The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. . . The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.
As Winston enters his apartment at the beginning of the novel, he hears a voice coming from the telescreen. Like the image of Big Brother, telescreens are everywhere in Oceania. While Winston’s description of these screens brings to mind a television, the fact that citizens cannot turn them off shows that the telescreens are yet another form of control.
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.
The telescreens are not on all the time so that the citizens of Oceania can stay informed but rather so that Party members can monitor people’s behavior. While it seems unlikely that someone is paying close attention to every single person’s activity at every single moment, the possibility always exists, and so everyone must act according to the Party’s rules. This way, even if no one is watching the telescreen from the other side, the presence of the telescreens ensures that no one will act against the Party.
The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out “Swine! Swine! Swine!” and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein’s nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably.
During the Two Minutes Hate, Winston observes as Julia throws things at the telescreen to show her hatred for Goldstein. However, Goldstein and any other enemies, real or imagined, cannot hear her or feel any pain she might wish to inflict on them. The fact that she and other outer Party members can only express their anger to the telescreen shows how powerless they are.
Day and night the telescreens bruised your ears with statistics proving that people today had more food, more clothes, better houses, better recreations—that they lived longer, worked shorter hours, were bigger, healthier, stronger, happier, more intelligent, better educated, than the people of fifty years ago.
After Winston reads a passage from a children’s textbook that explains what London was like before the Revolution, when it was ruled by capitalists, he reflects on how the insistence that life is better now goes far beyond what children learn from books. Not only do the telescreens control people by monitoring their actions, they also beat into them the idea that life is better than it used to be because of the Party. Although the world that Winston describes seems bleak and hopeless, the telescreens constantly push propaganda onto its citizens to make them ignore or deny what they see and feel.
Winston was listening to the telescreen. At present only music was coming out of it, but there was a possibility that at any moment there might be a special bulletin from the Ministry of Peace.
After Winston is released from the Ministry of Love, he sits at the Chestnut Tree Café waiting for something to appear on the telescreen. Prior to this point in the novel, Winston only described the telescreens as things to be avoided, whether because he wanted to hide his diary or he found the voices coming from them grating. Now that he has been brainwashed by O’Brien into feeling loyalty to the Party and Big Brother, he waits attentively for a “special bulletin” that “might” happen. Even before he admits to loving Big Brother, his transformation is made evident by his newfound reverence for the telescreens.
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