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An Essay on George Orwell's "1984"

There are three principles of the human language - Man is the namer of things, no two things with the same name are ever really the same, and the meaning of a word is not fixed. These three principles are often being distorted in everyday usage and 1984 by George Orwell is no exception to this fact. In the novel, the three principles of language are constantly twisted to create a world of fear and dependence on Big Brother and the Party.

The first principle, Man is the namer of things, is distorted multiple times by the Party in 1984. One example is "Newspeak," which is "...the destruction of words." Complete words and even phrases are wiped out from the human language, leaving gaping holes in the dialect in which Man must create new words. According to Syme, "...there are hundreds of nouns [verbs and adjectives] that can be got rid of...It isn't only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other words?"

Another example is Winston's job, in which he must change, erase, and rewrite entire facts. Even though the Party denies this to be fabrication and that it is simply rectifying mistakes, it is utter forgery of the past. In Winston's mind, he can see that "it was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another [and that]...most of the material that you were dealing with had no connection with anything in the real world...Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version." Through this process, the Party and Big Brother created a false past and through its records, successfully repressing any rebellion that might spring from knowledge of the past.

The Party's perspective of the past is also an example. Perhaps its viewpoint was caused by its own distortion of records. Wither forgeries taking place nonstop, the Party claims to "control" the past. When asked what the past really is or wear one can find it, anyone who challenges the Party comes to a halt, as seen in one of O'Brien and Winston's conversations:

"Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?"
"Then where does the past exist, if at all?"
"In records. It is written down."
"In records. And-?"
"In the mind. I human memories."
"In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?"

In 1984, the second principle, no two things with the same name are ever really the same, is also drastically falsified. One instance of this is the war in itself. According to the Party and Big Brother, Oceania has always been at war with the same country. However, the reader is told in the book at least four times that Oceania's enemy has changed from Eastasia to Eurasia. In the end of the book, the Party declares, "Oceania was at war with Eurasia; Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia." The Party and Big Brother make Oceania's enemy out to be one and the same instead of otherwise.

Another example of the distortion of this principle is the idea or theory behind Doublethink. As explained by Goldstein in his book:

"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them...Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink."

A reader of 1984 with any common sense would be able to see that two contradicting beliefs are not one in the same nor should or could they be held in one's mind at the same time and be completely accepted in unison. It is impossible.

The final principle, the meaning of a word is not fixed, is also misrepresented in 1984. The Party's very slogans, "WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" distort this principle.

It seems to the reader at the beginning of the novel that these mottos are extremely false and as such cannot grasp how the party sees these utterly separate ideals as identical. However, when reading the passage in the book:

"A peace that was truly permanent would be the same as a permanent war. This - although the vast majority of the Party members understand it only in a shallower sense - is the inner meaning of the Party slogan: WAR IS PEACE."

The meaning becomes clear. The Party sees total war as total peace since the Party members would be united against one common enemy. By this, the Party changes the meaning of the words 'war' and 'peace' to fit its purpose.

As one can see, the Party throws the three principles of human language out of proportion so it may prosper. In doing this, people become dependent on the party; one cannot say otherwise to contradict it. In this way, the Party has created a world of fear and dependence.

Sometimes, when you make an omelette, you have to kill a few people...

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The following comments are for "An Essay on George Orwell's "1984""
by Capricorn

I concur...
...also, you need more concrete clarifications in general.

And I need to reread '1984'...

( Posted by: the alienist [Member] On: August 11, 2003 )

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