you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. This country you know as "Oceanía" has once been the nation of several great men who had stood against absolute governments and fought for freedom. Guy Fawkes, George Washington, Simón Bolívar, José de San Martín, José Gervasio Artigas, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Bernardo O'Higgins and many others, had a hope. Their hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words—they are perspectives. So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you, then I would suggest that you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot!"
Sexcrime doesn't make sense
Is it really necessary for the Party to abolish the libido / orgasm? It's not like sex for pleasure can lead to the destruction of the Party, and it might even strengthen the Party's power if the children are just sent to schools where they are brainwashed with doublethink and parent betrayal and newspeak and like that. If Freud Was Right, then it is nigh-impossible to abolish the libido, which is an instinct that is hardwired into our DNA, thus it cannot be fully abolished no matter how much doublethink and repression we must use. The Party got expert psychologists, and they should know that fact. Seems like Party psychological science simply forgot the all-encompassing pleasure principle (not necessarily being an All Psychology Is Freudian advocate, in fact, this troper can also accept other psychological schools of thought like behaviourism). Oh, I know, the Party is power-driven, and their sexual frustration is compensated by pure power, like for example Winston's MindRAPE.
It would weaken the Party. They want to kill all attachments except to Big Brother. For the Outer Party there is nothing pleasurable except loving BB.
also, about loving BB: Since direct sex is impossible, and everyone is encouraged to worship BB, does that mean they are redirecting their sexual desires to BB? Cue Cargo Ship......
Yes, that's explicit in the text. Julia says the point of repressing sex is so people redirect their sexual energies into "war fever and leader worship". Not really a Cargo Ship, though, since Big Brother is (allegedly) a person, but could well be Perverse Sexual Lust.
According to O'Brian it's neurologists, not psychologists, who are trying to eliminate the orgasm. Various forms of chemical castration and psychiatric medication already exist, which do appear to be successful at massively reducing sex drive, and there are plenty of environmental pollutants that cause sexual dysfunction. No matter how "hardwired into our DNA" it is, orgasms are fundamentally biochemical, and even just putting drugs in the water supply would do the trick.
The Party wants to abolish the orgasm for the same reason it does anything: For the Evulz.
Wait, if the Party is so antisex how come the Ministry of Truth can produce porn?! Either the porn workers are only proles, or the people working in pornosec are immediately sent to Room 101 every. single. day.
It's in the book. Julia once worked in Pornosec; Young girls are generally preferred. The porn is so bad it's barely considered sexual, and is apparently more hilarious than anything else.
In this context, it's interesting to read Orwell's essay about "dirty postcards" - the "proles" of his day had demonstrated a willingness to buy "smutty" materials that were as much comic as sexual, so it made sense to assume that Porno Sec might crank out that sort of thing to keep the proles of Airstrip One contented.
It's also meant only for proles and strictly forbidden for Outer Party members to possess it.
Note also that the porn is mentioned to be 100% computer-generated: the workers in pornosec just maintain whatever ancient Schizo Tech actually does the writing. There are no actors or anything like that.
But how can Party members determine if it's really porn pictures that come out of the computers and not just some random bunch of Binary codes, and adjust the computers accordingly to generate believable porn and not just a bunch of Binary that the Proles can't understand? Sooner or later somebody is gonna have to test the breaking-down Porn Machines but because of fears of Room 101 nobody will want to engineer how it works and the Porn Machines will probably be left to break down. And the Proles will probably finally rally "They're taking away our porn!" *cue mass revolt and the Inner Party getting completely annihilated by the Zerg Rush of horny proles*
Even in a newspeak society, random binary gibberish is easy to determine from actual words, and bad porn is easy; a thirteen year old with a word processor and a LiveJournal account can come up with bad porn Fan Fic. It's tits, ass, screwing, thrusting, coming, etc. This is bad "He put his thingy in my you-know-what and we did it for the first time" porn to give the Proles something to jerk off too / laugh at, it's not quality erotica they're after. So even when the machine breaks down when the Inner Party are all becoming incapable of sex (with their research on artificial insemination), someone will still fix the machine because someone else will order them to, and if they disobey they'll get thrown in Room 101 for disobedience (it's kind of doublethink Morton's Fork in practice, really). And then, someone else will decide they've been contaminated and will send them to Room 101 anyway, at which point another drone will be brought in and ordered to fix the machines if they break upon threat of Room 101. Either way, you're screwed. Rinse, wash, repeat.
For readers who are not under the threat of Electric Torture, is there any reason to believe Winston's suggestion that the Party "believe[s] that human beings are not fit to govern themselves" is as "stupid" as O'Brien says?
