1984 is about a world gone wrong. This Story explains how far a man’s mind can be controlled.
The Story takes place after the third world war. The world is divided into three superstates: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia.
The Four Ministries
The Story is based in the state of Oceania.
Oceania is ruled by a government called INGSOC. This Government has four ministries: The Ministry of Truth, The Ministry of Peace, The Ministry of Love, and the Ministry of Plenty.
The Ministry of Truth controls information. They provide news, entertainment, education, and information as the government demands.
The Ministry of Peace is making wars with other countries for resources.
The Ministry of Love maintains law and order while killing anyone who opposes the current Government.
And the Ministry of Plenty is responsible for economic affairs.
My favorite one of these four is the Ministry of Plenty. It controls all the resources of the country.
The Ministry of Plenty artificially creates a resource shortage across the country and lies about the economy. They Make sweeping announcements of change and promise everyone a brighter future.
But the future they promise is a fantasy. They always give people fewer and fewer resources saying these are challenging times and they will all have to make sacrifices for the common good and baffles people with damned lies and statistics.
But what’s really happening is that the country’s resources are distributed in a way that the people in the lower levels of society have to live in poverty while the people in the upper classes enjoy the country’s resources well.
The Social-Political System
There is no power in the hands of a single person. Power is governed by the common consent of a centralized committee.
There are three social classes/layers in this social system: the inner party, the outer party & the proles. And there is a very strict hierarchy between each layer.
There are no barriers for an ordinary person to move up in this social system. Any smart person who can embrace INSOC ideologies and shape-up his life accordingly has no obstacle going from the lowest class to the highest committee. So in a way, this is an egalitarian system.
This socio-political system is not created by some cunning and corrupt thieves; this is not such an absurd system. This is a social system made up of logic and reason. Let’s look at a few factors that contributed to establishing such a socio-political system.
- Government systems built on things like love, kindness, and honesty always fail at a certain point. So remove them from society. The INGSOC successfully brainwashed people to the extent that their own children testified against them.
- Remove privacy. You have nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide. Right? INGSOC built a complex and ruthless security system. This system has two goals: to ensure that INGSOC’s subjects know that any attempt to organize against the Government would mean instant death. The second goal is to keep the Government fully informed of what allies and rivals are doing at all times.
- Remove Attachment. Another thing INGSOC wanted was to break all personal ties of people. The Government needs people who are 100% loyal to it; the people of Oceania should only love big brother. INGSOC government even ran an anti-sex program to prevent people from falling in love with each other.
- INGSOC adopted an overarching ideology that combines a sense of hope and nationalism; This gave them the legitimacy it needed. INGSOC is a populist leader – never a dictator.
- If there are no enemies, create some. Oceania always had enemies. These enemies were often caught and killed. There was a very severe public protest against these ‘traitors.’ INGSOC united the people against the hidden hand of the enemies who threatened the country. But the people never knew that their own Government created these enemies.
- Control the flow of information. INGSOC invested heavily in fake news and propaganda against the enemies.
People always want a new way of living. They always ask for a better government system. Why is that?
That’s because we know there can be a much better social system than the one we live in. But what if there are no other systems? If people think this is the only system to survive, they won’t ask for a new government. They will be satisfied with what they got. And that’s precisely what INGSOC did.
Big Brother is watching you
The leader of Oceania is known as ‘Big Brother.’ But no one has seen this Big Brother in real life. People know him only through the TV and Radio, and his image and Voice are not shown at once.
A Big Brother does not really exist; it is a pretense given to the lower social levels by the inner party. Even many government employees do not know whether such a person exists. Only a man with a mustache is shown to identify as Big Brother. These pictures of the man with a mustache are pasted on every road and building.
Big brother has separate police called Thought Police. This group is in charge of policing thoughts: identifying who has impure or anti-government thoughts and doling out punishments to those who violate the thought police’s guidelines.
This means that you will be imprisoned even if you think to do something wrong/illegal. They will even monitor you while you sleep. This way, if you say something terrible about the Government in your dreams, they will catch you.
Something repeated in this book is that big brother and the Thought Police have eyes and ears everywhere. They see everything. They hear everything. Whatever you do or say, they will know.
The Story revolves around a man called Winston Smith, who lives in a small town called Air Strip 1, which belongs to the state of Oceania. He works for the Ministry of Truth.
The Government owns all the television channels, newspapers, books, and articles in Oceania. Even what is taught to children in schools is decided by the Government.
INGSOC is so powerful that they can even change their country’s history to suit their current Government.
Winston’s job is to rewrite historical documents, so they match the constantly changing current party line.
That means if the Government wanted to change a past event in Oceania, Winston’s job was to destroy all previously written articles about that event. All books, newspapers, and documents are destroyed and rewritten.
Winston was tired of his life. He was always looking for a change. One day Winston bought a diary from a junk shop and started writing in it. He wrote about his life and his hate toward the Government. (Keeping a journal was also a crime)
Eventually, he became a revolutionist against the INGSOC government. The Story is about how he fights for his freedom.
I’m not going to say anything more because it might spoil the Story for you.
Truth by Consensus
One of the most important lessons from 1984 is that “Truth is a matter of social agreement and nothing more.” By repeatedly altering the consensus, the past can be rewritten as needed, and any truth the Government wants in the present can be combined with the past.
I will not go into detail about this because it is written beautifully in the book.
Another exciting thing I learned from this book is language control.
INGSOC created a new language called Newspeak. Instead of adding new words to the language, they continually diminished the current vocabulary.
The idea was to control the population and limit their ability to think freely.
Control Language and you control thought; Control thought, and you control action; Control action, and you control the world.
1948 is one of the best books I’ve ever read. The book has so many plot twists, so read this slowly. But I can’t guarantee that you will like the ending, though. Because 1984 is also one of the most messed up books, I’ve ever read.
By the way, If you like to read quotes, I have pulled together some of the best quotes from 1984. You can read them here. Best Quotes from 1984.
So this is my review on 1984. I hope you enjoyed this reading. If you have read this, please leave a comment down below I would love to read your take on this. If you are planning to read this, I believe this review has helped you motivated you to start reading 1948.
Thank you for reading & see you soon with another article.