Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / Nineteen Eighty-Four

Go To

    open/close all folders 

    Real political purges don't work that way. 

  • The purge of thoughtcriminals depicted in the book has apparently gone on for decades, and people are eliminated for mere suspicion of thoughtcrime In fact, literally all named Outer Party members (Winston, Julia, Parsons, Syme, Ampleforth) in the book were arrested by Thoughtpolice and eventually broken and brainwashed, but this isn’t how real political purges work. The French Reign of Terror was driven by revolutionary craze, and it ended with terror's inspirators executed. Hitler's Night of The Long Knives was quick and it destroyed his actual political rivals in NSDAP. Stalin's terror was driven partly by his paranoia, partly by necessity of elimination of professional revolutionaries, partly by opportunists getting rid of their enemies, and also ended after less than two decades.Chiang's White Terror on Taiwan was brutal, but it was committed for completely other reasons. And there is no logical point in eternal witch-hunt against thoughtcriminals.
    • Oceania is based on real-life dictatorships, but it is not an imitation of any Real Life one. It is meant to be the ultimate totalitarian state. Besides, all of those governments ultimately fell-Oceania is designed to last either forever or for the duration of the human race, whichever comes first, so using any of these governments as a model makes no sense.
    • The stated reason for the constant purge is explained in Goldstein’s book; the Outer Party are the “middle” in this society, who are the largest threat to the “top,” the Inner Party. If not constantly purged and indoctrinated, they would eventually overthrow the Inner Party.
    • During real purges, State Sec suffers more than anyone, including executions of the very organizers of terror — like what happened to Marat, Robespierre, Yagoda and Yezhov. Even Stalin was probably murdered by Beria, who was shot soon by rivals for power. And that means that even Party leadership and Thoughtpolice cannot enjoy the terror — they also expect that some night, someone will knock on the door, and to actually enjoy this they must be sadists and masochists at the same time.
      • Doublethink. They simultaneously believe that they are controlling the system and that the system is controlling them. Meaning they both love it and fear it. Of course, they wouldn't have to fear it at all if they changed or gamed the system to their benefit (which they have at least some power to do, given they aren't watched as closely and can order Outer Party members to do their bidding.) In order for the Inner Party to function as described, the majority of its members would have to be just like O'Brien; not just fully believing Ingsoc (political power is absolute power, perpetual war and purges maintain political power, etc), but also having a specific personal relationship to their ideology (believing power is even better than happiness, seeing being part of a state that lives forever as a form of immortality, and so if the constant purges accidently kill them, so be it). O'Brien does state people are "infinitetly malleable," but how exactly one creates so many people with such a specific and unnatural beliefs and convictions is unknown, especially when, to the outside, the allure of joining the Inner Party is just conventional security, pleasure, etc. One also wonders, if they are capable of making and relying on such absolute loyalty, they even need to constantly purge and monitor the Outer Party and control them through conventional propaganda, when they could theoretically just make the Outer Party also believe that the role they play in the government's continued existence makes them immortal and all-powerful.
  • If we purge 'every single potential thoughtcriminal it would paralyze Party work. First of all, constant purge would simply critically depopulate Party. Secondly, intellectuals and technocrats are necessary for the work of the system, and Winston mentions that mindless mediocrities are not often arrested, but intellectuals, even fanatics like Syme, don't last long. This would eliminate most of the technocrats and deprive the Party of intellectual resources. Thirdly, government, where everyone uses doublethink is not workable. For example, to make economic systems work we must have realistic statistics of the past and prognosis of the future, and because statistics are constantly rewritten, they are useless for economic planning. Economists and administrators cannot work when they don't have realistic information about state of the economy and industry, especially, when newspapers and government statistics say everything is A-Okay, while in reality, plans are unfinished, and industry is degrading.
    • Doublethink can work quite plausibly for planning and administrative purposes. For instance, the department of the Ministry of Plenty responsible for agricultural production might officially claim that wheat production for the next year is planned to be 10 million tonnes, but privately use a more realistic target, such as three million tonnes, and plan resources on that basis, always referring to the figure by some euphemism such as 'illustrative total' or its Newspeak equivalent. The ability to manage successfully on one set of figures, while believing another set even if it changes dramatically without notice, is probably how Inner Party members advance.
  • Even the most depraved and disgusting dictatorship cannot do without intelligentsia and talent - they are needed for administrative purposes. Intellectually mediocre people cannot manage the state system. Unfortunately, they are also the most likely to be dissidents and think in an unorthodox way. The continuous elimination of the most capable, talented and ambitious will either lead into a decrepit regime of dullards bound to collapse or into a continuous state of paranoia and elimination game which will paralyze the system completely as nobody is able to trust anyone anymore but everyone instead attempts to sabotage each other and each other's work and the result will be collapse. The Vitality Curve, or "rank and yank" business management philosophy and its spectacular Real Life failures have demonstrated that any organization with a continuous culture of purging will disintegrate - the continuous atmosphere of fear will destroy any will to co-operate and replace it with paranoia, sabotage, backstabbing, corruption and common distrust - which is disastrous to a supposedly well-oiled machinery such as the Thought Police.
    • The Real Life history of Soviet Union and its purges show that the result of a prolonged policy of purge will be collapse. Stalin was paranoid enough to eliminate any potential competitors and anyone charismatic enough to threaten his position. Unfortunately, it also meant eliminating any potential successors. The only reason why USSR survived beyond 1939 was WWII - first, the Nomonhan War against Japan, then the Winter War against Finland and finally WWII against Germany - and they also curbed down Stalin's paranoia and purges. The spectacular failure of fhe Winter War showed what will happen when the ablest professional soldiers are vaporized, and the almost complete collapse of USSR in 1941 was a result of dire distrust and atmosphere of fear. After WWII, the Soviet system was on the verge of collapse, as the economy was in shambles, the country devastated and ruined, 30 million lives lost - and the Gulag system populated with 10 million ex-prisoners-of-war who were able and willing to organize, fight and resist. In 1953, at Stalin's death, the whole Gulag system was in state of mutiny and the NKVD unable to control it anymore. If Lavrenti Beriya did poison Stalin, as is claimed, it was a result of the continuous culture of fear and paranoia which Stalin himself had created. The men who eventually replaced Stalin, like Khruschev, were dull, unimaginative bureaucrats with none of the charisma of Stalin.
      • Likewise the Real Life studies of bullies, street gangs and criminal organizations tend to confirm that the bullies seldom get to enjoy the purely sadistic lifestyle of theirs: rather, they live in continuous state of fear and paranoia. There are no professional, sophisticated O'Briens in such organizations - only thoroughly corrupt and paranoid louts.
      • Some of this, it should perhaps be noted, is a case of History Marches On. The novel’s description of the Outer Party is based on the Stalinist Purges; a scary time to be a government official (and one Eric Blair never personally experienced) that matches the dystopian setting, but not a state of government affairs that could, or did last indefinitely. But at the time of the book’s writing, the Soviet Union was hardly going to admit to the broader consequences of the Stalinist purges and the unrest in the secret gulags to the public. We're aware of a lot of these facts because Soviet files that were kept secret and hidden weren't made available to Western historians to confirm all this until after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR, which didn't happen until fifty years after Blair’s death.

    Was Winston physically killed at the end? 

  • Is “the bullet was entering his brain” part at the end meant to be metaphorical?
    • O’Brien claimed they would kill Winston after they’d broken and released him.
  • Whether you take it as Winston being killed or the person that Winston was ceasing to exist, totally and absolutely, doesn't matter, which I imagine is why it wasn't made perfectly clear. Winston's crime was struggling to have personhood in a system that exists to remove that at every level (even the highest level), it doesn't matter what happened to Winston because the whole book is about the undoing of him mattering at all, even to himself. The what is irrelevant, only that, in the end, there is no Winston.
  • Analyzing the words themselves: in the second-to-last paragraph of the story, Winston is still in the Chestnut Tree Cafe. One of the waiters comes and pours him more gin, but Winston doesn't notice because he's "sitting in a blissful dream". He sees himself in the Ministry of Love, confessing at the public dock, walking down a corridor with a guard behind him; "The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain" is that paragraph's last sentence. In the very last paragraph, it mentions him looking up at a poster of Big Brother with tears trickling down his nose and it ends with, "He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother." So he was completely and utterly defeated, but since he's capable of looking and crying after the bullet in the brain part (which he, of course, couldn't do if he'd actually been shot), at that point he has not been "physically killed" and is still alive.

    Omnipotent Thoughtpolice 

  • Thoughtpolice are even larger and more powerful than The Gestapo or the NKVD. These organizations had to be tamed by strong leaders as Hitler and Stalin respectively, and after Stalin's death Beria 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 don't Miniluv leaders simply kill their enemies and start to rule Oceania? But then Miniluv will become corrupt and inefficient, focusing on in-party battles rather than on the 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 Nomenklatura after Stalin's death.
      • If the Miniluv leaders are the Inner Party, a coup by Minipax is always an option. Since the army of Oceania is most likely based on conscription, such coup could even have popular support as a "true empowerment of people".
  • Real Life dictatorships never trust one single intelligence organization enough to give it omnipotent power, but they rather create competitive organizations to keep them in check. In USSR, the KGB (State secret police) and GRU (military intelligence) were on each other's throats. Likewise, in Germany, it was The Gestapo, Sicherheitdienst and Abwehr - of which the latter actively sabotaged the war effort of Germany. Even in spookokracies like modern day Russia, the powerholders are careful enough to keep the secret police in check - and to keep the other machineries of violence (armed forces, criminal police) in state of safety and satisfaction.
  • The novel never definitively rules out the possibility that Miniluv is an umbrella organization with a number of competing agencies, and that Big Brother does exist, but as an office rather than a person. But it’s never stated, or implied despite the numerous descriptions we do get of the government’s operations. Not to mention, such a structure would hamper the thoughtpolice’s efficiency, which INGSOC ideology says needs to be top notch to prevent a coup from the Outer Party.

  • Surveillance system. It watches and controls everything. But it must have at least a few breakdowns. Then a Party member with a broken 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 necessities. B) If a telescreen is broken, then the people who are watching it on the other side obviously know that.
      • Smart savings, chocolate rations, money from bribes Proles gave; take your pick. Those watching the telescreen would know when it’s broken, but there’d be hundreds to thousands broken in every city every day, they couldn’t reliably keep track of the work orders on all of them.
    • The system isn’t perfect; it's a plot point that the telescreen in Winston’s place has a blindspot. which allows him to keep a journal of forbidden thoughts. If the system was perfect he would have been found out and arrested immediately. But the system isn't perfect, so he was able to get away with low-grade rebelliousness for a while before the Though Police finally got him.

    Party's Stupid Evil activities. 

  • Sun Tzu warned against leading unnecessary wars. It spends a lot of money, it provokes citizens to riot, it leads to dissent of population and crises of economics. The Party doesn't follow this advices. Instead, it does absolutely opposite. THIRTY YEARS of world-scale war would simply destroy Oceania's economic, completely devour its resources and ruin ecology.
    • This is explained clearly in the novel. The citizens of Oceania are too brainwashed to riot, they have no comparison to better lives to get angry over, the Party controls every scrap of resource so the eternal war has no bearing on finances.
    • Goldstein's book says that the purpose of the war is to eat all the free resources and money.
    • Here's a question: Is there even any war?


