1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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What does the quote “if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever,” in 1984 mean?

This quote from 1984 represents the way in which power has created humanity's oppression. The narrator doesn't see hope in the future, only further persecution, and it is this hopelessness that fuels those in power.

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This particular quote serves as an illustration, provided by O'Brien, to better clarify the core motivation which ultimately lies behind this entire dystopian world as envisioned by Orwell. Indeed, note that this illustration is found in part of a much longer interrogation, with O'Brien challenging Winston to answer that very same question concerning the Inner Party's motives. Winston, for his part, assumes that O'Brien would present some sort of consequentialist ends-justify-the-means rationale and answers accordingly. However, O'Brien chides him for this answer. For O'Brien, rather than being a means to some separate end, the wielding of power is actually the end in and of itself. As O'Brien puts it (in another quote from this same chapter):

Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The...

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