What is doublethink in 1984?

In 1984, doublethink is the act of believing two contradictory beliefs to be true at the same time without questioning or displaying doubt. The citizens of Oceania must engage in doublethink in order to not be vaporized, and in doing so, they deceive themselves.

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Doublethink is a trait of only the citizens of Oceania in that their very existences depend upon their ability to believe two contradictory or even opposite ideas to be true simultaneously.

The Party demands complete cooperation and obedience from its Outer Party members. Announcements which change the enemy of war from Eurasia to Eastasia at the drop of a hat are to be accepted instantaneously, without pause and without questions.  The Party even notes through these broadcasts that upon this shift, the country had NEVER been at war with the first nation. 

Any shift in facial expression or curious glance at another makes a person subject to vaporization. As a result, the citizens have learned that in order to survive, they must master doublethink. Those that do not, perish.

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Doublethink is the ability to hold two contradictory opinions at the same time about the same question, remaining untroubled by the contradiction and expressing one opinion or the other as the convenience of the Party requires it. It is defined in Part II, Chapter IX of 1984, in the extract from "the Book" written supposedly by the Party heretic Goldstein. It enables Party members to constantly deceive themselves and others while at the same time remaining convinced that everything they say -- even when it is contradictory -- is the exact truth. For instance, the Party defies every principle that originally defined socialism, but still maintains that it upholds the only true socialism. Doublethink allows Party members to be fighting one enemy on Monday and another on Tuesday, but to believe and proclaim that their enemy of Tuesday has been their enemy not only on Monday but for all time -- and to switch back again on Wednesday without any qualms. It is an enormously flexible system of rearranging reality to avoid contradictions, its main weakness being the tendency it has to detach its practitioners from concrete reality. "The greater the understanding, the greater the delusion."

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