Barbara Kingsolver, a novelist, once said, “Every betrayal contains a perfect moment, a coin stamped heads or tails with salvation on the other side” (www. wiseoldsayings. com). This quote holds true in George Orwell’s 1984, as betrayal becomes the party’s solution to achieve absolute control over its people; the people become the betrayed and are persecuted and while the party becomes the betrayer and is protected.
The betrayals are not coincidental nor spontaneous, they are strategically schemed and calculated by the party throughout the course of the novel, which results in evaporated resistance and total submission of the individual to the party. One can see this through Winston Smith; the protagonist who, at the beginning, resists against the party, but ultimately succumbs to the party’s manipulation after being subjected to a series of betrayals.
When one considers the indoctrination of children to the party’s policy, Winston’s betrayal of Julia and Julia’s admittance to betraying Winston, and Winston’s self-betrayal, it is evident that Orwell strategically explores and utilizes these various forms of betrayal to exercise the message of total control. To begin with, the party reinforces its absolute power by indoctrinating young children to the party guideline. This is first seen when Mrs. Parsons asks Winston for help in unblocking their sink, to which he begrudgingly agrees to.
As he enters the Parsons’ flat, Winston encounters their two children, who begin to tantalize him. They call him a “traitor”, a “thought-criminal” and an “Eurasian spy” and threaten that they will “shoot [him], vaporize [him] and send [him] to the salt mines! ” while pretending to shoot him with a toy pistol (21). The taunts that the children make to Winston imply that they have already been exploited by the party’s propaganda as they are conditioned to recognize and loathe those who are considered the enemies of the state and desensitized to the party’s’ ways of violence.
The party goes even further to indoctrinate the children, such as writing weekly articles in The Times, “describing how some eavesdropping little sneak-“child hero” was the phrase generally used- had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police” (23). The party strategically uses media as a form of propaganda to lure the children. For example, the word “hero” is generally used to describe an individual who is admired and idolized for his or her noble actions and qualities; however, the same term is employed by Big Brother to praise the children who betray their own parents.
Furthermore, the party goes above and beyond by publishing ‘actual’ stories of children reporting their parents to the authorities. By doing so, the party eludes that deceiving one’s own parents for the sake of the party is in fact honourable and renders them an idol. To enforce its absolute authority, the party conditions the children to: Systematically turn against their parents and spy on them and report their deviations. The family had become in effect an extension of the Thought Police. It was a device by means of which everyone could be surrounded night and day by informers who knew him intimately. 109) Orwell hints that parents no longer have authority over their own children as they did in the past; it is Big Brother and Big Brother only who wields the power to groom them into loyal followers of the party. The idea of “family” – a network of love, trust and support- is distorted and is transformed into a hostile relationship like a game of cat and mouse; the mouse being the parents and cats being the children. The game is only temporary as it is not a matter of if but of when they will be caught by their children and turned into the Though Police.
Primitive emotions that once existed between a parent and child are absent; feelings such as love and faith are all directed towards Big Brother. This can be seen when Winston encounters Mr. Parsons in the Ministry of Love. Mr. Parsons reveals to Winston that he had committed a thoughtcrime and was reported by his own daughter. He says: She listened at the keyhole. Heard what | was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? I don’t bear her any grudge for it. In fact I’m proud of her.
It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway. (185) Parsons’ words show that he is in no way bothered that his own daughter had betrayed him. He actually seems to be excessively proud of her, calling her “smart” for doing what she did. Parsons feels this way because he believes that his daughter’s betrayal directly reflected off of his good parenting; he is satisfied because he has fulfilled his duty as a parent and as a loyal citizen of Oceania, reinforcing that the only form of loyalty and love that exists in Orwellian’s world is that to the state itself.
Therefore, it is apparent that the indoctrination of children to the party’s philosophies reiterate the theme of absolute control. Next, Winston’s betrayal of Julia and Julia’s admittance to betraying Winston highlights the immense amount of control the party has over them. During one of their rendezvous, Winston tells Julia that their affair will not last forever and they will eventually be caught. He adds that they should not betray each other when the time comes, to which Julia replies that they will end up confessing either way through torture and manipulation.
