1984

World in novel

Ingsoc

Ingsoc (English Socialism) is the predominant ideology and pseudophilosophy of Oceania, and Newspeak is the official language of official documents.

Ministries of Oceania

In London, the capital city of Airstrip One, Oceania's four government ministries are in pyramids (300 m high), the façades of which display the Party's three slogans. The ministries' names are the opposite (doublethink) of their true functions: "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." (Part II, Chapter IX – The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism)

Ministry of Peace

The Ministry of Peace supports Oceania's perpetual war against either of the two other superstates:

The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. At present, when few human beings even have enough to eat, this problem is obviously not urgent, and it might not have become so, even if no artificial processes of destruction had been at work.

Ministry of Plenty

The Ministry of Plenty rations and controls food, goods, and domestic production; every fiscal quarter, it publishes false claims of having raised the standard of living, when it has, in fact, reduced rations, availability, and production. The Ministry of Truth substantiates the Ministry of Plenty's claims by revising historical records to report numbers supporting the current, "increased rations".

Ministry of Truth

The Ministry of Truth controls information: news, entertainment, education, and the arts. Winston Smith works in the Minitrue RecDep (Records Department), "rectifying" historical records to concord with Big Brother's current pronouncements so that everything the Party says is true.

Ministry of Love

The Ministry of Love identifies, monitors, arrests, and converts real and imagined dissidents. In Winston's experience, the dissident is beaten and tortured, and, when near-broken, he is sent to Room 101 to face "the worst thing in the world"—until love for Big Brother and the Party replaces dissension.

Doublethink

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The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word 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 a loyal willingness to say that black is white when 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 forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous 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. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

— Part II, Chapter IX – The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

Political geography

Three perpetually warring totalitarian super-states control the world:[33]

  • Oceania (ideology: Ingsoc, i.e. English Socialism), whose core territories are the Western Hemisphere, the British Isles, Australasia, Polynesia and Southern Africa
  • Eurasia (ideology: Neo-Bolshevism), whose core territories are Continental Europe and Russia, including Siberia
  • Eastasia (ideology: Obliteration of the Self or Death Worship), whose core territories are China, Japan, Korea and Indochina

The perpetual war is fought for control of the "disputed area" lying "between the frontiers of the super-states", which forms "a rough parallelogram with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin and Hong Kong",[33] and Northern Africa, the Middle East, India and Indonesia are where the superstates capture and use slave labour. Fighting also takes place between Eurasia and Eastasia in Manchuria, Mongolia and Central Asia, and all three powers battle one another over various Atlantic and Pacific islands.

Goldstein's book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, explains that the superstates' ideologies are alike and that the public's ignorance of this fact is imperative so that they might continue believing in the detestability of the opposing ideologies. The only references to the exterior world for the Oceanian citizenry (the Outer Party and the Proles) are Ministry of Truth maps and propaganda to ensure their belief in "the war".

The Revolution

Winston Smith's memory and Emmanuel Goldstein's book communicate some of the history that precipitated the Revolution. Eurasia was formed when the Soviet Union conquered Continental Europe, creating a single state stretching from Portugal to the Bering Strait. Eurasia does not include the British Isles because the United States annexed them along with the rest of the British Empire and Latin America, thus establishing Oceania and gaining control over a quarter of the planet. Eastasia, the last superstate established, emerged only after "a decade of confused fighting". It includes the Asian lands conquered by China and Japan. Although Eastasia is prevented from matching Eurasia's size, its larger populace compensates for that handicap.

The annexation of Britain occurred about the same time as the atomic war that provoked civil war, but who fought whom in the war is left unclear. Nuclear weapons fell on Britain; an atomic bombing of Colchester is referenced in the text. Exactly how Ingsoc and its rival systems (Neo-Bolshevism and Death Worship) gained power in their respective countries is also unclear.

While the precise chronology cannot be traced, most of the global societal reorganization occurred between 1945 and the early 1960s. Winston and Julia once meet in the ruins of a church that was destroyed in a nuclear attack "thirty years" earlier, which suggests 1954 as the year of the atomic war that destabilised society and allowed the Party to seize power. It is stated in the novel that the "fourth quarter of 1983" was "also the sixth quarter of the Ninth Three-Year Plan", which implies that the first quarter of the first three-year plan began in July 1958. By then, the Party was apparently in control of Oceania.

The War

In 1984, there is a perpetual war between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, the superstates that emerged from the global atomic war. The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein, explains that each state is so strong it cannot be defeated, even with the combined forces of two superstates, despite changing alliances. To hide such contradictions, history is rewritten to explain that the (new) alliance always was so; the populaces are accustomed to doublethink and accept it. The war is not fought in Oceanian, Eurasian or Eastasian territory but in the Arctic wastes and in a disputed zone comprising the sea and land from Tangiers (Northern Africa) to Darwin (Australia). At the start, Oceania and Eastasia are allies fighting Eurasia in northern Africa and the Malabar Coast.