Even Winston didn't believe it when he said it. Some members of the party might doublethink that they really are doing what they do for humanity's good, but the actual reason they torture their citizens is that the crave power. It could even be argued that the Inner Party wouldn't let anyone more interested in helping humanity than in power join their ranks.
Why does Winston trust people just because he has dreams about them?
It seems that the dreams are an expression if Winston's subconscious. If he subconciously believes he can trust someone, then he has to conciously.
If BB is watching everyone, there must be nearly as many watchers as there are people.
People are not being watched 24h, but only for part of time.
use of computers ("Even Winston works with a device that has perfect speech to text - so it's fair to assume that the party has computers and programs with speech and image recognition and maybe even some sort of artifical intelligence, which of course would have no problems to simultaneuously monitor millions of people. All the party has to do is tap in when the program spots an expression of thoughtcrime."), from above.
I might have missed this, but Winston's job is to modify published fact to keep current with the party doctrine. How does he do this to books people already have? Does everyone go out and buy the latest copy of a book or newspaper when Winston updates it?
There are no books. There are magazines, if I remember correctly, but they get thrown out once they've been looked at. Mostly they go to the flicks or to gatherings at "Community Centres."
Magazines and newspapers are tossed into "Memory Holes" where they are incinerated immediately after reading. Given the forced scarcity of this society, and the need to constantly conform information to the Party's current dictates, it's possible that they could head into Fahrenheit 451 territory sooner rather than later ("The telescreens deliver all knowledge. The telescreens have always delivered all knowledge.") It would actually be easier for the Party to pull this off than the government in Bradbury's novel (people there seem to have the ability to think for themselves, just not the desire).
Around the time Orwell was writing the novel, rationing of paper meant that very few copies of books or magazines could be produced. The lack of printed material wouldn't have been nearly as jarring to Orwell's contemporaries as it is to us. A good example of how Oceania is every bad thing about 1930s and 1940s Britain Turned Up to Eleven.
Themselves. Only a specific type of individual is recruited into the Thought Police.
Why is the possibility of Julia becoming pregnant never mentioned?
If she can procure rarities like real sugar and chocolate, she could probably find some protection on the black market or something.
Katherine never got pregnant either, despite her and Winston's... attempts. I'll give you a second to find the common denominator.
I think the WMG theory that Julia is pregnant during her final appearance in the book makes sense. The physical changes described are consistent with a somewhat advanced pregnancy, and we don't know how long it's been.
In the end, just because Winston got his brains and love scared out of him in Room 101 instantly means he loves big Brother.
He has nothing, everything has been taken away from him. In the end, B.B. is pretty much his only friend.
How the hell could Orson Welles think up such a horrific,And I Must Scream world without being insane or psychotic?!
It's George Orwell, not Orson Welles. Also, you don't need insanity to create dystopia.
Tyrants usually are considered Ax-CrazyKnight Templars; even plenty of people in the societies they create tend not to like them very much. The thing about being a tyrant, however, is that you also have large armies and police forces at your disposable to make sure that even people who don't like you very much are careful enough not to say so where people can hear you.
Eric Arthur Blair / George Orwell, not Orson Welles. As for how he came up with this, look at the time period he lived in; he saw the rise of totalitarianism in the form of the fascists nations, how they operated... not to mention the politics and human psychology that are timeless, as apparent to an observant of the present as to a student of history. 1984 should be all the more horrifying because it was inspired by the real world.
James Burnham's The Managerial Revolution is (deservedly) forgotten nowadays, but it was a very widely read book at the time and clearly had a huge influence on Orwell. He summarized its thesis as "The new ‘managerial’ societies will not consist of a patchwork of small, independent states, but of great super-states grouped round the main industrial centres in Europe, Asia, and America. These super-states will fight among themselves for possession of the remaining uncaptured portions of the earth, but will probably be unable to conquer one another completely. Internally, each society will be hierarchical, with an aristocracy of talent at the top and a mass of semi-slaves at the bottom." Remind you of anything? BTW this was a serious, non-fiction book in just the same way that, say, Thomas Friedman's The Earth is Flat is a serious, non-fiction book that purports to describe the current condition and future trajectory of the world. These ideas were commonplace in the 1930s and 1940s; it was left to Orwell to take them to their horrifying conclusion.)
Orwell was slowly dying from tuberculosis when he wrote the novel, which may have something to do with it (and almost certainly influenced the horrifying description of Winston's deteriorating body in the Miniluv chapters.)
Question: at the beginning of the book, Winston arrives at his apartment building. The narration mentions that the lift wouldn't work because the electricity to the building was turned off during daylight hours. If that's true, then what's powering the telescreens? Are they on a separate circuit?
