The Mutilation of History
“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” (Orwell, 211). History is not necessarily as it appears in history books. People just believe what has been printed in those books without a second thought, but history may have not actually happened that way. George Orwell explores this possibility in his novel 1984, where the main character Winston Smith questions this altered history. In Orwell’s world of 1984, the government changes history to fit their own purposes. This mutability of history is shown through the description of Winston’s job, the newspaper clipping and picture, and the Party’s policies.
For a prime example, Winston Smith has a job within the government and his job description is to change history books, ...view middle of the document...
At one point Winston, who is questioning this alteration of history, finds proof of the history changing. He finds a newspaper clipping that tells of three Party officials betraying the party but Winston found a picture of the men with a caption that says these men were at a different place at the same time. This is shown in the scene where Winston is in his office, working, “It was a half-page torn out of The Times of about ten years earlier -- the top half of the page, so that it included the date -- and it contained a photograph of the delegates [Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford] at some Party function in New York.
The point was that at both trials all three men had confessed that on that date they had been on Eurasian soil… There was only one possible conclusion: the confessions were lies.’’ (Orwell 69). This is an obvious example of the altered history that the party tried to cover up.
The Party has a policy on the past and future it goes, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past” (Orwell 211). This shows that the Party has no problem with changing the past. They believe that they control everything so they can change what they want. This ability and practice of changing history helps the government to remain in complete control of its citizens.
In summation history is not set in stone. Orwell explores this idea in his novel 1984. He shows the government’s opportunities of mutilating history when he talks about: Winston’s job, the newspaper article and picture, and the Party’s policy. This just goes to show that just because it is in the history books or in old newspaper articles does not necessarily mean it’s true. People should think about this next time they open a history book.
Orwell, George. 1984. London: Secker and Warburg, 1949.