1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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In Part 3 of "1984", how are common criminals and political criminals treated differently in the temporary lock up?

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In the temporary lock-up, the guards treat the common criminals

"with a certain forbearance, even when they (have) to handle them roughly...positions of trust (are) given only to the common criminals, sepecailly the gangsters, and the murderers, who (form) a sort of aristocracy...all the dirty jobs (are) done by the politicals". 

Even more astonishing is the "difference in demeanor between the Party prisoners and the others".  The Party prisoners are always "silent and terrified", while the ordinary criminals show no fear.  They fight back with the guards, write obscenities on the floor, openly eat smuggled food, and even defy the voice on the telescreen when it tries to keep order.  Some of the common prisoners even seem to be on good terms with the guards, and it is conceivable that "bribery, favoritism, and racketeering of every kind" abound.

Thoughtcrime is looked upon in the society as the worst transgression imaginable, far more lethal than ordinary lawlessness and vice.  Orwell's belief that mind-control is far more dangerous and effective than ordinary societal constraints is evident in the dichotomy between the treatment of common and political prisoners.  Although it appears that ordinary insolence and lack of fear are more effective in guaranteeing survival, however, the commoners are unaware of the power they might wield.  If they were to join together and rise against Big Brother, they could rule, but in their ignorance and focus on only themselves, they are insignificant (Book 3, Chapter 1).

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