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  #16  
Old Apr 11th, 2024, 09:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaigen View Post
I didn't realize I was stepping into an argument, so maybe I should try to shift focus back to the book so it can be a discussion instead.

One of the things that's always intrigued me about 1984 is that the appendix has a retrospective tone. It talks about how Newspeak was used and how The Party expected their plans would have played out. It reads like it was written by a historian studying a defunct government. So what happened? Did INGSOC evolve in an unexpected direction, or was it suddenly and decisively brought down?
Looking into it, while Orwell writes that Newspeak was perfected by 2050 (implying INGSOC lasted at least this long), the Appendix does also detail why it didn't last. Rather than write it out again I'll quote here the relevant part of an article I found:

Quote:
The Party’s plans—the abolition of the family, laughter, art, literature, curiosity, pleasure, in favor of a “boot stamping down on a human face forever”—are never achieved because Newspeak fails to take. Why? Because it was too difficult to translate Oldspeak literature into Newspeak. The text Orwell singles out to exemplify this, intriguingly, is the Declaration of Independence. The “author” of the appendix argues that these ideas cannot be expressed in Newspeak, specifically the part about governments deriving their legitimacy from the consent of the people, and citizens having the right to challenge any government that fails to honor the contract. As long as we have a nuanced, expansive system of language, Orwell claims, we will have freedom and the possibility of dissent.
A more direct equivalent is found in The Handmaid's Tale - the epilogue is a transcript from a conference taking place in the future, discussing the events of the book as an important record of the 'Gilead Period'.

I think it stems from these books acting as warnings by their authors - this is what will come to pass if we're not vigilant - but with the caveat that no matter how bad things get there is always hope. Evil can be overcome, eventually. It's very rare to have a book or film that simply states "There is no hope." The Road is about the only example I can think of, at least that I've read.
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  #17  
Old Apr 11th, 2024, 09:34 AM
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I agree that it seems likely that the impossibility of fully implementing Newspeak is the underlying cause of INGSOC's failure. No matter how pedants rail against words changing meaning over time and call each new word added to the dictionary a travesty, you can't stop a language from evolving short of killing it, and a dead language is nothing more than an evolutionary cul de sac.

It still leaves open the proximate cause of INGSOC's destruction, though. Was someone with more empathy and optimism than Winston able to organize the proles? Did the party simply consume itself in paranoia and backstabbing? Did the economy finally collapse under the demands of perpetual war?
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  #18  
Old Apr 11th, 2024, 10:33 AM
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Although we never find out, I think it's likely it was a combination of the first two (given Oceania has at various points 'always been at war with Eurasia' and 'always been at war with Eastasia' while allied with the other, I think it's entirely likely the whole war is a fabrication to stimulate the economy while uniting the country against The Other).

Given the Party doesn't watch the Proles to the same degree it does the Inner and Outer Party, maybe a Prole or Proles realised there was more to life than what they were being fed by the Party, and was able to organise a revolution?
At the same time, the principle of Doublethink requires holding two conflicting ideas in your head at one time and believing both - people do it naturally all the time, but as a necessary pillar of a political system it's just not sustainable, eventually something is going to give, someone is going to crack, and someone/some people will begin to believe one idea more than the other. There's likely to be a snowball effect - as people start being 'removed' for thoughtcrime, others' dedication to the Party will waver, they in turn will be removed, and on and on until the primary state of the Party is distrust of the Party.

Orwell also shows that for the Party to continue operating the people they rule need to think they are free, despite having no real freedoms. But while the illusion of freedom is required this means the idea of freedom survives, and will always generate people who want to buck the system (it reminds me of the instabilities in the Matrix requiring the birth of The One, though it's not a perfect comparison).
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Old Apr 11th, 2024, 06:47 PM
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Yes! Interesting -- past tense seems to indicate that INGSOC was overthrown and it's safe to talk about these things now, kind of giving the narrator the opportunity to find an occasion for telling the story.

Thomas Pynchon talks about this a bit in his foreword/essay in 2003.
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 02:16 PM
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Excellent essay. The distinction between prophecy and prediction is interesting. Since it's harder to translate prophecy into the "concrete", most people will gravitate toward prediction as it's somewhat empirical. On a side note, It must be clear that I'm not saying empiricism is the truth because even that can be rewritten, but a large swath of the public rely on their senses as the absolute truth.

Back to the essay, what I find interesting is that Pynchon purposely chose to use "the left of the left" instead of the term "anarchism", which puts Orwell on the fence, therefore, offering a view that 1984 could be used to critique Stalinism, but at the same time not through the actions of anarchism. It is worth mentioning that he did have some sympathies toward the Spanish anarchists (CNT/FAI) in the Homage to Catalonia: "as far as my purely personal preferences went I would have liked to join the Anarchists." , but he did not act directly with them, as he supported POUM, a Marxist party, but in some sense Orwell could also bee seen as an anti-Stalinist capitalist. It seems he was torn between doing the "right" thing and the "practical" thing, which could be a part of the "prophetic soul" of the novel.
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lostcheerio View Post
Yes! Interesting -- past tense seems to indicate that INGSOC was overthrown and it's safe to talk about these things now, kind of giving the narrator the opportunity to find an occasion for telling the story.

Thomas Pynchon talks about this a bit in his foreword/essay in 2003.
It's also interesting in that it's the only place in the book where the narrator is not filtered through Winston's perspective. The narrator in the body of the novel is as unreliable as Winston, but in the Appendix we get something like an objective point of view.

Thanks for sharing that foreward!
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  #22  
Old Apr 12th, 2024, 06:19 PM
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I was thinking Pynchon was taking kind of a b*tchy tone, but then I thought, that's actually pretty cool because a lot of times these forewords are kind of overly adoring and "his great masterwork" etc.

I like this line, and this observation: "If you wish to know an era, study its most lucid nightmares. In the mirrors of our darkest fears, much will be revealed."
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  #23  
Old Apr 14th, 2024, 07:44 PM
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Tone is hard -- when someone disagrees with you, it can read snippy-toned when it is actually meant as to the point. Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt. If something STILL sounds combative in your head, read it out loud while pretending to be your own close friend who is two beers buzzed and really cheerful. Changes the whole thing.

As for the retrospective tone of the appendix, that's very astute tone reading and tone wielding. Margaret Atwood (who clearly read 1984 a few thousand times before she wrote Handmaids Tale) talked about this in an interview---she thinks the appendix IS meant to be hopeful and indicate that the center could not hold for the Party. I haven't read THE TESTAMENTS, but I have gathered from interviews etc that it has some hope in it...

1984 has had such longevity and such reach. Not just for lit giant likes Atwood, but for example, the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter was meant to make us think of all the Party's various Ministries, so no one was surprised when it was so corrupt.
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