Sparking in popularity in response to recent events of the political world is George Orwell’s 1984, a timeless piece of literature that is commonly being perceived as a surreal prophecy of a future we are living in today. Orwell wrote the novel as an admonishment to the world of the dangers of totalitarianism, which he based off of his own experiences. The story is set in a bleak dystopia by the name of Oceania, where propaganda permeates the air and surveillance keeps a close watch on its puppet-like citizens, whose instincts have been eliminated and thoughts have been controlled. The government, lead by a figurehead named Big Brother, is omnipotent and infallible, or so it seems. Aware of its power and keen on maintaining it, the government, also referred to as the Party, has employed several techniques to ensure that its rule is everlasting. Arguably the most effective of these techniques is the concept of Doublethink, which allows the government to alter facts, rewrite the past, and dehumanize citizens by taking away their power of free thought.
Doublethink, as defined by Orwell, is the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them (214). Whatever the government says is plausible with Doublethink, giving them the power to completely alter facts and to decide what is true or not true. The concept crushes a person’s sense of logic using logic and discredits observations and memories. When combined with the notion that the Party is infallible, which is taught from a young age and maintained with heavy doses of propaganda, one will begin to question their own thoughts and finally take what the Party says as the actual truth. As Orwell writes on INSERT PAGE NUMBER, Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. For example, on page 58, the Ministry of Plenty makes an announcement that the chocolate ration has been raised to twenty grams a week. But Winston, for he has not fallen victim to Doublethink, is able to recall that only yesterday…it [was] announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. He still has the power to think for himself and use his own judgement, a sharp contrast to all the people around him, who easily swallow this news and rejoice in it, blind to the lie. This event effectively shows the power of Doublethink. Without it, people such as Winston would be able to recognize the Party’s manipulation of facts and therefore its corruption, leading to questioning, disobedience, and rebellion, all of which are enemies to the Party’s reign. The true purpose of Doublethink, however, is not just to give citizens an opportunity for swallowing and accepting the things the government says. What really makes it powerful is the forcing of people to actually believe the things they are fed, which is how the government is able to alter facts, not just thoughts. Another example would be the recurring motif of 2+2=5. A person’s common sense would tell them that the aforementioned statement is untrue. But, as proven during Winston’s re-education in the Ministry of Love towards the end of the novel, once Doublethink is in place, anything is possible. The principle first spawns doubt about one’s own judgement and then slowly weakens the mind so it ends up giving in to the government’s words. A perfectly sane person, as Winston once was, can be warped to believe the most ridiculous things, allowing the Party’s artificial image of omnipotence to shine through. However, Ultimately, as written on 215, it is by means of doublethink that the Party has been able — and may, for all we know, continue to be able for thousands of years — to arrest the course of history, altering not just the reality of an individual, but reality as perceived by an entire population.
The Party’s manipulative ploys does not stop at just facts, as it extends on to twist history into shapes of its desire. The government has recognized that people depend on their knowledge of the past to make judgements about the present, judgements that if not carefully monitored may be the demise of the Party. With his skillful writing, Orwell has shown us the world of 1984 and its misery. Everything takes on a dull, dark appearance, dilapidated and bleak. There are no luxuries so to speak of. Even what we would consider the most mundane items are constantly in shortage, such as razor blades and buttons, or of nauseatingly low quality, like foodstuffs and tobacco. The government’s exploitation of the mutability of the past is the only reason why the citizens of Oceania can tolerate such a life. By cutting the people off from the true past, standards of comparison are removed. If it appears that the world has always functioned in the same, dreary manner, then nobody can form damaging theories and find a reason to rebel. In Chapter 3, Winston ponders his childhood and the past, which he is old enough to have experienced, but can only revisit through a collection of faulty memories. He thinks about the Party histories and how they claim that Big Brother’s exploits extended into the fabulous world of the forties and the thirties, a time Winston remembers still had the presence of capitalists in their strange cylindrical hats [who] rode through the streets of London in great gleaming motor-cars or horse carriages with glass sides (PAGE NUMBER). The rewriting of the past also serves to safeguard the infallibility of the Party (PAGE NUMBER), which is the purpose behind Winston’s job. Any forms of information that show the government has made an error or has gone against one of their current ideals, like the reference of an unperson, must be brought up to date. Such a change can happen so easily, too, for the past has no objective existence, [surviving] only in written records and in human memories (PAGE NUMBER). Where Doublethink comes into play is that though people like Winston are part of the altering process and are aware they are tampering with written records, they must forget that they ever did such a thing and believe that nothing has really been altered. The new version is the past, and no different past can ever have existed (PAGE NUMBER). At the beginning of Chapter 9, the Party makes a change in the middle of Hate Week and claims that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, not Eurasia. Immediately, the people use Doublethink to accept this blatant change and start accusing Goldstein and his accomplices of tricking them into putting up all the anti-Eurasia propaganda around the city. Although this shows how citizens can form some thoughts that benefit the Party, for the most part, the capacity is nonexistent.
One of the main goals of Doublethink is to remove any pretense of thinking for oneself (PAGE NUMBER). Individuals are to be dehumanized by allowing the state to think for every person. Newspeak is a language created by the Party with such a lack of words that it limits human expression. Descriptive words and synonyms are all removed, making it near impossible to let out complex and intense feelings. Citizens are given a handful of words which can only be arranged in praises to Big Brother and phrases that convey superficial emotions. The freedom of thought and expression is to be hindered to the point where rebellion is impossible. Many words of Newspeak, as page INSERT NUMBER describes, have two mutually contradictory meanings, brought to life with Doublethink. Take, for instance, the word blackwhite. In Goldstein’s book, it is explained that when applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest.
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