  • Shouldn't the Oceania economic system simply go bankrupt? 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 the 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.
    • The economy is bankrupt. Buildings are wrecked, and repairing a broken window takes months. Coffee and sugar are luxuries available only to Inner Party members. Winston is surprised that the elevators in O'Brien's building work. The Party likes it that way, because it keeps the proles poor, uneducated and uninformed: The purpose of the perpetual war is "to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living."
      • But USSR also had almost all resources it needed, but it also has to spend money, labour-time, industrial workers, while they didn't spend 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 free money and resources on war, and eventually it will run out of money to pay for anything. Oceania is bigger than even the USSR, but it is even more of a war economy. If they balance each other out Oceania should start falling apart around 2030 sometime assuming it was founded in the 1960s.

  • Corruption in Ministry of Plenty. Even the best State Sec system cannot be perfect, especially at solving financial crimes. The novel mentions a very large and important black market. Also, the Soviet Gosplan (State Plan) was an incredibly corrupt and inefficient structure. Ministry of plenty is even bigger, and it runs absolutely everything in Oceania's economics, and it doesn't appear to be very effective, and problems will grow bigger. How can a state with such an inefficient economic system last forever?
    • The Soviets didn't have telescreens in each and every room of everyone's home. Anyone handling stolen money or displaying even the inclination of wanting to steal money would be caught. 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.
      • Any Tech Savvy party official could hack - or have someone else to hack - his telescreen in a matter of minutes. Given the overall low state of technology in Oceania, detecting in which mode the telescreen is on would be fairly simple. Telescreens, like any CCTV or similar systems, can easily be distracted and hacked.
      • Why wouldn't an important administrator and member 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.
      • Such corruption would be rampant. Towards the end of Stalinist era, many Soviet intellectuals simply turned on crime as a) they expected to be caught anyway and criminal prisoners were punished more leniently than political and b) you could have more comfortable and cozy life on crime (such as black market) than by "honest" means. With such corruption, also the moral collapse of whole society would be inevitable.

    The Perpetual War is Pointless (For the Party) 

  • The war is to soak up resources. 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 that the Party really does control this vast, sprawling empire and has a gentleman's agreement with their "neighbors" not to use WMDs 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. Why not actually conquor/plunder the other countries? There is no reason to believe that East Asia and Eurasia could resist them even if they have more money or people. The resource differences, the industrial differences, would win out. 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.
    • 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.
      • 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 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. 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.
    • Maybe the other two countries don't exist, and the war is just a lie that is kept by only the highest Party members.
    • In the real world, economic and resource surpluses are what allow empires to grow their wealth. What happens is excess wealth goes into improving the standard of living, educational opportunities, support for the arts and so on. Put another way, excess wealth flows create the 'middle' classes that so often conspire to overthrow the current ruling classes. Creating wealth, eventually dooms almost any elites to overthrow from below by the middle class, who always enlist the help of the lower classes to do it. The 'point' of the endless war is not just the narrow concept of 'using resources up', which is a crude way of looking at it, but rather to ensure economic surpluses that would ultimately provide the means for the outer party to trade places with the inner, simply don't exist. Lack of economic surpluses mean the outer party is always in a state of permanent resource starvation itself. O'Brien tells us that the party barely expends any resources monitoring the proles, but pays extremely close attention to what the outer party is doing. The endless wars' (real) role is to keep the outer party both busy, and on the knife edge of starvation. Why not end the endless war and let the inner party reap all the rewards and economic surpluses for itself? Sounds sensible, except in that scenario, the inner party would quickly become decadent and ineffectual and set itself up for eventual overthrow. The endless war is the 'glue' that keeps the proles helpless and indifferent, the outer party on the edge of starvation, and the inner party focused and not distracted by or weakened by decadence and material pleasures.
    • Plus, the Party’s plans and designs may be flawed, but denying reality is the party’s whole schtick. O'Brien shows Winston a picture, burns the picture and then immediately says "I do not remember it". Winston contemplates the frightening possibility that O'Brien actually does not remember the picture from 5 seconds ago.
    • One reason for a "Fake War" (presumably the party uses the bombs it produces to drop on its own citizens) might be that it avoids the problem that beset pre-Revolutionary France and Russia — you're providing a group (the army) with the means to overthrow the state. If the war is entirely fake, you don't have to hand guns out to anyone.
  • Real Life militaries are not designed for war for war's sake, they are machineries of violence intended to complete a task - to win a war - not to extend the task indefinitely. A war does not only require an enormous amount of assets and resources: it also requires manpower, and given to the low state of technology in Oceania, the army would most likely be based on conscription. While such armies are humongouns numerically and require horrible logistics, they also do have an unexpected side effect: they actually educate and train the soldiers and teach the soldiers how to fight, kill and survive. Armies are huge meritocracies. They require officers and other administrators - which may well come from prole background, and once repatriated, are potential leaders of resistance.
    • Not to mention that a military coup is always an option in such a civilian dictatorship. What would happen if the Minipax leaders grow fed up with the inefficiency and indecision of the Inner Party leadership?
      • The Inner Party is aware of the dangers of a coup; they likely monitor and purge the army, just like real tyrants do. Hey, it turns out that your second-in-command of the coup is willing to turn you in to the Thought Police in order to take over your position. Stalin certainly orchestrated purges of the Soviet Army to prevent just that. Hitler was also very aware of the power of the Wehrmacht to overthrow him, and used the SS and Gestapo to make sure that didn't happen.
      • Such rigid monitoring would be far harder on battlefields and with operations that require some degree of internal secrecy to thwart spies. And such Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and constant purging would undermine the army’s effectiveness, and ironically, likely elevate disloyal oppurtunists to the higher positions; after all, why not just lie about your superior plotting a coup to take their position?
    • An army is just another type of organization. In theory, every organization should be a meritocracy (depending on how you define "merit" at least). But history is full of examples where armies were plagued with incompetant leadership that held power anyway on account of political connections or whatnot.
    • It’s possible (possibly the only way this system would work) that all three world powers were actively collaborating to maintain a level of conflict that keeps the production and depletion of resources at the desired balance point. This would require all three to escalate and de-escalate conflicts among each other to balance not only how much they're throwing at the enemy, but also how much punishment the enemy can take before their production becomes overtaxed. The problem with this is, if any single power decides that this system is absurd and shifts gears (whether towards making peace, or towards actually trying to achieve victory), or even if one of the world powers miscalculates how much weight they need to throw around to maintain the status quo, then the whole system collapses and drags all three powers into ruin.
    • I believe it is stated that each of the three superstates controls a substantial arsenal of atomic bombs, enough to render the planet uninhabitable. Even two superstates in a full alliance couldn't crush the third fast enough to prevent the losing state from realizing the cause was lost and firing off their nuclear arsenal. And each Inner Party believes that its two counterparts are both willing to nuke the planet into oblivion and ensure that all three superstates are destroyed rather than allowing it to permanently win.

    Newspeak would have eventually brought about a H.G. Wells like social system. 

  • Consider this; the point of Newspeak is to simplify language and stupefy the lower and middle class, right? And it's suggested that only those of keen 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 Oldspeak, and no one is intelligent in the slightest? So overall, this lead me to the conclusion that assuming the party doesn't fall under its own delusions, and Newspeak really is implemented to its fullest extent, you'd eventually have a sort of socio-race division, allude to HG 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 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. What happens from here when nobody is intelligent enough to understand reality? Are the scientists 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 little 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.
    • The book draws 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 (Newspeak versus Oldspeak), 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-thetical 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. Communism prior to Lenin was post-capitalist, relying on capitalism's ability to create a large, better-educated and dissatisfied 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 book made clear that people are assigned to their social class according to intelligence. Problem is, most Proles probably have dumb children due to the way they live (almost no education, bad alimentation, etc.) whilst Inner Party children probably live better and therefore would have more possibilities to staying there. The “middle class” that are the Outer Party are probably the ones with more social mobility with some smart children been ascended to Inner and some dumb children downgraded to Prole, maybe some very especial Prole children can become Outer Party and some very dumb Inner Party member’s children be downgraded to Outer Party but the extreme (a Prole-by-birth becoming Inner Party) been very unlikely (yet not impossible)
      • 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.

    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.
      • And in the end it turned on itself. The result in USSR was that the Secret Police was not an organization of well-honed, cold, efficient and ruthless officials, but rather an inefficient, incompetent, crude and horribly bureaucratic system which had difficulties even dealing with street punks. The years of purges, in-fighting, distrust and backstabbing had effectively eliminated all dedicated, ambitious, efficient and intelligent officials and left only unimaginative bureaucrats, Punch-Clock Villains, apparatschiks more efficient in office politics than actual professional work and dullards promoted not for merits but loyalty. "Doublethink" works only if everyone else is willing to buy the lie; and assume that the lies are not used against oneself. To have such organization function efficiently requires high degree of cooperation; and such atmosphere of psychopathy demolishes quickly any cooperativeness. The result was that in 1953 USSR had to dispense NKVD and found a new organization, KGB, instead.
  • Ing Soc is a system where individuals mean nothing, they want to eradicate the individual, leave only the party - Big Brother isn't even around anymore, I doubt most people even know who runs things at the top, there may not even be a single top. In the end, the goal is a stable system, one that rights itself when it wobbles, not one that never wobbles. It doesn't matter if some people exploit the system, or the thoughtpolice abuse their power, or someone hacks a telescreen, or Room 101 doesn't break someone, those are all wobbles. The system appears decentralized and localized enough that if one part messes up, they can just liquidate it and start over. If London goes off kilter, carpet bomb it, throw up some shacks with slave labour, start again. The horror isn't just about Winston not being able to do anything, it's that even if he did, what happened to him on the personal level could be carried out on the local level, no area could resist the whole. So, even if some corruption could escalate, there is always a way to reright the system - something hard to come to terms with is just how much Ing Soc doesn't care about any individual or personhood, wiping an area and covering it up is something they could do easily, remorselessly, and totally.
    • Individuals do mean something to Ingsoc: They mean enemies, so it is a big problem if people exploit the system or the though police abuse their power. And the point is that these problems are systemic i.e., they'd be everywhere, and the Party has no realistic answer to them. At best they'd be playing whack-a-mole with whole territories and in constant civil war, because if it's decentralized, carpet bomb London on who's authority, and with whose planes, and who reports on another area's corruption?. "Too Big To Fail" is a philosophy that has killed just as many governments as it has businesses, and it was the one of the Soviet Union and Red China ascribed to at the time

    If the state was destroying all means for people to even think about dissenting, wouldn't it eventually wipe 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 this timeline is going to be interesting times.)

     Was Julia 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.
    • Theoretically possible, but never hinted at in the book.

    Room 101 is not foolproof. 

  • O’Brien states that 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?
    • 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.
    • There are groups of people, notably psychopaths, who don’t experience fear the same way neurotypicals do, but again, no great issue for the party to simply kill them.
      • 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.
    • Read Solzhenitsyn: Some people do indeed resist this sort of breaking, and can fake being broken — especially those with strong religious or ideological beliefs.
      • 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.
      • Keeping on mind that Party insists keeping proles on poverty, misery and squalor, it would be a self-defeating strategy. Such conditions only breed religiosity and religious fanaticism - if the earthly life is miserably enough, the pie in the sky is far more appealing.
  • According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the ones who survived best the Gulag were the religious people, especially religious fanatics: they considered surviving the torture as challenge and religious vocation rather than extreme discomfort or tragedy. The religious conviction was the strongest indicator of one's chance of survival. Religious fanatics could be killed but not broken since they considered themselves dead already and getting killed as victory on martyrdom. The next most likely to survive were professional criminals as they knew how to game the system. Most likely to perish were innocent pedestrians like Winston Smith.
  • Room 101 is supposed to contain 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? 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? 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?
    • 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.
    • 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… 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?
      • 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.
  • What if an extremely masochistic Nightmare Fetishist ended up in the Ministry of Love?
    • Room 101 is not about pain. They'll find something.
  • Ing Soc isn't about individuals, that is the horror of the piece, truly, the individual is removed, we just see it from an individuals perspective. If a part of your machine starts to malfunction, you repair it, if that fails, you toss it in the rubbish and get another - you don't spend anytime agonizing over the broken part, or even caring for the new one, you only care for the machine as a unit. The party is similar, they only care for the entire apparatus - if Room 101 fails, then toss the person in the rubbish and move on; odds are the person is already forgotten by everyone outside anyways, it's not like anyone sees them not get broken - if it is really that important, though, just print a fake news story (and, I assure, these people aren't ending up in the news anyways, it would be far simpler to just make up fake cases wholecloth, who would know, who could even fact check it, and who would dare to?). In the end, Room 101 works not because it breaks every person, but because it is the end of a process that always gives the same result to the society in the large scale, the specifics of any single case are not important to the system implementing all of this.

