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Book: 1984

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sad face I just finished reading 1984 for the first time. You may say to yourself, "Wow, you've never read 1984?" Well, now I have.

I was not as disturbed by this book as I was by Animal Farm. metamanda was surprised by this, but all I can say is that Orwell's dystopian future presented in 1984 is much less culturally shocking to me than Orwell's using farm animals to represent the rise of Stalin. Hollywood has put enough Philip K. Dick stories on the big screen to more than familiarize myself with a Big Brother future that I hardly blinked an eye at 1984, but Animal Farm seemed to take grab "Some Pig" Wilbur and turn him into bacon and pork chops.

sad face What caught my attention most about 1984 were the comparison to (a) Catch-22 and (b) The Matrix. I was especially shocked by how similar one of the speeches felt to the speech the Architect makes to Neo. I wrote some brief notes outlining some of the comparisons, but due to spoilers I have left them for the extended entry. I also have the traditional outline notes, that, as always, are only useful to those that have read the book. I have only outlined the second half of the book, I may get back to finishing the outline for the first half later.


Catch-22 in some ways feels like a response to Orwell's notion of choice presented in 1984. More specifically, he takes on the question of 'how' and 'why' presented by the character of O'Brien. In 1984, O'Brien explains the 'why' as the Party seeking power for the sake of power. This is not a real 'why,' for it does not explain any real motivation; the motivation for the act is not circular as much as it is self-swallowing. The characters in Catch-22 have the same morality; they seek power because there is no reason not to. Instead of morality being a question of choice, the characters' moral decisions are governed by both a lack of real choices (the Catch-22s) as well as a lack of reason for choice. For example, Clevinger asks "Why?" to which Dunbar replies, "What else is there?" and Chief White Hafloat dies of pneumonia because at one point he decides, "that don't sound like such a bad idea."

This perceived lack of choice also leads to a perceived lack of free will, and thus responsibility. In 1984, O'Brien effectively absolves the Party of responsibility for its actions, instead blaming Winston for his 'choice' to stand opposed to the Party (p. 272). O'Brien also, by relation, absolves himself of moral responsibility as he is an agent of the Party. He tells Winston that, "Nothing has happened that you did not foresee." This is a lie, however. Winston did not believe that the Party was capable of taking his mind (2+2=5) or his soul (love for Julia). Winston had only chosen to sacrifice his body, which effectively already belonged to the Party anyway. I'm not sure if Orwell intended this loophole or not, but this is what makes O'Brien's guilty for the breaking of Winston.

In Catch-22, Yossarian finally comes to the point where he realizes that there is a 'why,' that there is hope. He also realizes that the Catch-22 was because he kept himself within their system of control; he has limited his choices to whether or not to fly on a mission, nothing more. Orr demonstrates to him that there are other choices, and through this Yossarian realizes he can take moral responsibility for his himself by escaping and rescuing Nately's whore's sister.

Matrix Connections

Zion === Brotherhood. The idea of both is used to give an outlet for dissent that can be captured and erradicated.

O'Brien === The Architect. pg. 255. Both even share similar omniscient qualities. Both see the problem of choice. O'Brien can also be compared to Agent Smith before he becomes a virus.

There is no spoon === p. 248 O'Brien's assertion that reality is internal, not external. p. 265 O'Brien's assertion that he can defy physics. However, O'Brien takes this is a different direction from the Matrix. Whereas 'there is no spoon' is more of a triumph of the individual over reality, O'Brien argues 'collective solipsism,' where the Party controls reality.

agent === thought police

Room 101 === Room 101 where they meet Merovingian. Only a superficial connection.

The stability of three

Orwell seems to believe that everything comes in threes. Its a good geometrical number when it comes to stability, and he seems to exercise this nearly every chance he gets. These are the four major examples I noticed:
- The High, Middle and Low levels of society
- Three super-states (Oceania, Eastasia, Eurasia)
- body, mind, soul/heart as the three levels of humanity that O'Brien must break in Winston
- Three stages of reintegration: learning, understanding, and
acceptance (p. 260)


Quotations are in the typewriter font.
p. 166

They could spy on you night and day, but if you kept your head you
could still outwit them.  With all their cleverness they had never
mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was
thinking.  Perhaps that was less true when you were actually in their
hands.  One did not know what happened inside the Ministry of Love,
but it was possible to guess: tortures, drugs, delicate instruments
that registered your nervous reactions, gradual wearing-down by
sleeplessness and solitude and persistent questioning.  Facts, at any
rate, could not be kept hidden.  They could be tracked down by
inquiry, they could be squeezed out of you by torture.  But if the
object was not to stay alive but to stay human, what difference did it
ultimately make? They could not alter your feelings; for that matter
you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to.  They could
lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or
thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to
yourself, remained inpregnable.
p. 184

