20th March 2018

Quote Analysis

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

The national slogan of Oceania is as equally contradictory as it is preposterous, therefore is an important testament to the true power of the Party’s mass campaign of public domination. The Party is able to maintain this slogan because having a common enemy keeps the people of Oceania united (War is Peace). “Freedom is Slavery” because, according to the Party, the man subjected to the collective will is free from danger and want. “Ignorance Is Strength” because the lack of ability of the people to recognize these paradoxes cements the power of the totalitarian regime.

We can apply George Orwell’s ‘doublethink’ to the party slogans to make them comprehendible. War and peace, freedom and slavery, ignorance and strength are antonyms. They reflect the opposite and contradict each other. With doublethink, the Party makes the people believe that those contradictions are reliant on each other. The first line ‘War is Peace’ states that only through war, can peace be achieved, however it doesn’t seem logical to the reader because it is a paradox since we just couldn’t create peace if there is constant war. The Oceania citizens however believe there is peace even though the book mentions that some wars are being held in unknown places. Ironically, some countries in the world such as North Africa and India have achieved peace through war, making the phrase somewhat true.

Freedom is Slavery is George Orwell’s way of saying that we are all slaves and that  simultaneously creates our freedom. In the book Winston states that there are no laws in Oceania, so they can do whatever they want, they have complete freedom, but if they write in a diary, or speak ill against Big Brother, there will be consequences. Winstons sense of freedom is simply false, it is also interesting to point out that nowadays we believe we are free but whenever we buy a car or house, we still need to pay for taxes. We still need to work and be slaves of others just to get our freedom. So at the end Freedom is Slavery.

The last phrase of the Party states that Ignorance is Strength. We know that if we are ignorant we just can’t achieve our full strength which makes the statement a clear contradiction. However, ignorance in this context does not specify to each individual person, it represents the power of the government. The Oceania citizens are ignorant to their outside world (or told only what the government wants them to be told), they live their reality and that ignorance reflects the power of their government.


Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. This is great analysis. I’ll add some observations:

    1) You’ll find this quote (from Chapter 5, said by Syme when extolling the virtues of Newspeak) illuminating:

    “The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. 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 of thought 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.”

    2) This “Freedom is Slavery” slogan also has strong shades of Marxism, which had it that in a capitalist society, the citizen was a slave to their corporate maters, being kept enslaved by the constant presentation of ‘trinkets’ to own – to keep them enslaved to the capitalist’s profit at their own expense and to keep them distracted and placated.

    3) Ignorance is Strength is perhaps the most chilling of the slogans because it’s arguably one of the most recognisable. I only have to think about extremism in all its manifestations to recognise the degree to which people’s ignorance fuels entire movements and national political forces. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness..

    I would encourage you to continue to add to this entry with further observations (and, moreover, quotes) that expand on the ideas of these slogans as you read the novel and encounter examples of their ‘truth’ in the world at large.


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