Can Big Brother decide what is real and what is not?

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In Oceania, Big Brother is the sole arbiter of what is real and what is not. As dictator, as the absolute ruler of this totalitarian state, whatever he says, goes. It doesn't matter how absurd, (2+2=5) strange, or plainly contradictory his utterances are; if he says something, then the people...

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In Oceania, Big Brother is the sole arbiter of what is real and what is not. As dictator, as the absolute ruler of this totalitarian state, whatever he says, goes. It doesn't matter how absurd, (2+2=5) strange, or plainly contradictory his utterances are; if he says something, then the people of Oceania have no choice but to accept it as an accurate statement of reality.

Big Brother and the Party are creating an alternate reality in which they, and they alone, get to determine what's real. Constructing a parallel universe in this way allows the Party to cement its control over the people of Oceania. As the people know no other reality than the one constructed for them by the Party, they have no independent standard of truth against which they can measure the information that comes down from high.

Even if they suspect that what they're being told isn't true, people have no means of getting at the truth, and that's just how the Party likes it. So long as the Party is able to sustain this alternative version of reality, the people of Oceania will remain in a state of subjection. The citizens are held back by their ignorance of the truth from mounting a serious challenge to Big Brother's dictatorship.

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The method by which a totalitarian society such as that depicted in 1984 operates is essentially to try to destroy the concept of objective reality. "Truth" is made into not what people's own senses tell them—what they factually observe and remember—but instead what the Party tells them it is. The most obvious case in which this is shown to Winston is when, during his "re-education" process, O'Brien tortures him into "believing" the number of fingers he is holding up is not what Winston sees, but whatever the Party tells him to see. Earlier in the story, the Oceanians are suddenly told that they are at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia and have always been—the exact opposite of the truth—and yet everyone is expected to believe this as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Thus, Big Brother, as the face of the regime, is dictating "reality" to the population. It is absurd, of course, but Orwell's depiction is merely an exaggerated form of what the Communist and Fascist regimes of the twentieth century were doing in manipulating their own people—feeding them "alternative facts" in contradiction to the actual reality observed by people.

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In 1984, Big Brother can absolutely decide what is real and what is not. In fact, to do this, all Big Brother and the Party need to do is to control the flow of information, and as we see from the story, that is constantly happening in Oceania.

Let's take Winston's job for example. It is his responsibility to rewrite the past according to the Party's instructions. When he is told to write about an upcoming chocolate ration, for example, Winston is rewriting the past and changing what is real. It doesn't matter that the Party said there wouldn't be a chocolate ration; that phrase has been erased from history and is no longer real, because it doesn't exist.

Similarly, when it comes to the war in Oceania, the Party switches from having a war with Eurasia to Eastasia. As Winston says in part 2, chapter 9, the Party does not admit that a change has taken place. It doesn't have to because nobody would dare to argue otherwise. What this shows is that the Party is able to determine what is real and what is not, without explanation, because people are too afraid to disagree. They simply accept what they are told as fact.

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