Our first background article has been written by actor Todd Staszak, who portrays Winston Smith in our production. He has taken a scene from the book, in which Winston begins a journal, to harmonize and synthesize events from the book, the play, and his own character back story. The result is provocative and should give you a taste of the world of 1984. [Note: the sentences in quotes at the beginning and end of the journal entry are actual lines from Orwell’s book. All the rest is Todd’s own work.]
“April 4th, 1984
To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone–to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:”
From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink–greetings!
I live in a world that has no history, for history is as fluid as the future, steered by the requirements of the present. I know this very well. My job in the Ministry of Truth is history correction. I modify yesterday’s truths into today’s reality. I remember that in the past I have modified accounts that I have more recently been required to alter back into what they were before, as it fits the whims of the Party. This is where doublethink comes in – simultaneously holding two conflicting ideas in one’s head. I must believe that I only ever correct historical accounts. The new version of events is, infallibly, the truth as it suits Big Brother, and by extension the Inner Party. The Inner Party decides policy and practice. Outer Party members like me put the Inner Party’s designs in motion. Then there are the proles. The governed. If there is hope, it must lie in the proles.
Because the past has been altered many times already, I have decided to start this journal, so I can record the truths I still remember. It is forbidden for Party members to own paper or pens (I bought these in a junk shop in the prole district), but the bigger crime is not that I have the means to write a journal, but that I have the independent thoughts I record in it. Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime is death.
I know that I was a boy when the Revolution started. My father served in the military on the losing side and I last saw him when I was six or seven. I don’t really understand how things were different before the Revolution. A child doesn’t understand these things. What I do remember is that everything changed. I was never hungry before the Revolution. Or alone.
There were four men who were the face of the Revolution: Aaronson, Jones, Rutherford and Goldstein. I don’t remember when Big Brother entered the picture. I must have been a teenager when I first heard of him. The party expects me to believe he was always one of the leaders of the Revolution, but I remember there were four, not five. Aaronson and Jones organized the military aspects, with the bombs and acts of force, while Rutherford and Goldstein were the orators, who spoke at length and swayed public opinion. Two and two. Four. Not five. There was no Big Brother when the Revolution started.
The last time I saw my mother and sister, the Revolution was all but won. I was ten years old. We had received our chocolate ration, and my mother split it chocolate two ways, she kept none for herself, and gave me the larger portion. My sister was just baby. Her piece was barely a bite, but children don’t understand fairness. I wanted it all. I didn’t want to share. Who can blame me for snatching her piece of chocolate and running out of our flat so I wouldn’t be caught and forced to give it back. My sister cried, knowing only that she had been cheated out of something but not really understanding what. My mother called after me as I fled down the street. I ate the chocolate. It tasted more bitter than I remember chocolate tasting.
When I returned later, the flat was empty. My mother and sister both were gone. I never saw them again. Rats had already overrun the flat. They are inseparable in my nightmares, my mother, sister, and the rats.
I ended up in an orphanage run by the State. They saw great potential in me for doublethink. To both know the truth and believe the lie. I was groomed for the Outer Party and started to work at Minitrue as soon as I was of age.
Then the wars started. Our ally and our enemy as fickle as the wind. When it suits us, Eastasia is our ally and we are warring against Eurasia. But when fortunes change, Eurasia is our ally and Eastasia becomes the enemy. Except officially, the sides never change. Our current ally has always been our ally, and our current enemy has always been our enemy. I spend a large part of my time at Minitrue correcting news articles about the war.
But I can’t forget that there is a truth behind the lies. Big Brother lies. I have lied. I have lied in my own journal about what happened to my mother and sister. I have grown up believing my lie, and my guilt is redirected into a mistrust of Big Brother. It eats at me. It festers like the varicose ulcer on my right leg. The truth cannot stay hidden. It must be revealed.
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER”