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Controlling The Mind and Society in 1984 and Brave New World

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The difference between the methods of control in 1984 and brave new world is the difference between external control by force and internal control, enforced only by the citizen’s own mind. While 1984’s method has real-world precedent and seems more feasible to the modern reader, in the end it boils down to the oppression of a people whose human nature at its very core demands freedom. No amount of dictatorial force can eliminate this basic human desire. Brave new world, therefore, sets out to take the idea of control to the next level, doing away with the need for forceful control by controlling the very nature of humans themselves. Although we see more dissent in brave new world, in the long run 1984’s system is more vulnerable to uprising because it fails to control its subjects in the true sense that brave new world does.

The Party in 1984 implemented two complimentary methods of controlling its citizens: fear and ignorance. The citizens’ self-induced paranoia would produce its own fear, which would then perpetuate ignorance. The two need each other to survive, their relationship like that of plants an animals, each producing something the other needs to survive (oxygen, carbon dioxide). It is the combination of fear and ignorance that is the source of the party’s power, thus the slogan: “Ignorance is Strength”. This method of control theoretically remains effective as long as the citizen remains both afraid and ignorant, for one cannot exist in 1984’s society without the other. Although Winston Smith remained largely ignorant of his own past and future, he was able to rebel because he was not entirely afraid to face the unknown:

“they’ll shoot me i don’t care they’ll shoot me in the back of the neck i don’t care down with big brother they always shoot you in the back of the neck i don’t care down with big brother” (20)

His bravery and determination is seen again when he pledges his allegiance to the Brotherhood:

“‘You are prepared to give your lives?’ ‘Yes.’

‘You are prepared to commit murder?’ ‘Yes.’

‘To commit acts of sabotage which may cause the death of hundreds of innocent people?’ ‘Yes.’

‘To betray your country to foreign powers?’ ‘Yes.'” (142)

Because he is no longer afraid, the Party can no longer control his mind, and therefore he is able to at least attempt dissent. In terms of the “love/fear lifeline”, it could be argued that Winston’s gradual transcendence of fear is catalyzed by his introduction to, and indeed the actual act of, love:

“He wondered vaguely whether in the abolished past it had been a normal experience to lie in bed like this, in the cool summer evening, a man and a woman with no clothes on, making love when they chose, talking when they chose, not feeling any compulsion to get up, simply lying there and listening to peaceful sounds outside.” (119)

When separated from Julia, as he is in the ironically named Ministry of Love, Winston again succumbs to fear, which then facilitates his acceptance of ignorance, after which he is powerless to withstand the control of the Party.

As the Party in 1984 used ignorance to control its citizens, so too did the controllers of brave new world, combining it not with fear but with mental conditioning. In 1984 we see rudimentary mental conditioning through means of Newspeak and propaganda, using groups such as the Spies and the Junior Anti-Sex League to indoctrinate even the young. The controllers in brave new world took this a step further, using advanced mental conditioning techniques to control the mindset and relative intelligence of infants. Since each citizen is by default incapable of rebelling on his or her own, it takes only ignorance to maintain control.

“Mustapha Mond leaned forward, shook a finger at them. ‘Just try to realize it,’ he said, and his voice sent a strange thrill quivering along their diaphragms. ‘Try to realize what it was like to have a viviparous mother.’

That smutty word again. But none of them dreamed, this time, of smiling.

‘Try to imagine what “living with one’s family” meant.’

They tried; but obviously without the smallest success.

‘And do you know what a “home” was?’

They shook their heads.” (39)

As a safeguard, the controllers introduced measures such as soma, feelies, and orgy porgy to further ensure that the people would be constantly happy, thus raising the question: Why would they want to rebel, even if they could? These methods also served to distract them from their own minds. Their physical senses were overwhelmed by constant stimulation, making emotion and real individual thought unnecessary. That is why Shakespeare and God are not allowed. Their writing and existence were too abstract to be understood through the physical senses alone; to understand these concepts people would need to develop new (or, truthfully, “old”) ways of thinking, and such thought could lead to individual opinions that may stray outside of society’s teachings. Shakespeare and God, then, would break the system of mental conditioning and ignorance, making rebellion a possibility.

The most significant difference between the two societies is in those who run them. Winston Smith, through his work in the Ministry of Truth, knew well enough that the face of the Party’s enemy changed very readily – at one moment it was Eurasia, the next East Asia, and the next Goldstein. This was all done to avert attention from Big Brother, the peoples’ real oppressor.

When Smith had taken control of his fear, he knew who the real enemy was. Although his rebellion may have been impossible given his circumstances and the iron-fisted power of Big Brother, he had a clear idea of who exactly he was fighting. Brave New World had Mustapha Mond, but he was just another Alpha Male – certainly no Big Brother. There was no need for control in his society; each man was controlled by his own carefully developed state of mind. If there is no one in control, there is no one to rebel against except yourself. In the case of John, he had no mental conditioning and therefore was able to have a very real understanding of God and Shakespeare, enabling him to rebel in a way that was impossible for the other characters. It was John’s natural human tendency for individual thought that allowed him, in one decisive action, to defenestrate the soma – and, indeed, society’s control over him.

The rebellion for Bernard and Heimholtz was purely internal; they had to fight their own conditioning and ignorance in order to gain the humanity John was born with. John’s actions contradicted what they were led to believe about the Savages, breaking their conditioning and liberating them from themselves. Had it not been for John, the two would have had no way to rebel, because there would be no way for them to know how. Whereas in 1984 it was only fear and power that held the people in line, in brave new world it was their very selves.

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Controlling the Mind and Society in 1984 and Brave New World. (2018, May 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from
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