1984 Study Guide


1984 by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four is an allegorical dystopian novel about the dangers of police states, groupthink, and surveillance of the public. It follows the hapless government employee Winston Smith as he dreams secretly and fruitlessly of rebellion against the all-powerful Big Brother and the Inner Party. Smith's England has been renamed Airstrip One, its citizens stripped of their individuality, its world locked in a constant state of manufactured war. It is a grim vision of the future intended as a commentary on the policies of England at the time of its writing.

Chapter 9 Summary

Brief Summary

Winston has just finished a ninety hour work week during which he altered all of the political literature from the past five years. He was forced into the overtime schedule by a sudden change in enemy on the sixth day of Hate Week. During the speck announcing Eastasia as Oceania's enemy, Winston was given the briefcase with Goldstein's book in it. He is now reading it with Julia in Mr. Charrington's upstairs room. Winston first reads Chapter 3 in which is described the goal of Oceania's perpetual state of war. He then reads Chapter 1 which details the history of Oceania's class struggle and it's current manifestation in the Party system.

Detailed Summary

Winston, fatigued from working over ninety hours in five days, is heading to Mr. Charrington's store for respite. He is carrying the heavy briefcase in which is the book Goldstein wrote about Oceanian society. He has had it in his possession for the past six days, though has not yet opened it. Winston's intense work week began on the sixth day of Hate Week, when Oceania's hate for Eurasia was peeking, it had been announced that Oceania was at war with Eastasia. The announcement came during a rousing hate speech. A messenger ascended the stage and handed the orator a piece of paper. Without pause, the man read the message and from that point forward all references of the enemy were made about Eastasia. He then claimed that Goldstein and the Brotherhood had sabotaged Hate Week by hanging the banners and posters of the menacing Eurasian soldier. The crowd viciously tore everything down without question or hesitation and Hate Week continued as before except with a new enemy. Winston was most impressed by the orator's seamless switch from denigrating Eurasia to denigrating Eastasia. It was at this moment that O'Brien's contact had switched briefcases with Winston, thus giving him the book . He returned to the Ministry where he worked eighteen hour days altering all the political literature produced over the past five years. The workers were finally released on the sixth day after all the records had been rectified.

As Winston awaits Julia's arrival, he begins to read Goldstein's THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM . He starts with Chapter 1 entitled IGNORANCE STRENGTH ; however, Winston stops to take a moment to enjoy the fact that he is able to read in comfort and safety. He then continues reading, this time Chapter 3 entitled WAR IS PEACE . Chapter 3 is lengthy and offers a chronology of the events that led to the current world structure of 3 superstates: Eurasia composed of Europe and Russia; Oceania composed of the British Empire and the United States; and Eastasia composed of China, Japan, and most of the Southeast Asian countries. In addition to the geographical changes, there has been a significant change to the nature of war. It is now continuous and has a different purpose. There are several reasons for the perpetual state of war: 1) the three superstates are too comparable in power to destroy each other, 2) there is no material or financial impetus for war, and 3) the three superstates are virtually ideologically identical.

According to Goldstein, the purpose of these ongoing wars is to exhaust the supernational surplus without raising the standard of living. The primary motivation for those in power is the maintenance of that power through the social hierarchy which was threatened by the mechanization of society. Machines not only equalized the distribution of wealth, but they also decreased work hours for laborers. Shorter work hours allowed for the cultivation of individual thought: a serious threat to a powerful minority. This led to the conclusion that the social hierarchy's longevity depended heavily on poverty and ignorance: the more people worked in order to pay the bills, the less leisure time they would have to think about the unequal distribution of wealth and goods. Restricting the production of goods was an impossibility given its negative impact on defense capabilities. Therefore, the only solution was to maintain levels of production while limiting their distribution. War proved itself to be the only practical method of continuing production without continuing distribution to the public. Continuous war also satisfies the psychological need for Party members to be fanatically supportive of war. In other words, a Party member is expected to have the mentality appropriate to a state of war (192). Inner Party members, using doublethink, must demonstrate the highest levels of war hysteria and hatred for their superstate's enemy. They must also believe that Oceania will dominate the entire world despite knowing that the war is either fictional or is for some other intended purpose. Hence, Goldstein states that athe 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 (193).

When compared to one another, the three superstates are nearly identical in ideology and structure. Oceania's political philosophy is Ingsoc, Eurasia's is Neo-Bolshevism, and Eastasia's is known in English as Death-worship: all three lead to the destruction of the self/individual. Despite their mutual suspicion, there is no actual threat of one superstate conquering another for the simple fact that the war machine enables their social structure to exist. As a result, physical contact between citizens of the three superstates is denied. This, in turn, leads to the development of insular worlds in which organizations like the Thought Police can manipulate the thoughts and lives of citizens. Without access to the outer world, a citizen has no choice but to follow his leader who appears to know what is best. Essentially, war becomes an internal affair waged on the citizens of the superstates in order to maintain the hierarchical structure of society as well as its order. Herein lies the meaning of the Party's slogan WAR IS PEACE (199).

