In Nineteen Eighty-Four, society is made up of three distinct social classes: the elite Inner Party, the industrious Outer Party, and vast numbers of uneducated proles. When Winston reads Goldstein's book, he learns that the history of humankind has been a cyclical struggle between competing social groups: the High, the Middle, and the Low. This theory was originated by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 19th century and became known as Marxism. Marxists believe that the aim of the Middle group is to change places with the High, which they do by enlisting the support of the Low group. After the Middle group seizes power in a revolution, they become the High and thrust the Low back into servitude. Eventually a new Middle group splits off and the cycle begins again. At various points in the narrative, Winston entertains the hope that the proles will become conscious of their oppressed state and initiate a revolution. At other times, he despairs that since the proles cannot rebel until they become conscious, and cannot become conscious until only after they have rebelled, such a development is extremely unlikely.
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The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Class Struggle appears in each chapter of 1984. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Below you will find the important quotes in 1984 related to the theme of Class Struggle.
Book 2, Chapter 9 Quotes
The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.
The heirs of the French, English, and American revolutions had partly believed in their own phrases about the rights of man, freedom of speech, equality before the law, and the like, and have even allowed their conduct to be influenced by them to some extent. But by the fourth decade of the twentieth century all the main currents of political thought were authoritarian. The earthly paradise had been discredited at exactly the moment when it became realizable. Every new political theory, by whatever name it called itself, led back to hierarchy and regimentation. And in the general hardening of outlook that set in round about 1930, practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years--imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of hostages, and the deportation of whole populations--not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive.
The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be for ever averted—if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently—then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.
Book 2, Chapter 10 Quotes
If there was hope, it lay in the proles! Without having read to the end of the book, he knew that that must be Goldstein's final message. The future belonged to the proles. And could he be sure that when their time came the world they constructed would not be just as alien to him, Winston Smith, as the world of the Party? Yes, because at the least it would be a world of sanity. Where there is equality there can be sanity. Sooner or later it would happen, strength would change into consciousness. The proles were immortal; you could not doubt it when you looked at that valiant figure in the yard. In the end their awakening would come. And until that happened, though it might be a thousand years, they would stay alive against all the odds, like birds, passing on from body to body the vitality which the Party did not share and could not kill.
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