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The World of 1984

Aznavour

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#1
George Orwell's 1984, perhaps one of the most important works of the 20th Century, is also one of the most famous works of both Future History and, thanks to the passage of time, what we might call Honorary Alternate History, as 1984 has come and gone and the world Winston Smith inhabited is not quite what the IOTL 80s turned out to be. Still, the world described, from the dilapidated, grey confines of London and Airstrip One to the farcical nature of world affairs, in which three superpowers which might or might not exist are in a state of permament war against each other, until they suddenly are not, because they have always been at war with the other guys, because such is the same in which the balance of power is maintained in this world.

Leaving aside the ambiguity that permeates throughout the novel, and just how real the stuff Winston reads and learns about are, taken at face value the world is divided between Three Superpowers -Oceania, Eurasia, Eastasia-, each with their own off-shoot of Pseudo-Once-Might-Have-Been-Marxist Leninist Theory: English Socialism, Neo-Bolshevism, Olibeteration of the Self.


Oceania is the superstate in which protagonist Winston Smith dwells. It is believed to be composed of the Americas, the British Isles (called "Airstrip One" in the novel), 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 having absorbed the British Empire. Goldstein's book also states that Oceania's primary natural barrier is the sea surrounding it.
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'". Orwell does not appear to have based this on any existing Chinese word or phrase.[2]

Not much information about Eastasia is given in the book. It is known that it is the newest and smallest of the three superstates. According to Goldstein's book, it 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.




But, as said before, a big point in the novel is that Winston can never truly grasp the true reality of the world around him, as he's constantly being fed lies and he's constantly plagued by his own biases, amongst other issues.

So it hasn't been uncommon for readers, in particular those with inclinations similar to ours, to question just how real Goldstein's book and IngSoc MiniTru Propaganda can be.


Running them down, the possibilities we have are:

1. Everything is to be taken at face value, Eurasia and Oceania are really sending millions of troops to Africa and shelling each other across the English Channel, until they suddenly get orders to stop and start bombing the Chinese instead. This is done to waste resources and keep the population downtrodden and miserable.

2. Nothing can be trusted, neither Eastasia nor Eurasia are real, and in fact Oceania is the only of the presented nations to exist, either as an isolationist North Korea-like style existing just a couple of miles from a relatively normal Europe, as a last-nation-on-earth type of state which survived a US-Soviet Nuclear Holocaust and is barely holding out, like Britain in Children of Men/V for Vendetta. They might not even hold all of Britain or the British Isles. Of course, it might not even be 1984 at all.

Almost all of the information about the world beyond London is given to the reader through government or Party sources, which, by the very premise of the novel, are unreliable narrators. Specifically, Julia brings up the idea that the war is fictional and that the rocket bombs falling from time to time on London are fired by the government of Oceania itself to maintain the war atmosphere among the population. The protagonists have no means of proving or disproving the theory. Furthermore, during preparations for Hate Week, rocket bombs fall at an increasing rate, hitting places such as playgrounds and crowded theatres, causing mass casualties and increased hysteria and hatred for the Party's enemies. War is also a convenient pretext to maintain a huge military–industrial complex in which the state is committed to developing and acquiring large and expensive weapons systems, which almost immediately become obsolete and require replacement. Finally, according to Goldstein's book, war makes handing over power to a small caste easier and gives the pretext to do so.




Perhaps the last option is what we're supposed to get out of the whole thing, or perhaps is what readers get in a post-1989 world, in which things like the late Kim Dynasty in North Korea and the proliferation of things like Information Warfare and Fake News have made us realize how thin the layers of reality can be at times.


What do you guys think? What does the world of 1984 really look like? Does it hold up as Future/Honorary Alternate History? Or does it not matter, as Orwell's point goes beyond the world-building and the like?
 

Sideways

Interim, Care-taker Shitposter
Published by SLP
#2
I think what's often forgotten about 1984 in these discussions is that it's meant to be a pretty didactic satire of authoritarianism. Characters spend a lot of time illustrating points on authoritarianism because that's what the story is about and the three nations in constant conflict model worked well as a description of the things Orwell feared.

I don't think there's much textual reason to assume that the world as presented is unreal. I don't think the discussion really adds much to the book, though it's interesting for spinoffs and there's room to speculate
 

lordroel

Active member
#4
The reason for perpetual war was just to maintain the Mumbypunk style that the Party relies on to stay in power.
Strangely enough, the 1984 world is more advance than we now of as according to the book that if the 3 superstates want to they can have weapons like:

- Poisons capable of being produced in such quantities as to destroy the vegetation of whole continents.
- Vehicle can tunnel underground like a submarine under the water.
- Aeroplane as independent of its base as a sailing-ship
- Giant lenses who can focus the sun’s rays suspended thousands of kilometres away in space
- Producing artificial earthquakes and tidal waves by tapping the heat at the earth’s centre.

