December 8, 2020

Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell
Reading Time: 10 Minutes

Orwell On Freedom Of Thought

  • Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.

  • Being in the minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was the truth, and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.

  • With all their cleverness, they had never mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was thinking.

  • Until people become conscious, they will never rebel. Until people have rebelled, they cannot become conscious.

  • In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it.

  • By lack of understanding, they remained sane.

  • In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion, the more intelligent, the less sane.

  • The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further.

Orwell On Geographic Regions

  • Eurasia comprises the whole of the northern part of the European and Asiatic land-mass, from Portugal to the Bering Strait. Oceania includes the Americas, the Atlantic islands including the British Isles, Australasia and the southern portion of Africa. Eastasia, smaller than the others and with a less definite western frontier, comprises China and the countries to the south of it, the Japanese islands and a large but fluctuating portion of Manchuria, Mongolia and Tibet.

  • Eurasia gets protected by its vast land spaces. Oceania by the width of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Eastasia by the fecundity and industriousness of its inhabitants.

  • In Oceania, the prevailing philosophy is called Ingsoc. In Eurasia, it is called Neo-Bolshevism. And, in Eastasia, it is called by a Chinese name usually translated as Death-Worship, but perhaps better rendered as Obliteration of the Self.

  • The citizen of Oceania is not allowed to know anything of the tenets of the other two philosophies. He gets taught to execrate them as barbarous outrages upon morality and common sense.

  • Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible.

Orwell On Historical Cleansing

  • It might very well be that every word in the history books, even the things that one accepted without question, was pure fantasy.

  • The alteration of the past is necessary for two reasons, one of which is subsidiary and precautionary. The subsidiary reason is that the Party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison.

  • The reason for the readjustment of the past is the need to safeguard the infallibility of the Party.

  • The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc.

  • The past is whatever the records and the memories agree. And since the Party is in full control of all records, and equally in complete control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it.

Orwell On Human Feelings

  • To dissemble your feelings, to control your face, to do what everyone else was doing, was an instinctive reaction.

  • Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act.

  • When you make love you’re using up energy; afterwards, you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?

  • What you say or do doesn’t matter: only feelings matter.

  • If they could make me stop loving you – that would be the real betrayal.

  • If you can feel that staying human is worthwhile, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.

  • If he were allowed contact with foreigners, he would discover that they are similar to himself and that most of what he has gotten told about them is lies.

Orwell On Modern Life

  • It struck him that the truly characteristic thing about modern life was not its cruelty and insecurity, but merely its bareness, its dinginess, its listlessness.

  • Life, if you looked about you, bore no resemblance not only to the lies that streamed out of the telescreens but even to the ideals that the Party was trying to achieve.

  • In this game that we’re playing, we can’t win. Some kinds of failure are better than other types, that’s all.

  • She would not accept it as a law of nature that the individual is always defeated.

  • Everyone wanted a place where they could be alone occasionally. And when they had such a place, it was only common courtesy in anyone else who knew of it to keep this knowledge to himself.

  • If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

Orwell On Newspeak

  • Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had gotten devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism.

  • It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2050.

  • The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc but to make all other modes of thought impossible.

  • The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only get used in such statements as ‘This dog is free from lice’ or ‘this field is free from weeds’. It could not get used in its old sense of ‘politically free’ or ‘intellectually free’. Political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts and were therefore of necessity nameless.

  • Newspeak was designed not to extend, but to diminish the range of thought. That purpose got indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.

  • Newspeak words were divided into three distinct classes, known as the A vocabulary, the B vocabulary (also called compound words), and the C vocabulary.

  • The A vocabulary consisted of the words needed for the business of everyday life – for such things as eating, drinking, working, putting on one’s clothes, going up and downstairs, riding in vehicles, gardening, cooking, and the like.

  • It would have been quite impossible to use the A vocabulary for literary purposes or political or philosophical discussion. It got intended only to express simple, purposive thoughts, usually involving concrete objects or physical actions.

