1984: Winston’s Machine

February 6, 2012

As soon as Winston had dealt with each of the messages, he clipped his speakwritten corrections to the appropriate copy of the Times and pushed them into the pneumatic tube. Then, with a movement which was as nearly as possible unconscious, he crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames.
What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of the Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. (39-40)

This scene in the novel illustrates part of Winston’s work involving the machine. It shows in particular how through Winston and other workers like him, the Party controls the past, present, and future of its people. Winston must alter any information that might be harmful to the Party’s role as the savior of the people of Oceania. The scene shows how far the influence of the Party reaches into their lives. In particular, the line, “Then, with a movement which was as nearly as possible unconscious, he crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames,” truly encompasses the hold of the Party on Winston’s life. As Winston is part of the cover-ups that the Party commissions he is privy to the information that the Party wants to get rid of. Even though this is the case, his “nearly as possible unconscious” application of the Party’s rules about his job, such as getting rid of not only true fact, but also his own opinion, “any notes that he himself had made,” only intensifies the depiction of the Party’s power. He does not take any sort of offense to the manipulative nature of his work, which he later describes as being the, “greatest pleasure in life,” (43), due to his understanding of what exactly the Party wants him to say through their use of Newspeak to communicate this to him.

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February 3, 2012

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