Paradoxical Slogans in 1984
The definition of a paradox is, “A statement that on the surface seems a contradiction, but that actually contains some truth. ” In George Orwell’s, 1984, the use of paradoxes is exemplified in an attempt to allow the reader to understand the true intentions of a totalitarian government. By using war as a method of keeping peace in the society or even going so far as to further the degree of ignorance to greaten the government’s power, Orwell constantly expresses the oppression of people under a totalitarian rule, the central theme of the novel.
In an effort to gain the further support of the people of Oceania, the controlling party writes the following three paradoxical slogans on any propaganda poster: War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery. These paradoxical slogans, no matter how antonymous, contain a high degree of truth and can be proven through Orwell’s vivid descriptions of Oceania as well as the various literary features found throughout the novel The traditional definition of war is when two or more parties go into combat for a desired external goal that cannot be obtained within their boundaries.
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However, in 1984, although there are two other enemies that exist against Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia, because of the fact that they are all equally matched, war would only cause massive destruction with no victorious party at the end. So instead of fighting, the war is used as a means to keep the hierarchical structure of society intact and allowing the ruling party to maintain their control. They do so by using the war as an excuse to utilize and consume all the wealth that the society could hold.
By creating a sense of inequality, the government does not have to worry about the masses becoming literate. In doing so, they do not come to “realize that the privileged minority has no function” and would not sweep it away hence the paradoxical slogan “War is Peace”. Furthermore, violence against an opposing rebel of the party maintains the peace of the society as any turmoil that may arise is suppressed before damage is done. A numerous amount of literary features can be found throughout the novel that supports the truthfulness of this slogan.
The Thought Police, which is a symbol of the government’s authority and control over the people of Oceania, create violence or war by killing or torturing those in rebellion against the Party. In doing so, peace is restored throughout Oceania. Another literary feature supporting this slogan is the climax of the novel, the torturing of the protagonist, Winston, in Room 101. “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. ” This quote best exemplifies this slogan as it gives a clear sense of his defeat and establishes peace through this violent process.
It is only until Winston is tortured by the use of his biggest fear, rats, that peace is generated. Goldstein and the Two Minutes Hate is an example of how the development of plot contributes to the accuracy of this slogan. Goldstein was supposedly the leader of the Brotherhood and his teachings were the primary source for all types of crime amongst the society and the Party. “A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electrical current. By using Goldstein as a common enemy, this violence can be directed towards a single character and actually unify Oceania for this time.
The people, no matter how violent they may seem, as the quote suggests, are united together into expressing their anger towards this scapegoat. The establishment of war and violence brings peace to the Party as the people are reminded of their ruler, their savior, Big Brother, and the Party gains their further support. The Inner Party goes to immense lengths to greaten the degree of ignorance among the people. As long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison they never even become aware that they are being oppressed. ” This quote, from Goldstein’s The Theory And Practice Of Oligarchical Collectivism, depicts the key to greatening ignorance, a lack of comparison. In Oceania, there are no means of comparison, as communication is under the Party’s influence. Knowledge is the Party’s threat, which once high enough, would lead to their annihilation. Knowledge grows through the education of the people, however this is hindered by the enforcement of various literary features.
The motif, Newspeak, recurs throughout the novel, and illustrates how the government restricts knowledge through the limitation of language. Newspeak is a language that has a narrowed vocabulary in an attempt to exclude words that can raise awareness of any suppressive behavior that the Party exerts. “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. This quote best illustrates the Party’s intentions for Newspeak in regards to this slogan. The first sentence establishes how this motif is increasing ignorance, by narrowing the range of thought. In doing so, the second sentence holds true as the more ignorance that is spread through society, the more strength and power the Party gains control over the people of Oceania. The telescreen, a television that is used to monitor the people of the society as well as to show propaganda, “regularly broadcasts false news reports about Oceania’s military victories and economic achievements”.
The telescreen acts as a symbol of the government’s manipulation of technology to achieve their corrupt agenda. These false reports generate more ignorance in the citizens as they are under the false pretenses that their government is succeeding. This strengthens the Party’s power, as the people are satisfied with the government’s supposed success. The manipulation of records and world history and its contribution to this paradoxical slogan can also be noticed in regards to the Ministry of Truth. The propaganda’s absurd influence is illustrated through Orwell’s descriptions and his use of irony.
The irony of the Ministry is that contradictory to its title, the members actually alter past documents to fit the needs of the Party whether it is to slightly or completely edit history. This destruction of truth once again leads to a heightened amount of ignorance thus creating a higher level of support and giving more strength to the antagonist. The general notion for being successful is that the harder one works, the better their life will be and the further their success will progress. The Party utilizes this belief to their full advantage.
By forcing individuals to perform and focus on their daily routines, their attention is diverted and do not notice the exploitation that is taking place. The people are forced to constantly work hard and slave away. This exertion allows the Party to be free from any rebellion that may occur. The majority of people are too preoccupied to ponder any rebellious thoughts, which allows the Party to enjoy their treasures. In summary, the paradoxical slogan “Freedom is Slavery” contains a degree of truth as in order for the Party to have freedom from rebellion and enjoy their spoils, they must force the people of Oceania into slavery.
The people are forced into performing daily exercises in an attempt to keep society healthy; however, this is not as important as the true desire, which is to keep society preoccupied. Flashbacks are weaknesses to the Party as they are usually associated with thoughts about the time before Big Brother came into power. “…It was evident that there had been a fairly long interval of peace during his childhood, because of his early memories was of an air raid which appeared to take everyone by surprise. This quote exemplifies the flashbacks that the Party is attempting to repress, as it is a memory, Winston’s memory, of the peace before the Party took power. In an effort to prevent this literary device that is frequently seen as the plot continues, the authority forces Winston to exercise harder, and in doing so, he quickly forgets about this and concentrates on his task at hand. This allows the Party to be free from any rebellious thoughts that a minority of people might be thinking of at the expense of this slavery. This paradox also contains some truth in the Party’s belief that a man who is free from authority is destined to fail.
This can be seen through the falling action of the novel where Winston, who was free throughout, ultimately fails and succumbs to the Party’s brainwashing becoming another one of their mindless drones. These paradoxical slogans contain a high degree of veracity and contribute to the theme of the harmful effects and devastating impact of oppression under a totalitarian government. Orwell’s unique writing style and incorporation of these slogans depicts the flaws of such a government and the reasons why such a corrupt authority should not be in power.
The Party openly announces these slogans to the people of Oceania; however, because of their ignorance, they do not understand the logic of these phrases. They are fooled by the Party’s manipulation of records and live in fear, which furthers the authority the government has over them. It is only until the people realize that they are being oppressed that this suppression will end. They must become aware of their repression and understand one thing: the power is with the people. “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious. ”