On page 190 of the Harcourt/Brace-Plume edition of 1984,
George Orwell explains the concept of doublethink: "Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory
beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them." (Erich Fromm also quotes this definition of doublethink
on page 288 of his "Afterword.")
On page 191, Winston reads Goldstein's book, which explains:
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.
On page 192, Goldstein further explains in his book:
The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry
of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions
are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.
For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient
cycle be broken. If human equality is to be forever averted--if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their
places permanently--then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.
On page 220, Winston and O'Brien discuss the photograph of the
former Party members Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford which Winston had once, briefly, held in his possession. O'Brien
shows Winston a copy of the photograph, and Winston responds excitedly:
"It exists!" he cried.
"No," said O'Brien.
He stepped across the room.
There was a memory hole in the opposite wall. O'Brien lifted the grating. Unseen, the frail slip of paper was
whirling away on the current of warm air; it was vanishing in a flash of flame. O'Brien turned away from the wall.
"Ashes," he said. "Not even
identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist. It never existed."
"But it did exist! It does
exist! It exists in memory. I remember it. You remember it."
"I do not remember it," said O'Brien.
Winston's heart sank. That
was doublethink. He had a feeling of deadly helplessness. . . .
On page 237, O'Brien makes the following claim: "The earth is
the center of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it." Then he adds:
"For certain purposes, of course, this is not true. When
we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the
sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometers away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond
us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you
suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?"
The concept of doublethink is central to Orwell's book. Doublethink
also appears frequently in our lives now, though many people do not recognize it as such.
Describe and analyze two instances of doublethink that you have encountered
through your own observations, experiences, or other reading. At least one of the examples should be something
you gleaned from the news (newspaper, radio, television, internet). If you'd like, one of your examples can be drawn
from your own experiences of doublethink. That is, looking back, are there times when you feel that you yourself
exercised doublethink? Or have you encountered doublethink in your interactions with family, friends, religious
institution, community, school, workplace, etc.?*