1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

1984 book cover
Start Your Free Trial

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.

Expert Answers info

amy cloer, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookM.A. from University of North Georgia

calendarEducator since 2006

write361 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

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.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

sagesource eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write195 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

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."

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Wiggin42 | Student

Doublethink is the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in your mind and accept / believe both of them to be true. Usually, it depends on what the party determines to be true at the time. Wilson is tortured later in the novel because of his reluctance to do so. 

parama9000 | Student

It is when two contradictory facts are suddenly simultaneously true on the same plane and kept the way it is. It is like having two lights that cannot be turned off at the same time that are turned on at the same time, whereby one of the lights can be switched off at someone else's will (the Party).

hidrofilnavata | Student

This could be described like a quantum event (physics). There is an experiment which describes a quantum event, it's called Shroedinger's cat. Basically, you take a cat and put it in a box with a vial of poison'. Since you can't know if and when the cat drank the poison, until you open the box the cat can be simultaneously be thought of as both alive and dead. People of Oceania are required to accept opposites as both true and not true at the same time (depending on government's needs).

clozzaaaa | Student

 the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.

desoray08 | Student

doublethink - Reality Control. The power to hold two completely contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accept both of them.


Here is how Winston Smith described doublethink in the novel:

"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink.'

darkheaven1016 | Student

double think is when you think twice about something that you know for a fact isnt true. for example big brother does not want his people to question anything that "he"  put out for his them to see meaning if you have something green and he tells you that it is yellow you better not " doublethink" what he said or else you would be vaporized. in otherwords what he says goes and no one could say, or tell him otherwise