But according to the book the only way they do not do it is because those projects never comes anywhere near realization, and none of the three super-states ever gains a significant lead on the others.
 

Tsar of New Zealand

Exceeding his yearly quota
Location
Wellington
#6
Strangely enough, the 1984 world is more advance than we now of as according to the book that if the 3 superstates want to they can have weapons like:

- Poisons capable of being produced in such quantities as to destroy the vegetation of whole continents.
- Vehicle can tunnel underground like a submarine under the water.
- Aeroplane as independent of its base as a sailing-ship
- Giant lenses who can focus the sun’s rays suspended thousands of kilometres away in space
- Producing artificial earthquakes and tidal waves by tapping the heat at the earth’s centre.

But according to the book the only way they do not do it is because those projects never comes anywhere near realization, and none of the three super-states ever gains a significant lead on the others.
I...don't recall any of these projects being mentioned in the book?
 

lordroel

Active member
#9
The only appendix I'm familiar with is The Principles of Newspeak - no mention of superweapons there?
Do not know for sure but it can be found on page 184.

The quote was:

"In the vast laboratories of the Ministry of Peace and in the experimental stations hidden in the Brazilian forests, or the Australian desert, or on lost islands of the Antarctic, the teams of experts are indefatigably at work. Some are concerned simply with planning the logistics of future wars; others devise larger and larger rocket bombs, more and more powerful explosives and more and more impenetrable armour-plating; others search for new and deadlier gases or for soluble poisons capable of being produced in such quantities as to destroy the vegetation of whole continents or for breeds of disease germs immunized against all possible antibodies; others strive to produce a vehicle which shall bore its way under the soil like a submarine under the water, or an aeroplane as independent of its base as a sailing ship; others explore even remoter possibilities, such as, focusing the sun’s rays through lenses suspended thousands of kilometres away in space or producing artificial earthquakes and tidal waves by tapping the heat at the earth’s centre".
 

Elektronaut

Now The Kids Are Up
#11
That doesn't exactly say that 1984 is more advanced. Just that the regime's scientists are batting around a lot of blue sky projects.

I mean, Reagan's Star Wars was being 'strived for' in the OTL eighties...
 

The Red

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#12
That doesn't exactly say that 1984 is more advanced. Just that the regime's scientists are batting around a lot of blue sky projects.

I mean, Reagan's Star Wars was being 'strived for' in the OTL eighties...
There's also the more pragmatic reasoning that was deployed for a lot of the Nazi's late war napkinwaffe, "Heliobeam? Space plane? Sure, as long as it keeps us in the lab and away from the front!"
 

Mumby

'I love the pun he will go far'
Published by SLP
#14
There's also the more pragmatic reasoning that was deployed for a lot of the Nazi's late war napkinwaffe, "Heliobeam? Space plane? Sure, as long as it keeps us in the lab and away from the front!"
There was that mad thing that was sort of like a rocket but its middle span and they had it briefly in the first Captain America film, which is partly why its my favourite.
 
#15
What I always find fascinating about "Nineteen Eighty-Four", is how all the American nations, European colonies in southern Africa and the Pacific could be pulled together to make Oceania in response to the Soviet Union rolling up all of Continental Europe; while China, Korea, and Japan could hold dominion over south-east Asia and part of Australasia.

How many people here have read SpanishSpy's "The Rise of the Tri-State World Order"?
 
#16
What I always find fascinating about "Nineteen Eighty-Four", is how all the American nations, European colonies in southern Africa and the Pacific could be pulled together to make Oceania in response to the Soviet Union rolling up all of Continental Europe; while China, Korea, and Japan could hold dominion over south-east Asia and part of Australasia.
This might be a reason why Oceania was created.

Ravages of the atomic war of the nineteen-fifties have never been fully repaired.

Some hundreds of bombs were dropped on industrial centres, chiefly in European Russia, Western Europe, and North America. The effect was to convince the ruling groups of all countries that a few more atomic bombs would mean the end of organized society, and hence of their own power. Thereafter, although no formal agreement was ever made or hinted at, no more bombs were dropped. All three powers merely continue to produce atomic bombs and store them up against the decisive opportunity which they all believe will come sooner or later.
 
#17
Firstly, "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is now seventy years old since publication, I read in the gazetta.

Secondly, Goldstein (and Orwell) write that each super-state still makes and stocks atom bombs for this "decisive opportunity which they all believe will come sooner and later". Of course, that's just their doublethink and crimestop mental training leading them to think the War (of the Oligarchial Collectivists) is still winnable by one side defeating the enemy.

But do they also realise that if atomic warfare almost led to the end of their power in the 'Fifty's, using atom bombs "now" in the 'Eighty's will assuredly lead to the end of their power? Even with dropping of atom bombs at this decisive opportunity, the super-states may be too large to collapse.

On the DeviantArt page I call my own, I've made a Favourites folder of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" maps.