1984 Essay, Research Paper
Orwell s society displays a threatening projection of a totalitarian system into the future. Indeed it is a regime very similar to the tyrannies of the 20th century and strongly echoes Stalin Russia or Nazi Germany. The dominant mood inside this repressive system is one of threat and suppression due to the systematic persecution and oppression of non-conformists. As Goldstein explains in his Oligarchical Collectivism there have always been three classes: the high, the middle and the low with the middle and the high constantly changing their respective position. Eventually this movement was identified by historians as being cyclical. In an attempt to interrupt this recurring pattern the Party is essentially focussing on the problem of Stability. Indeed Stability becomes paramount in Oceania as well as in the other two superpowers Eastasia and Eurasia. In short it is the problem of how to keep things the way they are and maintain a hierarchical society without risking an overthrow of the established system.
Several devices and attitudes have been conceived to achieve this aim. First of all the Party constantly controls and monitors its subjects. A crucial device in this scheme is the telescreen which, by being able to send as well as to receive information, allows a constant surveillance of all Party members. In addition other institutions such as the Thought Police or the Spies have been contrived to guarantee a maximum of surveillance. Moreover different concepts of thinking such as Thoughtcrime and Crimestop have been introduced in an attempt to detect and/or prevent any digression from the Party principles as soon as possible and thus eliminate any potential non-conformists. Even the expression of one s face is subject to scrutiny as it might for example hint at a resentment felt towards Big Brother or might even indicate a possible future criminal (in Oceania this concept is referred to as Facecrime ).
Although the system tries to suffocate all possible opposition from the very beginning, the Inner Party has nevertheless to confront several problems which directly threaten stability. Paramount among those is the industrialisation and the consequent introduction of machinery on a large scale which tended to generate an affluent society. According to Goldstein after a certain time people would become literate and learn to think for themselves, thus eventually realising that the privileged minority has no longer any function. As a conclusion the Inner Party argued that a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. Ultimately continuous warfare between the three superstates would maintain the dominion of the party. As a matter of fact war guaranteed stability by consuming the economic overproduction and thus prevented a rising standard of living and incidentally also generated more faithful Party adherents.
Another threat to the system is the empirical method of thought which Goldstein identifies as opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc. It is a way of thinking essentially based on the belief that the acquiring of knowledge is only possible through careful observation and experiments. Moreover it is a concept of reasoning which is not only the basis for any further scientific research or technological development but also stimulates and influences the way people behave in general. It is a concept of thinking which is closely linked to an objective perception of reality.
The Party however agreed that in order to maintain permanent rule it was necessary to dislocate any sense of reality. Hence the denial of any objective reality and the complete manipulation of reality became central features of Ingsoc : Whatever the Party holds to be truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party (O Brien during Winston s interrogation 1984 p.261). To achieve this aim the Party ultimately denied their members all means of checking information. Yet through careful observation (as for instance Winston did) people could realise that indeed the Party insidiously manipulated their existence. As a matter of fact this is one of the potential dangers of empirical thinking for the system : By carefully controlling and judging information people might notice that for instance the whole functioning of society, the devotion of the government and the father figure of Big Brother, all was a carefully constructed lie. As a matter of fact contrary to the Party propaganda their standard of living was not constantly increasing, Goldstein did probably not exist nor is there any threat of an immediate invasion of any part of Oceania. Ultimately an awareness might arise that the state massively manipulates and blurs reality and that their whole party-distorted existence has no relation to reality whatsoever but only aims at sustaining the Party s authority. Winston s rational behaviour reveals to which extent an empirical way of thinking constitutes a threat to the system. Although small and unimportant as a person himself, many Winstons might eventually cause the downfall of the Party. Indeed Winston is the living evidence of Goldstein s statement that empirical thought opposes the Party s principles.
Another crucial concept contrived to maintain the system is the concept of doublethink . In practise it means the power of holding simultaneously two contradictory beliefs in one s mind and accepting both of them. In Nineteen Eighty-Four this is not merely a way of thinking, it is a doctrine. It is a concept which lies at the very heart of Ingsoc. Undoubtedly an empirical point of view radically contradicts the concept of doublethink . Hence this is another fundamental reasons why Goldstein s book identifies empirical thought as opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc . Indeed it refutes the very relativism (i.e. 2 x 2 = 5) as displayed by the regime s spokesman O Brien in the Ministry of Truth during Winston s interrogation. Another example of doublethink is the idea of world-conquest which is believed in most firmly by those Inner Party members who know it to be impossible (1984 p.225). As a general rule the greater the understanding the greater the delusion: the more intelligent, the less sane. Hence the somehow paradoxical conclusion that the prevailing mental condition in Oceania must be one of controlled insanity (1984 p.225). Eventually it is the denial of reality which is the special feature of Ingsoc (1984 p.205).