1984 is not just about totalitarianism; it makes us live through totalitarianism. The Party wants power for its own sake. The Party carefully monitors the behavior of all of its constituents. Morning group exercises are mandatory. The Party demands that all loyalty created in private be severed, and that the only acceptable loyalty is loyalty to the Party. The Party condemns sex, and brainwashes its constituents. The Party recognizes no concept of a "family" other than the collective family under rule by the Party. The Party controls everything – the past, the present, and the future – by controlling historical records, language, and even thought. The Party tortures and "vaporizes" those who harbor rebellious thoughts. The state suffers through constant warfare. The conditions are dilapidated, but the citizens do not know better. Classism exists everywhere, and different classes generally do not socialize with each other.
Questions About Power
- What are the different ways that the Party obtains and maintains power in Oceania? Which is the most potent?
- What does it mean to want power for power’s sake? Is this what the Party does? What is power good for, anyway, other than to gain other things such as money, control, and even more power?
- What are some of the rights confiscated altogether by the Party?
- What is the most difficult for Winston to lose?
- How does the Party’s propaganda indoctrinate and control thought? Come on, is it REALLY working?
Chew on This
O’Brien’s description of power as "a boot stamping on a human face […] forever" is misguided, because power is more about influence and authority than victory over resistance. This is the Party’s fatal flaw in 1984.
1984 demonstrates that totalitarianism is a devastating political agenda, because it is necessarily dependent upon fear, classism, and physical torture. Without these elements, the Party would have no power.