Newspeak Essay 1984

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This, I suggest, raises a question: why, if the relevance of truth must contain this element of individual experience to be felt as truth, can the Party apparently become so successful at imposing its “Truth” on people in the place of their own truths?

The answer, I hope to demonstrate, lies in the effect that the Party’s control of language has on the ability that the population of Oceania has (or does not have) access to its own real experiences at an individual, as well as collective, level.

Reality, some post-modern thinkers propose, is fundamentally ambiguous: it is not simply “out there.” And this is not in itself a point that I wish to challenge, although I will in turn propose a different version of this ambiguity.

For Derrida, reality is a kind of “text” outside of which there is “nothing”; for Badiou it is “the event”; and, for Lacan, although the “Real” happens to us, it is, nevertheless, “impossible.” These are all positions which resonate in important ways in .

The Party has understood the central role that language plays in determining thought.

Orwell, in presenting the Party in this way, seems to curiously anticipate certain trends in current post-modernist thinking.

It is Winston’s sense of the importance of the event for him that its truth: a combination of actual fact and factual relevance: an ultimately indeterminable ratio/relationship which is the inviolable actual truth for Winston.

Arguably this is the most important sense in which the truth exists for us; and it is precisely the sense that in is seen as most subversive by the Party and thus constitutes Winston’s heresy.

But how, precisely, can the Party be so effective in this determination of reality?

How is it that people can apparently be prepared and willing to accept a version of reality that seems so antithetical to so many of our basic human needs?


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