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Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate will be different. In fact there will be no thought as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking - not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness (Orwell 54).
So clearly the masses are understanding the situation to some level, but Ingsoc has made it impossible for them to dig any deeper, or rebel against the Newspeak movement by targeting those dangerous concepts for removal from the vocabulary first. While Syme can still follow it to a logical conclusion, the conclusion itself has still been decided for him.
Though Ingsoc wishes to make the people of Oceana believe that this is progress, it really is a regression of civilization. Because of the natural fluidity of language, to suppress it is to kill it. Of course, if the concepts still exist then the words will just take on a different form, such as with Latin evolving and mutating into the Romance languages. Newspeak, however, has placed such strict mandates on the language that it can no longer grow. "Newspeak, indeed, differed from almost all other languages in that its vocabulary grew smaller instead of larger every year. Each reduction was a gain, since the smaller the area of choice, the smaller the temptation to make thought. Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centers at all (Orwell 319).
Of course at this point we have to ask to what end did Orwell have in mind when he wrote 1984. If this degradation of language and society were allowed to run its course then we would end up no better than cavemen at best. But it is this precise conclusion that I believe Orwell is aiming for the reader to come to. "His famous image of the future as "a boot stamping on a human face -- forever" is less a forecast than a warning, by way of a grim, perhaps sadistic metaphor that no one would ever forget" (Dickstein 109). 1984 is designed to frighten us into action against oppressive forces that are revealed when we apply Orwellian glasses to the world around us. It is especially poignant in America right now.
One clear-cut indication of how 1984 can come to fruition is the implementation of "politically correct" language. Take, for instance, the recent replacement of a widely used and descriptively accurate term "civilian casualties"; t he meaning of this term is clear, and needs no explanation. When the masses hear this word on the news, they immediately understand that one or more innocent life has been destroyed though extremely violent means. This could have been a group of men demonstrating in a dangerous manner and with Anti-American overtones. It could have been a young, beautiful woman preparing dinner for her parents and new boyfriend. It could have been a six-month-old infant sleeping quietly. The words conjure up as many different visions as there are people who heard the news. How could a public imagine their government guilty of such terrible, malicious acts and still support the war effort? Eventually, they couldn't, and so the term is changed. You will no longer hear the term "civilian casualties" from official channels in America; what you will here is "collateral damage." This is Newspeak in action.
The power of Newspeak doesn't stop at simply trying to soften the blow of an "ungood" thing, but it also can affect other language as well. By appropriating certain terms to label one thing as positive, it can serve as a double-blow by indicating the extreme wrongness of the opposing view. For example, the abortion debate is a many-faceted argument that will likely never be completely resolved because much of it rests with non-empirical elements such as faith. While not attempting to attribute any judgment on the issue, it serves as an obvious instance to show which side has the majority rule at the moment by reviewing the terms with which the sides have been labeled. By one side being "pro-life" this implies heavily that the opposing view is "pro-death," and even though the opposition has attempted to avoid this dichotomy by choosing a parallel, not opposite term of "pro-choice," the implication really isn't lost on anyone (Newspeak Dictionary).
So, the bastardization and manipulation of the language by Ingsoc in Orwell's fiction seems to be one of the main foci for what Orwell was trying to express with the work 1984." Since science fiction has had a notorious reputation for being able to predict the future, and in all fairness this has been the case on occasion. When the year 1984 passed us by without the ominous degradation of society that Orwell imagined, the messages in the work seem to be less possibility and more pure fiction. It seems as if we've actually let our guard down somewhat since 1984, and the results have not been pretty. With the current war in the Middle East and the actions of the American government smacking uncomfortably like the policies and actions of those in Oceana, now is the time to revisit 1984 and take a good, hard look at what's going on around us.
Booker, Keith. The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism.
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.
Brother, Big. Newspeak Dictionary. http://www.newspeakdictionary.com. Accessed 28
Dickstein, Morris. "Hope Against…[continue]
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