The year 1984 has passed, but the ideas presented in Orwell’s vision of a dystopian society have nevertheless remained a popular subject of interest that proves relevant even to today’s readers. Particularly, much critical research has been conducted on the means of control that the Party of Oceania uses to subvert its citizens. In my paper I intend to analyze what these methods are, how the Party uses them, and to what extent that they are effective.
My paper will focus on one of the central themes of the novel—the manipulation of reality. I will show that the Party alters reality in order to complete its aims. The Party manipulates reality primarily through their language, Newspeak, and through the concept of doublethink. Newspeak is a language designed to reduce the amount of words in the human vocabulary and thereby indirectly reduce the number of thoughts that people are capable of thinking. By eliminating words and thoughts, their brains weaken, and therefore their ability to counter the Party weakens as well. Doublethink is a means of accommodating apparent contradictions in truth that allows the Party to sculpt whatever conception of truth that it wants the people to believe. The Party also manipulates the pages of history, which resonated with Orwell’s contemporary readers who recognized that his descriptions of Oceania resembled London.
I will also cover how the manipulation of truth allows for the suppression of undesirable behaviors. The Party mandates that sex can only occur between married spouses for the sole purpose of reproduction (i.e. creating new Party members to brainwash). Therefore, sexual pleasure and intimacy is deemed as illegal behavior, and people take out their sexual urges through mandatory pornographic films. The Party also reinvents gender roles and family, abolishing traditional family values that redirect loyalty from family to the State. It is common in the world of 1984 for children to turn in their parents for rebellious behavior, as Winston Smith did to his mother. But people are not only supervised by their families, but by everybody. Telescreens monitor behavior; the Thought Police monitor peoples’ thoughts; posters of a predominating figure with the tag Big Brother is Watching You haunts people wherever they turn. I will show that in the world, there is no escape.
My paper will also discuss the anomaly of Winston Smith, one of few dissenters in this dystopian nightmare. Winston Smith struggles against his indoctrination to find his own interpretations of the truth and to identify how the Party has altered the truth as a means of eliminating rebellious instincts. I will explain how Winston rebels through sexual intercourse, by reading forbidden literature (Goldstein’s The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism), and how he is eventually defeated through brainwashing and torture. Through my analysis of Winston I will explain how the Party has constructed an impenetrable system of control that prevents rebellion from taking root.