Ministries of Nineteen Eighty-Four
The Ministries of Love, Peace, Plenty, and Truth are ministries in George Orwell's futuristic fiction dystopia novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, set in Oceania. Despite the name, no actual "ministers" are mentioned in the book, and all public attention is focused on the idealized figurehead Big Brother.
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.
Ministry of Love
The Ministry of Love (or Miniluv in Newspeak) serves as Oceania's interior ministry. It enforces loyalty to Big Brother through fear, buttressed through a massive apparatus of security and repression, as well as systematic brainwashing. The Ministry of Love building has no windows and is surrounded by barbed wire entanglements, steel doors, hidden machine-gun nests, and guards armed with "jointed truncheons". Referred to as "the place where there is no darkness", its interior lights are never turned off. It is arguably the most powerful ministry, controlling the will of the population. The Thought Police are a part of Miniluv.
The Ministry of Love, like the other ministries, is misnamed, since it is largely responsible for the practice and infliction of misery, fear, suffering and torture. In a sense, however, the name is apt, since its ultimate purpose is to instill love of Big Brother—the only form of love permitted in Oceania—in the minds of thoughtcriminals as part of the process of reverting them to orthodox thought. This is typical of the language of Newspeak, in which words and names frequently contain both an idea and its opposite; the orthodox party member is nonetheless able to resolve these contradictions through the disciplined use of doublethink.
Room 101, introduced in the climax of the novel, is the basement torture chamber in the Ministry of Love, in which the Party attempts to subject a prisoner to his or her own worst nightmare, fear or phobia, with the object of breaking down their resistance.
You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.— O'Brien, Part III, Chapter V
Such is the purported omniscience of the state in the society of Nineteen Eighty-Four that even a citizen's nightmares are known to the Party. The nightmare, and therefore the threatened punishment, of the protagonist Winston Smith is to be attacked by rats. This is manifested in Room 101 by confronting Smith with a wire cage that contains two large rats. The front of the cage is shaped so that it can fit over a person's face. A trap-door is then opened, allowing the rats to devour the victim's face. This cage is fitted over Smith's face, but he saves himself by begging the authorities to let his lover, Julia, suffer this torture instead of him. The threatened torture, and what Winston does to escape it, breaks his last promise to himself and to Julia: never to betray her. The book suggests that Julia is likewise subjected to her own worst fear (although it is not revealed what that fear is), and when she and Winston later meet in a park, he notices a scar on her forehead. The intent of threatening Winston with the rats was to force him into betraying the only person he loved and therefore to break his spirit.
Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room at Broadcasting House where he used to sit through tedious meetings. When the original room 101 at the BBC was due to be demolished, a plaster cast of it was made by artist Rachel Whiteread and displayed in the cast courts of the Victoria and Albert Museum from November 2003 until June 2004.
Ministry of Peace
The Ministry of Peace (Newspeak: Minipax) serves as the war ministry of Oceania's government, and is in charge of the armed forces, mostly the navy and army. The Ministry of Peace may be the most vital organ of Oceania, seeing as the nation is supposedly at war continuously with either Eurasia or Eastasia and requires just the right force to not win the war, but keep it in a state of equilibrium.
As explained in Emmanuel Goldstein's book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, the Ministry of Peace revolves around the principle of perpetual war. Perpetual war uses up all surplus resources, keeping most citizens in lives of constant hardship – and thus preventing them from learning enough to comprehend the true nature of their society. Perpetual warfare also "helps preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs." Since that means the balance of the country rests in the war, the Ministry of Peace is in charge of fighting the war (mostly centered around Africa and India), but making sure to never tip the scales, in case the war should become one-sided. Oceanic telescreens usually broadcast news reports about how Oceania is continually winning every battle it fights, though these reports have little to no credibility.
As with all the other Nineteen Eighty-Four ministries, the Ministry of Peace is named the exact opposite of what it does, since the Ministry of Peace is in charge of maintaining a state of war. The meaning of peace has been equated with the meaning of war in the slogan of the party, "War is Peace". Like the names of other ministries, it also has a literal application. Perpetual war is what keeps the "peace" (the status quo) in Oceania and the balance of power in the world.
Ministry of Plenty
The Ministry of Plenty (in Newspeak, Miniplenty) is in control of Oceania's planned economy. It oversees rationing of food, supplies, and goods. As told in Goldstein's book, the economy of Oceania is very important, and it's necessary to have the public continually create useless and synthetic supplies or weapons for use in the war, while they have no access to the means of production. This is the central theme of Oceania's idea that a poor, ignorant populace is easier to rule over than a wealthy, well-informed one. Telescreens often make reports on how Big Brother has been able to increase economic production, even when production has actually gone down (see § Ministry of Truth).
The Ministry hands out statistics which are "nonsense". When Winston is adjusting some Ministry of Plenty's figures, he explains this:
But actually, he thought as he readjusted the Ministry of Plenty's figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connection with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connection that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version. A great deal of time you were expected to make them up out of your head.