  • The B vocabulary consisted of words which had gotten deliberately constructed for political purposes. Words, that is to say, which not only had, in every case a political implication but got intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.

  • The B words were in all cases, compound words. They consisted of two or more words, or portions of words, welded together in an easily pronounceable form.

  • Newspeak, indeed, differed from almost all other languages in that its vocabulary grew smaller instead of larger every year. Each reduction was again, since the smaller the area of choice, the smaller the temptation to take thought.

  • The C vocabulary was supplementary to the others and consisted entirely of scientific and technical terms.

  • The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect.

  • In Newspeak, there is no word for ‘Science’.

  • Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

Orwell On Political Theory

  • But by the fourth decade of the twentieth century, all the main currents of political thought were authoritarian.

  • Every new political theory, by whatever name it called itself, led back to hierarchy and regimentation.

  • The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.

Orwell On Privacy

  • There was, of course, no way of knowing whether you were getting watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork.

  • Privacy, he said, was a precious thing.

  • Every citizen worth watching, could be kept for twenty-four hours a day under the eyes of the police and in the sound of official propaganda, with all other channels of communication closed.

Orwell On Rebelling

  • If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.

  • Life as she saw it was quite simple. You wanted a good time; ‘they’, meaning the Party, tried to stop you having it; you broke the rules as best you could. She seemed to think it was just as natural that ‘they’ should want to rob you of your pleasures as that you should want to avoid getting caught.

  • The smart thing was to break the rules and stay alive all the same.

  • I don’t imagine that we can alter anything in our lifetime. But one can imagine little knots of resistance springing up here and there. Small groups of people banding themselves together, and gradually growing, and even leaving a few records behind so that the next generation can carry on where we left off.

Orwell On Seeking Power

  • The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.

  • We know that no one ever seizes power intending to relinquish it.

  • One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution to establish the dictatorship.

  • The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

  • Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your choosing.

  • Always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler.

  • There are only four ways in which a ruling group can fall from power. Either it gets conquered from without, or it governs so inefficiently that the masses get stirred to revolt. Or it allows a strong and discontented Middle group to come into being, or it loses its self-confidence and willingness to govern.

  • If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality. For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.

  • We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he fights us, we never destroy him. We convert him. We capture his inner mind. We reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him.

  • Wealth and privilege most easily get defended when they are possessed jointly.

Orwell On The Party

  • The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs.

  • 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.

  • If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened – that, was scarier than mere torture and death?

  • ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

  • In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.

  • The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.

  • The terrible thing that the Party had done was to persuade you that mere impulses and feelings were of no account. At the same time, robbing you of all power over the material world.

  • Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth.

  • The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth. And, to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought.

  • There are therefore two significant problems which the Party is concerned to solve. One is how to discover, against his will, what another human being is thinking. And the other is how to kill several hundred million people in a few seconds without giving warning beforehand.

  • It is a deliberate policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship. Because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges, thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another.

Orwell On Societal Structure

  • At the apex of the pyramid comes Big Brother. Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful. Every success, every achievement, every victory, every scientific discovery, all knowledge, all wisdom, all happiness, all virtue, are held to issue directly from his leadership and inspiration.

  • Below Big Brother comes the Inner Party, its numbers limited to six million, or something less than two per cent of the population of Oceania.

  • Below the Inner Party comes the Outer Party, which, if the Inner Party gets described as the brain of the State, may be justly likened to the hands.

  • It always got assumed that if the capitalist class got expropriated, Socialism must follow. And unquestionably, the capitalists had gotten expropriated.

Orwell On Waging War

  • The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour.

  • War is a way of shattering to pieces materials which might otherwise get used in making the masses too comfortable, hence too intelligent.

  • The object of waging war is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war.

  • In other words, it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is happening. And, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or poorly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.

  • He had moved from thoughts to words, and now from words to actions.
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