Does Goldstein exist in 1984?

In 1984, it is never made clear whether or not Goldstein actually exists. It is possible he is an invention of the Party for propaganda purposes, just as it is possible that he physically exists and poses a real threat to the Party and its hold over the people of Oceania.

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Emmanuel Goldstein may or may not be an invention of the Party's propaganda department. Presented to the people of Oceania as a former top Party member who betrayed the government to become a voice of dissent and the founder of an underground movement called the Brotherhood, Goldstein is considered a...

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Emmanuel Goldstein may or may not be an invention of the Party's propaganda department. Presented to the people of Oceania as a former top Party member who betrayed the government to become a voice of dissent and the founder of an underground movement called the Brotherhood, Goldstein is considered a figure of treason, worthy only of loathing (as in the Two Minutes Hate). However, he never makes an actual appearance in the events of the novel. His image regularly appears on telescreens, and there is a subversive political work called The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism published under his name, but there are plenty of clues which suggest Goldstein does not exist.

O'Brien openly refuses to tell Winston whether or not Goldstein is a real person:

That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No.

It is entirely possible that Goldstein was invented to keep the people afraid of invasion and division. As long as they are united in this anxiety, they are less likely to turn against Big Brother and the Party, whom they view as protectors. Goldstein is a convenient scapegoat for everything the people suffer under the heel of the Party: instead of blaming the Party for taking away more and more of their rights, the Party can deflect these frustrations onto Goldstein and the Brotherhood. After all, these extreme precautions would not be necessary if there was no enemy to fight.

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