Important Quotes in 1984

Instructor: Christopher Sheek
In this lesson, we will learn about the principles of 'Doublethink' and 'Newspeak' from George Orwell's novel ''Nineteen Eighty-Four', and discover connections between aspects of the story and popular culture.

'Nineteen Eighty-four' in Popular Culture

Even if you haven't read the novel, you'll probably recognize the phrase '2+2=5.' Allusions to this story and its characters can be found in reality TV shows like Big Brother and in popular music such as Radiohead's song '2+2=5'. Orwell uses this strange math equation to show the forceful way the dystopian government manipulates truth.

The novel presents a political ideology called Doublethink, which manifests as a type of language called Newspeak. These concepts have been popularized in various ways in popular culture. For example, Stephen Colbert's 'truthiness' is reminiscent of Doublethink. Colbert coined the term in a segment of 'The Word' in 2005, partly to make fun of the media's sloppy coverage, but also to raise awareness about the spread of disinformation. Suffice it to say that Newspeak, Doublethink, and other forms of propaganda aren't limited to the novel. Let's look at several well-known passages from the novel that explore themes of propaganda, control, manipulation, and freedom.

visual depiction of Doublethink


Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in the mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

This passage from Book 2, Chapter 9 occurs later in the book when Winston reads The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein. This book-within-the-book explains the way the government has been able to gain so much power. It lays bare the inner-workings of Doublethink, Newspeak, and the political agenda.

Orwell invented newspeak as a way to critique the way people use language, or rhetoric, to control the way people think about things. Newspeak refers to the 'new' way that people 'speak' in the novel. It's how Doublethink manifests in language and conversation. By getting people to think of war as peace; freedom as slavery, and ignorance as strength, doublethink is like rationalizing yourself into oblivion. The novel pushes the limits of what can be considered rational thought. It's convenient to think of reason as a pathway to truth. Nineteen Eighty-four reveals that over-rationalizing has a negative impact on well-being. Over-rationalizing leads to Doublethink, in which people begin to believe that one thing is true, even when they know deep down it is false. In the novel, this sort of thinking is installed by a powerful government to maintain order and complacency.

The mottos of Doublethink proliferate throughout the book, supporting the government's mission to get people to adopt the language of Newspeak. Part 1, Chapter 1 introduces the slogans in caps. As we follow Winston to his workplace at the Ministry of Truth, he stops in front of the 'enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete' on which it is written 'in elegant lettering':




depiction of the exterior of the Ministry of Truth

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