As a teaser for this week (because I like to pretend I have a wide audience that would spend the week anticipating the next installment), I said that I will ask if Oceana can last.

Dragoness_E immediately responded with a resounding "no" on the basis of unforeseen externalities. The externalities included a new disease a la Black Death, an extinction level asteroid (such as is found in late 90s movies and the far better done "You And Me And The End of the World"), a much more advanced civilization coming to conquer and colonize, etc. The phrase for the whole category is "Outside Context Problem".

I will agree with this. For one thing, some of those problems are problems that would and could destroy any nation without needing to kill all or most of the people within. There's an Italian movie about a world-wide outbreak of crippling-to-lethal agoraphobia. (It's on Netflix with the title "The Last Days", if you don't mind reading the subtitles.) The affliction doesn't even kill anybody. It's the isolation and the breakdown in communications that causes civilization to break down.

Any such Outside Context Problem can destroy a nation that either does not or cannot adapt quickly enough. And, The Party will not allow Oceana to be adaptive. It cannot survive a world of changing people. It can only enforce a status quo that, given enough of an Outside Context Problem, cannot last.

That said, Orwell doesn't seem to consider anything like an Outside Context Problem. According to O'Brien and The Book, of which he is part author, the only external issue is another nation, but that is handled by Doublethink Agreement among the three extant nations. This leaves, under Orwell's examination and O'Brien's belief, only the internal matter of controlling the individuals within Oceana.

In a world without Outside Context Problems and externalities, could Oceana last as it is?

Let's take a look at what Oceana is. O'Brien will tell us, in fact.
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First a quick note, based on some of the comments I've gotten. I know that much of my interpretation doesn't match up to Orwell's intent. I'm taking a Death of the Author approach and I'm outright stating where I think Orwell is wrong.

Now, into the deconstruction.

According to O'Brien, Winston has gone through stage one, learning. The next stage is understanding, which will be the task of the current chapter. The final stage will be acceptance.

The stage of learning included O'Brien's line about meeting where there is no darkness, a line of invitation to the thought that O'Brien is like Winston himself (which he might be). It included giving Winston the book so he could read it. And, it included reinforcing the very same things, via torture, that had been expected of Winston all along.

Now, we get to the question that most plagues Winston.
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(Note: This is a fan-theory. This is a way of viewing and interacting with the text. This is not, in any way, statement on authorial intent.)

Oceana and the means The Party has of maintaining their dominance strike me as... unbelievable. I fully believe that they'd try it. I even believe that they'd believe it. But, as means of control, these aren't very useful.

There are elements that just don't fit.
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Trigger Warning/Content Note: There will be discussion of torture. I won't go into detail and Orwell does more telling than showing, here (which actually works out well for readability sake). But, still, here it is.

The good news is that we're working our way to the end. After I finish off with 1984, I'll move onto Brave New World. To my recollection, there won't be torture, there. But, for the rest of 1984, the topic is going to be there and whatever you choose to do for your own sanity, including just waiting until the next book, is entirely the right choice for you.
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Here we are at Part 3, where that which was set up will lead to pay-off. This will be the part of the series in which you are meant to be at your most uncomfortable and that's a tall order. We're already uncomfortable with the ever-present eyes of Big Brother and your neighbors watching you. We're already uncomfortable with the degree that the people around us are willing to believe the obviously untrue, or at least pretend to in order to go along with everybody else. And, we're already uncomfortable with whatever degree of empathy we have for Winston Smith.

To remind, Winston Smith fantasized about raping and murdering the woman who, eventually, turned out to be his girlfriend. In one occasion, prior to getting to know her, he's internally honest enough to admit that the only reason he didn't murder her when he had motive, means, and opportunity, was a lack of trust in his own physical capacities.

He's internally spiteful of those around him. He's a judgmental prick with regards to the choices of the Proles, respecting them only in the abstract. Whatever absence of emotional abuse levied toward his wife must have been only out of fear and propriety, for all the disrespect we see, in him, toward her in his memories of their time together.

The reasons to hate him are many and I still find myself empathizing with him. In the coming chapters, with what Winston goes through, it'll be easy to forget all those reasons to hate him. Because, right here, in this part, he's somebody being tortured and, in the modern language of the real world, aggressively gaslighted.

His survival method has failed. Before he even broke from it, the foreshadowing that he would find himself here, in a room where there are no windows and the lights are never off (where there is no darkness), was set forth. Whatever else his sins, here he is.
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The good news is we have another short chapter. It's even the end of part two of the book.

Yeah, that kind of suggests bad news, too. But, hey, it's not happening to you and Winston's a bit of a prick anyway, so let's get to it.

In the last chapter, Winston fell asleep after having read the first and third chapters of "The Book", Goldstein's missive on how The Party maintains power (with some massive oversimplifications of sociology) and the true purpose of war in the current world. Chapter ten of part two begins with him waking up feeling as though he'd slept a long time, but thinking that the old-fashioned clock (which would read 8:30) indicated that it was only twenty-thirty.

