The Use of the Newspeak Language to Control and Manipulate in 1984, a Novel by George Orwell

Last Updated: 07 Nov 2022
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According to S.I. Hayakawa in his book, Language in Thought and Action, “when a nation’s traditions permit a political party to feel that it is so good for the country that no other party has any right to exist… the party declares its philosophy to be the official philosophy of the nation and its interests to be the interests of the people as a whole”. In the futuristic, dystopian novel, 1984, by George Orwell, the ruling party silences all opposition by unleashing the capability of language as a means of control and manipulation. This ruling group, referred to as “the Party,” heavily controls and monitors the citizens of Oceania, one of three super states. The Party distorts language to control the citizens’ behavior and to limit their thoughts. By creating a new language called Newspeak, altering the past, promoting intimacy as solely a “duty to The Party,” and utilizing pre-symbolic language, the Party successfully keeps the population of Oceania in ignorant submission. Newspeak is one of the of the most prominent uses of language as a means of control and submission in 1984. As explained by Syme, who is an expert on Newspeak, “the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined”. The Party’s main goal is to lessen the citizens’ need for thinking. For example, if an egregious event occurs, an Oceanian does not have to waste time choosing from an array of words to describe it; they can describe it as ungood, plusungood, or doubleplusungood. Contrastingly, those who speak standard English are burdened with a verbal variety, and each word does not hold the same meaning to each person.

In Newspeak, every word has only one definition so that there is no confusion or question. For example, “if you have a word like ‘good,’ what need is there for a word like ‘bad’? ‘Ungood’ will do just as well better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not”. Aside from ridding the citizens of Oceania of confusion, the Party has an ulterior motive for implementing Newspeak. In the eyes of the Party, everything they say is good, and everything and everyone that opposes their ideals is bad. Hayakawa explains that, “under the one-party system, the two-valued orientation becomes the official national outlook”. The Party controls the people by promoting a two valued orientation of orthodoxy; if one is in the party, he must be orthodox, but if he does something unorthodox, he must be a thoughtcriminal. Newspeak is so specific in its definitions that, when completed, it will give the citizens of Oceania very little room to interpret anything the Party does as being negative. In order to ensure the loyalty of the people, the Party destroys records of the past that do not coincide with their ideals and expects the citizens to act as though the events never happened. The Party’s actions live up to one of their guiding precepts: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” As expressed by Hayakawa, “ in any literate culture of a few centuries standing, human beings accumulate vast stores of knowledge far more than any individual in that culture can read in his lifetime, let alone remember. These stores of knowledge, which are being added to constantly, are made widely available to all”. However, in 1984, records of the past are not made widely available. Instead, they are destroyed or altered. Within the Ministry of Truth, “almost minute by minute the past is brought up to date”. Winston’s job is to edit records of the past so that they concur with what the Party is currently claiming as true “currently” being the key term, for what the Party claims to be true can change at a moment's notice. The best example of this fickleness is Oceania’s alleged war with Eurasia Or East Asia.

For instance, during the much anticipated Hate Week, Oceania is at war with Eurasia and allied with East Asia. All of the angst, hostility, and hatred imbued in Hate Week is cast upon the enemy: Eurasia. However “ after six days of this, when the great orgasm is quivering to its climax… it is announced that Oceania is not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania is at war with East Asia”. This sudden change of allegiance puts the Ministry of Truth into a frenzy because “a large part of the political literature of five years is now completely obsolete”. The Minitrue employees have to quickly rectify all past records that even hint that Oceania has ever been affiliated with East Asia, for the Party now claims that they have always been the enemy. As for the citizens who do not directly work for the Party, they absorb the change without question or hesitation. The people have become so dependant on the Party for information that they do not bother to rely on their own memory; it is much easier for them to be told what to do rather than to think independently. By disregarding their capability of common sense, the people pledge their loyalty to the Party and believe whatever the Party proclaims. In addition to creating Newspeak and altering records of the past, The Party manipulates the citizens of Oceania by portraying any sort of intimate relationship as solely a “duty to the party.” The citizens are conditioned to act impartially towards each other, for the only love they should have is love for the Party. For instance, the relationship between parents and their children is cold and unintimate; in fact, many parents fear their children. Winston’s neighbors, the Parsons, are the parents of two young children.

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Winston contemplates that “with those children that wretched woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they will be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy”. Due to their continued exposure to Party propaganda, children are so imbued with the Party’s precepts that they often report their parents to the “thought police” if they sense even the slightest deviation from orthodoxy. Relatedly, the Party also removes intimacy from the relationship between husband and wife by referring to sexual relations as only a “duty to the Party.” All marriages have to be approved by the Party, and if the man and woman in question appear to have genuine feelings for each other, the marriage will not be allowed. The reason for this being that “the only recognized purpose of marriage is to beget children for the service of the party”. As explained by Hayakawa, “ directives about matters which society as a whole regards as essential to its own safety are made especially powerful, so that no individual in that society will fail to be impressed with a sense of obligation”. This “sense of obligation” is especially instilled in Winston’s former wife, Katharine. Winston’s marriage fit the Party’s mold perfectly, for there was no love or enjoyment in it. Before they separated, Winston dreaded having intimate relations with his wife. Katherine was no more enthusiastic, but she insisted on performing “their duty to the party”.

