Julia tells Winston that even though the Party can torture a person and make him say anything, they cannot make him believe it. How do you feel about this statement? How easy is it to brainwash a person? Do you think governments actually use brainwashing? Discuss.

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In the novel 1984,Julia's statement is basically disproved by the conclusion of the story, in which Winston is tortured and transformed into one who "loved Big Brother." Apparently, it is not simply a matter of his telling O'Brien what he wants to hear during the interrogation sessions....

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In the novel 1984, Julia's statement is basically disproved by the conclusion of the story, in which Winston is tortured and transformed into one who "loved Big Brother." Apparently, it is not simply a matter of his telling O'Brien what he wants to hear during the interrogation sessions. The implication is that Winston actually begins to believe the Party line. In the final scene in the Chestnut Tree Cafe, Winston is watching the telescreen and devoutly wishing for the victory of Oceania's armies, and there is nothing to suggest a falseness or deception in his behavior as he sits there alone and drowns himself in gin.

Has this happened in the real world, in history? One answer, in events of which Orwell was aware, lies perhaps in the Stalinist "purge" trials of the 1930s. Men who were devoted Bolsheviks, the Old Guard of the Revolution, were thrown in prison, made to sign confessions that they had betrayed the cause of Communism, and executed. Did these men "believe" the confessions which were signed after they were tortured? Or were they, in fact, traitors to the cause, and were brainwashed through torture into recanting their apostate views? There is no way of knowing for sure, and the individual cases may have followed different patterns. The best evidence we have may lie in the fictionalized account of the trials in Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon. In the novel, the protagonist, Rubashov—though he is not actually physically tortured—is worn down by the interrogations to the point where he no longer seems to know the real truth of his past activities. The Party apparatchik Gletkin either manipulates the facts so that Rubashov's sense of objective reality is destroyed, or (and this is perhaps the more benign interpretation) Rubashov simply gives in because it is easier to do so. He knows from the beginning that he's going to be killed anyway, and in looking back at his life, his disillusionment is such that he doesn't care any longer and just wants to get it over with.

I tend to think that Koestler's point—which then directly influenced Orwell's view of the issue—is that our human perception of "reality" or "truth" is in fact a fragile thing and that people can be, and are, manipulated by totalitarian regimes into believing things that are contrary to their feelings and their own perception of reality. When we speak of "brainwashing," it is not necessarily something that happens under torture. It occurs in more subtle, insidious ways. In the twentieth century in Nazi Germany, to give an example even more blatant than the Soviet Union, millions of people were manipulated into apparently believing the racist lies of the regime and supporting a reckless military and genocidal policy that ended up not only killing millions of people but destroying Germany as well. Even in our own time, we have seen more benign (so far) examples of leaders encouraging people to believe not what the objective evidence shows, but "alternative facts," simply because the leader says they are true. So, although the issue may be much more complicated than we can deal with here, in summary I would say that, yes, people can unfortunately be made to believe things that are false and harmful, and "brainwashing" is the correct term for it.

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