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Doublethink in Orwell's 1984 and Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

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Sophie Laing

on 10 January 2012

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Transcript of Doublethink in Orwell's 1984 and Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

Doublethink as an element of Dystopian Literature
Doublethink in 1984
Doublethink in The Handmaid's Tale
1984 - Oceania as a Dystopia
The Handmaid's Tale- Gilead as a Dystopia
Elements of Dystopian Societies
(cc) photo by theaucitron on Flickr
(cc) photo by theaucitron on Flickr
propoganda used to control the citizens
independent thought controled, citizens' freedom restricted, information censored
society is an illusion of a perfect utopia, but is really a dehumanized state
one leader or idea is worshipped
feels trapped and attempts to escape or rebel from the society
does not believe the ideology of the dystopia, and helps show the reader how it is wrong
questions the nature of the political or social system and their respective laws
Dystopian Protagonist
An Introduction to "Doublethink"
"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."
"The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence guilt"
"To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies- all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."
Doublethink as a means of control in The Handmaid's Tale and 1984
telescreens that watch members of the Outer Party
Thought Police
Winston attempts to rebel
information altered and censored (Ministry of Truth, Winston's job, Newspeak)
armed Guardians and Angels
The Wall as a method of intimidation
Eyes (secret Police)
reading and writing is prohibited, and language is restricted
Gilead warps the meaning of the Bible in order for it to support their philosophy
Freedom to and Freedom from, the concept that Aunt Lydia suggests
parallels with Gileadean philosophy and the feminist movement of the "past"
ambiguous position of the Handmaids
impossible to contradict the philosophies of Ingsoc and Gilead
doublethink muddles the truth, confuses those who may still be questioning the accepted philosophy, and destroys their hope
Further Questions
Dystopian societies are only successful when their control extends beyond the physical
These societies must crush the possibility (and therefore thoughts) of rebellion, for this is the only way to ensure the security of the Dystopian society's way of life
thought police enforce doublethink
doublethink constantly necessary because of how Ingsoc alters the facts of the past and the old language
ambiguity of Handmaid's status presented through the limited view that the reader is given of Gilead
doublethink shown through the integration of flashbacks within Offred's retelling of her life in Gilead
oppressive nature of doublethink in 1984 impressed upon readers through use of long, convoluted paragraphs about its meaning and application, as well as examples (i.e. Goldstein explaining blackwhite)
The Handmaid's Tale
Presentation of doublethink
to what extent is the existence of a future dystopian society actually possible, if doublethink is a necessary element?
if doublethink becomes an active means of control in a dystopian society, is it ever possible to rebel in an effective manner?
"We ache. Each of us holds in her lap a phantom, a ghost baby. What confronts us, now the excitement's over, is our own failure. Mother, I think. Wherever you may be. Can you hear me? You wanted a women's culture. Well, now there is one. It isn't what you meant, but it exists. Be thankful for small mercies"
"The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, amde possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as double think."
Full transcript