1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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Why does the Party simply not kill Winston Smith in 1984?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The goal of the Party is relatively straightforward. The authoritarian regime wishes to maintain power for eternity by controlling the populace through violence, manipulation, propaganda, economic disparity, war, and fear. The Party does not simply execute dissidents but attempts to change their opponents' perspective by psychologically torturing them to the point that they capitulate and end up supporting the government they once challenged. As a means of maintaining complete control over society, therefore, the Party wishes to convert their enemies into loving, enthusiastic supporters.

During Winston's imprisonment in the Ministry of Love, O'Brien uses various methods of torture and mind-altering procedures in order to change Winston's view of the Party. By the end of the story, Winston Smith transforms into an enthusiastic supporter of Big Brother. Altering their opponents' minds is a more effective way of preserving the authoritative regime's power than simply executing dissidents. Opponents of the Party are not depicted as martyrs and essentially switch sides by becoming avid supporters of the Party. The Party's ability to alter one's mind and spirit is especially disturbing and illustrates the power of Oceania's authoritative regime. 

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This question lies at the very heart of the Party and the way that it does not simply want to gain power, but actually have total control over the hearts and minds of its people. It would have been too easy to kill Winston Smith, just as it would be too easy to kill any opponents to its regime. However, the problem is that this would not actually gain them any support. What the Party has to do is to do the unthinkable: to make those who oppose it come to love it and everything it stands for. It is for this reason therefore that O'Brien and the Party take such time with people such as Winston Smith and Julia: if they can "turn" them and make them love Big Brother, they can change the ideology of anybody who opposes them and ensure the survival and support of the Party. This is what is so chilling about the ending of this story, as the following quote demonstrates:

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

The Party, through the time and the "care" they have lavished on Winston's torture, have made him love his enemy and to see this as a "victory." What more effective and long-lasting way could there be of quashing any resistance than through securing the complete ideological shift of their opponents?

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