“No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.” Bob Dylan said this probably not knowing its profound connection with George Orwell’s novel “1984”, but the as well could be in “1984”. Orwell depicts a totalitarian dystopian world where there is no freedom and citizens are being brainwashed constantly. Without any sense of individual fairness, people work for the party just like the gear wheels in a machine. In order to achieve this, the politicians in “1984” suppress people’s thinking and eliminate their freedom by creating fear through propaganda, strict laws and incessant surveillances.
In “1984”, lies, myths and false information controls the thinking of the citizens. The Party uses propaganda as the deadliest weapon of control. Propaganda increases the citizens’ morale and makes them think that what the party tells them to do is always right. There are mainly two types of propaganda, one changes truth, so-called doublethink, and another creates fear. “Doublespeak” can be seen frequently in the world of 1984. The party’s big slogan “WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” (George Orwell, 4) is an good example. The idea of the slogan is to convince the citizens that what they want, is what they already have. Only war can make peace and harmony, so peace is no longer peace, it becomes war; anyone who is slaved and wants freedom, he already has freedom; you can only strengthen yourself by not knowing things and being ignorant. The slogan changes truth and make the citizens believe that anything they want other than what their government wants can only make them unhappy, therefore, no one will consider rebellion because they believe the Party’s way of governing is the best and only way. “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” (George Orwell, 3) is another core slogan. It is nearly everywhere in the country and usually presented beneath the picture of Big Brother on a poster. It creates fear of obliterated privacy among citizens by alerting them that they are watched all the time. At the same time, the slogan also emphasizes Big Brother’s power to tells the citizens that they are indeed safe and protected. The party uses this to make them believe that within the party nothing can go wrong, and without Big Brother they will not have such lives. Everyone thinks he is safe in Oceania because of the Big Brother, but they are in fact in danger, all the time.
The laws is another powerful tool for politicians in “1984” to limit citizens freedom. No parties, no dates, no love, no citizens walk on street after curfew, laws are everywhere in Oceania. Although these are strictly implemented, they cannot be called laws theoretically because they are not written in a system. There is no written laws in 1984, there is no such thing as constitution or court, but that is exactly how fear is created, as citizens are always living in uncertainty. For example, “And yet it was a fact that if Syme grasped, even for three seconds, the nature of his, Winston’s, secret opinions, he would betray him instantly to the Thought Police” (George Orwell, 30). There is no law that defines thoughtcrime However, Winston could be arrested any time for committing thoughtcrime by even a tiny facial twitch suggesting struggle, and his nervous system literally becomes his biggest enemy. Since there is no written law, the Party can change and adjust the strictness of laws freely as it wants, citizens never know if they have committed any crime, therefore no one is brave enough to defy the Party by any level, so fear is created. In addition, “Newspeak” is another law that is enforced to solidify the Party’s control. Humans use language to express their ideas, by eliminating words and replacing emotional words such as “excellent”, “wonderful” and “fantastic” by a single word “good” and its comparative degrees “plusgood” and “plusplusgood”. Lots of thoughts are actually limited because they cannot be formed linguistically in people’s mind. Citizens then cannot have their own critical thinking, and only do what they are told to do, they work just as computers, which surprisingly only have two words.*
Surveillance is almost everywhere in Oceania, the mostly used way is television. There is a two-way screen, so-called television in every apartment and on street but they only serve the purpose of monitoring and propaganda, the Party gets simultaneous image of what its people are doing. Even facial expression can be detected. Only senior members of the Inner Party have the power to turn them off for a short period. Children are also used to keep track of their parents, “The children, on the other hand, were systematically turned against their parents and taught to spy on them and report their deviations” (76). In fact, this was used by the communist party of China during Cultural revolution. With extremely mighty surveillance, citizens cannot express their ideas towards the negative side of the Party at all, and even thoughts are controlled because the Party can “reeducate” people for an incorrect facial expression
By using language as a tool of control as well as the evidence for sentence, Orwell creates a world where language, a word or a sentence, can determine ones life. Through language plays the key role in the Party’s propaganda, strict laws and surveillance, total physical control as well as phycological manipulation is achieved. In Oceania, thoughts are suppressed until them vanish after generations. In this world, nothing is free, even a bird.
*0 and 1, Binary numeral system
Bibliography: Orwell, George. 1984. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. Print.
war is peace
freedom is slavery
ignorance is strength
These words are the official slogans of the Party, and are inscribed in massive letters on the white pyramid of the Ministry of Truth, as Winston observes in Book One, Chapter I. Because it is introduced so early in the novel, this creed serves as the reader’s first introduction to the idea of doublethink. By weakening the independence and strength of individuals’ minds and forcing them to live in a constant state of propaganda-induced fear, the Party is able to force its subjects to accept anything it decrees, even if it is entirely illogical—for instance, the Ministry of Peace is in charge of waging war, the Ministry of Love is in charge of political torture, and the Ministry of Truth is in charge of doctoring history books to reflect the Party’s ideology.
