Notes on 1984 by George Orwell

Thread to keep notes and help me process George Orwell’s 1984.


His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not know,to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible, and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself–that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.

(Chap. 3, p. 120)

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there weren’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is prefect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,” he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. “Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now.” (Chap. 5, p. 136)


If Orwell wrote 1984 today, what would it look like? In what way would Big Brother change if it had current technology?

Comparison with David Eggers’s The Circle

The three key slogans in the company, The Circle–


remind me of the slogans in 1984:

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

If nothing else there’s a slight allusion, indicating that Eggers views the company in a similar fashion as Orwell viewed Big Brother.

What would be interesting is to compare and contrast the two. Both seem to be principles that are meant as key concepts to organize a society. For the Circle, the important idea is to eliminate privacy and maybe the individual–to create total openness of information. In 1984, these principles are primarily used for the rulers to main complete control, in a sustainable way. In a way, 1984, feels like a utopian vision for autocrats, a fantasy or blueprint for who an authoritarian regime could achieve their ultimate goal–namely, complete control, forever. I don’t think the Three Wise Men are necessarily seeking complete control–or are they? In a way, if those principles become firmly established in society, the people who control the means of distributing information will control everything.

Both slogans are for the citizenry–and if the citizenry adopts these principles, those in power will have greater and more sustainable power.

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