According to this article George Orwell’s 1984 has climbed charts since the election of president Trump. What can this George Orwell’s 1984 tell us today?
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were strik- ing thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an e ort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly
through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from enter- ing along with him.
e hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enor- mous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty- ve, with a heavy black moustache and rugged- ly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the li . Even at the best of times it was sel- dom working, and at present the electric current was cut o during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. e at was seven ights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the li -sha , the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.
Everything had been different then. Even the names of countries, and their shapes on the map, had been di erent. Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England or Brit- ain, though London, he felt fairly certain, had always been called London.
Winston could not definitely remember a time when his country had not been at war, but it was evident that there had been a fairly long interval of peace during his child- hood, because one of his early memories was of an air raid which appeared to take everyone by surprise. Perhaps it was the time when the atomic bomb had fallen on Colchester. He did not remember the raid itself, but he did remember his father’s hand clutching his own as they hurried down, down, down into some place deep in the earth, round and round a spiral staircase which rang under his feet and which nally so wearied his legs that he began whimpering and they had to stop and rest.
Since about that time, war had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several months during his childhood there had been confused street ghting in London itself, some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was ghting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one. At this mo- ment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no pub- lic or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along di erent lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. O cially the change of part- ners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. e enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.
e frightening thing, he re ected for the ten thou- sandth time as he forced his shoulders painfully backward (with hands on hips, they were gyrating their bodies from the waist, an exercise that was supposed to be good for the back muscles)—the frightening thing was that it might all be true. If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, IT NEVER HAPPENED—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?
e Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own
consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed— if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature al- terable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in New- speak, ‘doublethink’.
1. Why do you think that people want to read 1984 today?
2. What does the concepts double-think and newspeak mean? Do they speak to our time somehow?
3. What is the relationship between truth and power, according to Orwell?
Write a diary entry in the spirit of Winston Smith. Change setting to Sweden now, or continue the story and write the next chapter in the novel, inspired by what you read.
Chomsky’s analysis of the massmedia in the United States