    Winston knew the Brotherhood never helps its members, yet he assumes they do. 

  • 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.
    • He was probably so desperate for some sort of anti-Party group to exist that, even near the end, he still clung to the hope that he just might be rescued.

    Real-Life Soviet Russia didn’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.
    • 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, Unlike with Animal Farm, the party in ‘’1984’’ 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.
      • Even if you don't believe propaganda, it still affects you, if only on a moral level instead of intellectual. And if you're forced to agree with propaganda publicly, it does humiliate and demoralize, what's more, it creates an intolerable gulf between self and self-perception as we as between self and all the others - and the easiest way to bridge that gap is in fact accept propaganda in thought as well as in deed. At least, that's what Bruno Bettelheim defined as "the psychological appeal of totalitarianism".
      • 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.
    • 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 there 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 opportunity 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 exercise 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.
    • We mustn't confuse 60s, 70s 80s Soviet Union with 30s and 40s that Orwell was writing about. Stalinist purges were directed against Party members and educated people; ordinary non-political workers were largely left alone- just like the proles.
    • One fact about Winston’s power within the party that the book never calls attention to; Big Brother implicitly does not exist, and the Party deliberately obscures its actual ideology behind contradictory and vague propaganda, but Winston’s job is to write Party propaganda, including, not infrequently, Big Brother’s speeches. The higher-ups give him general orders on what to write and he has to have editors, but someone with Winston’s job could theoretically, subtly steer public opinion in the direction they wanted. With this in mind, the Inner Party was probably right to see Winston as a threat, but would also be more secure if they only gave such power to Inner Party members.

    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.
    • The party is power. Thus the Party is God.
    • 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. 
  • The whole concept of Newspeak is flawed. What Newspeak basically is, it is just another agglutinative language - a language which has small corpus of words but where expressions are formed by using derivations, suffixes, prefixes, casi and affixes. Such Real Life languages include Japanese, Finnish, Turkish and Hungarian. Neologizing - creating new words for concepts with no descriptive words - is easy in such languages. Merely restricting the corpus of words in a language does not impair its speakers' ability to express the concepts - it only channels the expressions to new directions. In fact, when 1984 was translated into Finnish, the translators had enormous difficulties to credibly explain the whole idea of Newspeak - Finnish language already follows its principles, but Finns have no difficulties on finding expressions of their thoughts on their own language.
    • Why does everyone assume that Newspeak is evil on account of its agglutination? I think Orwell only introduced it just so the Newspeak would draw attention to itself, e.g. so the reader would immediately think "Oh weird, they've changed the language somehow". The Finns have a word for "democracy". Newspeak doesn't have that, because it's forbidden. If anyone tries to make a word for "democracy", they get arrested by the Thought Police. If the Thought Police weren't around, people would start making up new words for things and Newspeak would evolve into just another language. But the Thought Police are around, and they won't allow the language to evolve in a natural way. I think the in-universe reason for agglutination is just to throw everybody off-balance, to see who's rigorously sticking to the new script and who's falling behind (the latter could be a sign of rebellion). If English was agglutinative, the Party would have forced everyone into a non-agglutinative language.
      • Only we’re explicitly told what Newspeak is supposed to do (make unorthodox thought impossible on its own) and how it's supposed to do it (by being a language with a limited vocabulary i.e. being agglutinative). The party obviously will continue to use propaganda, censorship, and direct repression to try to control the lexicon of ideas, but Newspeak is supposed to do more than that by making people “unconscious” on its own; after all, if the Party wants censor words of concepts, they don’t need to invent a whole new language to do so. Orwell, an advocate of linguistic purity and discipline in real life, probably just made up a language that seemed technically functional, but overly simplistic, not realizing that languages using such mechanics already existed.
    • Remember, Newspeak is still being developed in-universe at the time of the story. Syme was working on the latest Newspeak dictionary, and he says: "By 2050 —earlier, probably— all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of The Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like Freedom is Slavery when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now." So if Winston is currently able to say something like "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four", the idea is that a Winston-equivalent in 2050 won't be able to get that far, because the entire concept of freedom will have completely disappeared by that point.
      • Syme was boasting about the effectiveness of Newspeak in that scene; he’s likely referring to such an environment as an effect of Newspeak, not something that will happen concurrently with or before its implementation.
    • The Thought Police will still arrest people who start thinking in rebellious ways; that's why they're called "The Thought Police", and therefore can stop certain ideas from becoming prevalent. Granted they can't literally read minds, but they do the best they can to suss out rebelliousness wherever they can find it. Newspeak would then help the Thought Police and vice-versa.
      • Only assuming language and thought in this universe work the same way they do in real life (which can't be taken for granted, this is ultimately a sci-fi and speculative fiction work), Newspeak would have no power to prevent rebellious thought because thought creates language, not the other way around. The impetus of preventing rebellion thought would remain totally on the Party's Thought Police, conventional propaganda and censorship.

  • If the 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 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." 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.
    • Mere lack of vocabulary' is no hindrance to compelling argument in real agglutinative languages. You simply form a descriptive word from existing stems and affixes. You could well say All mans are sameworthy to express the Oldspeak phrase all men are equal. (Real Life agglutinative languages, such as Finnish, actually work that way.)
      • Except that "worthy" wouldn't carry any connotation of abstract moral value. All such concepts have been erased, and the people who try to re-invent them get arrested. "All mans are sameworthy" would be interpreted as something like "All men are equally valuable to the Party", which would raise a counter-argument about how lazy and rebellious people are obviously lessworthy while productive and loyal people are obviously moreworthy, and thus "All mans are sameworthy" is obviously untrue. This isn't a problem in Finnish because the Finns have a concept of abstract moral value and they have words to express it. Now yes, even in Newspeak you could still get the idea across if you worked really hard...but the point is that you'd have to work really hard at it. And that the Thought Police arrest people who speak forbidden thoughts. The Party isn't making people speak Finnish, and Orwell is not trying to imply that Finns don't understand political equality. The Party is doing something else entirely.
      • As stated above, Orwell probably had no malice for the Finns, he just had his own worries about the real-life degradation of language and didn't speak Finnish. Removing certain keywords like "democracy" would actually probably make the Thought Police's job harder, because they'd have a harder time knowing exactly what concepts are forbidden, and would also be playing catch-up, having to pay close attention to everyone speaking instead of being able to pounce on someone as soon as they heard certain words. And again; if the party wants to, or thinks it can remove certain concepts from the lexicon, they don’t need to invent and popularize a whole new language to do so; just censor words and concepts from newly printed works and destroy existing works that contain them. Newspeak is supposed to make certain concepts expressly impossible to think or explain through limited vocabulary.
    • This is a case of science marches on. Newspeak assumes the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is true.
  • Newspeak is supposed to be some sort of Restraining Bolt, right? Does Big Brother or the people who compose him speak it? What language do they speak? English? How many generations can the members of Big Brother 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!
    • 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 WW2 levels for Britain about 40 million — 4 million constitutes a more than adequate gene pool.
  • Changing Oldspeak into Newspeak looks, at first glance, like a terrific way to abolish treasonous thoughts. A possible problem is that it would work too well — when fully implemented Newspeak wouldn't allow for the concept of treason itself. But what happens when someone does have a treasonous thought, even if it is only as crude as "Big Brother is ungood"? 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. Then 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.
    • 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.
    • Who would come up with a new idea? Language is just a reflection of culture, and a 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. 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.
      • But you yourself proved that you don't have to see something to know that it exists, at least on a purely theoretical level. Intellectually, 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.
    • 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. 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. O'Brien even states that Goldstein's ideas would always be mocked and traitors would always be needed.
  • Anything which can be used, can be abused. The Newspeak would actually be an awfully powerful tool for neologizing - forming new words from stems and affixes - and given the fact how easy it is to neologize words in any Real Life agglutinative language, the Newspeak would be like handing a loaded gun to the dissident - no, woops, other-thinker. Abusing Newspeag against the Party would be all too easy.
    • I don't know if that was intentional or not, but in the aforementioned Finnish the word for "dissident"(toisinajattelija) is indeed otherwisethinker (toinen + -sin + ajattelija) when translated verbatim into English. Similarly, you might see an anti-Ingsoc person come up with concepts like samevalue (tasa-arvo, "equality"), controlundo (vallankumous, "revolution") and samecontrol (tasavalta, "republic"), at least assuming words like value and control exist in Newspeak (I guess they still would have to). Hell, since English in general and Newspeak in particular allow words to be used in any part of speech without having to modify them, any neologism could immediately fill any needed role in a sentence. Cue stuff like,
    "Otherwisethinkers bellyfeel that proles and all Party mans will samevalue in postcontrolundoera samecontrol Oceania.''note 
    • I think "otherwisethinkers" would get translated as "crazy people" or "evil people", since it's assumed that the Party is always right and anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy/evil. "Samevalue" would mean something like "having equal value to the Party". Meanwhile "postcontrolundoera" wouldn't easily imply an era where the Party has lost control, because the Party is supposed to last forever, so people would interpret it as meaning that something else has lost control in some way, e.g. if one of our enemies loses control over its territory.
    • But Newspeak is explicitly intended to erase such concepts, not just be a language spoken when such concepts are erased. And if it can’t do that, it is largely pointless, regardless as to whether or not the Party’s conventional propaganda and censorship makes Thoughtcrime unthinkable on their own.

    Outer Party members should be extinct. 

  • Parson, who's pretty much exactly what Ingsoc wants its 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 you can even get arrested for thoughtcrime just because your bratty, 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 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.
  • The same goes for Winston, an intelligent man who performed valuable work for the Party. Yet they embarked on a long-term campaign to entrap him into thoughtcrime, (do you think he was sold that journal by accident?) and ends up doing nothing that is at all valuable.
    • 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 possibility of rebellion, they'd crush it. That in itself is a show of power.
    • I've always felt that Parson was indeed innocent. The Thought Police could easily use his arrest to say, for example: "He was a model citizen... On the outside. But on the inside? Just another filthy thoughtcriminal. And who knows how many other people are doing the same thing, using their devotion to the Party and Big Brother as a ruse to hide their anti-Party/B.B. sentiments?" Nothing inspires paranoia and increased diligence quite like thinking that there could be an enemy right around the corner.
    • The issue of The Outer Party being depopulated is brought up above. Basically; yes, at the rate shown in the book, Oceania will run out of at least competent government workers before too long, and potentially all workers eventually. But Oceania is based on Stalinist Russia, where such unsustainable rates of purging did happen. Combining such a scary moment in history with the idea that it would last forever makes for a very scary fictional world, just not a practical one.

