It is in this chapter, through the articulate and intelligent Syme, that we first begin to understand the extent of the Party's ambitions (these ambitions are, of course, completely explained by O'Brien in his interrogation of Winston later in the book). A key theme of 1984 is the power of...
It is in this chapter, through the articulate and intelligent Syme, that we first begin to understand the extent of the Party's ambitions (these ambitions are, of course, completely explained by O'Brien in his interrogation of Winston later in the book). A key theme of 1984 is the power of language. This is demonstrated through the use of the pithy and apparently oxymoronic Party slogan "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength." In his lunchtime conversation with Winston, Syme, who is responsible for editing the dictionary of Newspeak, outlines exactly how language can be used to subjugate people. Syme's job is, as he puts it, "the destruction of words." He and his colleagues are paring down the English language, simplifying it by getting rid of what they deem unnecessary adjectives, antonyms of certain words, and other superfluities. But the Party's aims go beyond simplifying the language, and they are not doing it for the sake of efficiency. For them, it is another exercise in mind control. Syme explains:
Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.
If the Party controls language, then they control the range of ideas that can be expressed. And in this way they can eliminate the ability to articulate opposition to the Party. Syme tells Winston that "orthodoxy means thoughtlessness." The Party not only demands unthinking, unquestioning loyalty, it seeks to eliminate the possibility of any other emotion.
But Syme's conversation with Winston reveals another element to the Party's philosophy. Winston recognizes that Syme is far too intelligent for his own good. He will be, Winston thinks to himself, eventually "vaporized." The stupid, obsequious Parsons, who eventually joins their conversation, on the other hand, will never be vaporized, he thinks.
So it is in this chapter that we really learn the extent of the Party's control of the people. Syme demonstrates how the Party uses language itself to control what people can think.