That the national slogan of Oceania is equally contradictory is an important testament to the power of the Party’s mass campaign of psychological control. In theory, the Party is able to maintain that “War Is Peace” because having a common enemy keeps the people of Oceania united. “Freedom Is Slavery” because, according to the Party, the man who is independent is doomed to fail. By the same token, “Slavery Is Freedom,” because the man subjected to the collective will is free from danger and want. “Ignorance Is Strength” because the inability of the people to recognize these contradictions cements the power of the authoritarian regime.
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
This Party slogan appears twice in the novel, once in Book One, Chapter III, when Winston is thinking about the Party’s control of history and memory, and once in Book Three, Chapter II, when Winston, now a prisoner in the Ministry of Love, talks to O’Brien about the nature of the past. The slogan is an important example of the Party’s technique of using false history to break down the psychological independence of its subjects. Control of the past ensures control of the future, because the past can be treated essentially as a set of conditions that justify or encourage future goals: if the past was idyllic, then people will act to re-create it; if the past was nightmarish, then people will act to prevent such circumstances from recurring. The Party creates a past that was a time of misery and slavery from which it claims to have liberated the human race, thus compelling people to work toward the Party’s goals.
The Party has complete political power in the present, enabling it to control the way in which its subjects think about and interpret the past: every history book reflects Party ideology, and individuals are forbidden from keeping mementos of their own pasts, such as photographs and documents. As a result, the citizens of Oceania have a very short, fuzzy memory, and are willing to believe anything that the Party tells them. In the second appearance of this quote, O’Brien tells Winston that the past has no concrete existence and that it is real only in the minds of human beings. O’Brien is essentially arguing that because the Party’s version of the past is what people believe, that past, though it has no basis in real events, has become the truth.
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.
This quote occurs in Book One, Chapter VII, as Winston looks at a children’s history book and marvels at the Party’s control of the human mind. These lines play into the theme of psychological manipulation. In this case, Winston considers the Party’s exploitation of its fearful subjects as a means to suppress the intellectual notion of objective reality. If the universe exists only in the mind, and the Party controls the mind, then the Party controls the universe. As Winston thinks, “For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?” The mathematical sentence 2 + 2 = 5 thus becomes a motif linked to the theme of psychological independence. Early in the novel, Winston writes that “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” The motif comes full circle at the end of the novel after the torture Winston suffers in the Ministry of Love breaks his soul; he sits at the Chestnut Tree Café and traces “2 + 2 = 5” in the dust on his table.
And when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested.
This quote from Book One, Chapter VIII, emphasizes how one’s understanding of the past affects one’s attitude about the present. Winston has just had a frustrating conversation with an old man about life before the Revolution, and he realizes that the Party has deliberately set out to weaken people’s memories in order to render them unable to challenge what the Party claims about the present. If no one remembers life before the Revolution, then no one can say that the Party has failed mankind by forcing people to live in conditions of poverty, filth, ignorance, and hunger. Rather, the Party uses rewritten history books and falsified records to prove its good deeds.
And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn’t really mean it. But that isn’t true. At the time when it happens you do mean it. You think there’s no other way of saving yourself and you’re quite ready to save yourself that way. You want it to happen to the other person. You don’t give a damn what they suffer. All you care about is yourself.
Julia speaks these lines to Winston in Book Three, Chapter VI, as they discuss what happened to them in Room 101. She tells him that she wanted her torture to be shifted to him, and he responds that he felt exactly the same way. These acts of mutual betrayal represent the Party’s final psychological victory. Soon after their respective experiences in Room 101, Winston and Julia are set free as they no longer pose a threat to the Party. Here, Julia says that despite her efforts to make herself feel better, she knows that in order to save herself she really did want the Party to torture Winston. In the end, the Party proves to Winston and Julia that no moral conviction or emotional loyalty is strong enough to withstand torture. Physical pain and fear will always cause people to betray their convictions if doing so will end their suffering.
Winston comes to a similar conclusion during his own stint at the Ministry of Love, bringing to its culmination the novel’s theme of physical control: control over the body ultimately grants the Party control over the mind. As with most of the Party’s techniques, there is an extremely ironic strain of doublethink running underneath: self-love and self-preservation, the underlying components of individualism and independence, lead one to fear pain and suffering, ultimately causing one to accept the principles of anti-individualist collectivism that allows the Party to thrive.