Thought Police

The Thought Police, or Thinkpol, are the group responsible for the detection of thoughtcrime within Oceania in George Orwell’s ‘1984. ‘

Throughout 1984, George Orwell uses numerous Newspeak words to define the principles of The Party. Thinkpol is one of them. It refers to the group of men and women responsible for monitoring the thoughts of all citizens of Oceania.

Thought Police in 1984


Thought Police Definition

The group monitors the psychological ticks of men and women in The Party, arresting those they believe are committing thoughtcrime or are thinking something ideologically opposed to what the Party wants them to. INGSOC, or English Socialism, is at the center of this. 

The implications of the Thought Police are wide-ranging. Citizens are frightened into policing their thoughts and further giving in to the demands of The Party. Every means of independence is stripped from the citizens of Oceania. 

What is the Job of the Thought Police? 

It’s the job of the Thought Police to spy on the citizens of Oceania. They do so by looking through the telescreens (or televisions) in everyone’s home, reading peoples’ body language, listening to the tenor of their speech, and reading facial expressions. When writing about the Thought Police towards the beginning of the novel, Orwell penned the following quote in 1984

Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by the telescreen; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was, of course, no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork.

Here, Winston Smith, the main character, is considering how careful he has to be to avoid his speech being picked up by the telescreen. He thinks that if he stays out of its field of vision that he can avoid being seen as well. In this quote, Smith also notes how he could be under observation at any time. No one has any idea when they’re being observed. It was “guesswork” trying to figure out who was being watched when. But, it is safest to assume everyone is being watched all the time. 

The telescreens are found throughout Oceania, in everyone’s homes, and around the city. This ensures that any action that might be thoughtcrime is observed by the Thought Police and stopped. The Thought Police are universally feared throughout Oceania, even by some in the Inner Party. 

What is Thoughtcrime? 

Thoughtcrime is another term used throughout Orwell’s 1984. It is defined as thoughts that go against the political ideology of The Party. Even if someone leaves these thoughts unspoken, it is still a crime to think them. It is one of the most frightening elements of 1984. The person who thinks these thoughts is held responsible for them as though they said them out loud or committed the act they were thinking about. 

The term “thoughtcrime” is part of Newspeak, the language used by Party members throughout the novel. Every edition of the Newspeak dictionary removes more words, compressing them. Ideally, the novel implies, once complete, there are going to be very few things anyone can think about outside what the Party desires. 

In one particular section of the novel, Winston’s neighbor, Parsons, is arrested by the Thought Police for thoughtcrime. He was turned in, Parsons says, by his daughter who heard him talking in his sleep. Orwell writes: 

‘It was my little daughter,’ said Parsons with a sort of doleful pride. ‘She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? I don’t bear her any grudge for it. In fact I’m proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway.’


What is Crimestop? 

Crimestop is another term associated with the Thought Police. It occurs when someone stops themselves from thinking “incorrect thoughts.” This might be personal, for example, feeling sexual about one’s spouse, or political, for example, feeling disgruntled at how the government appears to be run. It’s a process that citizens impose upon themselves. In doing so, they are reacting to the fear that the Thought Police and the Ministry of Love hold over them. In Emmanuel Goldstein’s novel, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, George Orwell wrote the following: 

Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.


Thought Police Symbolism

The Thought Police symbolize the overwhelming control that the government of Oceania has over its citizens. They can implement the most terrifying of policies, ones that allow them to arrest men and women for supposed thoughts, even those that the citizens weren’t themselves conscious of.

The government of Oceania is far more interested, the book implies, in controlling what its citizens think than they are at controlling behavior. If one can do the former, the latter follows automatically. The Thought Police are the Party’s way of achieving this end. When Winston is being tortured at the end of the novel, O’Brien says: 

We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he fights us, we never destroy him. We convert him; we capture his inner mind, we reshape him.

It’s their goal to take the “heretic,” or someone who denies the Party, and change him until he is exactly how they want him to be. It’s only then that they will kill that person. 

FAQs 

What happens if you get caught by the Thought Police?

You are put to death, eventually. O’Brien reveals that the Party prefers to completely transform one’s thinking before they are “destroyed,” though. 

What was the purpose of the Thought Police in 1984?

They are used to monitor the actions of men and women in Oceania, ensuring that no one is plotting against or even thinking slightly negative thoughts about, The Party and Big Brother. 

What are the three slogans in 1984?

The three slogans used by The Party are: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.” With endless war, The Party believed they could keep peace at home. Through ignorance, The Party maintained its strength, and without The Party, one will be unsuccessful and in danger. 


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. 
  • Ministry of Truth: one of the four ministries that run the government of Oceania. It is responsible for changing news media, art, and books to reflect Party beliefs. 
  • 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. 


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