In 1984, what are examples of Winston's thoughtcrime?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As the term indicates, a person does not have to "do" anything in order to be guilty of thoughtcrime: it is a purely mental process that the Party has labeled as criminal. At no point in the story do we not find Winston committing thoughtcrime. He knows from the start that the worldview presented by the Party is based on lies and on its own power lust. His own personality is, understandably, driven by resentment of the Party's control of the population and by his awareness, based on his distant and admittedly vague memories, that life was better before the rule of the Party began. All of this represents thoughtcrime, of which Winston is guilty even before he decides to keep a diary and he writes the words DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER.

Interestingly, when Winston begins the diary, he tells himself that this is technically not an illegal act, that nothing is actually illegal because "there are no longer any laws." The concept of thoughtcrime is based, therefore, on doublethink. Law is the basis of civilization, and the absence of it is the hallmark of a dictatorship or totalitarian regime. So the idea of anything being specifically criminal is a kind of self-contradiction in such a society, in spite of the fact that nobody can do (or think) anything without the fear of arrest, imprisonment, or "vaporization." We are also never told whether the Party really does have a specific technology enabling it to read people's minds and to know they are thinking heretical thoughts. Winston's assumption is that the mere fact of his having such thoughts will land him in prison, and in this he's correct.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Any thought or expression, even in a dream, that deviates in any way from Party orthodoxy is thoughtcrime.

As Winston is well aware, his act of buying an old, blank diary and pen from Mr. Charrington's junk shop is a potential thoughtcrime. Sitting in his alcove, away from the view screen, and writing in this diary is a definite thoughtcrime. It is one that Winston knows will carry at the very least a twenty-five year sentence at a hard labor camp or, more likely, the death penalty.

Once he takes his first step into transgression by writing in the journal, Winston commits thoughtcrime upon thoughtcrime. He questions the Party's version...

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