Orwell’s 1984 depicts the oppressive results of a society that is no longer cohesive.
The party’s philosophy of power: “We are the priests of power” and this involves power for power’s sake. O’ Brien symbolically provides an image of the party’s complete power, which is the image of the boot stamping on the human face forever.. O Brien further explains that this symbolic boot, which is the “boot” of power” is the boot that inflicts absolute “pain and humiliation”; it is a boot that seeks absolute control over individual’s mind and their feelings and “utter submission” to the party. This boot will “tear human minds to pieces” and Big Brother will “put them back together again”…
“Power is not a means; it is an end” (276) / 302
“The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual. “
The goal of Big Brother is the annihilation of the individual. The individual becomes all-powerful through merging and blending self with the Party, so that “he is the Party”. (277)
Power, is “power over human beings” , but “above all over the mind” The party controls external reality through the control of the mind, and it controls the mind, through the control of language.
- Syme concludes, “Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak” (55)
- Syme comments, “were cutting the language down to the bone”
- Syme, “it’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words” .
- Syme encourages Winston to recognise that the “whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought”. He explains, “in the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.” Syme refers to the fact that individual thought, rebellious or “unorthodox” thoughts will be impossible and so, too, will the true concept of individual freedom. Each concept will be expressed in just “one” word. Any “subsidiary meanings will be rubbed out and forgotten”. (55).
- The party controls the mind through the control of language (Newspeak), the control of history (the past) and the control of war / enemies, the process of DoubleThink.
“Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought” ,. By “cutting down the choice of words” to a minimum, to “the bone”, people will be restricted in their capacity to think.
It is important that Orwell chooses the example of the word “free”. This is because 1984, is a political treatise that examines the concept of, and the importance of freedom. Contrastingly, the Big Brother dictatorship survives and thrives because it tramples on the very notion of individual freedom.
Words such as “free” are only possible in their literal application: “The dog is free from lice’. Orwell suggests that it is impossible to state terms such as “intellectually free” and “politically free” because they refer to unknown concepts.
To safeguard against individual deviation from Party doctrine and to ensure an individual does not think for themselves, (that the “party has “power over both “body” and the “mind” and over “external reality” ) the party has an elaborate system of control, ranging from Newspeak (reduction of language) to constant falsification of history to prove the infallibility of the party. Orwell believes that there is a correlation between words and thought processes. In the absence of words such as rebellion and defiance, people will not have think these concepts. To this end, language control and mental manipulation are essential in The Party’s maintenance of power. The official language of Oceania, ‘Newspeak’ was designed to reduce and narrow the range of thought so as to diminish an individual’s ability to commit Thoughtcrime. “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words”. With the reduction of words comes the reduction in the range of consciousness which becomes “always a little smaller”.
Newspeak replaces Oldspeak
At the basis of Big Brother’s propaganda machine, lies the new language, Newspeak which replaces Oldspeak.
Orwell includes in his Appendix, a discussion of “The principles of newspeak” to show how it will replace Oldspeak by the year 2050. He explain the concept of the reduction of language as a reflection of the reduction of thought processes, and a a means of control.
The party is able to control an individual’s mind and their intellectual reality through language. In so far as “thought is dependent on words”, then the complete replacement of Oldspeak will mean that the party member will have absolutely no concept of terms such as “politically free” or “intellectually free”. In other words, rebellion will be unthinkable.
- In the Appendix, “Principles of Newspeak”, Orwell states that the “expression of unorthodox opinions” “was well-nigh impossible”. Even the statement, “Big Brother is ungood” could “not have been sustained by reasoned argument because the necessary words were not available”. Furthermore, the “concept of political equality no longer existed”.
Newspeak is a linguistic tool to control people’s thought processes. Language is constantly reduced in an attempt to reduce thinking.
- Syme makes a distinction between Oldspeak and Newspeak and praises Newspeak. He states, “it’s the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.” (55)
- As Winston knows, with the reduction in language, comes the reduction in the range of consciousness which becomes “always a little smaller”. By 2050, the language will be reduced to such an extent that no one would be able to understand a typical 1984-conversation.
