The most important ‘1984’ quotes from George Orwell in the Trump era
The rise of ‘alternative facts’ has spiked the sales for George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, as people prepare for the reality of a Big Brother dystopia. People are seeking important 1984 quotes as well.
Facts are indisputable truths. Facts are not subjective, measurable or up for discussion. As the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘facts’:
So when the adviser to the President, Kellyanne Conway, tried to press the narrative that falsehoods could be called “alternative facts,” people were understandably alarmed.
Parallels have been drawn between Conway’s statement and George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, or Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which ‘alternative facts’ — there called ‘untruths’ and ‘doublespeak’ — are employed by an authoritarian government in an attempt to control the narrative of its people’s reality.
If there’s any good news to take away from Conway’s comments, it is that these parallels have actually led many truth-seekers to pick up Orwell’s important novel to gain some perspective. The Washington Post is one of many outlets now reporting that the iconic classic has soared to the top 5 on Amazon.com.
Why George Orwell’s famous novel ‘1984’ is so important
Published in 1949 and set in the dystopian ‘future’ of 1984, the protagonist Winston Smith lives under the watchful eye of a ‘Big Brother’ government that not only controls the actions of its people, but also seeks to have full commandment of their thoughts. Implementing ‘Newspeak’ in an effort to limit people’s ability to express themselves and instating the Thought Police, Big Brother has twisted reality to manipulate the human mind. And it works. It’s terrifying and necessarily thought-provoking stuff.
With the rise of fake news and the disturbing institution of a social media blackout for the Environmental Protection Agency, we appear to be heading towards a reality in which ignorance is openly being touted as a virtue. More than ever before, 1984 seems like important reading, and we’re glad so many people are picking it up.
These 1984 quotes help us understand truth and reality in the age of the 45th President, who statistically speaking has a hard time sticking with facts.
Important ‘1984’ quotes on truth and facts in the age of Trump
To get you started, here are 14 of the most important 1984 quotes from the book that present some scary and uncomfortable ways of thinking that we should never underestimate:
‘War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength.’
On the back of the book, this contradictory quote shows the way in which the government can manipulate ‘truths’ for its people. The constant war the ‘Party’ engages with is thought to keep the peace at home.
‘He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.’
An almost instructive quote from Orwell, this quote could be applied not only to the dystopian world of 1984 but to the entirety of human history — history being, as we know, a subjective narrative crafted by those privileged enough to write it.
‘How do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?’
Or, in other words: there is no right and wrong, only ‘alternative facts.’
‘The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power – pure power.’
O’Brien tells Winston this in a candid moment, revealing what sets this government apart from those that have come before: there is no illusion of goodwill or utopian ideals involved here, these supervillains seek power for the sake of power.
‘Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.’
Much like the last quote, George Orwell here dives into the corruptive power of power itself, and what leads individuals or organizations to seek power for themselves.
‘The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison, they never even become aware that they are oppressed.’
The Party is controlling what people know in order to control their minds, in order to control their actions.
‘Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.’
He who controls the discourse controls what we know and what we believe.
‘The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.’
An elaboration of “freedom is slavery,” this quote illustrates the ways in which the Party seeks to control its people by giving them ‘what they want’ — a simple, unthinking, fully controlled life.
‘Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.’
While being able to understand two contradictory points of view as equally valid might be considered a good thing, George Orwell’s doublethink refers to the newspeak term for citizens acknowledging that the Party contradicts itself, but being able to fully recognize what this means.
‘Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.’
It sometimes seems impossible, and yet it is so important that we cling on to our common sense.
‘The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.’
Sadly, we can probably all recognize the confirmation bias we seek out when consuming media or even just participating in conversations IRL or online. We look for our own beliefs to be proven ‘true’, and find it hard to consume other points of view (perhaps out of a fear that we will be persuaded to give up our own beliefs).
‘What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself; who gives your arguments a fair hearing and simply persists in his lunacy?’
‘Reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else.’
While scary, this quote is arguably true: we each create our own reality based on experience and perceived norms, and filter the world through those presets.
‘The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.’
And thus, Orwell has shown exactly how history is written and how reality can be manipulated by those in power. When enough people believe a thing and proclaim it as truth, and nobody has the power to safeguard actual truth, reality becomes moldable.
These scary quotes from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four should serve as a warning to all of us about the state of the world, and what future dystopian fiction truly tries to warn us against.
But it is not all bad — let’s remember this particular quotation from Orwell’s novel, and celebrate the power of facts:
‘There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.’