    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 those who oppose The Party just just commit suicide after making their statements, or commit suicide attacks, since its Better to Die than Be Killed, and The Party claims they can’t tolerate a Doomed Moral Victor?
    • They have an entire Ministry devoted to purging the memories of undesirables from history, Winston works there. Anyone who made such statements would be denounced as a Goldstein agent to those who saw it and then collectively purged from the records and memories until their 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? 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?
      • Winston believed there was a chance for more while he was still living free; committing suicide "for the heck of it" is not a winning strategy... though I wouldn't be surprised if suicide rates in the world of Airstrip One were higher than it mentions. After he's grabbed and thrown in prison, and gives up hope of anything better, we're told that he grows to obsess over getting his hands on a razor blade and dying with the hate as one of a half dozen things his increasingly hopeless, fatigued, muddled thoughts keep around.
    • Any proles who heard such anti-Big Brother rhetoric would be conditioned not to care, especially if they saw the person who made them commit suicide afterwards, which would make him appear stupid. The Party could also set of a bunch of bombs to wipe out anyone who may have witnessed the event, and blame it on enemy missiles.
  • Why do Winston and Julia think it's "unrealistic" to run away and live disguised as proles or commit suicide together? The book shows that the telescreens are not as omnipresent as they are made out to be and the prole sector is pretty much left alone and lacks any telescreens. And if they slit their wrists, are the Thought Police are so swift that they can realise what's going on get there in time to patch them up (just to execute them later?)
    • 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.
    • Party members and proles are so different in background, education, and experience that it wouldn't be possible for the former to pass unnoticed among the latter, especially given the sort of doomed quixoticism to which they're given.
    • There is at least some surveillance among the proles; I believe it is mentioned that the smarter among them get offed regularly.
    • Knowing the great lengths the Party will go towards enforcing their notions that all are ultimately subject to the will of the Party, it would not surprise me if Miniluv had its own dedicated "suicide watch" department dedicated to talking down any would-be suicides — and then taking them to Room 101 and breaking them for even daring to contemplate that they have any control over how their lives are lived (or not lived) whatsoever.
    • Winston and Julia feared they’d be caught eventually, but weren’t sure; suicide would kill any chance they had, however slight, of getting lucky and growing old together. They also attempted to join the Brotherhood and destroy the Party, and it’d be hard to be useful to the Brotherhood if you're dead. Hiding among the Proles might have worked, but again it's easier to do that if you've got the Brotherhood backing you up.

    Nobody would want the Party to rise in the first place! 

  • Why did the Party rise to power in the first place, given how horrible it is?
    • People probably didn’t know the Party’s ideals. Most don’t even know it in the book’s present.
    • The history of the Party is lost forever, even to the Inner Party. But, given that the Party is partially a take on Stalinism, 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. 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 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. It would just be a matter of applying Hitler's methods on a much larger scale; difficult, but not impossible.
      • Actually, the rise of the Stalinist USSR would seem a better blueprint, given what we know of real and in-universe history and the state of Oceania. There were a variety of factors and details in Hitler and the Nazi’s rise to power. note  Some, but not all of these could be mapped onto pre-Oceania, but the Nazi’s primary platform, at least rhetorically, was ultra-nationalism, which wouldn’t be very effective at unifying countless separate states and regions the way Oceania apparently did, and Wintson’s memories of the revolution imply it was a popular revolt (which is central to the book’s views on how revolutions work) note  Mapping the rise of Stalinism onto Oceania, it would look more like “a popular ideological movement that became a massive apparatus a small group gained control of.” Steps are 1. Big Brother, Goldstein and the other founding party members come up with the idealogy of Ingsoc, or at least an ideology that has mass appeal. 2. Ingsoc becomes the most popular ideology in the western hemisphere, possibly helped by the founding Party member’s charisma, new technology spreading it, and oppression by the previous government. 3. Popular Ingsoc revolutions occur in countless countries, and the countries then unify and go to war with the other super-states. 4. Big Brother and his cohorts are natural shoe-ins for this super-state’s leadership, and Big Brother uses this newfound power to make himself dictator and eliminate all his potential competitors. 5. Big Brother uses his unchallenged power and new technology to turn Oceania into the ultimate totalitarian regime to increase his power. 6. Big Brother possibly dies and the party he created becomes autonomous, and so embraces the ideology of power for its own sake.

    Doublethink is not foolproof. 

  • There will always be a chance that the doublethink system will inherit a "bug" that may cause unforeseen 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 unconscious 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 Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia are meant 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.
  • "Doublethink" is just another word for epistemological relativism. And doublethink suffers from exactly the same flaw as relativism anyway: a society based on relativism is extremely unstable and bound to collapse.
  • As Rational Wiki points out, such "bugs" in systems of cognitive dissonance i.e. the inability of the rulers to discern the realities that they need to act on from the lies they tell their people despite theoretically having easy access to the former are very real and a very big problem for such states. Granted, actually having a work for Doublethink might make is slightly better by making it clear it's okay to know both and thus work to keep them sepparate, and Orwell kind of sidestepped the problem by putting Winston in a job that doesn't affect the country as much as a Miniplenty or Minipax worker, but what happens when a military commander reads about Comrade Olgivy and makes a decision based on his unit and the battle he was fighting? And the moment an outer-party member tries to correct an inner-party member on such a mistake or bring attention to a general problem, the inner-party member is liable to the report as either a personal insult and/or evidence of Thoughcrime (they've literally put it in official documentation that The Party can be wrong), and have them sent to Miniluv, leaving the problem to fester.

    1984's largest Hope Spot: Mother Nature? 

  • 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. 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.
    • A large scale rebellion certainly could, but it not guaranteed to start in a disaster area; with communications down, the outside world would have a harder time assessing the situation and the size of the revolt, but it would largely remain confined to the disaster area for the immediate future. Afterwards, it would take either serious organizing on the part of those in the disaster area to mount an effective resistance, or for a good number of them to survive and begin spreading revolutionary ideas out of the area, neither of which is implausible, but also not guaranteed to happen.
    • Something like asteroids, or telescreen-killing solar flare strikes, or the Global Warming caused by all those war machines, or a good ol' zombie apocalypse 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.

    Telescreens are not foolproof. 

  • The book explains most of the Party's tyrannical methods, but never any aspect of the telescreen or how the Party is able to spy on everyone. 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.
      • Telescreens are explicitly not point-to-point communication devices like telephones. They are a tool for one-way, top-down dissemination of information from a central source, with an integrated covert surveillance channel that's made effective as much by careful (and state-mandated) arrangement of furnishings as anything else; note specifically Smith's musings, early on, on how unusual it is for there to be any place in his dwelling which lies outside the telescreen's field of view. Orwell wasn't thinking of cellphones when he invented telescreens; he was thinking of televisions with built-in spy cameras which you'd be shot for trying to hide from or turn off. If your thinking in any way involves the modern concept of a network into which information can be injected from any point on its periphery, you're no longer thinking about the world in which Orwell set his story.
      • 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 Party may invent such a mechanism in the future, but at the time of the novel, its either stated or strongly implied that the telescreens serve as a panopticon (explained below) not a guarantee that any thought crime seen on them will be detected. A quarter of all people, even of the outer party, is by no means easy; it's 5% of a population of billions; more considering the people can’t be too young or too old; managing it would be a serious burden, if not impossible.
    • Telescreens don’t, nor need be, monitored at all times, and those who monitor them divide their attention between people who are of particular concern, places which are especially sensitive, and a random sampling of all the rest in order to drop in occasional reminders, such as the point early on where the morning calisthenics leader calls out Winston's lack of effort, that suffice to maintain Outer Party members' belief that they are being watched at all times.
    • There's a concept called Bentham's Panopticon which might apply here; to sum up, the Panopticon is essentially a design for a prison 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 omniscience 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 WikiLeaks releases.
    • Bear in mind the book was written 'well' before the Internet as a concept was even a pipe-dream. 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. The few non government programs were dependent on what a handful of corporations for content. 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. That the proles are not just ignored, they are in fact subject to the same kinds of conditioning as the Party members, just conditioned to notcare about politics, intellectualism, or anything that might help them realize their current circumstances and organize 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.
    • 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 whole concept of telescreen is flawed. Given to the abysmally low technological level of Oceania, any Tech Savvy prankster (or just anyone) would figure out the principles on how telescreens work in minutes and be able to hack one. They could figure out when it is on "sending" mode and how to capture the signals and how to crack them, how to jam them, how to baffle them and how to sabotage them.
    • If Oceania's tech level is low, doesn't that mean that the populace also has a low level of tech skill? You're assuming the existence of pranksters who are sufficiently tech-savvy to hack the telescreens. Where would anybody get those skills in the first place? What percentage of people would even be willing to try hacking a telescreen, when everyone is desperately afraid of the Party and highly loyal to the system? And sure, maybe a few people tried hacking the screens anyway, and then the Party murdered them before things got out of control.
      • If the technology to build and maintain (and probably occasionally upgrade) them exists, the technology to subvert them must as well. As for who would do it; prole technicians, Outer Party technicians, or inner party members; the middle one is the most likely to be intimidated by Party propaganda or caught in the act, but also has the most incentive; they other two seem to have enough freedom to do so, and aren’t terrified of or deeply loyal to the government.
  • 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 Ingsoc. 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).
      • Hasn't worked anywhere in the Real Life against guerrillas. Most of the guerrillas in the scenario would be disgruntled war veterans anyway who have gotten fed up with the incompetent regime waging endless and pointless war. People, especially conscripts, do not want to get killed just for killing's sake. Proles may be dumb but they are not stupid, and especially their officers aren't stupid and they quickly realize when they are led in needless slaughter at war.
  • I work for a chain retailer that has security cameras all over the place. 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). The number one tip-off to Loss Prevention that you're going to 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.
    • To begin with, "V" would have only been sent to the Ministry of Love after being carefully watched and manipulated until they know everything about his past and, most importantly, his fears, and they would use that against him, just as they did with Winston and Julia. Everyone has some sort of phobia that can be used against them and the Party is very practised at using them. Solzhenitsyn proved that pretty much the only way to resist that kind of torture is to hold an incredibly strong faith in something, which is more or less impossible in 1984 given that they're rapidly deleting the words that would allow them to hold such principles. But I'll grant you that, maybe "V" is some sort of mental superhuman with a will of iron, and they can't break him. The Party would probably just shoot him on the spot, as he's useless to them. But okay, again, I'll roll with it, for some reason they don't and just leave him in his cell to keep trying. Now what? He's in a cell. Prison cells are generally not places where one can escape easily on your own, and in this particular cell "V" would be punished for moving an inch. Considering he's a prisoner that they haven't yet broken, he'd probably be guarded 24/7. All right, so one particularly stupid guard has a brain snap and leaves the door open long enough for "V" to make a break for it. He's still a starved, tortured man surrounded by gun-wielding guards and telescreens. He'd be killed. If he does manage to break out of the prison, it's still a long walk to the telescreen place, particularly with the entire might of the party chasing you down. "V" makes it to the telescreen place. So what? Unless he actually worked there it's useless to him, because he doesn't know how to hack in or disrupt the telescreens, assuming he could even do so given that the entire might of the party is chasing him. And even if, miracles of miracles, he does know or somehow convinces someone else to do it for him... So what? They'll just turn off the telescreens. The public won't listen to him; they've been conditioned since birth to ignore his awful lies. What he says about Guy Fawkes and George Washington is utterly meaningless because the public don't know those people. He'll be killed, then Big Brother will show up and say "And this is exactly why you need to stay vigilant and report any signs of thoughtcrime to the Party. Carry on, folks." Big Brother wins, "V" is forgotten, end of story.
      • In addition to all the above concerns, the people of Oceania have already, specifically, been conditioned to see and hear the most extreme anti-Party rhetoric blare from their telescreens for two minutes out of every single day. How would "V"'s speech be in any way more jarring or distinguishable from the other erudite, impassioned, goateed enemy of the state they watch rant against their way of life so routinely it's basically a matter of reflex to just scream with fear and hatred and throw rubble at the screen? They've all been effectively inoculated against it. The people's complete desensitization to thoughtcriminal propaganda is an absolutely fundatmental part of Orwell's dystopia and the main reason no grandstanding act of rebelliousness would be likely to be widely acted upon, embraced or even remembered by the next day.

