This phrase appears in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. The author has used it as the slogan of the Party in the very first part of the novel, where it reads, “War is Peace / Freedom is Slavery / Ignorance is Strength” (Part-I, Chapter-I). By using this slogan, Big Brother could reign supreme, destroy the past, and build up the future on account of the ignorance of people. Had they been aware, they would have understood Big Brother’s manipulations, and would not let him rule. Hence, their ignorance blinded them, and delegated their strength and power to the Party and Big Brother.
It simply means that, if people remain ignorant of the facts, they would not be able to raise questions against governments; therefore, it would help the concerned government in making a country “stronger.” The main agenda of the Party was to promote “double thinking,” which describes an act of accepting two equally contradictory ideas simultaneously as correct in a distinct social context. In other words, it says that the ignorance of the masses is translated into a government’s strength.
In the existing context, it can be applied to corrupt semi-democracy. In other words, strength that ignorance gives is highly encouraging, where people are not expected to question the legal institutions, authorities, school books, mainstream media, history, and scientific communities. Any deviation from socially accepted norms is swiftly corrected and fought by our society with the help of individuals. Hence, if ignorance rules supreme, the people are prisoners, but if they are aware, they constantly police each other as well as themselves. Therefore, it is used in speeches, political debates, and the academic world, in order to state that the people are dumb and deaf, and that they do not actively participate in public affairs.
In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the author introduces this phrase as,
“War is Peace / Freedom is Slavery / Ignorance is Strength”
Ignorance, the true condition of the masses, is beneficial for the government, as it would keep the people optimistic, happy, and satisfied at their lot. Their ignorance gives strength to the Party. However, if they see the reality of how they are manipulated, then it would instigate them to rebel – to take the power of the Party into their own hands.
Contradictory and paradoxical ideas are put together in order to show the irony of language, words, and actions. This phrase is a fine example intended to create ironic effects. Here in this context, it is part of a larger slogan inscribed on the pyramid of the Ministry of Truth. The author has introduced it very early in this novel, in order to make readers think twice. It points out continuous propaganda-based bombardment, and attacks of fear on the strength and independence of people’s minds, to such an extent that they unquestionably accept the facts they are given, which are blatantly opposite to reality.
By using this propaganda technique, the Party forces subjects to follow anything it decrees, no matter how illogical it is. Therefore, this ironic slogan shows the reality lurking behind it. Therefore, this paradoxical phrase strengthens the image that reality is distorted in order to confound the common people.
- Paradox: It is a paradox using self-contradictory words.
- Irony: This phrase shows irony of the words when used in a political context.