The Book
p. 185

The frontiers between the three superstates are in some places
arbitrary, and in others they fluctuate according to the fortunes of
war, but in general they follow geographical lines.  Eurasia comprises
the whole fo the northern part of the European and Asiatic land-mass,
from Portugal to the Bering Strait.  Oceania comprises the Americas,
the Atlantic islands including the British Isles, Australasia, and the
southern portion of Africa.  Eastasia, smaller than the others and
with a less definite western frontier, comprises China and the
countries to the south of it, the Japanese islands and a large but
fluctuating portion of Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet.
p. 189-190

Evolution of socialism:

- distribute wealth across society
- concentrate power in a small privileged caste
- but the masses with too much material and free-time would become
literate and realize there was no reason for privileged minority
- not enough to keep masses in poverty by restricting output, as
output was necessry for military strength
- solution is war, which uses up excess output
p. 197

[the ruling groups] lives are dedicated to world conquest, but they
also know that it is necessary that the war should continue
everlastingly and without victory.  Meanwhile the fact that there is
no danger of conquest makes possible the denial of reality which is
the special feature of Ingsoc and its rival systems of thought.  Here
it is necessary to repeat what has been said earlier, that by becoming
continuous war has fundamentally changed its character.

p. 198

But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be
dangerous.  When war is continuous there is no such thing as military
necessity.  Technical progress can cease and the most palpable facts
can be denied or disregarded.  As we have seen, researches that could
called scientific are still carried out for the purposes of war, but
they are essentially a kind of daydreaming, and their failure to show
results is not important.  Efficiency, even military efficiency, is no
longer needed... [the rulers] are obliged to remain at the same low
level of military technique as their rivals; but once that minimum is
achieved, they can twist reality into whatever shape they choose.
p. 201

The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable.  The aim
of the High is to remain where they are.  The aim of the Middle is to
change places with the High.  The aim of the Low, when they have an
aim -- for it is an abiding characteristic of the Law that they are
too much crushed by the drudgery to be more than intermittently
conscious of anything outside their daily lives -- is to abolish all
distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal.
Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main
outlines recurs over and over again.

p. 204

And in the general hardening of outlook that set in round about 1930,
practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of
years -- imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as
slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of
hostages and the deportation of whole populations -- not only became
common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who
considered themselves enlightened and progressive.

p. 208

Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself
to the world.  His function is to act as a focusing point for love,
fear, and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt towards an
individual than toward an organization.  Below Big Brother comes the
Inner Party, its number limited to six million, or something less than
two percent of the population of Oceania.  Below the Inner Party comes
the Outer Party, which, if the Inner Party is described as the brains
of the State, may be justly likened to the hands.  Below that come the
dumb-masses whom we habitually refer to as "the proles," numbering
perhaps eighty-five per cent of the pouplation.

p. 209

The essence of oligarchial rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but
the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of life,
imposed by the dead upon the living.

p. 211

Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct,
at the threshold of any dangerous thought.  It includes the power of
not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of
misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to
Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which
is capable of leading in a heretical direction.  Crimestop, in short,
means protective stupidity.

p. 212

Like so many Newspeak words, [blackwhite] has two mutually
contradictory meanings.  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 loyal willingness to say
that black is white when the 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 foget that once has
ever believed the contrary.  This demands a continous alteration of
the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces
all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.

p. 214

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in
one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

p. 216

The official ideology abounds with contradictions even where there is
no practical reason for them.  Thus, the Party rejects and vilifies
every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and
it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism.  It preaches a
contempt for the working class unexampled for centuries past, and it
dresses its members in a uniform which was at one time peculiar to
manual workers and was adopted for that reason.  It systematically
undermines the solidarity of the family, and it calls its leader by a
name which is a direct appeal to the sentiments of family loyalty.
Even the name of the four Ministries by which we are governed exhibit
a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts.  The
Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with
lies, the Ministry of Love with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty
with starvation.

p. 216

If human equality is to be forever averted...then the prevailing
mental condition must be controlled insanity.
p. 222

Arrested by the Thought Police

p. 229

Winston is in the place with no darkness, the Ministry of Love.

p. 230

Ampleforth the poet is placed in Winston's cell. He is guilty of
allowing 'God' to remain in a Kipling poem, an act of disobedience.

p. 232

Parsons is placed in Winston's cell. He is guilty of unconscious
thoughtcrime, in his sleep.

p. 235

An emaciated prisoner is placed in Winston's cell. He foreshadows
Winston's eventual destruction and also establishes the fear of Room
101. He also is the first to betray his loved ones.

p. 239

They begin to break Winston's body.

