How Does Mind Control Work?
While the Party controls Oceania’s culture, economy, and political system in
Orwell takes this method of social control from the writings of eighteenth-century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who designed new structures for prisons that would allow the guards to watch prisoners while preventing the prisoners from seeing the guards. Bentham believed that over time, prisoners would internalize the surveillance of the guards and stop engaging in criminal behavior when released from prison.
Winston Smith has psychologically internalized the Party’s surveillance, and monitors his own actions and thoughts accordingly. His struggle not to think subversive thoughts, even when he is sure he is being monitored, critiques the soundness of Bentham’s philosophy. When he and Julia meet up in the countryside, they at first refrain from speaking to each other, in case microphones or recording devices have been hidden in the bushes, but eventually they give in to their desire to be honest and open with each other.
Along with the Party’s authority, Winston has also internalized the Party’s fears and desires. When he edits the news report at the Ministry of Truth, he needs only to change a reference to an “unperson.” Instead, he invents Comrade Ogilvy, who is a perfect representative of everything the Party finds valuable: healthy, self-sacrificing, patriotic, chaste—all the things that Winston is not. Other characters have internalized the Party as well, like Winston’s neighbor Parsons, who praises his seven-year-old daughter for turning him in to the Party as a thought-criminal.
The Party also ensures control over citizens by disrupting personal loyalties to anything other than itself. Religion is outlawed, because it represents a commitment to an authority higher than a government. The family unit is disrupted, as children are encouraged to spy on their parents and report any counter-Party behavior or attitudes. Suppression of sex outside of marriage prevents people from forming bonds beyond Party-sanctioned relationships.
The work Winston does for the Ministry of Truth aims to make the Party’s authority seem eternal and inevitable, by erasing any evidence of mistakes, poor decisions, and opportunities for the Party’s actions to be criticized. The effect of his work at the Ministry of Truth is to confuse citizens and to make them doubt their own perceptions. When Winston mentions the photograph he found of Jones, Rutherford, and Aaronson to O’Brien, O’Brien insists that the photograph never existed because he does not remember seeing it. Hearing this, “Winston’s heart sank,” indicating that he has begun to surrender control of his own perceptions to O’Brien.
The Party exploits personal and collective fears to maintain Party loyalty and suppress revolt, both through the threat of violence and actual violence. One example is the cage of rats O’Brien threatens Winston with after bugging the secret room and learning Winston has an intense fear of rats. Winston is also severely beaten in the process of confessing, violence that he anticipates because “nobody spoke of such things, yet everybody knew of them.” The citizens know that the threat of violence is real and inevitable if they commit thoughtcrimes, without fully understanding how they know.
Another type of conditioning is seen in the cold, uncomfortable, unappetizing world