Class System in 1984

Instructor: Margaret Stone

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

Oceania adheres to a rigid class system in George Orwell's '1984'. The Inner Party controls the government with the help of members of the Outer Party; the proles are laborers who are unconcerned with the workings of the government.

Class System in Oceania

Three societal classes exist in Oceania, in George Orwell's 1984. The Inner Party is the ruling class, and it communicates Big Brother's message to the lower classes. The Outer Party members hold positions of trust, but they are not decision makers in the government. There are far more proles, short for proletariats, than any other class in Oceania. The proles are working-class people.

The Inner Party

The Inner Party rules Oceania and is charged with establishing truth. The Party's truth and reality, however, are not the same thing.

The Inner Party manipulates the citizens, carefully selecting information to be communicated to Oceanians. 'Very likely as many as a dozen people were now working away on rival versions of what Big Brother had actually said. And presently some master brain in the Inner Party would select this version or that, would re-edit it and set in motion the complex processes of cross-referencing that would be required, and then the chosen lie would pass into the permanent records and become truth.'

Members of the Inner Party are able to obtain items like tea and coffee, while the rest of Oceania's population is led to believe these items are in short supply. The Inner Party has a purpose in making it appear that certain commodities are unavailable: 'It is deliberate policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another.' Even though members of the Inner Party live in better housing than others, their accommodations are sparse.

World domination is the Inner Party's goal, and 'the two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought.'

One is not born into the Inner Party. Membership in either the Inner or Outer Party is earned by an examination administered to citizens at age sixteen. Orwell explains Oceania's rigid social structure, writing 'The Party is not concerned with perpetuating its blood but with perpetuating itself. Who wields power is not important, provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same.'

Outer Party

Winston Smith, the novel's protagonist, or main character, is a member of the Outer Party. When Winston visits the home of O'Brien, a member of the Inner Party, the difference in their living conditions is clear. 'Nevertheless, the few luxuries that he O'Brien does enjoy his large, well-appointed flat, the better texture of his clothes, the better quality of his food and drink and tobacco, his two or three servants, his private motor-car or helicopter - set him in a different world from a member of the Outer Party, and the members of the Outer Party have a similar advantage in comparison with the submerged masses whom we call 'the proles',' Winston thinks.

'Below the Inner Party comes the Outer Party, which, if the Inner Party is described as the brain of the State, may be justly likened to the hands.' Outer Party members like Winston are given positions of trust, but they work only to carry out the Inner Party's commands.

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