    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 we follow what Sigmund Freud claimed, 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. Oh, I know, the Party is power-driven, and their sexual frustration is compensated by pure power, like for example Winston's Mind RAPE.
    • 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 B.B.
    • Truth in Television, several totalitarian regimes did exactly the same. USSR during Stalin had a very conservative anti-sex ideology, also China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and Cambodia’s Pol Pot. They seem to think that if you control sex you control people as you are controlling their greatest source of pleasure is the ultimate form of totalitarianism.
      • Also, about loving B.B.: Since direct sex is impossible, and everyone is encouraged to worship B.B., does that mean they are redirecting their sexual desires to B.B.? 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'Brien 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.
      • The Party doesn't act For the Evulz. It acts for power. While both ideas may produce similar systems in practice, they are extremely different in principle.
  • If the Party is so antisex how can the Ministry of Truth can produce porn?! Either the porn workers are only proles, or the people working in Porno Sec are immediately sent to Room 101 Every. Single. Day.
    • It's in the book. Julia once worked in Porno Sec; 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 real 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.
      • In the film, O'Brien mentions that photos of Winston having sex with Julia will be recycled for proletarian use. Maybe Pornosec's computers are all powered by the data secretly collected from heretical Party members committing sexcrime.

     Why Are Winston’s Thoughts About The Party’s Philosophy Stupid? 
  • For readers who aren't 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.

     Winston’s Trust 
  • Why does Winston trust people just because he has dreams about them?
    • It seems that the dreams are an expression of Winston's subconscious. If he subconsciously believes he can trust someone, then he has to consciously.

     Editing Published Books 
  • 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?
    • Actual books are rare. Magazines and newspapers are tossed into "Memory Holes" where they are incinerated immediately after reading, at least by Outer Party Members who are told to do so and would have few options of placed to hide collections given their squalid living conditions and constant surveillance. 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. A good example of how Oceania is a commentary of every bad thing about 1930's and 1940's Britain.

     Who Watches The Thought Police 

  • Who polices the Thought Police?
    • Themselves. Only a specific type of individual is recruited into the Thought Police.
    • They probably have something similar to an Internal Affairs bureau like real life police forces, of course then we can ask who watches the Internal Affairs Thought Police but then we will be in a loop.
      • Only in a dictatorship, the loop definitively stops with the dictator, which is part of why democracies tend to be less corrupt on average.

  • 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.

     How Are Telescreens Powered? 
  • 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 separate, possibly on a powered closed circuit akin to telephone lines. This does raise the question how long before someone realizes 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 fighting the endless war belong to? Proles, where the military generally comes from in real life, 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. There is no need for the people to actually fight, as long as they believe they may have to.
      • Winston essentially manufactures a fake war hero's biography from whole cloth given a name and a picture. The odds are good that this guy died at the hands of the Ministry of Love a day or two earlier. Multiply by 100, or 500, or 1000…
    • Alternatively, there’s the Outer Party; Parson’s children would probably jump at the chance to do actual fighting when they grow up, and Winston does mention that most everyone he sees in his work is old and ugly, which could imply that everyone young and fit gets sent to the front lines. This does mean, however, that any of the three super-states that decided to actively recruit from the proles would gain a massive numerical advantage, possibly enough to win the war. Not to mention running out of Outer Party members as the older generation dies off.
    • From a meta-perspective, Oceania’s war is based on Blitzed London; a rare case in history where a modern nation was simultaneously involved in a world war that was hitting home constantly, but also had the majority of its prole citizens still at home. Depicting all of a nation’s time in a world war, even when they’re launching massive overseas offensives, as the same way creates Fridge Logic, though, just like how depicting a government undergoing perpetual Stalinist purges does.

    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??
    • 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 Break Them by Talking 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.
    • O’Brien gives a few different implicit and explicit explanations of the Party’s motives. One, he claims that most societies are built on love; the Inner Party is just built on hatred. They hate humanity and understand that Ingsoc is the optimal machine for making humanity suffer, so they’ll do whatever it takes, even self-sacrifice, to ensure it continues forever. But he also says that they crave power for its own sake (which does have some psychological merit), and to be part of the Inner Party means to hold absolute power (at least according to Doublethink), especially if it lasts forever. The Inner Party and Big Brother are also framed in religious terms, which is part of the satire. There also are some privileges to being an Inner Party member, like a bigger flat, a servant, and rare foods. All of these raise more questions, but the story takes it as a given that the Inner Party is largely loyal to its “ideals” and its only real threats are external. Goldstein’s book explicitly states the upper class is almost always unified in its desire to remain in power. It was written before the extent of the in-fighting within the USSR and Nazi leadership was known, after all; to the outside world, they seemed like a terrifying united front.

    The Party cannot be all-encompassing. 

  • It's not 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, there's always going to be an enormous group of people doing whatever they please, reading books and being educated and having democratic societies.
    • They are aware of the fact that Big Brother Is Watching is hard: 24-hour surveillance only affects the minority Party members (And it is the fear of being watched that keeps them in line, not necessarily being watched always). Proles can largely do what they please, but all the books have been burnt or censored, and all the alcohol, lotteries and sports games are making them mentally lazy ala Brave New World / Fahrenheit 451 / Idiocracy, keeping them from being educated
    • 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.
    • Even Winston's apartment has a little gap between the wall and the telescreen where he can sit and write in his diary, which proves that the Party's surveillance systems are not 100% foolproof. But like many totalitarian societies, the Party has lots of tools to make their citizens believe whatever they want them 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 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. And the fact that the Party is more than willing to arrest, torture, brainwash, and shoot anyone who might say otherwise also helps convince people to accept the impossible, for their own health if nothing else.
      • Which would mean the proles would be excellent breeding, incubating and recruiting ground for radical militant religious ideologies. Squalor breeds religiosity, poverty fuels fanaticism and overall dysfunctionality of the society feeds radicalism. The more blood and snot the Earthly life is, the more alluring the pie in the sky. The harder the Oceanian government and Thought Police attempted to fight and weed out religious radicalism, the stronger it would get. That is easily observable in the Real Life, where hard line secular dictatorships tend to get toppled and replaced by fanatic theocracies.
      • Not to speak about disgruntled war veterans. The continuous, ongoing, endless war will also produce a horrific number of disgruntled, cynical, disillusioned and embittered war veterans - who are very used to on organizing, fighting, killing and waging war. According to Solzhenitsyn, it was those millions of disgruntled veterans who eventually mutinied at GULA Gs and set the system into chaos at the time of Stalin's death.

    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 focuses 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 achieved this, why should they execute Winston in the first place? They have brainwashed him utterly and completely to accept doublethink and love B.B. So they could just keep using his workforce since he is harmless now.
    * 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'Brien 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.
  • In addition to the above, there's a chance that Winston had spoken to someone without the Party's knowledge and inspired that person to take a rebellious attitude. If they release Winston, that would-be rebel might contact Winston again and realize that Winston has been completely broken by the Party. This in turn would demoralize the rebel. He might drop his rebelliousness now to avoid being tortured in the future. The Party is obsessed with power, so even the chance of this scenario playing out is worth it in their minds.

    Why would Parsons' children report him? 

  • Parsons' daughter gets her father vaporized by accusing him of muttering "Down with Big Brother" in his sleep. Given Parsons' personality, we're pretty clearly meant to assume she lied about this and take this as just one more example of the dehumanizing effect the Party's rule has on children. Only, this strongly implies that Parsons' daughter lied to the Thought Police and got away with it completely. Not only does it seem to run contrary to the obsessive Big Brother loyalty the children displayed, but it paints the Thought Police as rather less competent than they're otherwise made out to be.
    • The only thing that the thought police cares about is that all thought criminals are located and punished, and none gets away with it. It's not their concern if someone did not betray the party and was falsely accused; in any case, it's just one more guy to torture and break. Not because he's a threat to the party, but just For the Evulz. Do you think the Party cares about fair trials or the presumption of innocence?
    • Obviously they don't care about Parsons' well-being, but the fact that they were directly lied to very much seems like something they should care about. They should definitely be concerned that the society they have created is apparently breeding a generation that is willing to deceive them, and is 'getting away with it'.
      • WMG: Perhaps they did take Parsons' daughter into the Ministry as well, and they just didn't tell Parsons because then he'd know they had put him in unjustly even by Oceanian standards?
    • Of course, the only reason they would take the daughter into the Ministry as well is if they knew that she was lying in the first place. But even if they knew she was lying, the fact that they would still be willing to vaporize someone already so devoted to their cause makes it less a demonstration of their power and more Stupid Evil.
      • The Party may feel it is a bad precedent for someone to be accused of disloyalty without being punished; it might spread the idea that it is possible to get away with disloyalty.
      • Another possibility is that Parsons' daughter has been whipped up into such a frenzy by her youth group that she actually believes her father has committed a thoughtcrime. The Party may feel that the benefits of encouraging children to betray their parents is more important than the objective truth of those allegations. It may actually be desirable for the Party in general to destroy the power of the older generation and make the younger generation disdain the older generation so that the older generation (which could conceivably still remember a time before Big Brother) cannot pass on any knowledge to the younger generation, which has been more effectively controlled and indoctrinated by the party. Indeed, I'm imagining the party going through several cycles in which each generation destroys the previous generation, until all family bonds are obliterated and there is no longer any way for children to receive information other than through Party educators.
    • Who says it's a lie? Even Parsons might have had a little shred of rebellion and hatred of Big Brother in him, and an unfortunate tendency to speak in his sleep.
      • Or maybe he was having a nightmare in which terrible thoughtcriminals were compelling his mouth to say "Down with Big Brother", despite his sincere effort to stop saying it. In which case, his death is even more pointless, because he was saying that phrase in his sleep because he was too loyal, enough so that his subconscious fear of not being that way was voiced in his dreams.
    • Maybe they know she's lying and they're acting on the lie anyway, because that means she's willing to throw her own father under the bus in order to be praised by the Party. That's an extreme level of dedication, and the Party is happy to reward such people. They probably figured that Parsons was expendable anyway.

    Love for Big Brother 

  • So the only acceptable love is towards Big Brother. In fact, the Party has even outlawed the enjoyable aspects of sex so devotion is directed toward him. However, what happens if someone masturbated to Big Brother, or made a doll that looked like Big Brother and had sex with it? What happens if he/she enjoys sex every time they think about Big Brother? Would that still be considered a crime?
    • Undoubtedly, someone would likely be outraged at seeing the "pure and unsullied" name of Big Brother "defiled" in such a vulgar way and have them hauled off to the Thought Police. Don't forget that this is the sort of world where some people will leap at any chance they can get to validate the Party's philosophy through their own exercise of power.

    The Inner Party is just as repressed as everyone else. 