We're also told that, though Julia made sure the stove was full, it's now empty of oil. And, when they look out the west-facing window, "The sun must have gone down behind the houses; it was not shining into the yard any longer."
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According to Orwell's thinking, the reason for the totalitarianism that's so much worse than what had come before was because people in power (whoever those people happen to be, it doesn't matter according to his theory) reacted for fear of losing that power in the face of the very real potential for total human equality. Different jobs need be done, but such vastly differing quality of life isn't, and with that loss of the need for such differentiation comes the question of, if the powerful aren't so different, why give them the power?

According to Orwell, there are four ways to lose power.

Either it is conquered from without, or it governs so inefficiently that the masses are stirred to revolt, or it allows a strong and discontented Middle group to come into being, or it loses its own self-confidence and willingness to govern. These causes do not operate singly, and as a rule all four of them are present in some degree. A ruling class which could guard against all of them would remain in power permanently. Ultimately the determining factor is the mental attitude of the ruling class itself.


Again, I'm going to disagree with, at least, Goldstein. At this point I can't be sure as to how fully Goldstein is a mouthpiece for Orwell, himself, or how deliberately Orwell may be playing around with limited perspective.
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Winston Smith jumped around, so, once again, I feel free to do the same. We're still in Chapter 9. Julia returns and Winston reads the book to her.

Here we have Orwell massively oversimplifying human civilization and history.

Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or another.


That's a sweeping generalization, but it's hard to argue the point... if only because it goes out of its way to be as general as possible. In fact, this can be applied to the vast majority of societies that have populations over, say, twenty.
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In Chapter 9, Winston finally has The Book. The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein. Winston takes this book deliberately out of order, and I will take that as an excuse to do the same with this chapter. I'll go back to the first part of the chapter, later, but I'll do as Winston does with the book and go first to War.

The least interesting part of the focuc on War is the fact of the three nations. Oceana, Eastasia, and Eurasia all exist and are, in terms of their purposes, their philosophies, and the experience of the common citizen, identical. We'll into the direct-politics later, but first to the very concept of war.
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Chapter eight, now. Here's where we get something important happening. Winston and Julia, approaching separately to allow for a potential thought that they both happened to be coming, coincidentally, at the same time, go to O'Brien's home.

As an Inner Party member, O'Brien lives in a gated community. He lives in a wealthy community. He has servants and access to things like real tobacco. More will come, but the most important luxury of the Inner Party is that O'Brien can turn off the telescreen.

This is immediately shocking. Julia is so taken aback that she can't speak and Winston is so taken aback that he can't hold his tongue. O'Brien can turn off the telescreen.
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Well, if I wanted to get through this deconstruction with any kind of speed, Orwell helped me out. In Chapter five, not much happens. Syme disappears, to be commented on by some on the first day, then not commented on at all. The rest of the chapter is focused on re-establishing what we already know.

The rented room is, psychologically, very important to Winston. The owner of the antiques shop likes to talk about the past and Winston has imbued the past with a spirit that I don't think it really deserves. We rehash the fact of Winston having, for a few minutes, had that picture of people who had been vaporized. Julia doesn't care about such things. Despite viewing the Party to be a bunch of liars, she doesn't think to reject what they say except where the Party touches on her life. Winston outright tells Julia that she's only a rebel from the waist down and she finds that brilliantly witty.

Most of that is told in somewhat florid exposition. In storytelling, there's "show, don't tell". Well, I get the impulse to tell. It's quicker. It's easier. In writing, it's hard to be exactly clear on what you want your readers and/or audience to know and to never actually tell them. But, what am I complaining about? I get to move on.
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Here we have another short chapter and even one where we can move quickly past the first bit. Winston rents that one room he thought about earlier and worries more... because that's what Winston does, now, worry.

From inside, his room, he hears a woman, working on some laundry, singing a song. With that, we get a bit more (absence of) color on the nation of Oceana.

The tune had been haunting London for weeks past. It was one of countless similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department. The words of these songs were composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator. But the woman sang so tunefully as to turn the dreadful rubbish into an almost pleasant sound.


There's a quick bit in which Julia informs Winston that they can't meet for "the usual reason. It's started early this time." Winston quickly cycles through feeling angry at being denied something he needs to remembering that this is a biological reaity to wishing that they had been married for ten years (perhaps, in part, so that he would be more intimately familiar with, and able to provide appropriate support, these kinds of issues). It's not much to note but, judging this on the curve you need to apply to Winston, this is pretty good social and emotional maturity.

Then, we move on to the bit that has me interested and, quite frankly, confused.
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In the last chapter, we learned that Julia is a more skilled and more experienced rebel at twenty-seven than Winston is at thirty-nine. This chapter picks that up and, in a surprising move considering what more allegedly progressive stories would have, fully admits and maintains that she is the more capable of the two on many a level.

