Even though I am not far enough to have a full understanding of the novel, part one of 1984 is clearly meant to set the scene on the world Winston lives in. Orwell goes into great detail when explaining to the reader how life works under Big Brother’s reign. Even though he hasn’t disclosed all of the aspects, many parts of the people of Oceania’s meager existence make complete sense.
Big Brother has instilled the idea of no laws. Nothing stops people from committing crimes or doing things that are not approved, yet still people are taken away. For example, there is no rule against Winston going into the pub of a prole (the poorest of the poor, I gather, like the untouchables in India, maybe), but if someone suspects him of thoughtcrime, he could be watched or even taken away. These are the sets of unspoken laws. It is not completely illegal, most things aren’t, but it is certainly frowned upon and punishable. It’s a backwards way to hammer fear into the hearts of their people. There is no better way, I imagine, to create compliance than the feeling of impending doom if you even slip up the slightest in front of authorities. No laws plays a large part in setting the scene to how Winston lives his life. It shows the unproveable, unavoidable net that most are trapped under with the reign of Big Brother. It resonates in a powerfully terrifying way with the reader, showing the type of world that is possible.
Thoughtcrime is one of the many concepts that has not been completely explained to the reader. I cannot quite tell how one is convicted of thoughtcrime, if it is mind reading through the television screens, or if one has to share their thoughts to get arrested. Winston has repeatedly noted that Big Brother is always watching, and even the smallest unintentional tic or slightest shady glance could give someone away for committing thoughtcrime. The thoughts that are considered thoughtcrime have also not been clearly laid out, but it is clear that anyone who plans to rebel is guilty, those who attempt to find out the truths about real history are guilty, and those who understand things a little too well and are a little too smart for their own good can be guilty. This leaves the reader with an eerie sense of familiarity. The feeling that there is a golden spot, a perfect way to be a human is reinforced when those who are too radical are literally taken out their beds and away, never to been again.
The history of Oceania is unclear. It is known that the book takes place in 1984, and Big Brother came into power after the sixties. Winston remembers small bits of his childhood, before Big Brother, but is thirsty for more information on the true past. His job, after all, is with the government. He takes told history, sometimes statistics, sometimes articles or novels, and burns them. He then rewrites them to fit what Big Brother wants to prove. Shockingly, the masses gulp these lies up. Everyday they supposedly have more food more clothes, more stability. When the ministry of plenty cannot make boots for a while, they have a lie for the reason why. When the chocolate rations are cut from 25% to 20% a person on a Monday, they give an explanation, for example, the troops in Eurasia need more chocolate to conquer land for their overall gain. When on Tuesday, the chocolate rations are raised from 5% to 15% per person, everyone rejoices with glee and affection for Big Brother. Of course, in this case, the history will say that on Monday the rations were 5%, but really, they were 20%. It makes one think, is this how we are? Are we completely seduced by lies and false information, being controlled by a sole power who has managed to convince everyone that they are for the benefit of everyone?
Forgetfulness and gullibleness is the key aspect of many Orwell novels, including Animal Farm and 1984. Orwell’s dictators rely on the willingness the masses have to believe in improvement, and the changes that are put in front of them, never second guessing the “facts”. It is a true slap in the face to the credibility of history, statistics, and all documents that are taken as truth.