How is the individual vs. society presented in 1984?

Expert Answers info

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

In the case of the novel, the individual is clearly Winston who is joined by Julia in his stand against society. The society is the dystopian future created by the Party, who is shown, from the very beginning of the story, to be a force that seeks to control not just every aspect of the physical life of their people but also their psychological, mental and emotional life as well. Independent thought is something that is the anathema of the party, and the propaganda, the constant fear of surveillance and everything else about the party is designed to undermine mankind's ability to think independently and to criticise, dream and imagine. Note the following quote from Book I Chapter 7, which perfectly sums up the society that Winston is in conflict with:

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.

This is a key quote, as Winston is looking at a children's history book and he marvels at the Party's ability to control the minds of its populace and make them accept what they say as the truth. This quote is therefore about psychological manipulation and the way that the Party influence their populace to greatly. Winston's stance against this society is hinged on the simple sum. Note what he writes in his diary: "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four." At the very end of the novel, when he traces "2+2=5," the reader is shown how his stand against society has been a failure. He conforms.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial