1984

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1984 Book 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At work, Winston rewrites news articles so that they reflect the Party's current version of history, a task known as "rectifying." His instructions arrive on rolls of paper through pneumatic tubes, and are disposed of in "memory holes," slits in the walls leading to an incinerator. All media—books, films, photographs, and newspapers—are "rectified" to ensure that the Party looks as if it is always correct.
Another example of how the Party practices reality control, eradicating independent thought by rewriting history to suit its purposes. Euphemistic terms like "rectifying" were used by actual totalitarian regimes to disguise barbaric practices. Orwell felt that the deterioration of language was connected to the decay of moral values.
Themes
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Winston considers his colleagues, a secretive man named Tillotson, a woman with sandy hair whose job is delete the names of people who have been vaporized, and a poet named Ampleforth who alters poems to make them comply with Party ideology. The Ministry of Truth is a huge organization, swarming with workers whose task it is to produce propaganda, including sensational novels and pornography for the lower classes or proles, in order to distract them from realizing that they are victims of oppression.
Although the proles are not really considered a threat, the Party takes precautions to ensure that they never become conscious of their poverty and powerlessness. According to Marxist historians, the lower classes have traditionally been manipulated through the encouragement of behaviors such as gambling, drinking, and fornication.
Themes
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
Winston sets to work rewriting an article about an Inner Party member who has been vaporized, a Comrade Withers. To replace Withers, Winston invents a Comrade Ogilvy—an exemplary Party member who devotes his life to hunting down thought-criminals—dictating his revisions into a speakwrite. He becomes convinced that Tillotson is working on the same article, but that his own version will be the one that is recorded.
In this passage Winston demonstrates his skill at producing a version of history that will be acceptable to the Party, guided by his knowledge of the principles of INGSOC and what he imagines the Party wishes him to say. The fact that others are employed on the same task indicates that the Party takes it very seriously.
Themes
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon