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

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may-stone's profile pic

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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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, the Inner Party is the highest social class in Oceania. The Inner Party is an enigmatic group of privileged individuals who manage and control Oceania's society. They function as the final authority concerning the orthodoxy of Party members, control the state-run media, and approve the work of Outer Party members in various ministries.

Orwell does not go into detail about the lives of Inner Party members but does give the reader a glimpse into their world when Winston and Julia visit O'Brien. The Inner Party members are still subjected to a rather laborious lifestyle, but they enjoy luxuries. O'Brien has access to quality goods and is able to turn off the telescreen for a short time. Inner Party members appear to have more privacy and freedom, but even that is limited.

The Outer Party consists of relatively intelligent individuals who do most of the work for the government. They are employed in the various ministries throughout Oceania and have a censored, difficult life. Many of the characters throughout the novel are members of the Outer Party. Winston and Julia both work in different departments of the Ministry of Truth. Outer Party members are expected to work long hours and attend community functions that exalt Big Brother. They are under constant surveillance, and their lives are essentially miserable. Although they are considered above the proles, the Outer Party members share an austere existence under the constant watch of the Inner Party.

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