Like the other ministries, the Ministry of Plenty seems to be entirely misnamed, since it is, in fact, responsible for maintaining a state of perpetual poverty, scarcity and financial shortages. However, the name is also apt, because, along with the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Plenty's other purpose is to convince the populace that they are living in a state of perpetual prosperity. Orwell made a similar reference to the Ministry of Plenty in his allegorical work Animal Farm when, in the midst of a blight upon the farm, Napoleon the pig orders the silo to be filled with sand, then to place a thin sprinkling of grain on top, which fools human visitors into being dazzled about Napoleon's boasting of the farm's superior economy.
A department of the Ministry of Plenty is charged with organizing state lotteries. These are very popular among the proles, who buy tickets and hope to win the big prizes – a completely vain hope as the big prizes are in fact not awarded at all, the Ministry of Truth participating in the scam and publishing every week the names of non-existent big winners.
In the Michael Radford film adaptation, the ministry is renamed the Ministry of Production, or MiniProd.
Ministry of Truth
The Ministry of Truth (in Newspeak, Minitrue) is the ministry of propaganda. As with the other ministries in the novel, the name Ministry of Truth is a misnomer because in reality it serves the opposite: it is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events.
As well as administering truth, the ministry spreads a new language amongst the populace called Newspeak, in which, for example, "truth" is understood to mean statements like 2 + 2 = 5 when the situation warrants. In keeping with the concept of doublethink, the ministry is thus aptly named in that it creates/manufactures "truth" in the Newspeak sense of the word. The book describes the doctoring of historical records to show a government-approved version of events.
Winston Smith, the main character of Nineteen Eighty-Four, works at the Ministry of Truth. It is an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete rising 300 metres (980 ft) into the air, containing over 3000 rooms above ground. On the outside wall are the three slogans of the Party: "WAR IS PEACE," "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY," "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH." There is also a large part underground, probably containing huge incinerators where documents are destroyed after they are put down memory holes. For his description, Orwell was inspired by the Senate House at the University of London.
Role in information
The Ministry of Truth is involved with news media, entertainment, the fine arts and educational books. Its purpose is to rewrite history to change the facts to fit Party doctrine for propaganda effect. For example, if Big Brother makes a prediction that turns out to be wrong, the employees of the Ministry of Truth correct the record to make it accurate. This is the "how" of the Ministry of Truth's existence. Within the novel, Orwell elaborates that the deeper reason for its existence, the "why", is to maintain the illusion that the Party is absolute. It cannot ever seem to change its mind (if, for instance, they perform one of their constant changes regarding enemies during war) or make a mistake (firing an official or making a grossly misjudged supply prediction), for that would imply weakness and to maintain power the Party must seem eternally right and strong.
Minitrue plays a role as the news media by changing history, and changing the words in articles about events current and past, so that Big Brother and his government are always seen in a good light and can never do any wrong. The content is more propaganda than actual news.
The following are the sections or departments of the ministry mentioned in the text:
- Records Department (Recdep in Newspeak)
- Fiction Department (Ficdep)
- Tele-programmes Department (Teledep)
- Pornography section – for Prole consumption only (Pornosec)
The novel's popularity has resulted in the term "Room 101" being used to represent a place where unpleasant things are done.
- According to Anna Funder's book Stasiland, Erich Mielke, the last Minister of State Security (Stasi) of East Germany, had the floors of the Stasi headquarters renumbered so that his second floor office would be number 101.
- In the BBC comedy television series Room 101, the concept is radically changed from that of Orwell, and celebrities are invited to discuss their pet hates and persuade the host to consign them to oblivion, as metaphorically represented by the idea of Room 101.
- In the 2005 series of Big Brother (UK), a housemate was required to enter a Room 101 to complete tedious and unpleasant tasks, including sorting different colours of maggots.
In The Ricky Gervais Show, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant play a game called "Room 102", based on the concept of "Room 101", in which Karl Pilkington has to decide what things he dislikes enough to put in Room 102. This would result, according to their game, in these things being erased from existence.
The name "Ministry of Peace", and shorthand "Minipax", appear in the US science fiction TV series Babylon 5. The Ministry of Peace first appears in the episode "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum". It is a sinister organisation, created to instill loyalty to the government of Earth and root out dissent; one of its senior staff is a "Mr Welles". In its role it more closely resembles the novel's § Ministry of Love (which is responsible for the Thought Police and the interrogation of dissidents) than it does the Ministry of Peace depicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, set in Britain after the fall of the Big Brother government, the Ministry of Love is actually MI5 and its physical location is given as the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross, noted by a young spy named Jimmy (a thinly veiled James Bond).
In the 2002 game The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind there is a floating rock known as "The Ministry of Truth". The living god Vivec suspends it above Vivec City to keep his people loyal.
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