Signet Essay Contest 2013

Lauren Haigler

Lauren Haigler

“War is Peace.” This chilling concept is instilled into the minds of Oceania’s citizens with the introduction of Ingsoc and is a central element of 1984‘s plot. Utilizing various strategies, including the introduction of Hate Week, the altering of history, and the corrupting of the younger generation, Oceania uses warfare to build a sense of patriotism and pride that detracts from the real issues in the country and, instead, paints Big Brother as Oceania’s savior.

Perhaps the most horrifying of all Oceania’s traditions, Hate Week and the Two Minutes Hate are nothing more than tactics implemented by the government to build the people’s desire for revenge. The annual Hate Week, compared to the daily Two Minutes Hate, brings with it a greater intensity and rage against the enemy of Oceania, whether it is Eurasia or Eastasia at the time. Both of these events make any concept opposing IngSoc look horrifying and evil, thus drawing the group of potentially wary citizens back to the “safe haven” of Oceania. This method of manipulation is quite similar to that of the modern-day bully: dramatize the negative features of the enemy to detract from one’s own shortcomings and ulterior motives.

Oceania also alters the stories of the past to justify the country’s reasons for warfare and make it appear as though Oceania has always defeated its enemies, which builds Oceania’s heroic and indomitable appearance. This historical revisionism is found throughout the novel, and is especially highlighted because the protagonist of the story, Winston, works for the Ministry of Truth in the Records Department, destroying and rewriting the documentation of events so that they no longer contradict the message Oceania sends to its people. Battle losses, decreased rations, and enemy changes are all thrown into the fire and reworded to seem like victories. The rocket bombs that hit Oceania could have been sent by Oceania itself, but because the government has such control over the news, the bombs can be used as more justification to go to war with one of the other super-states. The Party makes the statement that “who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”, an idea quite convenient in a country constantly engaged in warfare. Because Oceania controls the release of information about history and current events, the country can create in the citizens a sense of fear, forcing them to rely on Big Brother to protect them from the alleged danger they face.

Of all the citizens of Oceania, the children are, by far, the most impressionable, so Oceania targets them through the media and education system to generate enthusiasm for war and violence. This legerdemain is evident when Winston pays the Parsons a visit, only to be called a traitor and thought-criminal and then threatened with toy pistols, wood fragments, and catapults by their children. The children then beg to see the hanging of Eurasian spies, a definite sign of brainwashing and loss of innocence. The movies played in the theater reflect this lust for violence among the younger generation; the central message of the movies is brutality, to which most viewers, including children, respond with laughter. Targeting the children proves to be quite the effective strategy when the parents are afraid of their own children reporting them as thought-criminals. Because the children have grown up in a society revolving around hatred and violence, their training does not concern them in the least; however, Winston, who can still remember vague fragments of his childhood, is frightened by the aggressive uprising of the generation.

The prevalence of war in the society of 1984 does not differ greatly from that of today. Violence amongst children is steadily increasing, with more acts of aggression, bullying cases, and violent themes in pop culture than ever before. The United States has been involved in warfare during the past decade, and the threat of terrorism is always on the rise. George Orwell’s 1984 reveals the deeper motives behind all of the cruelty and war. The novel exposes the human tendency to bond over a common enemy despite the many problems within the group of allies. The story of Oceania also demonstrates the power of vengeance and anger, as well as the classic bullying concept of putting others down to increase one’s image that is found in both high school cafeterias and national governments across the world. While there is a time when war is justified, George Orwell uses 1984 as a harbinger of what will come when wars are no longer fought to bring peace but to keep citizens from turning against the government.


For information on the 2013-2014 Signet Classics Essay Contest, click here.