p. 244

They begin to break Winston's mind.
p. 247

..If he could have been certain that O'Brien was lying, it would not
have seemed to matter.  But it was perfectly possible that O'Brien had
really forgotten the photograph.  And if so, then already he would
have forgoten his denial of remembering it, and forgotten the act of
forgetting.  How could one be sure that it was simple trickery?
Perhaps that lunatic dislocation in the mind could really happen; that
was the thought that defeated him.

p. 248 (there is no spoon)

     "On the contrary," he said, "you have not controlled it.
That is what has brought you here.  You are here because you have
failed in humility, in self-discipline.  You would not make the act of
submission which is the price of sanity.  You preferred to be a
lunatic, a minority of one.  Only the disciplined mind can see
reality, Winston.  You believe that reality is something objective,
external, existing in its own right.  You also believe that the nature
of reality is self-evident.  When you delude yourself into thinking
that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same
thing as you.  But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external.
Reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else.  Not in the
individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon
perishes; only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and
immortal.  Whatever the Party hold to be the truth is truth.  It is
impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the
Party.  That is the fact that you have to relearn, WInston.  It needs
to be an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will.  You must
humble yourself before you can become sane.
- it is interesting to compare this interpretation of perception/reality with "I have no head" in Mind's I, though the comparison is only superficial.
p. 255 (Neo meets the Architect)

O'Brien smiled slightly. "You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston.  You
are a stain that must be wiped out.  Did I not tell you just now that
we are different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content
with negative disobedience, nor even with the most abject submission.
When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will.
We do not destory the heretic because he resists us; so long as he
resists us we never destroy him.  We convert him, we capture his inner
mind, we reshape him.  We burn all evil and all illusion out of him;
we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart
and soul.  We make him on of ourselves before we kill him.  It is
intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in
the world, however secret and powerless it may be.  Even in the
instant of death we cannot permit any deviation.  In the old days the
heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming the heresy,
exulting in it.  Even the victim of the Russian pruges could carry
rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage waiting
for the bullet.  But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.
The command of the old despotisms was 'Thou shall not.' The command of
the totalitarians was 'Thou shalt.' Our command is 'Thou

p. 262 (how and why)

" let us get back to the question of 'how' and 'why.' You
understand well enough how the Party maintains itself in
power.  Now tell me why we cling to power.  What is our
motive? Why should we want power? Go on, speak," he added as Winston
remained silent.

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake...Power is not a
means; it is an end.  One does not establish a dictatorship in order
to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to
establish the dictatorship.  The object of persecution is persecution.
The object of torture is torture.  The object of power is power.

p. 265 (there is no spoon part II)

     O'Brien silenced him by a movement of the hand. "We control
matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull.  You
will learn by degress, Winston.  There is nothing that we could not
do.  Invisibility, levitation -- anything I could float off this floor
like a soap bubble if I wished to.  I do not wish to, because the
Party does not wish it.  You must get rid of those nineteenth-century
ideas about the laws of nature.  We make the laws of nature."

p. 266

...The belief that nothing exists outside your mind -- surely there
must be some way of demonstrating that it was false.  Had it not been
exposed long ago as a fallacy?  There was even a name for it, which he
had forgotten...

...The word you are trying to think of is solipsism.  But you are
mistaken.  This is not a solipsism.  Collective solipsism, if you
like.  But that is a different thing; in fact, the opposite thing.
All this is a digression.

p. 267

The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love and
justice.  Ours is founded upon hatred.

p. 272

     "You did it!" sobbed Winston. "You reduced me to this state."
     "No, Winston, you reduced yourself to it.  This is what you
accepted when you set yourself up against the Party.  It was all
contained in that first act.  Nothing has happened that you did not
O'Brien attempts to establish that he, himself, has no free will. He is compelled to torture and reshape Winston though Winston's own choice to stand opposed to the Party. However, he lies to Winston by saying that "Nothing has happened that you did not foresee," for Winston did not believe that the Party was capable of taking his mind (2+2=5) or his soul (love for Julia). Winston had only chosen to sacrifice his body, which effectively already belonged to the Party anyway.
p. 272

     "I have not betrayed Julia," he said.
p. 282

They break Winston's heart/soul.
p. 292

     "Sometimes," she said, "they threaten you with something --
something you can't stand up to, can't even think about.  And then you
say, 'Don't do it to me, do it to somebody else, do it to so-and-so.'
And perhaps you might pretend , afterwards, that it was only a trick
and that you just say 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...And after that, you don't feel the same toward the
person any longer."
eye tear

Comments (1)

I recently ran across this quote which your entry reminded me of:
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

which contrasts (yet I don't think contradicts) interestingly, with:
Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

anyway, thanks for posting all those excerpts. I loved 1984 and it's great to crawl over those words again.

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