Nations of Nineteen Eighty-Four
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How the world evolved into the three states is vague, and given that all that is known about the world by the citizens of Oceania is whatever the Party wants the citizens to know, it is unclear to the reader whether they actually exist in the novel's reality or whether they are a storyline invented by the Party to advance social control. The nations, as far as can be inferred, appear to have emerged from nuclear warfare and civil dissolution over 20 years between 1945, the end of World War II, and 1965. Eurasia was likely formed first, followed closely afterwards by Oceania, with Eastasia emerging a decade later, possibly in the 1960s.
Oceania is the superstate in which protagonist Winston Smith dwells. It is believed to be composed of the Americas, Britain (called "Airstrip One" in the novel), Ireland, Greenland, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia, and Southern Africa below the River Congo. It also controls, to different degrees and at various times during the course of its perpetual war with either Eurasia or Eastasia, the polar regions, India, Indonesia, and the islands of the Pacific. Oceania lacks a single capital city, but London and apparently New York City may be regional capitals. In the novel, Emmanuel Goldstein, Oceania's declared public enemy number one, describes it in the fictional book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism as a result of the United States coming under authoritarian rule and subsequently absorbing the British Empire. Goldstein's book also states that Oceania's primary natural barrier is the sea surrounding it.
The ruling doctrine of Oceania is Ingsoc, the Newspeak neologism for English Socialism. Its nominal leader is Big Brother, believed by the masses to have been the leader of the revolution and still used as an icon by the Party. The cult of personality is maintained through Big Brother's function as a focal point for love, fear, and reverence, more easily felt towards an individual than towards an organization.
The unofficial language of Oceania is English (officially called Oldspeak), and the official language is Newspeak. The restructuring of the language is intended to eliminate unorthodox political and social thought by eliminating the words needed to express it.
The society of Oceania is sharply stratified into three groups: the small ruling Inner Party, the more-numerous and highly indoctrinated Outer Party, and the large body of politically-meaningless Proles. Apart from exceptions such as Hate Week, the proles remain essentially outside Oceania's political control and are placated by trivial sports and other entertainment: the Thought Police manage any Proles who are socially aware enough to be a problem.
Oceania's national anthem is "Oceania, Tis For Thee".
Even the names of countries, and their shapes on the map, had been different. Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England, or Britain, though London, he felt fairly certain, had always been called London.
Like the rest of Europe, Great Britain was hit by atomic weapons in the conflicts before the revolutions in Oceania and then elsewhere. One British town, Colchester, is referenced specifically as having been destroyed; flashbacks to Smith's childhood also include scenes of Londoners taking refuge in the London Underground tunnels in the midst of the bombing.
It is stated that Eurasia was formed when the Soviet Union annexed the rest of Continental Europe, creating a single polity stretching from Portugal to the Bering Strait. Orwell frequently describes the face of the standard Eurasian as "mongolic" in the novel. The only soldiers other than Oceanians to appear in the novel are the Eurasians. When a large number of captured soldiers are executed in Victory Square, some Slavs are mentioned, but the stereotype of the Eurasian maintained by the Party is Mongoloid, like O'Brien's servant, Martin. This implies that the Party uses racism to avert sympathy towards an enemy, selectively parading Central Asian troops in front of the Oceanians.
According to Goldstein's book, Eurasia's main natural defence is its vast territorial extent, while the ruling ideology of Eurasia is identified as "Neo-Bolshevism", a variation of the Oceanian "Ingsoc".
Eastasia's borders are not as clearly defined as those of the other two superstates, but it is known that they encompass most of modern-day Mainland China and Taiwan, Japan, and Korea. Eastasia repeatedly captures and loses Indonesia, New Guinea, and the various Pacific archipelagos. Its political ideology is, according to the novel, "called by a Chinese name usually translated as Death-worship, but perhaps better rendered as 'Obliteration of the Self'". Although Ego death is a common Jungian trope in mythology and is associated with Zen Buddhism, Orwell does not appear to have based this on any existing Chinese word or phrase.
Regardless, like "Neo-Bolshevism" in Eurasia, "Obliteration of the Self" in Eastasia is a skewed, totalising ideology which parallels Ingsoc. "Obliteration of the self" is a major theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the phrase roughly sums up Ingsoc's goals. In Oceania, Ingsoc holds any sense of selfhood or individuality to be thoughtcrime, and every arm of the government works to promote the citizens' obliteration of self in service to Big Brother.
Little is known about Eastasia. According to Goldstein's book, Eastasia emerged a decade after the establishment of the other two superstates, placing it somewhere in the 1960s, after years of "confused fighting" among its predecessor nations. It is also said in the book that the industriousness and the fecundity of the people of Eastasia allow them to overcome their territorial inadequacy in comparison to the other two powers.
The "disputed area", which lies "between the frontiers of the super-states", is a rough quadrilateral with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hong Kong". This area is fought over during the perpetual war among the three superstates, one of which sometimes controls vast swaths of the disputed territory, only to lose it again. The reason that the three superstates seek to control the area is to harness the large population and the vast resources within the region. Control of the islands in the Pacific and the polar regions is also constantly shifting, but there also, none of the three superpowers ever gains a lasting hold. The inhabitants of the area, having no allegiance to any nation, live in constant slavery under whichever power controls them.
At one point during the novel, Julia procures tea to share with Winston and remarks that she thinks Oceania recently captured India (or perhaps parts of India), but such "control" is usually transient.
The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four exists in a state of perpetual war among the three major powers. Two of the three states are aligned against the third: Oceania and Eurasia against Eastasia or Eurasia and Eastasia against Oceania. However, as Goldstein's book points out, each superstate is so powerful that even an alliance of the other two cannot destroy it, which results in a continuing stalemate. From time to time, one of the states betrays its ally and sides with its former enemy. In Oceania, when that occurs, the Ministry of Truth rewrites history to make it appear that the current state of affairs is the way it has always been, and documents with contradictory information are destroyed in the memory hole.
Goldstein's book states that the war is not a war in the traditional sense but simply exists to use up resources and keep the population in line. Victory for any side is not attainable or even desirable, but the Inner Party, through an act of doublethink, believes that such victory is possible. Although the war began with the limited use of atomic weapons in a limited atomic war in the 1950s, the combatants all stopped using them for fear of upsetting the balance of power. Relatively few technological advances have been made (the only two mentioned are the replacement of bombers with "rocket bombs" and of traditional capital ships with the immense "floating fortresses"). Examples of both technologies had been developed in the closing stages of World War II: the V2 rocket, the ice aircraft carrier, and the floating harbour.
- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, p. 18.
- The literal translation of "Death-worship" is "死亡崇拜", or Sǐwáng chóngbài, which is not a known religious concept or political philosophy. Related moral concepts may be "殺身成仁", shāshēn chéngrén, to die to achieve virtue, found in Analects; or "捨身取義", shěshēn qǔyì, to give up life for righteousness, found in Mencius, but the concept of mortal sacrifice for the greater good, and emphasis of collective interests were already used in propaganda of both Nationalist and Communist revolutionaries at the time. Another possibility is that the phrase used is derived somehow from nirvana (rendered 涅槃 in Chinese, a transliteration of the original Sanskrit), which if stretched, could be interpreted as "Obliteration of the Self". In comparison, the later North Korean ideology of Juche has a comparable trait of difficult translation into English -- as well as similar Big Brother figures in its veneration of the Kim dynasty.
- Part II, Ch. 9.