One would assume the Telescreens were seperate, possibly on a powered closed circuit akin to telephone lines. This does raise the question how long before someone realises that the electricity supply could be constant, and begin to question why it is off to homes during the day. Also, it could be assumed that no party member should be inside their homes during daylight hours, full members should be at work and children should be at school, therefore there would be no need to observe a series of empty flats.
Consider it this way: electricity, because of poor infrastructure and economizing for the war, is in limited supply. It would make sense to keep the telescreens powered since they're one of Party's the most important tools for reaching out to (and watching over) the general populace. But lifts? Wasting precious electricity because you're too lazy to walk up the stairs? Suddenly, you think you deserve more than people who are making brave sacrifices to ensure the strength of the Party? You might as well ask the Thought Police to haul you in!
Which class do the soldiers and other military fighting the endless war belong to? I think it's mostly composed of proles, but they don't even really seem to care about or even really be aware of the fact that a war is happening. Does the military belong in a separate class altogether?
Does there really need to be a military? The party can simply claim a division was lost in a far-away country. The proles will not question where the soldiers came from, since they personally don't know anyone in the military and don't care. Some outer party members (or some machine) simply generates a random list of soldier names, using doublethink to belief they have always been part of the military. A memorial with 500 names on it is put somewhere in the city, and it will seem just like the war is dangerous. There is no need for the people to actually fight, as long as they belief they may have to.
This is a bit of a meta complaint....
.....as it is directed not so much at the book but rather at people's discussions here. I am seeing way too many conversations here that degrade into a "But I see one tiny loophole in the party, so given the contrived circumstances a guy can revolt!". I feel like these people are missing the point entirely. Orwell went to great lengths to carefully construct a society in which obedience is the only possible behavior, and that is what's truly scary about the story. We have to remember that all management techniques the party employs, be it telescreens or thought police helicopter robot things, are just one of MANY tools in their arsenal. In fact, I would argue that these explicit means of control are mostly facades for psychological effect, or maybe last ditch resorts at best.
The most powerful tool the party has at its disposal is the complete control of the citizen's psychological and cultural existence. The very fabrics of society are molded to the party's pleasure, as people are slowly conditioned to not even understand HOW to commit thoughtcrime (of course the party will still find reasons to arrest people). People of the last generation (those who remember the old ways) had their wills broken, and people of the new generation never had one to begin with. Incidentally, this is what O'Brien meant when he mentioned that Winston is the only insane man.
There is another reason that a rebellion is not so easily started even in the case of a Nature-induced telescreen failure or some other unexpected event. Other than the intense psychological and sociological conditioning that people received, the constant state of of mass paranoia and cognitive dissonance works greatly in the party's favor. To create a rebellion, organization is critical, and that is the hardest part. I will bring up two examples to further this point.
One, consider oppressive regimes of the past— not just totalitarian fascist ones, but also monarchial systems of the medieval era. Let's not consider the working class (because class conflicts, and the theory where all rebellions are sparked by the middle class just gets into a whole big different argument), and focus on the higher ups in the military. Although military revolts occur, the frequency that they do spring up seem to far under represent the actual discontent that are expressed. However, even if every single member of the armed forces secretly resented the present regime, a mutual fear of the king is necessary to prevent a coup.
Think of it as a mass prisoner's dilemma: By working together, the army can easily overwhelm the ruling power, but without an opportunity (historically usually brought on by the death of the previous king)to gather together, the individuals in the army are forced to act as independent agents. Working cooperatively will bring about the best outcome (ie successful revolution), but as individual agents, the optimal policy then becomes instead to simply save yourself and arrest any dissenters. This was Hitler's simple tactic on keeping his pet Magnificent Bastards under his leash, despite being way more tactically and mentally incompetent than the aforementioned bastards. Since this is becoming too long, I will save explanation of the second example, and instead invite my fellow tropers to look at something called the Panopticon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon. (Had to read this painfully loquacious piece for a course, but the themes it presented ended up quite interesting.)
I think that people cite minor loopholes as an absolute escape simply because the book works so well. Your point is absolutely right, and this gives the book a strong feeling of oppression and hopelessness. While this is what Orwell was going for, and what makes the book so good, the fact remains people don't like to feel hopeless. So a lot of this page is Tropers looking for a loophole simply because it makes them feel better after a rather emotionally draining novel. Also, it makes a good intellectual challenge.
It's pretty obvious that, eventually, the party will fall. The second someone like O'Brien decides he can have more power by giving the orgasm back, and generally making people think they're happy, the Party dies like all dictatorships. A society based on inflicting pain on as many people as possible to gain power will, eventually, collapse on itself.
