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What ideas does Orwell develop in 1984 regarding the nature of reality?

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banksduramaxs... | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 12, 2012 at 4:02 AM via web

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What ideas does Orwell develop in 1984 regarding the nature of reality?

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henryscholar | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted April 13, 2012 at 4:33 PM (Answer #1)

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When controversial author and essayist George Orwell first published the dystopian classic 1984, some critics superficially read into it a thinly-veiled denunciation of Stalin's totalitarian Soviet state. But it was much more than that. In fact, the USSR was a pretty fair simulacrum of the novel's nightmare state of Oceania, a state which was the ideological realization of Orwell's basic question - whether truth exists. Winston Smith, the novel's protagonist, is a realist as far as the truth is concerned. He believes that truth is objective, external to the thinking subject, the human person. The freedom and dignity of the person lies in the capacity to recognize and act upon objective truth. It is for this 'thoughtcrime' that Winston is hunted down and remodeled by the Party in the bowels of the state's torture chamber, the Ministry of Love. There, in a remarkable 'debate', the Party's spokesman, O'Brien articulates the orthodox take on the nature of reality: Truth is not external. Reality only exists in the mind. And since the Party exercises absolute control over the minds of the citizens of Oceania, the Party controls truth. O'Brien provides a horrifying illustration of this when he maintains simultaneously the primitive view that the stars are bits of fire easily reachable by men, and the scientific one, that they are suns countless light years away. The point being made is that reality is infinitely tractile to the power of the Party. As O'Brien, the philosophical idealist, exultantly maintains in the face of the weakening counter-arguments of Winston Smith, the realist, the only objective of the state - no longer chained to the outmoded vision of improving humanity - is the everlasting increase in power.

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