1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

1984 book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How Does Big Brother Control Society In 1984

How does the government in 1984 control the people?

In 1984, the government controls the people through manipulation and fear. For example, the Thought Police monitor and threaten, and children report their parents' crimes to the authorities. Through "reality control," the government shapes reality and history and controls how people perceive it.

Expert Answers info

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

The way in which the government in this future dystopia keeps control over its people is through a combination of manipulation and fear. There is of course the ever-present threat of the Thought Police, which Winston makes clear in the opening chapter, who are able to watch everybody all the time and see into their minds. Then there is the way in which the Party turn families against each other, with children reporting their parents to the authorities for the slightest crime. The Party's assault on families does not only seek to separate parents from children, but also wife from husband, as it attacks sex itself, making people think it is merely a functional necessity rather than a physical act of...

(The entire section contains 363 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

sniderlo | Student

The government, in essence, has manipulated the entire daily life of its people, from what they can wear, what jobs they can have, who they can associate with...Winston writes in secret from a pen and inkwell he isn't supposed to have by hiding from the view of the government in a crevice in his own home. Since Big Brother can see and hear virtually anything they want to, no one is safe to argue against the leaders. Parents can get told on for disciplining their children. Spouses can get told on when one is angry at the other. No one is allowed to love for the sake of love. They chant slogans to their government and can only eat and drink what is rationed out. When citizens must sneak away and worry about being caught for the most mundane of offenses, the brainwashed masses are controlled by the elite who appoint themselves.

cynthiadawn | Student

One of the main ways that the Ingsoc party controls the population of Oceania in George Orwell's 1984 is through hegemony. Hegemony is a form of control where one group holds power over another by propagating an ideology that insists that this form of control is normal and necessary. This allows the party to obtain the consent of the population to control them, which minimizes the chance of rebellion.

The Ingsoc party uses propaganda to create a system of beliefs where everything the party tells the citizens is true, even when their rational minds know that it is false. For example, O'Brian tells Winston believes that 2+2=5, even though Winston knows this is false. This ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one's head is known as doublethink.

Any records that contradict what the party says are destroyed and any people who are considered a threat to the party are vaporized so there is no proof that they ever existed. For example:

The Party claimed that the infant mortality rate was now only 160 per thousand, whereas before the Revolution it had been 300 – and so it went on. It was like a single equation with two unknowns. It might very well be that literally every word in the history books, even the things that one accepted without question, was pure fantasy. For all he knew there might never have been any such law as the jus primae noctis, or any such creature as a capitalist, or any such garment as a top hat.

The party also controls its citizens through fear and poverty. People live in constant fear of being caught for having disloyal thoughts by the thought police, even to the point that parents are terrified of their children. The party is to be loved above everything else, including family and self, and failure to comply with this is considered thoughtcrime. People are dependent on the party for all the necessities required to live (i.e. food, clothing, razorblades, housing) and are kept on extremely low rations, which keeps them weak and submissive. In these ways, the party controls its citizens so the very ideas of freedom and rebellion become impossible.

hidrofilnavata | Student

Telescreen is a more obvious means of control. The problem with telescreen is that it goes in both ways, you can see the transmissions, but you can also be seen through it, and someone usually does watch. You have that scene where Winston does morning exercises with a group of people, these exercises are obligatory and when he stops for a moment the instructor from the telescreen calls out to him (using the coded number he was appointed) and tells him to work harder. Imagine if you were watching the news eating in front of the TV and the broadcaster stops to tell you not to eat in the living room. Also, at the very beginning of the novel when Winston writes down: "Down with the Big Brother" he has to find a place in his apartment that cannot be seen by the people behind the telescreen.

hidrofilnavata | Student

Apart from manipulation and fear, the final stone in this pyramid of a tyrannical government is pain. Winston is finally broken when threatened with face-eating rats (although this threat of pain is much greater to Winston inasmuch as he is afraid of them). The combination of fear and excruciating pain causes him to betray his love for Julia. Orwell sends a message that our instinct for survival is far greater than any other emotion (good or bad) we might harbour within us.