Keep in mind that most Tropers are the product of a free society (or, at least, freer than Oceania). They haven't been conditioned from birth to believe that the state is omnipotent, and in fact have for the most part been encouraged to exercise critical thinking skills. What we're seeing on this page are the suppositions of people who own their own minds as to what they would do in this setting, not what the people conditioned by this setting might find it possible to do. In reality, we would be just as powerless in Oceania as the citizens of Oceania would be in our own world (albeit in a different way—we would be looking for loopholes and keeping the Thought Police busy in the process; the Oceanians would be paralyzed into inaction because they're expecting someone else to do their thinking for them).
Indeed. This isn't to tact or insult anybodies personal beliefs, but just think of it in terms of religion. If you are told something and never given any hope or slightest information otherwise, that's simply what you believe. LOGIC and REASON are assets and memetic, taught advantages to the human mind, not the norm. Man in a 'natural state' (not taught by other man) is no more intelligent than any other animal, and well we maybe at best can pick up things like language and habit without being taught, this means little more to our existence. Thus if Aztec society believes killing thousands of people and sacrificing them to a sun-god will keep said god going, the citizens will believe it to, there's no 'logic' behind it, it's just nature. The same reason why millions of Catholics use holy water, or people take showers or whatever. We have very insight into the world other than what we're taught, and if you lived in any other time period or society, their values and education would be your own, for better or for worse.
However, if it's any consolation to readers or people that feel hopeless, realistically the party WOULD fall, but it would hardly come from the paroles or 'you'. Most likely of all, it would be destroyed the same way most dictatorships fall, inner-struggle. I find it hard to believe the Inner-Party, even with their lavish life-style, would be satisfied. I find it highly unlikely that they'll not try to fight over power eventually-each of them attempting to have the joy of making everyone but themselves. Sooner or later there'd be a coup within the party, and through this accidents will slip up and the wizard behind the curtain will come crashing down. Sadly this won't lead to immediate freedom, as the paroles will likely just switch masters from time to time, but after enough revisions and slip-ups within the inner-party (Who aren't kept in check or in control by anything if THEY control the thought police), there's no way they could agree on collectivism eventually, their own greed and lust for power would be their own undoing. The concept of the founders is great, but it won't reach indefinitely to those recruited in future generations. Even technically owning 'everything' in Oceania, it only takes a single greedy idiot to screw things up.
Forever is a very long time.
Stomping on a human face over and over again must get boring at some point, and as most if not all absolute monarchs can tell you absolute political power isn't all it's cracked up to be. The Party may live forever, but Who Wants to Live Forever?.
They have decayed to the point that the concept of being bored out of repeating the same task ad nauseam is erased out of their brains. Interest no longer really exists in this world.
Plus, the point is not necessarily that the society of Nineteen Eighty Four will literally live forever and ever and ever — just that people are being conditioned to believe that it will. Winston, let's not forget, is being educated in a lot of this during an extended period of torture and Hannibal Lecturing where O'Brien is explicitly trying to break apart his entire personality and any hint of resistance to Big Brother contained therein.
Knowing the real reason why the Party exists (sadism), O'Brien might just as well know that the Party is going to rot itself anyway, and thus before they go down they try to take as many souls to despair as they can. He's just enjoying putting Winston into despair, since an incomprehensibly vast Nightmare Fuel that dominates forever is an effective way to force people into Despair Event Horizon (this component is also a reason why the Cosmic Horror Story genre is psychologically effective, ordinary monsters go away, but unknowable Terrors that may exist everywhere and forever, which the Party and Yog-Sothoth are, are Paranoia Fuel).
The Party cannot be all-encompassing.
It's not even physically possible to place enough microphones to police an entire continent or even just the whole of England. The world is an enormous place, full of millions upon millions of places to live and exist without ever even hearing of the Party. So there's really no conceivable way the Party's assholery can affect more than a very tiny portion of the world's population. Probably they just control a few city centres. Basically, whatever the Party does in their own little shitty world, there's always going to be an enormous group of people out in the boonies doing whatever they bloody well please, reading books and being educated and having democratic happy little societies, because there's no fucking way to get out there and stop them.
They are aware of the fact that Big Brother Is Watchingis hard: 24-hour surveillance only affects the minority Party members (proles, a.k.a. the enormous group of people out in the boonies doing whatever they bloody well please, have no telescreens and in anarchy, but all the books have been burnt or censored, and all the free drinking, prostitution and circuses are making them mentally lazy ala Brave New World/Fahrenheit 451/Idiocracy, keeping them from being educated), and it is the Party members' fear of being watched that keeps them in line, not necessarily being watched always.