  • The Party's entire philosophy is based on using power for powers sake, all the while none of the Inner Party individually seem to have any. O'Brien is merely following the orders of a system. This seems like it would create a management that wants power it can never have. While there is the cognitive dissonance that let them believe they "were" The Party, even without one person ever questioning their collective state this seems like it would lead to internal fighting and near-constant executions within the Inner Party, especially if there is no real law. The moment two department heads met up and had a difference of opinion on how Big Brother would run something, it seems as though each would see the other as a threat to "their" power and would have the other one dealt with (viewing the other person as no longer part of the collective Party.) Since they are the embodiment of power itself, they are a bureaucracy that should in theory be completely unwilling to budge at even the smallest point of difference. So at best, it seems like Inner Party members would be constantly having each other kidnapped by the thought police, at worst, even the least bit of individuality that makes it through would make Inner Party members more likely to be terrorists than the proles or the Outer Party members.
    • In a dictatorship, the petty disputes between the supporters are ultimately decided by the intervention of the dictator (or at least someone higher in the chain of command, which stops at the dictator.) If there's a need to save a certain amount of money, and X wants to reduce rations of chocolate, and Y wants to reduce rations of meat, then the dictator decides what to do, and that is what is done Because I Said So. That doesn't mean that the unfavored side must be punished, so long as they accept the outcome and leave it at that. Now, if there's really no Big Brother, if Oceania is a dictatorship without dictator, that opens a can of worms of potential problems…
  • If there was no Big Brother - a charismatic, arbitrary, whimsical and iron-fisted tyrant - in the country, an oligarchic dictatorship would quickly fall apart into petty squabbling factions. Real Life dictatorships are always based on strongmanship and personification of power. Oligarchies are not ruled by committees, but by iron fist. Without a charismatic leader, such regime would quickly collapse into anarchy. USSR was on the verge of collapse after the death of Lenin, and after the death of Stalin. Such regimes either collapse completely or get democratized without a charismatic strongman.

    Can someone love Big Brother more than they love the Party? 

  • The only love and devotion the Party allows is to Big Brother, so can a person be so devoted to Big Brother that they’ll defy the government of Oceania because they believe they're not following Big Brother's will properly? How would the Party deal with those kind of people? They can't put them in the Ministry of Love and expect them to love Big Brother if they love Big Brother so much already.
    • Of course that they can. Have you heard about Juan Peron, and Peronism? Well, in the 1970's, Argentina had far-right terrorists (the AAA) and far-left terrorists (Montoneros), killing each other in a civil war. And the tragicomic part is that both parties claimed to be the "real" Peronism.
    • Interesting thought. Peasant rebels in China and Russia often mobilized their supporters in the name of the emperor, even as they fought the emperor's armies. (Water Margin provides a major fictionalized example.) Many dissenters in Soviet Russia thought of themselves as real communists resisting the perversions of the Soviet government. But in a way, this is what Emmanuel Goldstein is doing in 1984 already (although not for the sake of the Big Brother).

    Why are the Proles taught to read? 

  • Wouldn't illiteracy be the best way to keep them ignorant?
    • Probably the same reason we teach Proles to read IRL. It's necessary even for pretty much even the most basic level job in the modern world.
      • It's also another means by which the Party's propaganda can be administered. People tend to believe what they read. Someone who can't read is immune to that form of propaganda. They don't need to be taught to read with any level of depth (most Prole reading material, we're told, consists of trashy romance novels and tabloid-type newspapers, maybe with some sports coverage).
      • It can safely be claimed that widespread literacy was the undoing of the Stalinist regime. Literacy enables abstract thinking, and people who are able to think abstractly are able to think outside the box, question "self-evident" truths and challenge ideas. The Czarist regime kept Russians intentionally illiterate, and in 1918 only some 19% of Russians could read and write. In 1953, at the death of Stalin, the percentage was over 90%. But that also meant that the Russians simply no longer submitted under completely arbitrary tyranny. The regimes which followed the Stalinist regime were far more relaxed.

    Large Scale Revolution 

  • The novel only really addresses how the state deals with "minor" problems. Sure, any government can kill one or two undesirables, maybe even a small crowd of protesters. But what if all the Proles just spontaneously revolt at the same time? What if all of the Outer Party does? What if 70-95% of the Army fighting the other two large states Mutinies? And sure, they've made it so that this kind of thing probably won't happen (Fear of being invaded by another state, or arrested by the Party, control over all weapons and media, and constant monitoring of everyone), but you can't predict a spontaneous, national Prole riot all throughout the major cities of Oceania, which could happen if one guy looks at another weirdly, or if one guy set himself on fire. If a large riot were to happen against Big Brother and the Ingsoc regime, wouldn't the regime be screwed?
    • If a large riot happens, the Party will simply kill them all and unperson all and each one of them. The media will of course not talk about it, and no riot has ever took place. Move Along, Nothing to See Here...
      • With which resources? Minding the continuous Interservice Rivalry between Miniluv and Minipax, the Army - especially if composed of conscripts - would not be too amused to shoot their own citizens. Even NKVD admitted it could control 10 or 20 riots, but 50 would have been too much.
    • With all of the surveillance and resources for keeping the population in check, it wouldn't be too difficult to stamp out a riot before it got too big. Unless an overwhelming majority of the population just coincidentally decides to start a riot at the exact same time as everyone else, including people up to thousands of miles away (with whom communication would be impossible) which would somehow be sustainable and a major threat despite a complete and utter lack of prior preparation or coordination between any of the participants, which is just ridiculous.
      • Not at all ridiculous - think about Iran's Islamic Revolution.
    • This is addressed in Goldstein's book. The founders of Oceania observed that revolutions are not usually spontaneous, and are usually started by the middle classes, not the proles. The proles are allowed freedom — they can jeer at the public telescreens all they like — but are kept too poor and uneducated to ever do much damage. The Outer Party are kept under constant surveillance, with telescreens in their homes, and any potential revolutionary leader is moved to the Inner Party or taken away for a stint in Miniluv.
      • Religious revolutions usually come like bolts from blue sky. The Iranian Islamic revolution was a prole mass movement led by a skilled demagogue (Khomeini). It came more or less behind the corner: nobody really took seriously a Bronze Age ideology could pose a serious threat to Shah's dictatorship. There would simply be no way of controlling all the basement mosques in Oceania.

    Torture = Love Big Brother? 

  • Now I'm no psychologist, but why would torture make you love the one responsible for your torture? Would it break you down? Yes. Would you be scarred? Definitely. But I don't think it would make you love Big Brother. You might lie and say you love Big Brother just to get out of the torture, but I don't think it would actually do the trick.
    • The way O'Brien presents it, the only person responsible for Winston's torture is Winston.
    • Winston's not just tortured, he's brainwashed. There is a difference.
    • Don't forget about the possibility of Stockholm syndrome. Winston felt love for O'Brien when his pain was relieved after the first torture session (Part 3 Chapter II, right after the 2 + 2 = 5 section), which is a classic example of Stockholm syndrome. It is plausible that the same principle could be transferred to Big Brother. Though it should be noted that Stockholm syndrome was not officially discovered until 1973.
  • I have been forced to serve on my country's army as a conscript, and I recognized at the boot camp all classic methods of brainwashing. It did not make me to love my country, but to relate to it with complete indifference. What more, the effects of brainwash tend to wear out with time unless enhanced continuously. Today I hate the army and everything it represents.
    • What happened to Winston has a good chance of wearing off eventually after he's out of Miniluv, but the Party's constant propaganda and general isolation of its workers might be all the continuous reinforcement he needs, and regardless of what you think happened to Winston, most of the people the party brainwashes are killed shortly after being let out. O'Brien tells him as much in the last stages of temporarily letting him out — the job is completed after he leaves the walls of the Ministry of Love, and gets caught up in the latest turn in the war and grand victory.
    • The tactics and results of brainwashing used by totalitarian regimes on prisoners weren’t fully understood in the West until after the Korean War (years after Eric Blair’s death) when captured U.S. soldiers returned and explained how their Chinese and Korean captors treated them. That’s even when the term “brainwashing” got coined. Long story short; is real life brainwashing 100% reliable or permanent? No. Is the treatment Winston goes through a largely accurate portrayal of the effective methods? No, but the book did predict a surprising amount of the real tactics including beatings, forced confessions, and getting the prisoner to bond with a captor.

    All is Fair in Miniluv and Minipax 

  • Now, the book says that the War between the three Super-States is a ruse so that all three of them can eternally screw over their citizens. But what's to stop one of these three Super States' Inner Parties from deciding to get serious about conquering the other two? The state that conquers the others could easily replace "Enemy State" with "Rebels," and they could continue to screw over their citizens regardless of who rules them. So why hasn't one state just taken over the other two?
    • It is possible that geography and logistics are preventing any of the superstates from being conquered. Any full scale invasion of any of the Superstates would require an extremely large army that is willing to fight. It is very likely that an army large enough to conquer a superstate would be comprised mainly of proles, who would need to be educated on how to use military hardware and likely pick up on subversive trains of thought during this war. It is also mentioned at least once that Oceania has a fleet of unsinkable "Floating Fortresses" and the ability to repel most invasions over sea, which is critical since all of Oceania is separated by water from Eastasia and Eurasia. Eurasia would be difficult to conquer over land due to the geography of Europe and Russia, as the many mountains and rivers, along with the weather, depending on the region, would give the defenders many advantages against invasion. Eastasia likely has a very large population and industrial base. According to official reports within the book, the three superstates are fighting over control of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. It would be much easier, or even necessary, for a superstate to conquer these regions before it could get a foothold in any of the other two.
    • However, the above theory would only apply if there really were three independent superstates with oppressive regimes which used the material needs of a war as an excuse to waste vast amounts of resources in order to keep their people in check. As long as resources are spent making military supplies and people die from time to time, no one would know if there was a war or not. Since the Ministry of Truth controls all information that goes out to the public, it is possible that Eastasia and Eurasia don't really exist, that Oceania controls the entire world, or that Oceania only controls Airstrip One. The real state of the world could only be known by the inner party, if anyone. Since the Ministry of Truth changes facts to serve the Inner Party's agenda, it is possible that in reality, a war against the world would be either impossible or unnecessary.
      • It's hinted in the book that the Oceanian government sometimes bombs its own people, in order to stir up hatred of the enemy.
    • If one side becomes serious about actually pushing ahead in the war, it's still one against two. There are alliances, but since each side is in it to win (i.e. to be the only winner, not sharing the victory with either of the others) there's plenty of back-stabbing and betrayal to make sure they get everything and the other guy gets nothing, so these alliances collapse and allegiance shifts. Which is how the war is already.
    • Goldstein’s book also claims that actually conquering another superstate is effectively impossible, because you could never rule, nor fully exterminate such a vast population of comparable technological advancement. Whether or not that’d be true in real life is another question, but it’s the stated reason why Eurasia doesn’t simply conquer Airstrip One when it’s stated they easily could.
    • I believe it is stated that each of the three superstates controls a substantial arsenal of atomic bombs, enough to render the planet uninhabitable. Even two superstates in a full alliance couldn't crush the third fast enough to prevent the losing state from realizing the cause was lost and firing off their nuclear arsenal. And each Inner Party believes that its two counterparts are both willing to nuke the planet into oblivion and ensure that all three superstates are destroyed rather than allowing it to permanently win.