That alliance ends and Oceania, allied with Eurasia, fights Eastasia, a change occurring on Hate Week, dedicated to creating patriotic fervour for the Party's perpetual war. The public are blind to the change; in mid-sentence, an orator changes the name of the enemy from "Eurasia" to "Eastasia" without pause. When the public are enraged at noticing that the wrong flags and posters are displayed, they tear them down; the Party later claims to have captured Africa.

Goldstein's book explains that the purpose of the unwinnable, perpetual war is to consume human labour and commodities so that the economy of a superstate cannot support economic equality, with a high standard of life for every citizen. By using up most of the produced objects like boots and rations, the proles are kept poor and uneducated and will neither realise what the government is doing nor rebel. Goldstein also details an Oceanian strategy of attacking enemy cities with atomic rockets before invasion but dismisses it as unfeasible and contrary to the war's purpose; despite the atomic bombing of cities in the 1950s, the superstates stopped it for fear that would imbalance the powers. The military technology in the novel differs little from that of World War II, but strategic bomber aeroplanes are replaced with rocket bombs, helicopters were heavily used as weapons of war (they did not figure in World War II in any form but prototypes) and surface combat units have been all but replaced by immense and unsinkable Floating Fortresses, island-like contraptions concentrating the firepower of a whole naval task force in a single, semi-mobile platform (in the novel, one is said to have been anchored between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, suggesting a preference for sea lane interdiction and denial).

Living standards

The society of Airstrip One and, according to "The Book", almost the whole world, lives in poverty: hunger, disease and filth are the norms. Ruined cities and towns are common: the consequence of the civil war, the atomic wars and the purportedly enemy (but possibly false flag) rockets. Social decay and wrecked buildings surround Winston; aside from the ministerial pyramids, little of London was rebuilt. Members of the Outer Party consume synthetic foodstuffs and poor-quality "luxuries" such as oily gin and loosely-packed cigarettes, distributed under the "Victory" brand. (That is a parody of the low-quality Indian-made "Victory" cigarettes, widely smoked in Britain and by British soldiers during World War II. They were smoked because it was easier to import them from India than it was to import American cigarettes from across the Atlantic because of the War of the Atlantic.)

Winston describes something as simple as the repair of a broken pane of glass as requiring committee approval that can take several years and so most of those living in one of the blocks usually do the repairs themselves (Winston himself is called in by Mrs. Parsons to repair her blocked sink). All Outer Party residences include telescreens that serve both as outlets for propaganda and to monitor the Party members; they can be turned down, but they cannot be turned off.

In contrast to their subordinates, the Inner Party upper class of Oceanian society reside in clean and comfortable flats in their own quarter of the city, with pantries well-stocked with foodstuffs such as wine, coffee and sugar, all denied to the general populace.[34] Winston is astonished that the lifts in O'Brien's building work, the telescreens can be switched off and O'Brien has an Asian manservant, Martin. All members of the Inner Party are attended to by slaves captured in the disputed zone, and "The Book" suggests that many have their own motorcars or even helicopters. Nonetheless, "The Book" makes clear that even the conditions enjoyed by the Inner Party are only "relatively" comfortable, and standards would be regarded as austere by those of the prerevolutionary élite.[35]

The proles live in poverty and are kept sedated with alcohol, pornography and a national lottery whose winnings are never actually paid out; that is obscured by propaganda and the lack of communication within Oceania. At the same time, the proles are freer and less intimidated than the middle-class Outer Party: they are subject to certain levels of monitoring but are not expected to be particularly patriotic. They lack telescreens in their own homes and often jeer at the telescreens that they see. "The Book" indicates that is because the middle class, not the lower class, traditionally starts revolutions. The model demands tight control of the middle class, with ambitious Outer-Party members neutralised via promotion to the Inner Party or "reintegration" by the Ministry of Love, and proles can be allowed intellectual freedom because they lack intellect. Winston nonetheless believes that "the future belonged to the proles".[36]

The standard of living of the populace is low overall. Consumer goods are scarce, and all those available through official channels are of low quality; for instance, despite the Party regularly reporting increased boot production, more than half of the Oceanian populace goes barefoot. The Party claims that poverty is a necessary sacrifice for the war effort, and "The Book" confirms that to be partially correct since the purpose of perpetual war consumes surplus industrial production. Outer Party members and proles occasionally gain access to better items in the market, which deals in goods that were pilfered from the residences of the Inner Party.


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