How does technology affect the Party’s ability to control its citizens?

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amymc's profile pic

amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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The concept behind 1984's powerful Party is its ability to control its citizens.  They adopt a plan of fear and manipulation to do so.  At the center of this plan is their technology.  Telescreens represent Big Brother's invisible eye on all the citizens who are required to keep a telescreen in their homes.  In addition, the people are constantly under the eye of the telescreen in public, at work, and even at social functions.  

For the few times that telescreens are not available, voice-recognition microphone bugs pick up the conversations of those around.  However, Winston and Julia learn that hard way that just because you do not see a telescreen, it doesn't mean one isn't there.  They are captured because a telescreen was hidden behind a picture.  

In addition to the constant surveillance, the Party continually manipulates the people's thoughts.  Winston works for the Ministry of Truth, which specializes in the daily rewriting of history.  Anything the Party wants to rescind or reconstruct occurs in an instant.  Winston simply makes the changes electronically to all the known sources of information.  The people's beliefs about war or food rations are changed so quickly that nobody knows what to believe, and for their own safety, concedes to the truth the Party creates.

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, the most prevalent piece of technology used to control the population in 1984 is the telescreen. Telescreens are placed in each home and allow the government to continually monitor citizens' activities. The telescreens function as a video camera, as well as a loudspeaker that issues Party propaganda. The government also employs miniature microphones throughout the country that listen to people's private conversations. Surveillance technology makes it difficult to collude against the government, and constant Party propaganda manipulates the minds of the citizens.  

The Party also continually rewrites history using sophisticated devices that allow Outer Party members like Winston to rewrite and erase articles. Altering history allows the Party to create the impression that they are always right in the eyes of the public.

At the end of the novel, Winston is captured and tortured in the Ministry of Love. Although Orwell does not specify the details of O'Brien's torture device, this technology allows the Party to effectively brainwash the minds of rebellious citizens. It is also a deterrent that discourages citizens from plotting against the government. 

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