    Big Brother Need Not Apply 

  • How would the Party deal with a Big Brother imposter? Assuming Big Brother isn't real, what if someone just went to the Proles one day and said "I am Big Brother, and you must bow before me", and he looked close enough to Big Brother to pass it off? They couldn't just kill him then and there, because the Proles are dumb and loyal, and anyone trying to kill Big Brother would be an enemy of the State to them. Using cops to arrest him would also make the Proles violently angry.
    • Get a couple of expendable patsies to kill the nuisance under the guise of "striking a blow against the Party," then release a statement through Minitru the next day castigating Goldstein and his Eurasian cronies for the assassination attempt on Big Brother during a Rousing Speech while simultaneously praising Big Brother's foresight in sending a body double to lure out his enemies. Inconvenient witnesses can be disposed of quietly in the ensuing "investigation," and later their names can be discreetly slipped into some dispatches from the front lines of the warzone, praising their heroism for dying heroically in defense of Oceania.
    • The proles are not dumb and loyal, they're apathetic. They jeer at the telescreens during the Party broadcasts, but their lives are made just comfortable enough that it's not worth causing trouble. If they really though they were watching Big Brother being killed, I don't think they'd lynch the murderer. They'd just watch. At best, some might call the police. If they saw a lookalike being arrested, they might argue at the pub over whether he was a fake or what actually happened, but as long as the prolefeed keeps coming, they wouldn't actually do anything.
    • I imagine that the Party simply murders anyone who looks remotely like Big Brother, to prevent this exact scenario. Heck, it's possible that the actual Big Brother was murdered in this exact way, because some intelligence service confused him for a look-alike when he was actually the real thing, and after his death the entire machine just kept on spinning without him.
      • Interesting idea for a fan fic, but likely untrue. Big Brother's visage is described in rather vague terms, white male with a dark mustache: Winston and O'Brien could probably both look like him from a distance if they grew mustaches and gained or lost the right amount of weight. Killing anyone who looked or could theoretically look like that in Oceania's primary territories would be a genocide far to large for even the party to cover up, and even if it wasn't, it would deny the party the free advertising in the form of people intentionally showing their devotion to Big Brother by looking like him (an oppurtunity real life regimes, notably North Korea, don't pass up). As for the proposed scenario, it would mean Big Brother went somewhere without a proper security detail, which would be suicidal for someone like him even without such a policy in place.

    So why even bother with the whole brainwashing procedure..... 
  • .....when the Party is gonna shoot each Thought Criminal in the end anyway? It seems like a huge waste of ressources both with the brainwashing procedure (which was stated to take months and also included nursing up the victim) and killing perfectly indonctrinated people afterwards, who would be willing to do anything for Big Brother. So again, what's the reasoning behind this?
    • I think this has been hashed out a bit above, but the short answer is that the Party is fixated on power for its own sake. Breaking someone down psychologically and rebuilding them into a puppet according to your demands is, to the Party, the ultimate expression of control; it's taking someone's internal, private thought processes and completely rewriting them to suit your purposes. As O'Brian says, for Big Brother it's not enough that you obey him; you must love him, and if you don't he'll completely crush you until you do. As for why they shoot you, if you rebelled against Big Brother once before, you could do so again; why take the risk? This is slightly contradictory and illogical, of course, but another element of the novel is that the Party also works by getting people to believe two contrasting ideas simultaneously.
    • As for the material cost of the process; it’s central to the setting and premise that, being a vast empire, Oceania has all the resources it will ever need, even constantly chucking them away in their war.

    Who or what really is the Big Brother?. 
  • The novel does not leave clear the actual identity of the Big Brother. Is he Oceania's head of state, a past (founder?) (likely) long-dead member of the Party who became what is, simply an allegory that represents it, or a combination of two or all those possibilities?
    • BB's primary inspiration was Hitler and Stalin, and he's referred to in the context of Goldstein and others, who were founding party members. Presumably, he worked to found the party, then after getting rid of all his potential competitors, set himself up as head of state at which point he adopted his moniker. Whether or not he's dead is intentionally ambiguous, but it's clear that the people are supposed to believe he's still alive, as he's still giving speeches and is still watching.
    • That's the point. We don't know who or what Big Brother really is because Winston doesn't know who or what Big Brother really is. Every single bit of information in the book beyond what Winston can actually see is unreliable. Either way, it doesn't matter; regardless of what Big Brother is, his ideals and influence won't go away soon. Orwell was vague about BB's true nature on purpose, as the Party is so powerful that they can essentially bend reality to their will. All we can really say is that it's likely Big Brother isn't an actual person based on how O'Brien describes him.

    Why Wait to Kill? 
  • Honestly, this whole society is so repressed that even the idea that someone might even have an inkling of rebelliousness in them is enough to get them a visit from the Thought Police who will torture, and then kill them. So why even bother waiting for there to be proof of rebelliousness in any of the Outer Party members? Why not just brainwash them all completely, and then at random just kill them? I understand they need people to work for them, but the brainwashing might actually help with that.
    • Don't give the party any ideas. Seriously, judging from what we're told about the history of Oceania, their purges started out the same way they did in Russia, as honest attempts to remove political dissidents from an otherwise pure group of patriots. What you suggest would fall in line with what O'Brien claims to be the party's idealogy these days, but it may not have occurred to them yet, or if it did, the person who suggested it was killed for having an unorthodox thought. Also, while it does seem that statistically speaking, at least the majority of Outer Party members will be arrested at some time, and what they're already doing has to be a serious drain on their resources, waiting for "proof" of Thoughtcrime at least allows them to bottleneck the number of people Room 101 has to be set up for, and target the most likely to rebel sooner.
    • It should also be noted that ‘’1984’’ is not only a satire of Stalinism and Naziism, but also of earlier Church-based tyranny like the Inquisition. The Inquisition did not only want to kill you, it wanted to torture you into accepting its dogma utterly. 1984 satirizes the entire religious mindset with things like double-think, where one believes dogma while silmultaneously acting based on a scientific, athiestic mindset. Once you understand that Orwell was an atheist living in a far more religious time, little details of the story make far more sense. O'Brien himself is clearly an Inquisitor: a man obsessed with a dogma that he will go to insane lengths to get you to believe, even if doing so is impractical.

    They Wasted a Perfectly Good Prole 
  • It's hashed out above that the Party has to treat the proles with some degree of respect, or at least caution, because if they piss them off too much they will topple the party through sheer numbers. Though considering that their whole philosophy is dedicated to power for power's sake, shouldn't they still be trying to encroach on the proles whenever possible? They should at least make damn sure the vast majority of proles believe everything the party says and support their wars. And what about banning alchohol, social setting like pubs or sporting events, and speaking about the past? What about encouraging children to spy on their parents like they do the inner party (spying for free). What about finding sneaky ways like bioweapons or eye-color genocides to massacre them by the hundreds of thousands every year?
    • The proles have been stated to be apathetic to developments, only trying to survive and enjoy what scant pleasures they are afforded like cheap alcohol and porn. Most are implied to be really stupid, possibly because of poor nutrition and propaganda. So why would you try to do anything to snap them out of a harmless state? Educate the proles, even with Party approved materials, and they might change. What if you try doing atrocities to them or their children, which snaps them out of their apathy and leads to the Party's worst fear, a massive uprising? What if you take away their pleasure and they decide to protest or even scheme to try and get them back? What if they stop working? (remember, the proles are the ones in the manufacturing and menial jobs) A bioweapon attack could lead to a massive anti-war, and thus, anti-Ingsoc movement. Everything is done carefully to ensure that the proles are harmless, the equilibrium cannot be disturbed.
    • See also: Dystopia Is Hard and Bread and Circuses. The amount of infrastructure and policing needed to keep an Outer Party member in constant surveillance and eternal torture is extremely expensive to the point that the book admits "Nothing is efficient in Oceania except the Thought Police." The Proles comprise 85% of the population, so surveying them the same way is impossible. The purpose of the repression against the Outer Party is that it keeps the most likely to rebel against the Inner Party isolated from the Proles as a pseudo-middle class so that they can be kept in perpetual surveillance as to be unable to corrupt the Proles to rebel. Also, as for the Proles, The basis for keeping the Proles in hedonism is to ensure that they do not care about intellectual or political pursuits; once you deprive them of that, then all bets are off.

    Why Would Orwell Write Such A Massive Downer Dystopia Novel? 
  • While the book raises a lot of good points about how dictatorships rise, hold on to power and use language, psychology, propaganda, etc. Why does Orwell write the dictatorship as a super-invincible Eldritch Horror that is incapable of being overthrown? Why write something so grim that it seems to actively discourage the reader from embracing humanity's higher ideals and work to better things? The novel not only subverts many of the tropes of La Résistance, You Cannot Kill An Idea, etc. but seems to come across as saying "Making the world a better place is futile and all revolutions will be a Full-Circle Revolution so why bother trying?" Why do we consider such a hopeless book such a popular masterpiece, anyway?
    • Perhaps because it subverts tropes like La Résistance, You Cannot Kill An Idea, etc. Perhaps because outside of popular fiction tropes, most totalitarian states aren't just backdrops for some plucky young idealist to undergo a hero's journey that will lead them to rebel and near-singlehandedly overthrow the system; they're oppressive, bleak, grim places to live in. Not every piece of great art has to reflect humanity's higher ideals; some can also remind us of how bad things can get, and suggesting otherwise is perhaps just as limited an idea of art as True Art Is Angsty.
    • It's a masterpiece because it helps us understand how tyranny works, and understanding how it works is the first step to preventing/dismantling it. Thanks to Orwell, we now recognize concepts like "doublethink" and "thoughtcrime" far more readily than we used to, are more well-versed in the dangers of total suveilance and the importance of free speech, and sympathize with people stuck in totalitarian systems and we're more motivated to help defend them from those systems. I know that sounds backwards because the plot of the book is that resisting tyranny fails. But that doesn’t mean the book is saying that defeating tyranny is impossible; just difficult. It shows the full scale of the problem, implicitly challenging readers to find some way to solve it.
  • If the real meaning/purpose of the novel is more hopeful and positive, why write it in such a twisty way rather than spell it out explicitly? Here we are, over several decades, discussing it and it's meaning and conjuring up all these theories.
    • Orwell was a socialist who'd been shot in the throat by other socialists during a revolutionary war because they felt he wasn't the right kind of socialist, had lived in a country and city that had been bombed almost nightly for five years, and was slowly dying of tuberculosis. Chances are, he thought this the best way of grappling with what he thought were some very bleak and grim yet important issues.
    • Yes, the world needs stories that encourage us to fight and rise above totalitarianism, but maybe it also needs stories that remind us of why totalitarianism is horrible, bleak and needs to be fought against in the first place, like Nineteen Eighty Four. And maybe Orwell isn't aiming to provide his readers with "hope" or "solutions" or "suggested ideas". Maybe the whole point of the book is simply to give his reader an insight into what it is like to be an ordinary citizen living in a totalitarian state where hope is thin on the ground. Because sad fact is, most people living in totalitarian states aren't going to be able to handily join the resistance and bring down the oppressive government, because they're too frightened, or they've drunk the Kool Aid, or because they're a hapless boob who doesn't really know what they're doing and the government's sussed them out, or because the revolutionaries aren't anywhere near them, etc.
    • Furthermore, past dictatorships have indeed fallen — but the ones that were influencing Orwell hadn't when he was writing the book. And the major totalitarian state that had fallen recently fallen did so after a massively destructive and destabilizing world war, and had spent a good chunk of five years bombing Orwell's beloved home country into rubble. Another totalitarian state had just taken over a good chunk of the continent that the previous totalitarian state had been dominating, thus perpetuating a rather unpleasant cycle. Orwell had no way of knowing that in fifty years or so, the Soviet Union would collapse under its own weight. From where he was looking, it was going to take an even more destructive and destabilizing world war, possibly involving widespread use of the most powerfully destructive weapons ever created by man, to take it out. So it's perhaps not surprising that his rather grim and bleak worldview on the subject of totalitarian states might have been the way it was. Oh, and was also slowly dying of TB, which probably didn't cheer him up any.
    • The appendix at the end possibly implies that the Party did eventually fall.
  • How the hell could George Orwell think up such a horrific, And I Must Scream world without being insane or psychotic?!
    • You don't need insanity to create dystopia.
      • Which raises the question of how tyrants can do this, and not be considered an Ax-Crazy Knight Templar. It's books like these that make me wish humanity would end.
      • Totalitarian regimes gain and hold power the same way as any other form of civil government: by looking like the best option available at the time, which, historically speaking, requires times to be very bad indeed. When the only thing saving your family from starvation is what your wife and daughters can earn on their backs, even an Ax-Crazy Knight Templar can look good, if he can get the economy on its feet again. Indeed, the least plausible single point of 1984 is simply the fact that the government it depicts does absolutely nothing to benefit its people. While such a government is not quite entirely unprecedented, the only near example provided by modern history is the government of North Korea, perhaps the last surviving artifact of Cold War realpolitik. Taking that as a baseline for humanity, and thus a reason for the apparently boundless misanthropy on display here, seems at best rather foolishly premature.
      • Plus, some people probably do consider them Ax-Crazy Knight Templars, they're just perhaps wise enough to not say so out loud in order to avoid the whole "getting tortured and shot" deal.
    • 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?. These ideas were commonplace in the 1930's and 1940's; 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.)

