What are some examples of paradox in 1984?
George Orwell’s futuristic novel 1984 details the Party’s efforts to completely remake its citizens by destroying their ambitions and emotional attachments and replacing them with the Party’s goals. The main character, Winston Smith, realizes that the Party is destroying his individuality and tries, unsuccessfully, to rebel.
Orwell mentions a place called the “Ministry of Love” several times in the book before the reader ever actually sees what goes on there. Citizens suspect that it is a place where non-compliant citizens are taken for torture and interrogation for the purpose of punishment and information retrieval. They are correct about the torture and interrogation, but not about the reason for it.
A paradox is something that appears to contradict reason or expectation. The paradox here lies in the name “Ministry of Love.” Such a name implies that it should be a place that creates or administers love in some way, not a place that uses pain and humiliation to remake citizens. During Winston’s interrogation and brainwashing process, O’Brien reveals the true mission of the Ministry of Love:
By the time we had finished with them they were only the shells of men. There was nothing left in them except the sorrow for what they had done, and love of Big Brother.
Their goal is a bit of a paradox itself. To create this love of Big Brother, they must also eliminate love for anything else, so the Party goes to great pains to keep its people from forming loving relationships by stoking suspicion of others and blind adherence to Party goals.
In an essay entitled “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell says much about the way the society of 1984 uses language. In that essay he also argues that our society now, as his then, has used it so loosely, not adhering to the true meaning of words but using them instead for political purposes or other purposes of persuasion, such as advertising. Because language is used to persuade and then eventually to lie, argues Orwell, it has become “decadent,” and the extreme form of this can be seen in the paradoxes the other respondent has provided. To help you understand these, you might consider some of the ways that language is used in our own political arena, such as when we are told “we must go to war to make peace.” The link below will lead you to Orwell’s essay. You might also look at some of the criticism eNotes provides on Orwell to answer your interesting question.