Floating Fortress

The floating fortress is a military base mentioned in George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ These are stations that Oceania uses to protect its territories or encroach on lands that belong to Eastasia and Eurasia. 

The Definitive Glossary for 1984

The floating fortress is only described in passing. It’s used in propaganda in attempts to inspire Party members to work harder and consider the suffering of soldiers fighting for them across the world. 

Floating Fortress Definition

The Floating Fortress is a type of military installment that Orwell wrote about in 1984. They are not described in detail in the book. Instead, they are mentioned in passing. They appear to be large, sea-based military bases. These may be comparable to aircraft carriers or even larger. 

Examples of the Floating Fortress in 1984

The Floating Fortress Between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The first mention of the floating fortress is on page twenty-nine. Winston is back in his apartment, and the telescreen, which he can’t turn off, is playing music. It stops, and then an announcement comes on. Orwell writes: 

Back in the flat he stepped quickly past the telescreen and sat down at the table again, still rubbing his neck. The music from the telescreen had stopped. Instead, a clipped military voice was reading out, with a sort of brutal relish, a description of the armaments of the new Floating Fortress which had just been anchored between Iceland and the Faroe lslands. 

Here, the voice is speaking about the developments that the Ministry of Peace has put in to work on the new Floating Fortress. It’s just been erected between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Just from these few words, it becomes clear that the fortresses are some kind of military installments in the middle of the ocean. The one between the Faroe Islands and Iceland is not the only one. 

Telescreen Exercise 

On page forty-seven, Orwell includes dialogue from “the shrewish voice from the telescreen” who is directing Smith and many other Outer Party members in their exercises. She says: 

Anyone under forty-five is perfectly capable of touching his toes. We don’t all have the privilege of fighting in the front line, but at least we can all keep fit. Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortresses! Just think what THEY have to put up with. Now try again. That’s better, comrade, that’s MUCH better,’ she added encouragingly as Winston, with a violent lunge, succeeded in touching his toes with knees unbent, for the first time in several years.

This is only the second mention of the floating fortress in the book. Here, the teacher is using the concept of soldiers fighting and living on the fortress as motivation. She suggests that if these “boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortress” can exercise and touch their toes, Winston Smith can too. These lines occur right after the woman on the TV calls Smith out for not working hard enough. 

St. Martins Museum 

The St. Martins Museum is mentioned on page 125. It is described by Orwell in the following passage: 

Winston knew the place well. It was a museum used for propaganda displays of various kinds—scale models of rocket bombs and Floating Fortresses, waxwork tableaux illustrating enemy atrocities, and the like.

The museum is mentioned when Smith and “the old man,” later named Charrington, are talking about churches and the rhyme “Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement’s.”

The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

In The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein (but revealed to have been written by a committee made up of Upper Party members), the following passage features: 

But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly-trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at, or round the Floating Fortresses which guard strategic spots on the sea lanes. In the centres of civilization war means no more than a continuous shortage of consumption goods, and the occasional crash of a rocket bomb which may cause a few scores of deaths.

The following lines can be found in Chapter Three: War is Peace. Here, the author describes the fortresses as placed “strategic spots on the sea lanes.” This reveals what readers likely already knew about the fortresses—that they are military installments. 

  • INGSOC: newspeak for English Socialism, the governing system used throughout Oceania. 
  • Doublethink: cognitive dissonance. Or the act of thinking two contradictory things at once. Or believing that the two things are true. 
  • Newspeak: the language used to diminish the range of thought in Oceania. 
  • Ministry of Love: responsible for brainwashing the citizens of Oceania. 
  • Ministry of Truth: the ministry responsible for changing history to suit the Party. 
  • Thought Police: the group responsible for arresting those charged with thoughtcrime
  • Thoughtcrime: any thought that goes against what the Party believes or what one is supposed to be doing. 
  • Ministry of Plenty: the ministry responsible for supply citizens with food, clothing, and more. 
  • Ministry of Peace: Ministry responsible for creating items needed for war, including weapons and the floating fortresses. 

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