    Nineteen Eighty-Four is a Satire 
  • Contrary to some of the more absurd Fridge Horror claims made for the Party, it can't actually bend reality. It can only bend people's perceptions of reality, and even then, it can only do so by means of propaganda and torture. It may be able to torture Winston into thinking that O'Brien can float off the ground like a soap bubble, but it can't actually make O'Brien do that. Party members have to be obey physical laws, the same as everyone else. There is no reason for Winston to think rebellious thoughts about the Party, other than it occurs to him to, and if it occurs to him, it can occur to someone else. Orwell didn't intend the Party to seem like some genuinely omnipotent Eldritch Abomination. He knew his Jonathan Swift, and he was writing a satire. O'Brien's passages about the Party being all-powerful are not meant to be taken as Word of God, but are a blackly comic lampoon of the absurd arrogance of political ideologues who think that everything will be solved if only the right people have political power. The reason why everyone doesn't regard 1984 as a satire is that Orwell didn't have much of a sense of humour.
  • Word of God is that he was seriously ill, and tinkered with it for too long, and simply lost control of it in the writing. After he'd finished it, he described it in a November 1948 letter to his friend Anthony Powell as a "good idea ruined".

    O'Brien and Thought Crime 
  • O'Brien is, as part of his job with the Thought Police, actively releases material to would-be traitors that are critical of the Party and the state of the nation. So, is O'Brien gonna one day be arrested, tortured, brainwashed and killed for being a 'traitor'? Are all special ops of the Thought Police, especially if they work with capturing Thought Criminals like this, gonna get the same treatment as Outer Party 'traitors'? Or is the Inner Party immune to this kind of purging?
    • O’Brien’s work is explicitly part of his job and helpful to the party. But if anyone suspects him of buying into the anti-Big Brother talk too much or simply wants him eliminated, that’s it for him during a political purge.
    • I wouldn't be surprised. The upper echelons of the Soviet leadership under Stalin weren't immune to being purged at one of Stalin's whims anymore than anyone else; they just had more privileges.

    The Price of Power 
  • Why would anyone want to be a part of the Outer Party? Proles are usually satiated and left alone and all the real power is with the Inner Party. So why would anyone want to join the Party when the work of the Outer Party is pure torture?
    • There would be first-generation true believers who didn’t know what they were getting into, just like in the real USSR. They’re encouraged to have multiple children, who then grow up indoctrinated like Parson’s children and will likely jump at the chance to join and serve Big Brother, though they too would probably prefer the Inner Party. The rare patriotic or desperate prole also probably volunteers. Whether or not this would be enough to maintain the Outer Party’s numbers in the face of the constant purging is another issue, but one brought up above.

    Are the Proles aware of the brainwashing the Outer Party is being put through? 
  • The book states that the Inner Party focuses almost all their brainwashing and monitoring on the Outer Party, leaving the proles merely conditioned into apathy. However, if the Proles are aware that the Outer Party is being brainwashed like this, then there's no way they could be apathetic to something like that. Even if they were simply defeatist towards living under a government like that, surely the Proles knowing would eventually turn into the Outer Party knowing. Even if the Proles aren't aware that the Outer Party is being indoctrinated, it's only a matter of time until someone does find out, say by overhearing inconsistencies in the telescreen broadcasts, since we see the two spheres do interact regularly and there’s no stated rule against Proles fraternizing with Party Members.
    • The Party's philosophy on the matter would probably be that it doesn't matter; so as long as the Proles don't hate their government enough to risk violently rebelling, (which won't happen so long as the Proles have food and entertainment) it won't matter to them if the government officials are all indoctrinated zombies. Actual Outer Party members would hopefully just take 80% of the country's population thinking they're morons and their government corrupt as a sign of how much more enlightened they are working under Ing Soc and how much the Proles need their wise leadership. Of course, the Party's opinion on the matter could be totally wrong; some Proles might decide those above them being brainwashed means that they need to think for themselves and gain followers, and constantly hearing from most of the population that their leaders are evil and what they hear from Minitruth is nonsense could also cause a portion of the Outer Party to start questioning things. But the former belief in more in line with the Party's political cynicism and overconfidence.
    • There’s also the Hate Week sequence, which shows that there are times the Proles buy into the propaganda just as much as loyal Outer Party members; when the speaker swaps their war enemy and ally midway through, they all tear down the propaganda they just made and cheered to, and accept that the war has always been this way. One of the more satirical, outlandish moments in the book, but it shows that merely noticing inconsistencies in Party propaganda isn’t enough to make Proles understand what’s happening.

    Ignorance is Strength? 
The first two slogans, "War is Peace" and "Freedom is Slavery" clearly indicate that everything is upside down, that everything is its antonym. But the antonym of ignorance isn't strength; it's knowledge. Why is the third slogan "Ignorance is Strength" rather than "Ignorance is Knowledge"?
  • Probably to make the people proud of their ignorance and have no desire to learn or think for themselves, even if they somehow come to realize their beliefs are untrue.

    Why the hate? 

  • The Party go out of their way to stamp out positive emotions and instill negative ones, to the point that they're planning to erase their current protocol of making the Outer Party love them with outright hatred and desire for violence. Why? Literally everything the Party does is to render everyone else submissive for the sake of domination; making their loyal followers bloodcrazed psychopaths is a stretch, but have them desire the same things you do is the recipe for disaster. They're not like The Sith, who have a vested philosophical interest in cultivating ambition. The Party is defined by being pragmatic, molding their subjects' reality to become docile with no sincere philosophy attached. This just screams Stupid Evil.
    • I think O'Brien was meant to be talking only about the Inner Party when he made that rant about destroying everything but hate, or meant that all that hate would be directed towards the Party's enemies. And if I recall correctly, ambition, at least of the personal sort, wasn't mentioned in that spiel. The fact that members of both parties, historically speaking, are liable to become either braindead sycophants incapable of running a mile, much less an empire, or corrupt, backstabbing psychopaths either way is another question.

  • One particularly famous example: Oceania is dominated by the Americas, with the British Isles being little more than a convenient Airstrip One for attacking Eurasia. So why would the Oceanians base their whole society on "Ingsoc" — English Socialism?
    • This of course leads to all sorts of Wild Mass Guessing about the true extent of Oceania...
    • Maybe it has a different name in every country of Oceania? "Libertysoc" in the US, "Neomateship" in Australia, "Modern Bolivarianism" in South America, etc.
    • Or it could be a reference to the Anglosphere (considering that the full implementation of Newspeak will eliminate the concept of Ingsoc — the name itself implies a definition in comparison to something else — we can expect generic references to 'the Party' to prevail over time).
    • Or perhaps since the author was British, he assumed that Britain had dominated the Americas, not the other way around.
      • Except the in-universe explanation was that it was, in fact, the other way around.
    • It could even be that Ingsoc is the equivalent of something like the DDR to the USSR. The USSR run the show but the DDR has its own puppet government. Ingsoc could be the puppet government/party of whatever the American party is.
  • In the extreme symmetry between the three identical countries, somehow Oceania always allies with either Eurasia or Eastasia. We never see a point when it would be alone, with Eurasia allying Eastasia. It surely would be a burden for their respective Ministries of Truth to switch between "having an ally" and "having no ally." There is one solution to that problem though: A fourth country (Africa?) with which Oceania never interacts; When Oceania is allied with Eurasia, Eastasia is allied with the fourth country. That way symmetry is retained.
    • Or the wars are completely imaginary and are pure propaganda. We only have The Party's word that the war is even happening in the first place. For all we know, there is no war and The Party is manipulating the people. Even Goldstein acknowledged that the Party is manipulating the people through the wars, so they would have reason to make them up. This would also explain why the bombs seem to only fall in prole neighborhoods. The Party is bombing its own country but ensures no loyal members are harmed.
      • This would also help to keep the economy stagnant and unchanging. Given the majority of production is put into "the war", as production goes up there are more bombs to direct back onto the country, thus lowering production back down.
    • Another possibility is that, since the wars are to maintain the balance of power (and thus the two weaker countries ally against the strongest), the three countries are not quite symmetrical - if Oceania is clearly weaker than the other two, than it would always ally against the second strongest against the strongest. This would make sense if the population distribution of the world was similar to what it is today, in which Oceania would have significantly fewer people than Eastasia and probably fewer than Eurasia as well, depending on how much of the Middle East Eurasia controls.
  • The Party's strategy hinges on the idea that an eternal war will force the citizens to accept any deprivation. However, in the real world, the Soviets came to power because the peasants could not tolerate the Tsar's wars anymore, and were willing to accept anything - even defeat - to return to peace. As a result, one of Lenin's first acts in office was to cede territories containing over a third of the Russian empire's population to Germany. And Orwell was surely aware of this - 1984 was based on the Soviet Union. Maybe the party's strategy isn't as foolproof as it seems...
    • You are overstating Russian antiwar sentiment - it was more a question of the redirection of hostility from external to internal enemies (the people who defected from the eastern front were quite happy to fight the Russian Civil War after WWI was over). And one of the virtues of fighting a phony war instead of a real one (whether Oceania's wars were entirely or just partially phony) is that the government can tailor its militarism to its interest in maintaining power, rather than finding itself overreaching into warfare which undermines itself (as happened to WWI Russia). And the history of Russia suggests that even if The Party's strategy for dominance is less than foolproof, this is just another example of a false hope spot, because the fall of one dictatorship is merely prelude to the rise of another one. Even the fall of the Soviet Union, one of the most improbable bright spots of human history, was just a prelude for Putin's authoritarianism.
  • Besides the possibility of the Newspeak Appendix being written at a time after the fall of INGSOC, the near-invasion of Oceania in the last chapter may be the closest thing to an implied distant happy ending: "It was not merely a question of losing Central Africa; for the first time in the whole war, the territory of Oceania itself was menaced." This may mean the ruling party of Eurasia has grown tired of the endless stalemate game and is trying to change the status quo of the war, and while this would of course lead to mass carnage, if the war could change then other changes to the world would also be on the table.
    • In fact, Orwell may have intended this passage to give the reader a glimmer of hope for the fall of INGSOC, only to have that hope crushed while the POV character ironically regards it as a happy ending.
    • This is, of course, assuming the whole broadcast wasn't completely made up. It's entirely possible that the core territory of Oceania is "menaced for the first time" every few weeks to keep the population anxious and jingoistic.
  • If The Book was actually written by O'Brien, how'd he get it printed? Is there a printing press somewhere staffed with Proles wondering why The Party is paying them to mass produce Goldenstein's Lies?
    • It’s described as looking like a samizdat publication, meaning it wasn’t professionally printed like normal books are. O’Brien probably operated the press by himself.
  • If The Party is willing to go so far as to have a policy against sex in case people come to like it more than Big Brother, then why do they allow beer?
    • Easy—they can monitor and control the quality of beer they create, while sex is considerably harder to do that with. It's easy to make a beer people hate, it's considerably harder to force people to have bad sex. Best to just ban it completely.