However, Winston retorts, “I don’t mean confessing. Confession is not betrayal. 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” (135). A confession is not true betrayal because they simply consist of words the party wants to hear; the speaker knows they are not and does not believe them to be true. Committing an action is not true betrayal either because the act can be forced upon by the party to an individual rather than individual carrying it out on their own free will.
Therefore, the only true form of betrayal is when an individual betrays another and they meant it with their entire being. For Winston, true betrayal would be when the party would make him stop loving Julia, something he believes it could never do. Nevertheless, he is proven wrong when he is tortured by O’Brien in room 101. Knowing Winston’s worst fear is rats, O’Brien threatens him with a cage full of them until Winston shouts, “Do it Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do with her.
Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me! ” (227). This is a major tipping point for Winston because he completely surrenders to Big Brother by throwing away one thing that prevented him from doing so: his love for Julia. By betraying Julia, Winston’s mind has finally been purged of all the previous thoughts and feelings of resistance and animosity he had against Big Brother. The loss of attraction between Winston and Julia is evident when they meet after their respective releases from the Ministry of Love.
Julia admits that she had betrayed Winston back in Room 101 and says, Sometimes, they can threaten you with something- something you can’t stand up to, can’t even think about. And then you say, “Don’t do it to me, do it to somebody else, do it to So-and-so. ” And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn’t really mean it. But that isn’t true. At the time when it happens you do mean it.
You think there’s no other way of saving yourself, and you’re quite ready to save yourself that way. You want it to happen to the other person. You don’t give a damn what they suffer. All you care about is yourself. And after that, you don’t feel the same towards the other person any longer. (232) Julia’s words leave a strong impression on the reader because it signifies that she comes to accept Winston’s betrayal. Like Winston, Julia also experiences the gravity in Room 101 and betrays him to save herself.
She explains that she truly wanted Winston to be one being tortured instead because she wanted to save herself as the only individual that matters to her is herself. As a result, they are unable to look at each other the same as they once did. Winston and Julia’s betrayals show how the party is more than capable of turning individuals against each other. Hence it is evident that that Winston’s betrayal of Julia and Julia’s admittance to betraying Winston reinforces the iron hold of the party. Lastly, Winston’s self betrayal emphasizes the absolute power of Big Brother over the individual.
At the beginning of the novel, Winston is introduced as a supposedly loyal member to the party as he works for the Ministry of Truth, altering the past to eliminate any discrepancies made by the party; however, the reader discovers that he secretly loathes his job and the party itself. He hides from the telescreen in his flat and keeps a journal where he writes down his true thoughts on Big Brother. He goes as far as to even commit thoughtcrime by writing “Down with Big Brother” numerous times in it (18). This shows Winston’s discontentment with the party and foreshadows his rebellion against the party.
Later, he also jots down that, “Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows” (67). Here, Winston is referring to the party’s manipulation of the truth; it changes the truths into lies and the lies into truths and expects its citizens to believe whatever they consider the truth to be true. He believes that freedom will follow only after the truth is revealed. He also makes another assumption that, “[the party] [could] [not] get inside you”(135). He is proven long later as Big Brother does conform him to the philosophies of the party.
This can be seen when he sits at the Chestnut Tree Cafe and, “unconsciously trace[s] with his finger in the dust on the table: two plus two equals five” (230). Through this action, the reader sees that Winston is defeated; he abandons his own form of thought comes to accept that the party is and will always be right. The most devastating betrayal occurs during one of the finals moments in the book when he is at the Chestnut Tree Cafe. He looks at the portrait of Big Brother and realizes that: It had taken him forty years to learn what king of smile was hidden beneath the dark-moustache.
O cruel, needles misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two-gin scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was alright, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. (236) Winston is successfully reintegrated into society, losing everything he has in the process. Orwell states that “the struggle was finished” because Winston did not have any reason to struggle anymore; he allowed the party to take full ownership of his body and soul.
By doing so, it reprograms Winston into who is no longer capable of thinking for his self, only for the party. As a result, the new Winston replaces his former self, therefore allowing the Winston to permanently take over himself. This is a strong example of power being extorted by the government because it illustrates that Big Brother is invincible. Therefore, it is apparent that the self-betrayal of the main protagonist emphasizes the infinite power that the party wields over the individual.