Having failed the medical test to allow him to go off to war, author George Orwell (seen above, back row second from right) helped contribute to the war effort in an easier capacity: the BBC. He worked in the Overseas … Continue reading
THE WORLD OF 1984: CLASS SYSTEM
The world of “1984” is divided into three main class systems: The Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles. Big Brother is at the top of the pyramid.
Only making up 2% of the population, the Inner Party is the ruler of Oceania. They make policies, decisions and govern. The Inner Party is commonly known as “The Party” and they are the upper class. They have privileges different than any other such as being able to temporarily turn off their telescreens, living in comfortable homes, have good food and drink (they are not bothered by rations of lower quality supplies that the other classes must adhere to), having personal servants and access to helicopters and automobiles. No other class may enter Inner Party neighborhoods without a very good reason. Despite all this, the Party is not immune to the rigid thought and behavior imposed on it, even though it originates within their own ranks. If an Inner Party member gets out of line they are dealt with the same as any other member of society, mainly through torture, imprisonment and/or being erased from history (becoming an “unperson”).
The Outer Party is given state administrative jobs and are composed of the more educated members of society. They are responsible for the direct implementation of the Party’s policies but have no say. They are the “artificial middle class” and have strict rules applied to them. They are allowed “no vices other than cigarettes and Victory Gin”. They are spied on via telescreens and other means of surveillance, including being encouraged to spy on each other for any suspicious activities. Winston washes off a bit of ink on his hands while writing in his diary, knowing that someone could ask why he had ink and if he was writing and why was he writing and etc. According to history, the middle class is the most dangerous–their intellectual ability with limited power means they are more likely to start a revolution against the upper classes. The Outer Party is required to have a constant patriotic frenzy for the Party, following blindly every order from them. They live in rundown neighborhoods and are subjected to rations to an almost ongoing state of starvation. They are also required to abstain from sex unless it’s for procreative purposes.
The lower class of workers that perform the majority of menial tasks and labors. They are in the poorest of conditions but are the most free of any of the classes in that the Party does not spy on them, thinking they aren’t worth it. The Party keeps them entertained with alcohol, gambling, sports, and fabricated novels and pornography (called “prolefeed”). They are kept uneducated and are considered unable to gain any sophisticated views of their lives or the society they live in. They are considered harmless, nothing more than animals. Some members of the Thought Police wander around the prole neighborhoods to see if any of them are displaying intelligence and if so they are taken away and vaporized. The Proles make up 85% of the population. In his diary Winston writes, “If there is any hope, it lies with the Proles.”
The social classes of Oceania interact very little, but sometimes they do come together for a few events like going to the cinema. Winston ends up going to a prole pub unnoticed by the upper Party (or is he unnoticed?). And Winston is able to see O’Brien, an Inner Party man, on pretext of borrowing the latest edition of the Newspeak dictionary.
Julia (last name never known) was born in the year 1958. She grew up after the Revolution, so she had always known a world with Big Brother, unlike Winston. She grew up probably much the same way the Parson’s children did, totally engrossed in the Party way with instructions to spy on adults.
Her life is not without pain. When she was eight years old her grandfather was vaporized for unknown reasons. Not too soon after that, when she was sixteen, she started her sexual career by having her first love affair with a Party Member. It is unclear how many Party Members she ends up having sex with, but we are led to believe a lot. Because sex is what Julia uses to rebel against the Party. One area the Party has not been able to conquer is sex; it’s main goal is to get rid of the orgasm i.e. sex for pleasure.
This is all we know of Julia’s life up until right before she formally meets Winston. We are first introduced to her early in the book. Winston sees her during the Two Minute Hate on April 4, 1984. He had noticed her off and on by sight around the building, but when Winston sees her at the Two Minute Hate he transfer’s his hate of Big Brother onto her, wanting to rape and humiliate her thinking she is just one of the many spies who seems to know what Winston is thinking. We next see her in the canteen during Winston’s lunch the next day. His feelings for her haven’t changed yet he dreams about her that night.
One day the two meet in the corridor, where Julia falls as a pretext to give Winston a note saying, “I Love You”. Thus begins a whirlwind romance, yet another Party Member Julia can add to her list. One gets the feeling though that Julia ends up actually loving Winston instead of using him. We are never sure of her true intentions.
