Among the various themes which are dealt with in 1984, the one connected with lying, deception and false appearance underlies the whole narration since its very beginning showing a kind of imposed and false reality which hides the real one thus creating a sort of superstructure which common people are not conscious of, lost as they are in world deprived of every truth to the point that they even lack the sheerest means to tell what is true from what is untrue.
Winston Smith, the main character, is the one who undergoes a self-imposed and troubled process of awareness in the desperate attempt to save his own mental sanity and his quest, before being turned out in a rebellion against the system, is the personal one of a man who, far from political or ideological implication of any kind, is trying to keep his connection with the reality which is hidden under that externally imposed superstructure, a man who is trying not to lose himself or, better saying, what is still surviving of the one who once he was. What Winston shows is the extreme need of reality which a man needs in order to be a man and not a machine, a reality that, being true, may connect a man with the here and now thus allowing him to be able to think, to understand what is happening around him, to take decisions, to choose and to express his own ideas or, in a word, to be a man. His writing on the old creamy paper of a worn out diary is the attempt to recover himself from a back pit of deception where he has been slipping in, to try and stay attached to his own foggy and blurred picture of reality, to begin to understand both who and where he is and what is life like, a life which has become a stage where lying is perpetually performed whether by himself or by the ones around him. Lying is clearly presented through Winston’s job since it is not for chance that he works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, a place where what is real is replaced by lies which are meant to become the only truths allowed by the Party so that nothing is really true and everything is mere deception. He has the task of altering, for one reason or another , articles or news-items which are not in line with what has been said by the party, thus rectifying reality rubbing it out and replacing it with a new one, a false one which has no connections with what is true but one which pleases the Party and so is allowed to become true. This process of continuous alteration is applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs – to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance so that The Ministry of Truth is concerned with Lies and the Party’s ownership of the printed media makes it easy to manipulate public opinion, while the visual and audio media carry the process even further until reality fades away forever.
The contrast existing between what happens in the three thousand rooms of the Ministry of Truth and its very name is maybe the first and perhaps most evident way to understand what Doublethink, so recurrent a word in 1984, is and how it works. Doublethink is “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them” and it means “to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them”, “ to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies” so that “the lie is always one leap ahead of the truth”. As Orwell explains in the book, the Party could not keep its iron grip on power without degrading its people and exposing them to constant propaganda. Yet to be aware of such a deception, even within the Party itself, could lead to disgusted collapse of the state from within, something that can be avoided through that complex system of “reality control” which replaces more than forbidding thus having common people controlled and manipulated merely through the alteration of everyday language and thought. Doublethink is the method of controlling thought directly and it is followed by Newspeak, the method for controlling thought through language. Through them, the Party is able to not only bomb its own people and tell its citizens that the bombs were sent by the enemy, but all Party members—even the ones that launched the rockets themselves—are able to believe that the bombs were launched from outside. Additionally, these tools hide the government’s evil not only from the people, but also from the government itself, but without the confusion and misinformation associated with more primitive totalitarian regimes. Everything is public is ruled by the Party propaganda so that everything people are told is false and deceptive, even the Big Brother, supposedly the leader of the ruling and only Party, and Emmanuel Goldstein, the number One Enemy of the People according to the Party, supposedly believed to have written a subversive book and to head a mysterious anti-party organization called The Brotherhood, are mere inventions of the Party itself. The wars which Oceania is always engaged in are examples of mass deception since they simply do not exist, but are a means to divert public attention and to create a perpetual state of terror whose result is a continuous submission to the Party which is considered as the only bulwark against the inexistent enemies. Simple information is false too, wholly false whether giving out figures about the pig iron production or encouraging the Anti-Sex League, an organization for young people that advocate complete celibacy for both sexes, wanted by the Party in order to abolish the institution of the family, so all children will be the products of artificial insemination and grow up in public institutions where deception will be continuous and total.
Together with such institutional and governmental examples of deceptions there are some more, which the novel is interspersed with, of a personal nature connected as they are with Winston’s own experiences which are worth to be mentioned since they show how deeply deception is rooted in 1984 common life. When Winston rents a room, his landlord, Mr. Charrington, a seemingly nostalgic and harmless old man, turns out to be a member of the Thought Police and the room itself which seemed a place where he and Julia could taste some bits of freedom, in reality is a trap where they are even spied on and filmed while having sex to build up films which eventually will be given to the Proles. O’Brien, an important member of the Inner party who gives Winston Goldstein’s forbidden book pretending to work for the clandestine Brotherhood, in reality is the one who appears at Winston’s jail cell to abuse and brainwash him in the name of the Party, admitting that he pretended to be connected to the Brotherhood merely to trap Winston in an act of open disloyalty to the Party.
Winston’s life itself, from his awareness to his brainwashing back to normality, is in its turn a continuous lie pretending as he does to be a good worker, a faithful Party member, a disciplined citizen of Airstrip One in order to be protected against the Thought Police. Lying, deception and false appearance performing on the stage of life in order to rule or to be alive.
from Nineteen Eighty-Four (aka 1984) by Michael Radford, UK 1984
David Bowie, 1984 from Diamond Dogs, 1974
1984 at SparkNotes
Study Guide for George Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR at Academia.edu
1984 by by Paul Nickell, USA 1953 (CBS TV film)
1984 by Rudolph Cartier, UK 1954 (BBC TV Film)
1984 by Michael Anderson, UK 1956
Nineteen Eighty-Four (aka 1984) by Michael Radford, UK 1984