In Orwell's 1984, what is the purpose of the telescreen?

The purpose of the telescreens in Orwell's 1984 is to constantly reinforce the teachings of the Party through propaganda and to constantly monitor the actions of the citizens governed by Big Brother.

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The purpose of the telescreens in Orwell's popular dystopian novel 1984 is to constantly monitor, control, and oppress the population of Oceania. The Party uses the telescreens to assert its dominance over the people, as well as to spread its political message and propaganda and ensure that the citizens are always following the Party's political agenda. The telescreens don't only record the people and spy on them but they're also so sensitive and technologically advanced that it is said they can detect the heartbeats of the citizens and thus show whether or not they're behaving as they should. The telescreens are practically everywhere, and there's one installed in every home, which means that the people must always try to appear to be perfectly calm, collected, and content with their lives and must not disobey the Party's rules and regulations, unless they want to be severely punished.

Orwell essentially uses the telescreens to point out the significance (as well as the danger) of surveillance devices and to showcase how technology can and most likely will be used (or rather misused) in the future to invade the privacy of the people and even manipulate their opinions and emotions, specifically by power-hungry individuals and corrupt governments.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 16, 2021
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The telescreen is a primary part of the surveillance state apparatus in Oceania. Every Party member has one installed in their home. It is both a television set that gives out the ever-changing official "news" and a way for the state to monitor a person's private life. The sound of it can be "dimmed," but it can never be shut off.

Telescreens also monitor people at work and in public. As a person cannot know for sure at any given moment that they are not being watched or listened to, individuals learn to internally censor their thoughts, motions, and facial expressions to conform to the dictates of the state. Winston, for instance, keeps a look of "quiet optimism" on his face at all times lest he is being watched. In his apartment, Winston experiences a voice coming from the screen barking at him when he does not do his morning exercises with the expected gusto and precision.

Telescreens primarily surveil the Outer Party members. The proles are less regulated, which is why Julia and Winston are lulled into a false sense of security in Mr. Charrington's room. Julia and Winston are also surprised to find out that O'Brien, an Inner Party member, can turn off his telescreen at will.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 16, 2021
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In the dystopian nation of Oceania, the Party uses telescreens to control the population by constantly monitoring the civilians and spreading propaganda throughout society. Telescreens are oblong metal plaques that resemble dulled mirrors and are ubiquitous throughout Orwell's dystopia. Telescreens function as surveillance cameras and televisions which cannot be turned off. Privacy is nonexistent in Oceania, and telescreens are hung in every home so that the government can monitor citizens at all times.

Winston is used to being monitored at all times and wears a sanguine expression on his face to avoid suspicion. Telescreens spread propaganda by continually blaring patriotic music and providing citizens with updates on economic statistics and military victories. Winston and other Party members are also required to sit in front of a large telescreen each day during the Two Minutes Hate and watch images of the Party's scapegoat, Emmanuel Goldstein, flash onto the screen.

Telescreens make Winston's affair with Julia particularly difficult, and the two are deceived into thinking that the apartment above Mr. Charrington's antique shop does not have one. Unfortunately, the telescreen is hidden behind a picture of St. Clement's Church, and Winston's affair has been monitored by the Thought Police the entire time. Telescreens are invasive instruments used to monitor and manipulate the citizens of Oceania.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 16, 2021
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In 1984, the telescreen is a tool used by the Party to detect instances of rebellion. You will notice in Part One, Chapter One, for instance, how Winston keeps his back to the telescreen when writing in his diary. This is to prevent the Party from seeing his diary because he knows that if they found it, he would face some harsh and violent punishment, like a forced labour camp.  

That the telescreen cannot be turned off (except by Inner Party members) gives us another glimpse into its purpose. The telescreen is designed to monitor every movement and capture every conversation between Party members, whether they are at home, at work or in some other public place. As such, the telescreen also functions as a deterrent against breaking the rules. People are far less likely to commit a crime, for instance, if they know that Big Brother is indeed watching them and that they have little chance of getting away with it.

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The telescreen is a propaganda tool used by the state ("Big Brother") to get into people's heads and control them.  It also monitors everyone's actions and speech, completely controlling every aspect of human existence.  These telescreens are everywhere - there is no escaping them in this horrible society Orwell has shown us.

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