Thoughtcrime and the Thoughtpolice
The main purpose of the Thought Police is to eradicate the problem of “thought crime”. A “thought crime” consists of an individual and independent thought that does not follow party doctrine. “”Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed for ever.” (21)
Writing in his diary, recording his individual past and moments of his personal history are examples of “thought crime” that inevitable attract the attention of the Thought Police, whose extensive surveillance tactics ensure that they monitor any “unorthodox” thoughts. The thought police are capable of plugging into any “individual wire” and monitoring one’s thought processes and daily-life movements. “It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.” “You had to live .. in the assumption that every sound you made was overhead” (5)
DOUBLE THINK (based on fundamental contradictions)
Ingsoc have devised the method ‘Doublethink’ to control people’s thought processes. Doublethink is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts whilst simultaneously believing in both of them; it is “to know and not to know”. This method of manipulation makes it possible for citizens to believe Party doctrine even while they are conscious of information that is to the contrary.
Double think, or “duck speak” which is to “quack like a duck”, enables the party to control people’s thought processes.
Syme explains that duck speak is double think. It is “one of those words that have two contradictory meanings.” (57) It can mean either abuse or praise.
Likewise, double think is “to know and not to know”. It is to know the truth and yet tell lies. “To hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out”. It is to believe in the truth and in falsehood at the same time and to be conscious of this contradiction (or conscious of this process). (p 37) It is to forget something, but to remember it when needed.
The Departments (based on fundamental contradiction)
(The Departments; (the three Ministries); Ministry of Truth is “an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, three hundred metres into the air”. It contains three thousand rooms above ground level. The size is significant which reflects absolute power but also its purpose which is to control history and thereby control the present and the future. Likewise the Ministry of Love is surrounded by “a maze of barbed wire entanglements”. (6) (The paradox of war.)
Orwell uses irony upon irony and contradictions to explore the literal attempt by the Ingsoc dictatorship to trample upon individuality and to wield absolute power.
In the Ministry of Truth, where Winston works, the party members falsify documents constantly to prove the party’s infallibility and to minimise records of comparison. During his interrogation, O’Brien displays to Winston the ease with which the Party erases inconvenient truths and ensures that the citizens are “cut off from the past’. He flushes a photo of Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford down the symbolic memory hole and thereby erases the historical memory of their existence along with the fact that Winston is adamant that they had been forced to make false confessions. (258)
From the outset, Orwell capitalises repeated references to “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” to highlight the impossibility of private and independence space. As Winston tries to find a secret corner in his room, he knows that this is impossible in a world where there are telescreens on every corner, posters on each .. and thought police who are constantly monitoring one’s “unorthodox” behaviour.
This is evident during Hate Week when The Party speaker changes the nation he refers to as an enemy and the crowd immediately accepts his words. It is through these methods that The Party is able “to arrest the course of history”. Thus, through the use of such techniques The Party was able to break down an individual’s capacity for independent thought. By controlling “reality which is inside the skull” the party is able to overcome the “laws of Nature” as well as incontrovertible truths such as 2 + 2. This ensured that it controlled which eminently demonstrated their use of power in an oppressive means.
Goldstein – enemy of Ingosc; a champion of “freedom”
As part of its attempt to control the historical war narrative and the thoughts of its citizens, Big Brother fabricates an enemy in the figure of Goldstein, who becomes the target of blame and suspicion. Orwell depicts Goldstein as the ultimate rebel, who opposes Party doctrine at every level. He champions freedom of speech and “freedom of assembly, freedom of thought” and although he ambiguously appears to have “sheeplike qualities” there is constantly the threat of the Eurasian army in the background of these Hate –related videos. As Orwell suggests, Big Brother and the controllers of Oceania deliberately fabricate the enemy, and spread rumours about the Brotherhood and the underground secret movements, in order to keep the population alarmed, and scared. By rewriting the history of war between Oceania and its enemies such as Eurasia, Big Brother is presented as the “saviour” figure who elicits considerable hysteria as a means of further controlling the emotions of the citizens. During the two-minute Hate session, the “entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical change of B-B”. As Winston notes, “it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise”.
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