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What does "Ignorance is Strength" really mean?

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dumpling740 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 22, 2009 at 3:09 AM via web

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What does "Ignorance is Strength" really mean?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 22, 2009 at 3:59 AM (Answer #1)

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This quote, "Ignorance is Strength", is part of the larger slogan that Winston sees emblazoned on the pyramid of the Ministry of Truth. The complete slogan, which we need to examine to understand this part, reads as follows:

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

This quote, introduced so early on in the novel, is the reader's first introduction to doublethink. The constant bombardment of propaganda-based fear attacks the independence and strength of people's minds to so great an extent that they accept unquestionably facts that are blatantly the opposite of reality. For example, The Ministry of Love is really a torture centre, The Ministry of Peace is dedicated to prolonging war and the Ministry of Truth is commited to "altering" news and history books. These are facts which the people accept without challenge.

The slogan is thus an important part of this propaganda, and has its basis in a kind of truth that we the readers are aware of, and a truth that Winston comes to discover in the course of the novel. War is literally peace, because having a common enemy keeps the people of Oceania united together. Freedom is, indeed, slavery, because the man who is subject to the collective will is free from want. And lastly, Ignorance is Strength, for ignorance is what the power of the ruling party is based on.

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desoray08 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted April 12, 2009 at 1:44 PM (Answer #2)

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These words are the official slogans of the Party, and are inscribed in massive letters on the white pyramid of the Ministry of Truth, as Winston observes in Book One, Chapter I. Because it is introduced so early in the novel, this creed serves as the reader's first introduction to the idea of doublethink. By weakening the independence and strength of individuals' minds and forcing them to live in a constant state of propaganda-induced fear, the Party is able to force its subjects to accept anything it decrees, even if it is entirely illogical—for instance, the Ministry of Peace is in charge of waging war, the Ministry of Love is in charge of political torture, and the Ministry of Truth is in charge of doctoring history books to reflect the Party's ideology.   That the national slogan of Oceania is equally contradictory is an important testament to the power of the Party's mass campaign of psychological control. In theory, the Party is able to maintain that “War Is Peace” because having a common enemy keeps the people of Oceania united. “Freedom Is Slavery” because, according to the Party, the man who is independent is doomed to fail. By the same token, “Slavery Is Freedom,” because the man subjected to the collective will is free from danger and want. “Ignorance Is Strength” because the inability of the people to recognize these contradictions cements the power of the authoritarian regime.
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parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted January 31, 2014 at 11:27 PM (Answer #3)

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Ignorance gives the Party strength over them as they no longer what exactly is right, and that they have to accept the "official" historical account which can and is always manipulated in the Party's favour.

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acompanioninthetardis | TA , Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 30, 2014 at 2:10 AM (Answer #4)

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this quote means that the less they know, the more the party is able to control them to their wishes and can get stronger. It also means that sometimes its best not to know something in order to keep your strength (this can be applied to real life situations)

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