By promoting the sex as a “duty” rather than a pleasurable act, the Party influences citizens such as Winston to see “sexual intercourse… as a slightly disgusting minor operation”. Lastly, The Party controls the people of Oceania by utilizing pre-symbolic language. The Party imposes various slogans and propaganda among the citizens. Hayakawa states that “ it is the function of propaganda to enable people to do in cold blood things that they could otherwise do only in the heat of passion”. This is the intent of the “Two Minutes Hate;” to instill people with a deep seated anger that they would not feel otherwise. This daily program acts as catharsis for the Oceanians; The Party suppresses many of the people’s emotions and natural instincts, so, to ensure that the population is not set into a rebellious frenzy, the Party requires a daily release of emotions. In this therapeutic session, “a hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill seems to flow through the whole group like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a lunatic”.

In addition, the Two Minutes Hate doubles as propaganda for the Party; the subject of the hate is always the Party’s number one enemy, Emmanuel Goldstein. The Party blames all of the wars, famine, shortages, etc. on Goldstein and The Brotherhood, when in reality it is their own doing. Goldstein has become a figurehead for unorthodoxy, so by making people hate him, the Party is in turn advertising their orthodox teachings and making themselves more appealing to the people of Oceania. By doing this, the Party’s goal is to make all of the citizens “goodthinkful,” which means to be orthodox and incapable of having a bad thought. In order to achieve “goodthinkful-ness,” the citizens have to be capable of comprehending and relaying “duckspeak.” Duckspeak means “ to quack like a duck,” or to repeat Party propaganda without necessarily understanding it. Hayakawa explains that, “we are taught to repeat such sets of words before we can understand them”. Under the Party’s rule, “the eyeless creature with the quacking voice will never be vaporized.” That is to say, those who ignorantly and loyally repeat Party precepts are safe from harm, for they are not thinking for themselves and therefore pose no threat. The people are conditioned to believe anything that the Party states, but what about when the Party claims that something absolutely absurd is true?

Do the citizens of Oceania actually believe it? This is where “doublethink” becomes a necessity. Doublethink is the ability to know and not to know to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancel out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them”. For example, the laws of mathematics have proven for centuries that two plus two equals four. Relatedly, Hayakawa comments that of such a statement such as ‘Two plus two equals four, a two valued question may be asked. Is it or is it not consistent with the rest of our system? If we accept it, shall we be able to talk consistently without eventually contradicting ourselves?. In Oceania, the question of whether one factual statement will concur with another is irrelevant; whatever the Party says is true, is true, regardless of how absurd it may be. Under the Party, it is as though some huge force is pressing down upon you frightening you out of your beliefs, persuading you, almost, to deny the evidence of your senses the Party announces that two plus two makes five, and you have to believe it. Whether or not the citizens truly believe that two and two makes five is unknown, but it does not matter, for they concur with whatever the Party says out of fear. This fear stems from the possibility of being labelled as a “thoughtcriminal” and being punished accordingly. With such a tyrannical, ruthless government in place, it is not surprising that the Oceanians remain ignorant for their own safety. In conclusion, in his dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell portrays how affective language is as a means of control and manipulation. In the superstate of Oceania, the ruling party, referred to as “the Party,” deploys several tactics to manipulate language as a means to control the citizens.

Firstly, the Party constructs a new language called “Newspeak.” The purpose of this new language is to narrow the citizen's range of thought so that it is harder for them to rebel against the Party. Secondly, the Party destroys or alters all records of the past that do not coincide with their current ideals current being the key term because the Party is very fickle. The third manipulation tactic is the Party’s portrayal of intimacy as solely a “duty to the Party.” In this society, love is not the norm; husbands are impartial towards their wives and vice versa, and parents fear their children. By removing the intimacy among the citizens, the Party has ensured that all of the people’s passion will be directed towards their causes. Lastly, the Party utilizes pre-symbolic language to gain loyalty and support from the Oceanians. With programs such as the Two Minutes Hate, the Party feeds countless pieces of information to citizens, who then have to repeat it to prove their loyalty. By having the ruling party in 1984 employ these tactics, George Orwell reveals the capability of language as a means of control and manipulation.

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The Use of the Newspeak Language to Control and Manipulate in 1984, a Novel by George Orwell. (2022, Nov 07). Retrieved from

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