In 1984, why does O'Brien say prisoners are brought to the Ministry of Love?
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In George Orwell's "1984" Winston has been captured by the Thought Police and is being questioned by O'Brien. Winston is strapped down to a table and is being shocked with electric current. At one point O'Brien tells Winston that people are not brought to the Ministry of Love to confess or to be punished. He tells Winston that people are brought to the Ministry to be "Cured." He tells Winston that he is insane and must be cured of that insanity. He also tells Winston that he does not exist.
In Book 3, Chapter 2 of George Orwell’s 1984, Winston is being tortured and interrogated by O’Brien. This is a crucial section of the story because it reveals the true intentions of Big Brother (aka the state). Ironically, the location for this section is referred to as the “Ministry of Love.” What Winston and the other prisoners endure here is, to our way of thinking, anything but love. We would probably call it something more like the “Ministry of Brainwashing” or the “Ministry of Torture.”
The readers, like Winston, assume that the state’s goal is to punish wayward citizens and to frighten them into behaving appropriately. However, as Winston’s interrogation proceeds, the reader sees that O’Brien is not simply torturing him for information or to change his behavior, but is actually trying to change his thought process. This idea is demonstrated as O’Brien holds up four fingers and asks Winston to tell him how many fingers he sees. Winston insists that he sees four until the pain of the torture becomes too great, and he seems to begin to doubt that he really sees four. O’Brien is making him compliant, able to believe what he is told even if it flies in the face of reason and common sense.
Finally, near the end of this sequence, O’Brien tells Winston what the ultimate goal of the torture process is:
We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.
So, the Ministry of Love functions to create citizens that will obey the state not only out of fear, but also because they have been brainwashed to believe that the state is actually right about everything.
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