The two meet in the country at first and then in a room above a junk shop that Winston rents. We learn more about Julia: she works as a mechanist at the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She has no interest in bringing the party down, only in having fun and doing acts of rebellion. And, because of her Party connections, she is able to get luxury items like chocolate bars, coffee, and soap.
Julia and Winston’s affair lasts a few months until it is revealed that the kindly junk shop owner Mr. Charrington is actually a higher class member of the Party and has been snitching on the couple. The Thought Police and O’Brien arrest them and send them to the Ministry of Love.
At this point we lose track of Julia for almost six months. We see her again in the spring of 1985, as Winston remembers visiting with her briefly in the park. We see that Julia has been tortured as well, with a scar across her forehead indicating a lobotomy. They speak in monotone voices with each other and Julia admits wishing for Winston to be tortured instead of her. Instead of being pleased by Winston’s hands around her waist, she stiffens like a corpse. Her interest in sex is gone. They agree to not see each other again and go their own ways.
Oceania, where our story takes place, is run by the Party whose ideology is Ingsoc (English Socialism). London is the capital and the skyline is dominated by four pyramid-like structures, home of the Ministries:* The Ministry of Truth (MiniTrue), Ministry of Love (MiniLuv), Ministry of Peace (MiniPax) and Ministry of Plenty (MiniPlenty). They are bright white concrete and rising 300 meters into the air. On the front are the three slogans of the Party: “WAR IS PEACE”, “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY” and “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”.
Ministry of Truth (Minitrue)
The Ministry of Truth is the only one we know of intimately, as this is where Winston Smith works. It has 3000 rooms above ground. Underground is probably devoted to huge incinerators where documents are destroyed after being put down memory holes, small grates at each person’s desk.
Minitrue deals with information and how it is distributed to the masses, both Party officials and the Proles. It is involved with the news media, entertainment, the fine arts, and educational books. Since the Party’s rules are constantly changing, the media has to change along with it to reflect whatever truth the Party wants at the moment. This is where Winston comes in. He works in an office that helps change this information. Once something is changed, it is regarded as truth and also regarded as always have been true. For example, if Big Brother made a prediction and the prediction came out wrong, then workers like Winston re-write the prediction so it’s accurate.
The Records Department is just a small sector of Minitrue. A huge part of Minitrue was to
“…supply the citizens of Oceania with newspapers, films, textbooks, telescreen programs, plays novels—-with every conceivable kind of information, instruction, or entertainment, from a statue to a slogan, from a lyric poem to a biological treatise, and from a child’s spelling book to a Newspeak dictionary. And the Ministry had not only to supply the multifarious needs of the Party but also to repeat the whole operation at a lower level for the benefit of the proletariat. There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers, containing almost nothing except sport, crime, and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator. There was even a whole subsection–Pornosec, it was called in Newspeak–engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.”
The different departments that are mentioned:
• Records Department (Recdep)
• Fiction Department (Ficdep)
• Pornography (Pornosec)
• Propaganda Department (Propdep)
• Tele-Programmes Department (Teledep)
• Research Department (Resdep)
• Music Department (Musdep)
Ministry of Peace (Minipax)
Minipax serves as the defense in Oceania and is in charge of the Ministry of Plenty. It is in charge of the armed forces, the navy and the army. It is one of the main Ministries as the state is always in a perpetual war.
What we know of Minipax is from Emmanuel Goldstein’s book. He tells us that the reason the state is in a perpetual war is so it uses up all the surplus resources, keeping the citizens in lives of constant hardships–and thus preventing them from learning the true nature of their society.
Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty)
Miniplenty is in charge of Oceania’s planned economy. It ties in with Minipax in that it controls the food, supplies and goods. It regulates giving the population short supplies in order to give them a hard life so they will not realize the true motives of the Party. It gives the population useless and synthetic supplies or weapons for use in the war, while they have no access to the means of production. Thus, a poor, weak populace is easier to rule than a wealthy, powerful one. Throughout the novel the telescreens often make reports on how Big Brother has been able to increase economic production, even when production has actually gone down. Miniplenty also hands out statistics that are nonsense.
Ministry of Love (Miniluv)
Minilove is the truly scary one. It enforces loyalty and love of Big Brother through fear and brainwashing. The building it is housed in has no windows and is surrounded by barbed wire entanglements, steel doors, hidden machine-gun nests, and guards armed with “jointed truncheons”. It is “the place where there is no darkness”, as the interior lights are never shut off. The Thought Police is part of Miniluv.
