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Doublethink was first proposed in “1984” by George Orwell. Many people reading the book find this to be a very confusing issue. The first time I read the book I had to stop and think for quite some time on the topic of Doublethink. In quotes from my copy of “1984”, this is how I have made sense of this illusive concept.
George Orwell explains doublethink as “To know and to not know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy is impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy. To forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself” (Orwell, page 35).
Upon reading this, you almost instantly become confused. How can you know, yet not know something? The Party calls this “Reality Control”; you can control your own reality, all you have to do is imagine something, think it, and it becomes real. The newspeak word for this is Doublethink.
The fact is, Doublethink is something that is impossible to do. It is described as to know something, and then to forget it, wipe it out of your memory completely. Yet, when the information is needed, you can call it back up again from the depths of your mind and remember it with perfect clarity. An example of this is the war with Eurasia. During Hate Week, a speech is being given by a Party Member to the crowd, when suddenly he gets a note and everything changes. When they were at war with Eurasia just minutes ago, they are now at war with Eastasia. But that’s not all. They had ALWAYS been at war with Eastasia. Eurasia had always been their allies. It is foreseeable that in the future it will change once again and Oceania will be at war with Eurasia again and allied with Eastasia. All the citizens, Proles, Outer Party, and Inner Party members will use Doublethink then again too, remembering that Oceania has ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia.
Another example of Doublethink comes in when Winston is sitting in his cell in the Ministry of Love, thinking about what O’Brien had said to him earlier. “’If he thinks he floats off the floor and I simultaneously think I see him do it, then it happens’” (Orwell, pg 278). O’Brien obviously cannot float. But by using Doublethink, Winston can say that he does.
The world of Doublethink is a twisting, turning, darkened tunnel from which there is no light to help guide your way. It is my hope that this article was the equivalent of passing you a torch to light your way through.