What are the roles of the inner party and the outer party in Orwell's novel 1984?

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may-stone | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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The structure of the dominant government in the novel, usually just called the Party, is an oligarchy, which means that all of the power is controlled by a small body of very important and influential people.  Outside of the Party are the proles, or the largest class of the population, the poor and deprived masses.  Inside the Party, there are two levels: the Inner Party, made up of the privileged crème-de-la-crème of society, and the Outer Party, made up of those functionaries who administer under the direction of the inner party, like the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith.

The Inner Party maintains constant surveillance of the Outer Party, watching for signs of betrayal of the Party.  Whereas Winston is a member of the Outer Party, his torturer, O’Brien, is a member of the Inner Party: 

a member of the Inner Party and holder of some post so important and remote that Winston had only a dim idea of its nature. A momentary hush passed over the group of people round the chairs as they saw the black overalls of an Inner Party member approaching. O'Brien was a large, burly man with a thick neck and a coarse, humorous, brutal face. In spite of his formidable appearance he had a certain charm of manner. 


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