Miniluv contains Room 101 which has “the worst thing in the world” inside it. Namely whatever the prisoner’s greatest fear is.
* The Ministries, specifically MiniTrue, is based on Senate House in London. Senate House was the headquarters of the Ministry of Information during World War II and is now owned by the University of London. Orwell’s wife, Eileen O’Shaugnessy, worked here for a short time during the war.
Winston Smith was born in May of 1944* into a world filled with nuclear warfare. Not much is known about his parents, but when he was eleven years old, with his father most likely dead, his mother and baby sister hid in the old London tubes to shelter themselves from the revolutionary war above. Selfishly, Winston stole some food that his mother had been saving. He ran away and never saw his family again.
In 1971 Winston marries Katherine, a woman with no drive or aspirations except for whatever the Party tells her. Winston is never happy with her and at one point contemplates shoving her off a cliff during a nature hike. Sex with his wife was a boring, uninspiring affair which Katherine called doing her “duty to the Party”—attempting to create children. They separated after only two years of marriage due to the lack of conceiving. Years later Winston muses that they are always still technically married since they never got officially divorced.
We are shown that Winston has started his job at the Ministry of Truth by this time. His job is altering documents per the Party’s wishes and translating them to Newspeak. Despite the soul crushing reason for his job, Winston enjoys the tediousness of it and finds a small area of creativity in coming up with ways to use Newspeak.
One day a slip of paper comes his way that probably ends up changing his life. A little backstory: during the Revolution three men, Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford, are arrested and made to confess to trumped up charges which make them good scapegoats for Big Brother. They are tortured much the same way Winston will be and sent free after they confess. Winston ends up seeing the broken men (one of them shedding a tear during a speech by Big Brother) at the Chestnut Tree Cafe and soon after they are never seen from again. During his fateful day at work Winston comes across a newspaper article that proves that the men’s confessions were a lie. This has a profound effect on him, but he throws it into the “memory hole” anyway (a small grate where information is burned to ashes). Even though the information is gone, it still lives in Winston’s mind and starts to change his feelings towards the Party.
Perhaps someone from the Party noticed Winston staring at this piece of paper for too long because a few years later it (including top Party official O’Brien) starts it’s surveillance on him. Maybe the Thought Police is able to manipulate dreams because Winston starts dreaming of O’Brien and his “Golden Country”.
When our story begins it is April 4, 1984 and Winston skips eating in the canteen for his lunch break in order to come home and start illegally writing in a journal he bought in a junk shop some years before. His interest in O’Brien begins that very day during the Two Minute Hate. He shares a brief look with O’Brien which leads Winston to believe that O’Brien knows that everything the Party stands for is a sham. Winston does not dare act on these suspicions but suspects them all the same.
During this lunch break we are introduced to Winston’s neighbors in Victory Mansions, the apartment building he and other middle-class Party members live. This is the Parson family, of which Mr. Parson is a general acquaintance at work. Mrs. Parson has a problem with her drain and just assumes Winston knows how to fix it, which he does because it is nothing more than nasty clogged hair. During the visit to the Parson’s flat, their two children harass Winston and accuse him of being a traitor to the Party. This rattles Winston, as children are raised by the Party to be spy’s on the adults around them. And Winston has not been having very orthodox thoughts as of late.
Winston takes pleasure in small objects that were made before the revolution. This includes his journal, which has creamy paper, and a paperweight. The paperweight is glass with a piece of coral inside. He buys it at the same second-hand shop he bought his journal at, from a kindly old man named Mr. Charrington.
Shortly after this adventure, another life changing moment happens: he is given a note that says “I love you”. The note is given to him by Julia, a woman Winston knew vaguely by sight around the building. During one Two Minute Hate, Julia is right behind him and Winston feels an intense hatred for her: simply because she is a woman who would never want to have sex with him and, he figures, is a spy. This turns out not to be true and the two develop a love affair.
Sex for pleasure is frowned upon by the Party. In fact, one of it’s main goals is to abolish the orgasm. Sex is only for procreation; to create future generations of Party members. Winston and Julia start meeting out in the country at first but then Winston rents a room above Mr. Charrington’s shop. Little do Winston and Julia know but Mr. Charrington ends up being a member of the Party and relays information to O’Brien about their activities.
