The Ministry of Truth, like the other three ministries, has an ironic name. It purports to be focused on the pursuit of truth when in fact, the ministry is concerned with erasing the truth of the past and present and replacing it with whatever the Party deems “correct.” Those in charge of the ministry decide what “truth” is.
Explore The Ministry of Truth
The Ministry of Truth Definition
The name “Ministry of Truth” is a misnomer. It is misnamed as those within its walls actually serve the opposite purpose, to falsify history and the present in order to suit the beliefs and intentions of the Party.
When describing the ministry, Orwell wrote:
[The Ministry of Truth] was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
He adds that the building contained, or so people said, “three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below.”
The ministry is also responsible for the language of the Party, Newspeak. This new language whittles down traditional English, one word at a time. It is the Party’s intention that language becomes so minimal that no one is capable of thinking anything other than what the Party wants them to. This would mean that betraying the Party or thinking independent thoughts is going to be impossible.
What are the Four Ministries in Oceania?
The four ministries are:
- The Ministry of Peace
- The Ministry of Love
- The Ministry of Truth
- The Ministry of Plenty
When writing what they were concerned with, 1984 states:
The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs.
Of the four, George Orwell says, the Ministry of Love “was the really frightening one.”
Where is The Ministry of Truth Used in 1984?
The main character of 1984, Winston Smith, works at the ministry. He spends his days at the Records Department. It is one branch of the ministry. Those who work there are tasked with taking information and changing it. Their primary job was:
not to reconstruct the past but to supply the citizens of Oceania with newspapers, films, textbooks, telescreen Free eBooks at Planet eBook.com 55 programmes, plays, novels—with every conceivable kind of information, instruction, or entertainment, from a statue to a slogan, from a lyric poem to a biological treatise, and from a child’s spelling-book to a Newspeak dictionary.
There were chains of workers dealing with entertainment for the proles, or proletariat. They created entertainment that most readers are going to recognize. This included films “oozing with sex,” “sentimental songs composed entirely by mechanical means,” and “sensational five-cent novelettes.”
There was also a department in the ministry, Pornosec, that created “the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.”
Winston’s Job at the Ministry of Truth
At the ministry, Winston sits at a desk with a pneumatic tube. Messages slide out of the tube, and Winston works on them, disposing of them as he finishes each job. Sometimes he consults the Newspeak dictionary on the shelf. He uses the “speakwrite” to write with, and he describes his job as the “greatest pleasure in [his] life.” It was “tedious,” but it had a routine that he enjoyed, one that he could lose himself in.
One message that Winston receives that instructs him on a job he has to do reads:
times 3.12.83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling
This message, written in Newspeak, tells Winston to change The Times for December 3rd, 1983. It references “non-existent persons” or “unpersons,” He needs to rewrite it and submit his draft to the higher authority. He read the article and noted that it praised “A certain Comrade Withers, a prominent member of the Inner Party, [who] had been singled out for special mention and awarded a decoration, the Order of Conspicuous Merit, Second Class.”
The comrade was no in disgrace, having been disappeared. It’s Winston’s job to change the article and remove all references to him.
The Ministry of Truth Symbolism
The Ministry of Truth symbolizes the Party’s belief that power is the most important commodity that they have access to. And the power over what people believe (which includes power over the past) is part of that equation. As they change the past, they are ensuring that no one ever comes upon information that contradicts the persona Big Brother has and the concept the citizens have of the strength of their government.
The ministry can make truth whatever they want it to be, something that comes back around at the end of the novel when O’Brien is attempting to make Winston see that 2+2=5.
What is ironic about the Ministry of Truth in 1984?
Ironically, the Ministry of Truth is engaged in falsifying the past. They are deciding what they want the truth to be rather than attempting to preserve what the truth really is.
What phrase does the Ministry of Truth use?
All the ministries use the same three-phase slogan. It reads: “War is Peace, Freedom is slavery, and Ignorance is strength.”
What are the job responsibilities that Winston has at the Ministry of Truth?
He updates newspaper articles with “correct” information. This requires him to have an understanding of Newspeak and be able to think creatively, creating new articles that convincingly replace older ones.
Related Terms in 1984
- Big Brother: the leader of Oceania and the face of the Party. He’s desired as a war hero, inventor, and more. He may also not be real.
- INGSOC: newspeak for English Socialism, the governing system used throughout Oceania.
- Syme: a character in 1984 and the man responsible for the newest addition of the Newspeak dictionary.
- Doublethink: cognitive dissonce. 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.