1984 By George Orwell Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 5

Summary

At lunch, Winston's "friend," Syme lectures him on the principals of Newspeak, the only language that regularly loses words instead of gains them, effectively narrowing the range of thought. Syme says that, by the year 2050, everyone will be fluent in Newspeak. This idea disturbs Winston Smith, but he dare not show it. Parsons, Winston's neighbor at Victory Mansions, joins them at the table and tells of his children who are constantly on watch for unorthodox behavior. Although seemingly uneasy about this, Parsons praises his children nonetheless. From the telescreen comes a loud announcement that, among other things, the chocolate ration is going up. Winston distinctly remembers that, just the day before, the ration was being reduced and he wonders if he is alone in this memory.

Winston sees the dark-haired girl from the Fiction Department (Julia) staring at him, and he is sure that she is a member of the Thought Police. He muses about many of the people he knows and whether they will eventually be vaporized or not.

Analysis

One of the major themes in 1984 involves language; when language is corrupted, thought is contaminated. Syme, who is the authority on Newspeak, gleefully informs Winston on its nuances. Whereas, for example, one would think that a language should grow in order to facilitate communication of invention, of newly discovered subtleties, and of changing times and attitudes, Syme explains that exactly the opposite is true. The language is streamlined by destroying words because some words, such as synonyms and antonyms, are not needed and only confuse issues. After all, the reasoning goes, "If you have a word like 'good,' what need is there for a word like 'bad'? 'Ungood' will do . . . better because it is an exact opposite . . . ." That said, "plusgood" need not be explained here; the same logic applies. Oldspeak contains "vagueness and useless shades of meaning." According to Syme, the mission of Newspeak, of course, is to narrow the range of thought to such a degree that thoughtcrime is impossible.

Newspeak, then, is a language created to control thought, thus controlling action. Orwell believed that the decline of language ultimately had political and economic consequences. He is warning that language can be a weapon. Newspeak was created only to control, not to enhance personal communication and expression. In the novel, this narrowing of thought facilitates doublethink, the primary instrument of control that the Party uses on its people.

Glossary

philologist someone who studies linguistics.

pannikin [Chiefly British] a small pan.

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