Not by technology alone. But ideology and psychology can go much further - Europe was under some control by the Catholic church and a few monarchs for quite a few centuries, after all.
This is established in the novel; the very fact that Winston's house has a convenient little gap between the wall and the telescreen where he can sit and write in his diary is proof that the Party's surveillance systems are not 100% foolproof. However, like many of the "X is not foolproof" entries on this page, the answer can be found in the simple fact that while there may indeed be lots of gaps between what the Party can do and what the Party wants its citizens to believe it can do, like many modern totalitarian societies the Party has lots of tools and skills at hand to make their citizens believe whatever they want to believe. The Party controls most-if-not-all of the sources of information in Oceanian society; when every single information source you have is constantly bombarding you with the 'fact' that the government is omnipotent and omniscient and knows exactly what you're doing every single second of every day, eventually you're going to start believing it. The Gestapo didn't literally have men on every street corner, but they convinced a hell of a lot of German citizens that they did. Joseph Stalin wasn't a benevolent, all-knowing and loving god-figure, but he managed to convince a lot of Soviet citizens that he was. Propaganda and ignorance can be very good at convincing people to accept the impossible.
No-one is actually observed 24 hours a day. There's just a possibility that anyone can be observed at any time. The effect is pretty much the same.
What did Julia see in Room 101?
Julia said that what happened to her there was so bad she had to betray Winston. But we never find out what, leaving it pretty much up to our own minds. Is this a example of Nothing is scarier or a author not particularly caring about adding depth to one of its main characters?
The whole book is an example of Unreliable narrator. We don't find out what Julia saw because Winston Smith never finds out. As pointed out above, we don't even know whether Julia actually went to Room 101, or whether she was a Thought Policewoman messing with him the whole time. Winston is so broken by then, he may not even care.
The point of Room 101 is also that everyone has their own weakness, their own worst fear, their own breaking point. Since Winston is the viewpoint character, the novel focusses on how he is destroyed by Room 101 to make this point. Consequently, since we've seen it work on Winston, we don't need to know precisely what Julia's breaking point was, if even she wasn't an agent all along. All we need to know is that she has one, like everyone else.
Why was it necessary to release Winston?
I don't quite get the meaning of this "walking ghost" phase. I understand why they did it to well-known high-ranking revolutionaries: Because during their show trial, nobody should think that they only confessed their crimes after torture (though, this being doublethink, everybody knows that). But Winston is a nobody, he is only known by his colleagues, who will likely forget him the next day after he disappeared, like they forgot Syme. So why release him to the general public between his torture and the execution? This does not bring any benefits to the Party, but bears the risk that he might fall back into his "insanity" and do something "silly".
One might argue that this is necessary so that he completes his "therapy" and starts loving Big Brother. But he could learn it in a more isolated and controlled place like a special camp. And, after the Party has acieved this, why should they execute Winston in the first place? They have brainwashed him utterly and completely to accept doublethink and love BB. So they could just keep using his workforce since he is harmless now.
The Party does not seem like doing things For the Evulz, and I see reasons behind each other of their actions. But this just bugs me.
They release him because they have nothing to worry about regarding any of this at all, and there's no risk at all. It is, if you will, a final cruel little joke at his expense — Winston could indeed use this opportunity of freedom to 'fall back into insanity' and renew his struggles against the Party — but they're certain he won't, because they're certain he's been completely broken down and is no longer capable of resisting. And they're absolutely right. Even if he's too shattered to realize it, O'Brian and the Party are providing him with the final, ultimate proof that the Party is all omnipotent and all-powerful, that they can completely crush the will of anyone they choose. As for why they kill him ... it's what they do. He's pretty clearly an alcoholic shell of a man at the end, no use to anyone despite his newfound love for Big Brother. They've broken him so completely that all that's left is to get rid of him.
"The object of power is power". It is the ultimate exercise of the party's total dominion over Winston to release him into society, outside of their custody. Why kill him eventually? Because he doesn't exist, he's an unperson. He can't actually be allowed to mix with real people, outside the Chestnut Cafe.
During Winston's last meeting with Julia, he puts his arm around her waist. Though there weren't any telescreens nearby, people could see them. But "[i]t did not matter. Nothing mattered." He figures that they could have sex right there, out in the open, if they wanted, but the thought of it freezes his flesh (sexual pleasure no longer exists for him). He was totally defeated. He knew it, they knew it, and all that was left was the bullet in his head and then death. But even so... he loved Big Brother.