She knows the guidelines. She knows how to have conversations a bit at a time. She knows how often an individual hiding place can be trusted. She knows the ways and the how-tos of having illicit meetings, illicit conversations, how to revel in the illicitness of it all and all for the purpose of illicit sex... (Wow, the porn parody of 1984 won't have to stray very far at all from the source-material.)

We mentioned part of how she gets away with all of this in the last installment. She shouts the loudest with the crowd. She volunteers her time. She presents the image of exactly that woman that Winston hated so much. And, she convinces Winston to do something of the same.
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Chapter 2 of Part 2 is a short one. We can get through it in one post. It starts out with Winston following his new lady-friend's instructions to the T. The narrator (which I take to be Winston referring to himself in third person) even points out that Winston would be more nervous if it weren't so obvious that she was so much more experienced than he.

...

There are some parallels between Winston and myself that I just hate. Then there are the ones I don't know what to feel about.

Winston and the woman stop at a grassy knoll ("No, it isn't dead, it's a Gazebo.") surrounded by tall saplings. Those saplings are important. Anywhere else, there could be microphones. They're not likely, but they're possible. Here, the woman knows that there isn't anything big enough to hide a microphone. So, by process of elimination, we have a safe spot.

And, here, we get the meat of the fantasy that this woman could represent.
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It's not until now that we're going to get a sense of the character of the woman for whom Winston has, when he's thought of her at all, had a series of strong emotions. That has unfortunate elements.

I've taken opposition to the notion that Winston is the closest to whole of all the characters in 1984, but there is a way of looking at that as true. Winston, after a fashion, is the only character in this book. Everybody else is the roles they play. And, I can't tell the extent to which that is intended.

Is this an unfortunate trope of simplistic storytelling or is this an examination of the ways we become, to each other, mere roles dictated by the society around us?

I don't know. And my readiness to give Orwell the benefit of the doubt is tested by some of what we've seen so far.

For now, we see Winston and this woman, still only known as the dark-haired girl, can only manage to have a hidden conversation by, eventually, finding a way to manage to having, just by coincidence, sat down near each other and not looking at each other.
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Earlier in this deconstruction, I likened Winston Smith to a High School burnout. I've read 1984 before and I knew that this lady with the dark hair would make contact with Winston. But, I'd forgotten how. And, I get the importance of why this has to be the way but... having had that thought... I can't think it.

Chapter one of Part 2 eases into the High School sense of things but it fits right from the start.

The woman, still known to us as "the dark haired girl from the fiction department", has had some kind of injury that is common to the fiction department, due to the size of the machinery. And, as a side note, I am curious as to how big and unwieldy a machine you might need or even find valuable in crafting fiction... I think the point is that we don't know how that would work? Perhaps even that it's completely unnecessary to whatever function of a machine? If you have thoughts, please have comments too.
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Last week, I made the case that Winston is his own Party. His conflict with the Party of Oceana isn't one of truth versus lies, but one preferred reality versus another. This week, I'm going to make the case that, in Winston's Party of One, the past is his version of Big Brother.

In the last interaction with the unnamed old man, who's name Winston never asks, the old man has this to say on the topic of the past.
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Before I go on to spew more venom upon Winston, I do have some praise for George Orwell.

Firstly, it's briefly noted that a walk by himself, instead of going to the Community Center for communal recreation is a risk. The fact that Winston's doing this for the second time in three weeks is, according to the book, a rash act. (If there isn't a carefully checked attendance, you can bet that the members are encouraged to take note of conspicuous absences... and all absences are conspicuous.)

... to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous. There was a word for it in Newspeak: ownlife, it was called, meaning individualism and eccentricity.


This part really scares me. I am, very much, an ownlife kind of guy.
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Part of the reason I questioned how different the Proles had it in the book compared to before was... to be honest, because I'd started a little earlier than I expected and I just kind of ran with it. But, it became useful for this part, the discussion of the past.

Winston, for his diary that exists for the purpose of providing value to people who he will likely never see in person, copies down a large portion of another book that... he's... analyzing...

Do...

Uh...

Moving on!
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Last time we talked about the Proles and I got... emotional in my reaction to Winston's judgment on their priorities. I don't want to be too dismissive, however, because the masses do have power and using that power is important. Just take a look at history of when people have had to use that power before.

The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated the proles from bondage. Before the Revolution they had been hideously oppressed by capitalists, they had been starved and flogged, women had been forced to work in the coal mines (women still did work in the coal mines, as a matter of fact), children had been sold into the factories at the age of six.


Now, this is told to us as lies of The Party of Oceana. But, it should be worth noting how this isn't all that far off. The Industrial Revolution, in both the US and England, wasn't the smooth sailing into worker's rights. That took unions and Democracy and, in America, a New Deal and trust-busting. I'm not so up on UK history of the time, but I can feel safe in saying that what didn't happen was an unfettered free-market economy just, on its own, making things better.
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