Notes on 1984 Themes

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1984 Topic Tracking: Reality Control

Reality Control 1: "Doublethink" is the major way the Party controls its members. Through "doublethink," people consciously accept anything the Party tells them, even if it contradicts something they already know. Furthermore, they consciously suppress any thought or information that goes against anything the Party says. To complete the cycle, they must forget that they have even used doublethink. For example, Oceania is continually at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. In April of 1984, Oceania is at war with Eurasia; citizens must force themselves to "remember" that they have always been at war with Eurasia, despite the fact that Oceania was allied with Eurasia only four years before. Failure to control their thoughts using doublethink, would result in thoughtcrime.

Reality Control 2: A lot of Winston's job in the Records Department deals with reality control. He changes reports of the past so that every record of a past event the Party wants to suppress completely disappears. In many cases, the records he changes were fictitious in the first place. He can also, as in the case of Comrade Ogilvy, create an entirely new past and imagine events which then become historical "fact." Essentially, the Party creates a fake past according to what it wants to be true; the real past is completely forgotten and unrecorded.

Reality Control 3: While Winston is in the cafeteria, the telescreen makes an announcement stating that production output is higher than ever, and that people have been engaging in spontaneous demonstrations all over the state to show their gratitude to Big Brother. Many demonstrations were staged to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grams a week. Winston remembers that only the day before, the telescreen announced that the ration was being reduced to twenty grams from thirty. Everyone else in the cafeteria swallows this information, like Parsons, with blank stupidity, or like Symes, in a complex way involving doublethink. Winston wonders if he is the only person in the world that actually has a memory.

Reality Control 4: Winston is frustrated by the impossibility of knowing what is and what is not a lie. For all he knows, it might be true that the average human being is better off under the Party than before the Revolution. His only evidence is that he instinctively feels that his standard of living is unbearable and that at some other time in history, things must have been better.

The reality of life under the Party (poor, dirty, and hungry) is completely different to the image of life according to their propaganda (efficient, futuristic, and mechanical). Even so, everyone appears to swallow the propaganda and believe they are living the great life they see in posters and on films.

Reality Control 5: Winston is shaken by indisputable evidence that The Party has lied. He has always suspected that the confessions of the "traitors" that are purged are not true, but now he has proof. Unfortunately, he does not know what to do with it. There is no way to publish it or show it to the world. His discovery does him no good. Winston is upset because he does not understand why the past is faked in this way. It is obvious that the Party wants to appear consistent, but in the long run, what is their motive?

Reality Control 6: Winston is disturbed by the fact that Julia does not seem to care about the Party's reality control. To her, it doesn't really matter that they've lied or that Winston could have proved it. None of this makes any difference in her day-to-day life. Winston tries to explain that the past is being destroyed, but she does not see value in the past. He responds:

"History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right." Part 2, Section 5, pg. 156

Reality Control 7: By asserting reality and denying the Party's reality control in a single sentence, O'Brien turns himself and Winston into conspirators. The Party has created a reality in which Syme, and other vaporized people, never existed. When O'Brien denies the Party's reality by referring subtly to Syme, he commits a crime.

Reality Control 8: The Party's power, Winston realizes, lies in its control of reality. They can remove you from recorded history, but to people living before the Party, this would not have been the most important thing. The Party's true destructiveness lies in it's mission to destroy individual human feeling and emotion.

Reality Control 9: The moment it is announced that Oceania is at war with Eastasia, Winston and the other Ministry of Truth employees automatically head to work, even though it is around eleven at night. Although they are supposed to make themselves believe that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, and there has been no change, according to doublethink, they also know that a lot of records have to be altered.

In his frenzy of work, Winston is not even troubled by the fact that he is forging documents. He takes it as an intellectual exercise and is as anxious as anyone else that the faking should be perfect.

Reality Control 10: Goldstein's book explains the mental gymnastics Party members have to go through to ensure total reality control. Consider Newspeak words crimestop, blackwhite, and doublethink. "Crimestop" means to stop a train of thought instinctively before it can become dangerous, a form of protective stupidity. Other examples would include not understanding an argument if it is against Ingsoc, not seeing something obvious, and not catching a logical error, perhaps getting bored (like Julia) or repelled by any discussion that could become unorthodox. "Blackwhite" refers to a self-brainwashing process, where being loyal means being willing to say that black is white or that two plus two is five if the Party demands it. This is similar to "doublethink," a concept essential to Ingsoc. A party member can tell deliberate lies while believing in them at the same time. You forget that you used doublethink by an act of doublethink, and then forget that again by using doublethink, in a never-ending chain.

"the essential act of Party is to use conscious deception while retaining firmness purpose that goes with complete honesty." Part 2, Section 9, pg. 215

Reality Control 11: O'Brien discusses with Winston the nature of the past. O'Brien gets Winston to agree that the past does not have a solid physical existence, or a place in material reality. He asks Winston, where the past exists, and Winston answers that it exists in records and in human memory. O'Brien then declares that since the Party controls all records and all memories, it controls the past. Winston points out that the Party has not controlled his memory, but O'Brien argues that Winston failed to control his own memory and that this has made him a lunatic, and in the minority. Reality is never objective; it exists in the human mind, but not in the individual mind, which is fallible and prone to mistakes. True reality exists only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Hence, to be sane and see true reality, one must destroy the self and see the world only through the eyes of the Party.

Reality Control 12: O'Brien teaches Winston of the Party's omnipotence through control over the mind. If O'Brien wanted to float off the floor like a soap bubble, he could do it. The Party makes the laws of Nature. He and Winston argue. Winston points out that there is a whole universe - stars, seas and fossils of ancient creatures. O'Brien denies these things are real. If the Party wished, it could blot out the stars and the seas, declare the sun goes around the earth, the earth is flat, and that Oceania is the whole universe. For certain purposes, of course, such as navigation, they may want to say the earth is not flat and the earth goes round the sun, but that is the whole point of doublethink. Winston is immensely frustrated by these arguments but does not know quite how to combat them.

Reality Control 13: Once Winston begins to practice reality control, he realizes that absolutely anything can be true if he (or, more importantly, the Party) wishes it so. Reality is what he makes of it. As O'Brien explains, reality happens in the mind.

Reality Control 14: As Winston's mind becomes completely accepting of reality control, he labels thoughts such as the memories of his mother as "false memories" and completely dismisses them. His emotions mirror his controlled thoughts, as when he meets Julia and is repulsed by the idea of having sex with her.

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