Study Guide

1984 Warfare

By George Orwell

Warfare quotes in 1984

Book 1, Chapter 2

"Attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end. Here is the newsflash -"Bad news coming, thought Winston. And sure enough, following on a gory description of the annihilation of a Eurasian army, with stupendous figures of killed and prisoners [...] (1.2.30-31)

The announcement of war in Oceania is so constant that Winston can almost predict it.

Book 1, Chapter 3

Since about that time, war had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several months during his childhood there had been confused street fighting in London itself, some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one. At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge, which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible. (1.3.16)

For as long as Winston can recall, Oceania has been in a constant state of war - with whom it was at war is of neither importance nor consequence.

Winston could not definitely remember a time when his country had not been at war, but it was evident that there had been a fairly long interval of peace during his childhood, because one of his early memories was of an air raid, which appeared to take everyone by surprise. Perhaps it was the time when the atomic bomb had fallen on Colchester. He did not remember the raid itself [...]. (1.3.12)

No matter how hard he digs at his memory, Winston is uncertain whether a time existed when Oceania was not at war with someone.

Book 1, Chapter 8
The Proles

"That was before the war, of course."

"Which war was that?" said Winston.

"It's all wars," said the old man vaguely. (1.8.35-37, the old prole Man)

Warfare is so constant in Oceania that one war blends with another.

Suddenly the whole street was in commotion. There were yells of warning from all sides. People were shooting into the doorways like rabbits. A young woman leapt out of a doorway a little ahead of Winston, grabbed up a tiny child playing in a puddle, whipped her apron round it, and leapt back again, all in one movement. At the same instant a man in a concertina-like black suit, who had emerged from a side alley, ran towards Winston, pointing excitedly to the sky. "Steamer!" he yelled. "Look out, guv'nor! Bang over-ead! Lay down quick!" "Steamer" was a nickname which, for some reason, the proles applied to rocket bombs. (1.8.7-9)

The wars Oceania endures often create fear and destruction, though ultimately keep its constituents in check.

Book 2, Chapter 9

On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns - after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces - at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally. (2.9.3)

Winston again recognizes the switch! Now the Party announces that Oceania is at war with Eastasia, and not Eurasia after all.

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor [...]. The social atmosphere is that of a besieged city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes the difference between wealth and poverty. And at the same time the consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival. (2.9.28, Goldstein's Manifesto)

War is a necessary tool for the Party because it keeps the people peaceful, such that rebellion is far from their minds.

The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. (2.9.25, Goldstein's Manifesto)

War is a necessary tool for the Party because it keeps the standard of living in check, maintaining the inequalities essential to a totalitarian state.

In one combination or another, these three super-states are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years. War, however, is no longer the desperate, annihilating struggle that it was in the early decades of the twentieth century. It is a warfare of limited aims between combatants who are unable to destroy one another, have no material cause for fighting and are not divided by any genuine ideological difference. (2.9.22, Goldstein's Manifesto)

Oceania is permanently at war with the other superstates. Such war is not necessary - except in the sense of keeping the warring states- constituents in check. Oceania uses war to control its constituents.

The Proles

"What I mean to say, there is a war on," said Parsons. (1.5.51, Parsons)

Parsons is merely stating the obvious that there is a war going on in Oceania.

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