Censorship in 1984

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

To effect total control, the government censors the history, the language, and even the thoughts of its citizens in ''1984'' by George Orwell. The Party's goal is to control all information and thereby control the past, present, and future.

Revising History

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth where he is charged with altering written records in 1984 by George Orwell. The Party requires consistency between the past and the future, so the news (the past) sometimes must be altered to reflect the present. The Party desires total control over the citizens of Oceania, and this concept is revealed in the Party slogan: 'Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.'


Winston receives a work order that says, 'The reporting of Big Brother's Order for the Day in The Times of December 3rd 1983 is extremely unsatisfactory and makes references to non-existent persons. Rewrite it in full and submit your draft to higher authority before filing.'

Winston does not know, nor will he ever know, what actually happened to Comrade Withers. Withers had received an award in the original report, but he is now an 'unperson,' and the Party wants all mention of the man eradicated from history.

Winston decides the best way to approach the task is to invent a replacement for Withers. In addition, he invents an entirely new story to replace the Withers' story; he casts the fictitious Comrade Ogilvy as the hero of a story about Ogilvy's dogged pursuit of the Eurasian enemy.

Winston is certain that others in the Ministry of Truth are working on revising the same story, but he believes that his account will be the one chosen for the official record. Winston considers the effect of this falsification of the past: 'Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed in the present, now existed in the past, and when once the act of forgery was forgotten, he would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.'

The Enemy

The Party claims that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia, but Winston knows that the enemy has shifted. Oceania was allied with Eurasia, just four years ago, and Eastasia was the enemy then. Winston thinks that even though the Party is able to change the written record and manipulate the populace into believing that the country's military alliances haven't changed, the truth still exists.

Winston's thoughts about the existence of absolute truth contribute to his eventual rebellion against the Party. 'And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered,' he thinks.

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