A World Of Contradiction Essay, Research Paper
In 1984, George Orwell writes of a totalitarian society that has manipulated its followers while rewriting the past. Orwell writes of technology that abolishes privacy and is the cause of perpetual fear. This technology is referred to as telescreens. The party of Big Brother controls this technology and controls the minds of its party members by a major concept called doublethink. This form of twisted logic is used to manipulate the society and confuse those who are not so easily oppressed. The thought process behind doublethink is that one has two contradicting ideas and accepts both of them as truths. While Orwell created this ideology, he employs it in his novel as more than just a form of propaganda. The novel is actually written in doublethink to immerse the reader into Orwell s 1984 society.
Winston Smith, the main character, has a morbid obsession with a member of the Inner Party, named O Brien. Winston feels there is a certain connection between them regardless of the caste system lines. He maintains that the connection is based upon political orthodoxy [that is] not perfect (13). Winston loathes Big Brother and everything that it stands for and hopes to one day confide in O Brien. The enemy of Big Brother and the party is a man called Emmanuel Goldstein who is the leader of the rebellion as well as a group called the Brotherhood. In this passage, Winston s theory is correct; O Brien is an ally who is for the Brotherhood when he says, I think it is fitting that we should begin by drinking a health [sic]. To our Leader: To Emmanuel Goldstein (141).
O Brien seems to be a member of the Brotherhood and is feeding Winston with knowledge on the group. Winston is now a member of this rebellion and, as a result, his actions are scrutinized until Big Brother has proof enough to apprehend him. In this excerpt, Winston is sent to the Ministry of Love, a prison, because he was caught in an attempt to rebel and meets O Brien who had tortured him to the edge of lunacy, and in a little while, it was certain, he would send him to his death (208).
In addition to being a protagonist, O Brien is also the antagonist. He is a member of the Brotherhood but is in the Ministry of Love torturing Winston. This is doublethink. O Brien is a protagonist but also an antagonist at the same time. Even still, Winston feels that bond which makes O Brien the protagonist, even during torture sessions.
The only thing that could torture and overthrow the party is God because God can destroy Big Brother and the belief in God is an aspect of a human that cannot be controlled. In this passage, O Brien is asking Winston what exactly will overthrow this totalitarian government:
Do you believe in God, Winston?
Then what is it, this principle that will defeat us? (222).
Up to this point in the novel, the reader believes that God is feared by party members. This idea is confirmed by O Brien s comment which questioned who would be powerful enough to beat Big Brother if not God. A few pages later, a new party slogan is exposed to the reader. It states that God is Power (228). This, too, is doublethink. The reader believes that Big Brother perceives that two contradictory statements are facts, and these statements are accepted as truths, among the reader and by party members.
The 1984 society might be a totalitarian one, but some aspects resemble more of an anarchy, except in the following case, where everyone is obedient for fear of repercussions. Winston purchased a diary and, while he contemplated opening it and writing, he considered the consequences as to whether or not what he was doing would be considered illegal since there were no longer any laws, but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labor camp (9).
There are no laws, yet certain actions are punishable by death. How is this so? Orwell is subtly employing doublethink on this very subject throughout the novel. There are no laws, but people are living in fear because of possible punishments. If that small section early in the novel is overlooked, the reader believes that there are laws and that is why there is punishment. The idea of punishment has the reader believing that laws exist.
An unwritten law is the requirement of all party members to do some kind of volunteer work, and for women, it is usually to become a member of the Anti-Sex Leagues. Julia, Winston s eventual lover, is a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League, and wears the mark which is an odious scarlet sash, [an] aggressive symbol of chastity (17). She is regarded as a virgin, yet she is not. When Winston and Julia are in the woods about to have sex Winston asks, Have you done this before?
Of course. Hundreds of times–well, scores of times, anyway (104).
She is revered as a virgin, yet when alone with Winston, she is everything but one. In both contexts, she is accepted as either promiscuous or a virgin. She is two contradicting things simultaneously and they are both conceived as true.
Truth, in doublethink, what is truth? Throughout the novel, the reader is often conflicted by two ideas that are both written as facts, yet are complete opposites. Doublethink was Big Brother s way of manipulating his followers, and it is also Orwell s way of manipulating his readers. Orwell used doublethink as not just a concept, but as a mode of writing. The reader is aware of Big Brother controlling a mass of people while at the same time, Orwell is controlling the readers who, unconsciously, find themselves in the throws of 1984 society.