How does the Party control the citizens of Oceania in 1984?

The Party controls the citizens of Oceania in 1984 by keeping them busy with work and committees, discouraging them from forming real relationships, and constantly censoring them. Additionally, the Party keeps people from forming sophisticated or original thoughts by limiting the amount of words they can use.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Oddly enough, the Party controls the citizens of Oceania by not having any laws, a fact Winston thinks about at the beginning of the novel. Not having any laws can make anything a crime. For instance, though there is no law against buying a journal and writing in it, Winston...

Read
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Oddly enough, the Party controls the citizens of Oceania by not having any laws, a fact Winston thinks about at the beginning of the novel. Not having any laws can make anything a crime. For instance, though there is no law against buying a journal and writing in it, Winston knows that if he is found out, he will get the death penalty or, at the very least, 25 years in a hard labor camp. The lack of any laws or boundaries on distinguishing the legal from the illegal keeps people in a constant state of self censorship: anything they do or think is potentially a thoughtcrime or a crime against the state.

The state also controls people through marriage. As Winston notes, it is impossible to get permission to marry a person you might actually show any signs of loving or being compatible with. The state tries as hard as possible to keep couples alienated from each other and to reduce sex to a weekly pregnancy ritual done out of duty to the Party. It doesn't want couples to enjoy sex or each other's company, as that might draw their energies away from Big Brother or the Party.

The state also expects everyone to be busy with "voluntary" committee work during the week, in addition to working at paid jobs. Nobody should have any private time to think or ask questions.

Finally, the state is trying to reduce the English language to the least possible number of words to reduce people's ability to formulate sophisticated or nuanced thoughts.

The Party, as far as possible, tries to control people by robbing them of any chance to have a satisfying private life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would add that one of the key elements they use is "reality creation."  It's part of their "who controls the present controls the past; who controls the past controls the future."  Citizens never know if anything that they were told was "true" yesterday is true today --- or if it ever was true.  If people make their decisions based on the available information, and the information can be manipulated to get the citizens to believe anything, then they are under the governments control with a shot being fired --- by their side, at least.

Although this seems a bit "much," I think we have to be very careful that this is not happening in our own society.  We are being told that so many situations are critical, that previous administrations have so messed things up that nothing short of radical action will "fix" things --- but do we know that the picture of the past we are seeing is accurate? do we know that the solution being presented is the only one? the best one?

There was a time when there was so little information we could not make a decision.  Today there is so much information (but not necessarily knowledge) out there that it's just as hard to make a decision.  Giving up and just going along seems to be an option too many people are taking today ....

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In a word, fear.  The Party uses the Two Minute Hate to work up the citizens against their "enemies" and then they go home to families that aren't based on love, but convenience.  They marry an arranged partner and give birth to children who are taught to spy on them.  Case in point, the Parsons who live in the same apartment building with Winston.

The Party also uses the element of instability to keep the public on its toes.  One day the ration of chocolate is lower than the next, and they're praising on the news channel the amount of chocolate they are allowed.  They're never at war with the same country, but people are not encouraged to notice these changes...they are trained to just accept them as the beaten-down "worker bees" that they are.  This is how a socialized country is...the ones with the power and the voice have all the say and everyone else in the society follows suit.

Everything is sterile in Winston's world, also.  There are no emotions since people are afraid of the cameras on the street and the telescreens in their homes.  The Thoughtpolice are everywhere...don't you dare have a thought or a moment of disagreement with the establshment.  The government in Oceania is always right...and fear (and the Ministry of Love, of course) keeps the citizens in line.

This is why your freedom of speech is so important, and why a democratic society is best.  We may not always agree with one another, but we have the opportunity to discuss, argue, compromise, and come to an agreement when all parties are able to voice their views.  A socialized government is never a good idea for anyone but those in control.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Party uses surveillance, thought control, endless war, and endless propaganda to control Party members in 1984

As we learn early in the novel, the television screen in every one's apartment is not only a way for residents to watch television. Through the screen the Party watches them:

Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.

The Party also alters history to maintain control. Winston's job is to rewrite old newspaper stories to align with whatever is the so-called "truth" at the moment. In this way, the Party hopes to maintain total control over the truth, which, of course, in its hands, is a lie. More importantly, the Party has been trying to cut down the number of words in the language to a bare minimum. To do so, it is creating a language called Newspeak. It believes that without many words to choose from, people won't be able to formulate thoughts that oppose the Party.

Endless warfare diverts people's attention from the misery of daily life and gives the Party a rationale for maintaining an oppressive police state. As long as there's a war effort to justify it, the Party can demand people work long hours and live on tasteless food rations and Victory gin.

Finally, ceaseless propaganda supports all of this. From the endless posters proclaiming "Big Brother is watching you" to the daily "Two Minute Hate" sessions directed at the "enemy of the people," Goldstein, the Party keeps people's minds full of what it wants them to know. The Hate sessions also target people's aggressions away from the Party and toward other enemies.

Winston can not turn off the television in his apartment. The telescreen can invade people's lives and thoughts at any moment. The following is an example:

The voice from the telescreen paused. A trumpet call, clear and beautiful, floated into the stagnant air. The voice continued raspingly: ’Attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. 

With such endless distractions, constant surveillance, dumbing down of discourse and propaganda, the state keeps an iron grip on its Party members.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on