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If there's one thing we learn in 1984, it's that torture is a pretty darn effective way to control subversion in a totalitarian state.
If there's one more thing we learn from the story, it's that there are a lot of different ways a person can be tortured. Beyond the traditional physical suffering, we also see examples of mind control, brainwashing, and indoctrination as effective methods of torture. Oh yeah, and rats. Hungry rats.
The branch of government that oversees torture at Oceania is ironically named the Ministry of Love. It is, however, effective. Through torture, the Ministry is able to transform rebellious minds into loving, accepting ones.
Questions About Violence
- Which is worse for Winston, physical or psychological torture?
- As readers, are we sympathetic to Winston's confessing, or do we pass judgment on him for folding under torture? What does 1984 ask us to feel at this point in the text?
- How is torture regarded in 1984? What is it used for, exactly, and how would the Party's power be weakened without it?
- In 1984, is torture justified as a means to an end? NO!? Think about it - it would be a fun case to argue.
Chew on This
Although Winston is subjected to excruciating physical torture for a prolonged time, his spirit is ultimately broken by the psychological torture he suffers.
Julia betrays Winston easily upon being tortured because she is essentially a survivalist; Winston, on the other hand, does not give up until the very end because he is a natural-born rebel.