Newspeak Essay 1984

Newspeak Essay 1984-46
Well, it would seem that reality is by no means as stable or certain – so concretely “out there” in a Cartesian sense – as our senses may suggest it is.Orwell, writing before post-modernist ideas become current, nevertheless, in , seems to focus on many key elements of a post-modernist understanding about the nature of reality even if, perhaps unsurprisingly, he cannot see beyond them.If, for Lacan, the “Real” is beyond or outside of language, it is also presumably beyond human cognition.

Well, it would seem that reality is by no means as stable or certain – so concretely “out there” in a Cartesian sense – as our senses may suggest it is.Orwell, writing before post-modernist ideas become current, nevertheless, in , seems to focus on many key elements of a post-modernist understanding about the nature of reality even if, perhaps unsurprisingly, he cannot see beyond them.If, for Lacan, the “Real” is beyond or outside of language, it is also presumably beyond human cognition.

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Only this must be a “pseudo-reality”; a product of language, a thing reifiable and thus controllable by language. However, if this is the case, then the Party, through O’Brien, is revealing a flaw in its own manipulations.

The Party controls language and thus it controls the socio-cultural matrix of Oceania, determining Oceania’s reality. I suggest that those “outside” must be anything but “irrelevant”: it is they who are beyond the Party’s language and, to this extent, they function as an aspect of the “Real.” O’Brien may dismiss them as “proles” and call them “helpless, like animals” but they have functioned for Winston as the representatives of something certainly “outside,” yet certainly not “irrelevant.” Their own lack of consciousness of their relevance has no consequence for the structural and structuring effect the image and idea of them has for Winston. He accepts responsibility for his guilt even as he acknowledges his culpability.

This is where the Party’s power-source is to be found at its most effective and virulent: its ability to determine the nature of the perception of reality, effective reality, inducing a : the fullness of being.

And it is in this control of reality through language that Orwell presents his most convincing and terrifying manifestation of the (mis)use of power.

O’Brien and the Party will talk about the history of the past and about history’s relation to power; but it is the control over history in its synchronous mode, history as a dynamic activity here and now and in their control of interpretations of the future, that their domination and determination of the meanings of words gives them – their control of language itself – that is the essential basis of their ability to realize and impose their “Truth” to the exclusion of all others.

Newspeak Essay 1984

O’Brien makes the centrality of present-control explicit when, in the Ministry of Love, he orders Winston to repeat the Party slogan, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” (Orwell, 1949/83, 232).

Paraphrasing Lacan, Zupancic tells us that “the impossibility of the Real does not prevent it having an effect in the realm of the possible” (Zupancic, 2000, 235).

Now this is a curious state of affairs; however it does immediately suggest how the nature of reality could be manipulated; and produced by language.

When, for example, he recalls the final scene with his mother, and we hear him recall her remembered final words to him: “Come back! ” (151) we do not doubt the essential reality and relevance of the scene even if we do not assume absolute accuracy in Winston’s recollection of his mother’s exact words.

In the statement’s mixture of motherly authority, filial loyalty and the tinge of poignant sweetness leant by the memory of chocolate, Orwell ensures that we realize, with Winston, that the truth is not merely determined by the accuracy of verbal veracity.

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