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George Orwell's Who Controls the Past Controls the Future Analyzed

Updated on July 26, 2015
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The ideologies of Ignsoc are summarized and made accessible by a set of slogans that the Party propagates. Among these slogans, one aphorism seems to explain the long-term strategy that enables the Party to maintain its control and hegemony. ‘’ Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past” is an aphoristic slogan that appears twice in the novel. The first mention is when Winston ponders on and questions the Party’s control over memory and past, and the second when Winston is now a prisoner in the Ministry of Love. These appearances seem to assist the reader to understand Winston’s stand and motives, and to explain his situation and how it comes to be tangled and inevitable. The Party uses this technique of falsifying history to destroy its subjects’ mental and psychological independence; i.e. individuals are no longer free to use their mental capacities to memorize past events or to make logical speculations that account for when, why and how events happen. This is made solely to prevent individuals from forming their own judgments, ideas and logics. It is only what the Party holds to be truth that is truth, and everything else, however true or logical, is a heresy which must be eradicated or at least controlled. This is done by holding sway over the past. The past is not a natural accumulation of events; it is not a register where events and incidents are naturally listed, but it is rather a register that is at the Party’s disposal, to distort or reshape. Events are thus accommodated to legitimize the Party’s hegemony and control. It is our past which dictates and shapes our future goals. If our past is flourishing and prosperous, our future goals should be automatically geared towards reviving its glory and pride. That which prompts our future goals is contained in our past and that on and from which our future feeds and takes its shape is within the lines of our past records. This logic explainshow the party controls the past in order to secure its control over the future. The party models future goals and actions on a forged, accommodated history. By controlling past and future, the party controls the present, and by controlling the present, it keeps its control over the past. This cyclical procedure secures a continuity of the status quo state of Oceania, and boosts its immunity to destruction and fall.

Tarik Araboui

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