Because soon after acquiring the room O’Brien makes his move. O’Brien tells Winston that he is actually a leader amongst the “Brotherhood”, a group of rebels against the Party. He gives Winston “The Book”, a nickname to Emmanuel Goldstein’s, “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism”. In The Book it details the rise of Big Brother and his revolution, as well as the backstory to the Party. Winston is fascinated by The Book and attempts to read it to Julia who promptly falls asleep. Most likely this was a little nod to the reader, of whom Orwell knew would also find The Book boring and would probably skip through the section.
Of course O’Brien is not part of any Brotherhood (of which we never know for sure if it exists or not) but uses this to finally give pretext to arrest Winston and Julia. While naked in their room, the two lovers are taken by the Thought Police to the dreaded and fearful Ministry of Love—the jail and torture center of the Party.
Winston is kept here for over a month before finally meeting with O’Brien. In an instant Winston realizes he has been fooled and had basically led himself to slaughter by befriending the upper-class Party Member. O’Brien begins to torture Winston, his main goal to slowly change Winston’s mind from a “sick” person to someone the Party can control. During the sessions he reveals tidbits about the Party, like how the Party’s main goal is to become powerful for power’s sake. And to make Winston to not only believe but to KNOW whatever the Party tells him, even if it’s something wrong and contradictory like 2 + 2 = 5.
After a few months of this, Winston is still not broken and this is demonstrated by the fact that Winston will not give up his love for Julia. As long as he loves a person instead of the Party then his torture is not over with. Finally, he is taken to Room 101—the room that has the “worst thing in the world” in it. What’s in it? Whatever the person being taken in is afraid of most in the world. Fire, suffocation or, as in Winston’s case, rats. O’Brien places a caged contraption over Winston’s head that, when a door is opened inside of it, rats will run out and start to eat Winston’s face.
Winston’s mind finally snaps and he pleads with O’Brien to “do it to Julia”—torture her instead.
O’Brien is able to piece back together Winston’s broken mind, much like they did with Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford. He builds Winston’s mind into the persona of the Party’s ideal citizen. Winston finally knows that 2 and 2 make 5.
In the spring of 1985, a year after the story starts, Winston is finally out of the MiniLove. He runs into Julia in the park and the two no longer love each other, or have any feelings towards anyone whatsoever. Winston reflects on this meeting while having a drink in the Chestnut Tree Cafe. Suddenly the telescreen behind him features a small speech by Big Brother. A small gin-soaked tear trickles down Winston’s cheek. He may not love another human being but he loves Big Brother!
* Although the month of Winston’s birth is never said, I always assumed it was because Winston is the same age as George Orwell’s adopted son Richard Horatio Blair. Orwell took many timelines and places and people from his real life and it is not a stretch to believe he did the same for Winston’s birth and age.
The political geography of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is divided into three areas: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. A large part of Africa and some of Asia is Disputed area, with the three superpowers constantly at war to get it.
Oceania’s political ideology is Ingsoc (Newspeak for English Socialism). The core territories are the majority of the Western Hemisphere, the British Isles, Australasia, and Southern Africa. The capital is London, with New York being another major city.
Eurasia’s ideology is Neo-Bolshevism. It’s territories are Continental Europe and Russia (including Siberia).
Eastasia’s ideology is the Obliteration of the Self (i.e. “Death Worship”). It’s territories include China, Japan, Korea, and Indochina.
The Disputed areas form “a rough parallelogram with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hong Kong”—Northern Africa, the Middle East, India, and Indonesia. The superstates capture and utilize slave-labor. Fighting also stakes places between Eurasia and Eastasia in Manchuria, Mongolia, and Central Asia. They battle each other over various Atlantic and Pacific islands.
In Emmanuel Goldstein’s Book “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchial Collectivism”, it explains that the super states’ ideologies are basically alike and that the public’s ignorance of them is a must so that they might continue hating them. The only references to the exterior world for the citizens of Oceania (the Outer Party and the Proles) are Minitrue maps and propaganda ensuring their belief in “the war”.
Oceania is at war with either one of Eastasia or Eurasia at all times. The sides may change at any time, but the citizens are led to believe that they have always been enemies with whichever side they are at war with at the present time. Thus, “We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia”. Sides may be changed with little warning and explanation. According to the Timeline (https://writingasiplease.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/timeline-to-nineteen-eighty-four/), Oceania had been at war with Eurasia from about 1980 to July of 1984, when it abruptly changed to Eastasia in time for Hate Week. Eurasia was now an ally and Eastasia was now their hated enemy for no reason at all. Thus is the consequence of being in a perpetual war.