Among the many themes express in the novel 1984 by George Orwell the most interesting and frightening is the concept of creating an alternative reality to control a mass population. The Inner Party stays in power by shaping the thoughts and opinions of the masses and it does this by creating a reality where everything suits whatever it is the party needs to be believed. This is accomplished in three ways. The first is revisionism or the act of changing facts such as history so that the Party is always made to look good and mobilize popular opinion against its enemies.
The second way the party creates an artificial reality is through artificial scarcity. There is no need for the constant warfare but if the need no longer existed for the construction of the tools of war that productivity would instead be put towards the manufacture of goods which could actually raise the standard of living. Finally the Inner Party controls the masses by creating an all powerful omnipotent being whom they contr ol and can say or order whatever it is they need.
Much of the success in creating the Parties artificial reality and thus ontrolling the people was due to the Parties ability to control history through a process called revisionism. This work is done in the Ministry of Truth, in the Records section, were Winston is engaged. Daily, people like Winston, destroy old documents and create new ones to cover policy changes. In addition, everything printed before 1960 has been destroyed by the Party. A good example of this is the work which Winston has to do in the Minitru one day.
His order in Newspeak reads: “time e. 12. 83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling. (46) in Oldspeak: “The reporting of Big Brother`s Order for the day in the Times of December 3rd 1983 is extremely unsatisfactory and makes references to non-existent persons. Re-write in full and submit your draft to higher authority before filing. ” (47) A former higher Inner Party hero, praised in one of Big Brother’s speeches, has mysteriously fallen out of favor, and has probably been vaporized.
It is not enough that the Thought Police has made him disappear. He must be removed from the records. According to the Party he has never existed – he is an Unperson. This process of continuous alteration is applied not only to newspapers, but also to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs- to every kind of literature or documentation which might hold any political or ideological significance. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence.
All speeches, statistics and records of every kind must be constantly brought up-to-date in order to show that the predictions of the Party were in all cases right. With no past to compare things with, everybody is satisfied with present-day conditions. Changing the records maintains the infallibility of the Party and the Big Brother, removing facts from the records and any hint that the Party was ever wrong about anything. By controlling the past, the Party controls the present and thus the reality of the present.
The past exists only in the written records and memories controlled both by the Party. This is the explanation for the last slogan of the Party: “Ignorance Is Strength”. Which means that the Party keeps the citizens ignorant by constantly changing the truth and reality, and destroying all data that could prove the situation otherwise. The Inner Party’s power to create an artificial reality is also largely due to their understanding of the underlying principles of human psychology.
Through artificial scarcity, which was created by the constant warfare, the productivity of workers was used to create goods such as the floating fortress instead of goods which could actually raise the standard of living thus causing a shortage in the amounts of boots and coats available. Therefore the people were more worried about keeping warm and having enough food rather than think about their lives or the political system. This directly relates to Maslow’s theory on human behavior where human needs are ranked in a six level hierarchy where food and shelter come first and political thought comes only at the fifth and sixth levels.
Finally one of the most important aspects of the Party’s reality is 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, come directly from his leadership and inspiration. Nobody has ever seen Big Brother in person. He is a face on the wall, a voice on the Telescreen. According to Goldstein, the Big Brother will never die and is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world.
Big Brother is a god under the control of the inner party. He can be made to say anything and what he is made to say directly propagates the Party’s own agenda. Big Brother also acts as a focusing point for love, fear and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt towards an individual than towards an organization. Big Brother is also effectively omnipresent. “Big Brother On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters and n the wrapping of a cigarette packet- everywhere.
Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed – no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull. ” (29) This further creates the illusion that Big Brother is god and who would try to usurp the divine? The nightmare reality or irreality that Winston must face is under the complete and utter control of the party. They control history, the mind and even god and there is simply no way that their hold on reality can be broken.