“the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought” (p. 52)
Some governments are able to function by dividing itself into sections. In the United States of America, these are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches that attempt to work together in governing the population. As for Oceania, these branches that make up “The Party” are known as ministries “between which the entire apparatus of government was divided: the Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts; The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war; The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order; and the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs” (p.4 ).
The official language of Oceania is Newspeak which is published by the Ministry of Truth, or Minitrue. As for the remaining ministries, their names are Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.
Newspeak is essentially the condensing of words and phrases and “had been devised to meet the ideological needs of IngSoc, or English Socialism” (p. 299) There is an entire appendix cemented in the back of the book that dives deeper into the Newspeak language but, for the purposes of this post we will be looking at only a few of the Newspeak phrases found in Part One.
Fun Fact: “Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year” (p. 52).
By the time Winston is working for the Ministry of Truth, they've reached the eleventh edition of Newspeak by destroying words every day for who knows how long now. In today's age, we might not be deleting words from the dictionary (yet) but we should be made aware that there has been subtle and sudden changes to the definitions of certain terms so that the terms don't have the same meaning its held for decades prior.
Back in Oceania, Big Brother is actively withdrawing everyone's word bank in attempt to “narrow the range of thought” (p. 52) so that “thought-crime is literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it” (p. 52). With each release of newspeak edition, their society's collective range of consciousness shrinks and its individuals, quite literally, are unable to form the words to oppose Big Brother.
To some, this may be the most destructive and dangerous 'warning' we receive from 1984 – a sabotage of free speech.
Say Big Brother is successful in his conquest of controlling vocabulary on a societal scale, “[t]he whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconscious” (p. 53). In other words, when their society conforms to Newspeak, there is no longer any critical thinking since everyone is in a submissive slumber. With that, speech that is unorthodox or exists outside of Newspeak ideology is now considered dangerous to Big Brother. Their subjects are no longer free to speak against The Party.
Now that the purpose of Newspeak is a bit more clear, how is it implemented by Minitrue?
Simple: punish them for even thinking about rebelling or committing a crime. Newspeak has a word for this – thoughtcrime, “the essential crime that contained all others in itself” (p.19).
It was understood by Winston that this crime was unavoidable and “not a thing that could be concealed forever” (p. 19) because sooner or later, a rebellious thought may drift by in a daydream and they'll be caught by the tyrants. Winston commits this crime just by having possession of a notebook, “even if he had never set pen to paper” (p. 19).
Another way The Party was able to control its population so effectively through Newspeak was by imposing “an unending series of victories over your own memory" (p. 35). Winston called this “reality control” and translated it to “doublethink”.
Winston describes doublethink as a mental labyrinthine and guides us through its maze: “[t]o know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious to the act of hypnosis you had just performed” (p. 35).
Doublethink is an attack on the act of thinking for oneself. Subjects of The Party could find themselves repeating what they're told even though they know the opposite is true. These subjects have to believe what they're repeating or, guess what, they've committed a thoughtcrime implying The Party is lying.
Today is a new truth, yesterday's truth is now a lie and tomorrow's truth was the same as two days ago. Is anyone able to recall when we may have witnessed this factual flip-flop in modern times?
Big Brother continues his belittlement of the individual by weaponizing Newspeak and slapping negative connotations onto characteristics of an individualist.
Say someone expresses disapproval or indifference towards a state-supported political stance and they'll find that they have committed a punishable offense in Oceania. Take a guess –
“Facecrime” is “to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) (p. 62).
This barrage with Newspeak isn't limited to public settings, it intrudes into the private lives of an individual, or “ownlife”. Ownlife is Newspeak for individualism and eccentricity. Because ownlife is considered a poor quality, Winston has to “assume that when he was not working, eating, or sleeping he would be taking part in some kind of communal recreations; to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous” (p. 82).
The individual cannot exist in this collectivist society unless he or she is supporting the state.
Newspeak is Big Brother's psychological whip on the mind of an individual.
The ideology behind Newspeak highlights the importance of speaking your mind and defending the individual's right to say what they wish to say.
Maybe Winston likes to go on solo walks, we'll never know, he's not allowed to say that.
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