Winston stops reading to enjoy his solitude. Julia arrives just as he is about to begin reading Chapter 1. After having coffee and making love, they read Chapter 1 together. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH details the nature of the struggle between the High, Middle, and Low classes. The High wish to remain where they are, the Middle wish to replace the High, and the Low wish to obliterate all class distinctions. There were many attempts since 1900 to establish various forms of Socialism; however, they were always abandoned. Those of the three superstates touted Socialist aims, but sought to perpetuate un freedom and un equality (203). Technology threatened these aims as well because machinery made it possible for humans to live at the same socio-economic levels. Those in power saw this as a danger to be avoided. By the mid-twentieth century, the Middle produced totalitarian forces obsessed with power. Technology then became a useful tool to help these new forces maintain their power. Television made it possible for the ruling class to monitor the private lives of virtually every citizen. Following the Revolution, collective ownership became the main tenant of the new ruling High; however, collective ownership meant the concentration of property in the hands of the ruling minority. Historically, the new ruling class could be toppled in one of four ways: 1) it is conquered from without, 2) the masses revolt, 3) a strong Middle develops, and 4) it loses its willingness and ability to rule. All four can operate simultaneously, but can be averted by doublethink or erasing the past so that no comparisons can be drawn between life before and after the Revolution.

The structure of Oceania mimics the class structure though there social classes do not exist per se. Big Brother is at the top, followed by the Inner Party which is less than two percent of the total Oceanian population. Below the Inner Party is the Outer Party which functions as the brawn of the Party as a whole. Finally there are the proles who compose almost eighty-five percent of the general population. Membership is determined neither by lineage nor ethnicity/race; rather it is determined by the results of an exam. As a Party member, one is constantly monitored by the Thought Police. A Party member must subscribe to orthodoxy and submit to intense self-regulation because the alternative is certain death. The fundamental aspect of Party orthodoxy is doublethink, the power to simultaneously have and believe in two contradictory ideas. Doublethink is specifically used for the obliteration of the past as a means of maintaining the social hierarchy. In other words, the past, no longer having resonance as a collection of historical events, becomes an invention of the Party for the benefit of the Party.

Winston stops reading and finds that Julia has fallen asleep. He is mildly disappointed by the book as it supplied information he already knew. However, he is pleased to learn that he is not going insane. Now that he has discovered the how of the Party's purpose, he needs to understand the why.

Chapter 9 Analysis

Chapter 9 provided an acute analysis of the Party and Oceanic society. The reader is already familiar with much of what Goldstein's book details regarding the war. Julia's suspicions are confirmed in that the war between Oceania and Eurasia is not occurring in the real sense of the word. Neither government actually engages in battle with the other, rather each enacts psychological warfare upon its citizens for the same reasons Julia presumed. This explains the Party's sudden decision to change enemies at the height of Hate Week. If it weren't for doublethink, such an act would not only be conspicuous but inexplicable as well. Yet, through this exercise in doublethink the reader is told something new about the nature of the conflict between the three superstates. As mentioned earlier, neither the Oceanic nor the Eurasian armies are engaging in frequent physical battles. Those battles that are waged occur far from the inhabited territory of the superstates. Therefore the reader can only agree with Julia's sentiments that the governments are bombing their respective citizenry.

Despite the clearly duplicitous nature of the Party, this is a disturbing fact for two reasons: 1) the depth of the Party's inhumanity is unfathomable and 2) there doesn't seem to be a rational motivation for Oceania to bomb its own citizens. There is no concrete evidence that Eurasia has been committing mass murders of Oceanian citizens. The only evidence of such activities provided are hate films and posters produced by the Ministry of Truth as well as fallacious reports given over the telescreen. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the perpetual state of war is its impetus: maintaining the social order (a small ruling class overseeing a large underclass). The only way the Party could keep production high without improving the underclass's living conditions was to limit distribution by using the surplus in military campaigns abroad. War gave the Party both a valid explanation for the lack of consumption goods and an excellent diversion from the reality of the war.

The reader should note that maintaining the social order essentially means maintaining power.

The Party uses other methods as well to sustain their social position; they include attempting

to control the thoughts of Oceanian citizens and killing masses of people without warning.

Both methods speak to Orwell's general theme of the inherent dangers of totalitarian regimes.

First and foremost, there is the profound lack of concern for humanity. To be more specific,

there is just a profound lack of humanity. The quest for power by the ruling group of a

totalitarian regime justifies the means used to obtain power. Secondly, those subject to a

totalitarian regime can easily succumb to its mind numbing effects and thus allow their minds

to be manipulated by propaganda. A mind manipulated, as Winston continues to point out throughout

the text, is a mind useless to the fight for freedom. Ironically, Winston is as easily swept up as

his comrades in the falsification frenzy at the opening of the chapter. Not only does he willingly

return to the Ministry for an absurd ninety-hour work week, but he strives to do the best

falsification work he has completed to date. There is an additional method that serves as the

foundation and main motivation of Ingsoc; however, Winston stops reading before he discovers the

secret and ironically wonders what that secret why could be.

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