the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. For when it has been recreated in whatever shape is needed at the moment, then this new version is the past, and no different past can ever have existed.' Even the architecture of London is caught in the lies of the Party: buildings are either described as post-revolution or from the vague period of the 'middle ages', so that nothing of any worth was built under capitalism. As Winston sees it, 'All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.'
This flexible attitude towards certainty is known by the Party as 'Reality Control', and in the novel Orwell explores the wider philosophical implications inherent in this relationship to what is in fact really true: 'In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable - what then?'
O'Brien confirms this fear: 'You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.'
Eventually even many of the things Winston believed to be true outside the will of the Party turn out to be falsifications or distortions, and he begins to doubt which are the inventions of the Party and which are his own. As O'Brien says to him, 'You are mentally deranged. You suffer from a defective memory. You are unable to remember real events, and you persuade yourself that you remember other events which have never happened.' In other words he is accusing Winston of exactly what the Party is guilty of. In this case it really is the 'deranged' man who is sane and the rest of the world that is in the grip of lunacy. Winston's rallying cry to himself becomes, 'Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.' But as Winston awaits his final liquidation he writes, '2 + 2 = 5'. Insanity has conquered him, but he feels finally sane. O'Brien refers to this aggregated perception of what is real as 'collective solipsism' - another neat piece of doublethink. In effect Orwell is setting himself up against a solipsistic world view: he does believe in such a thing as objective reality and is delivering a warning about those who seek to distort reality for their own ends.
To reiterate, it is only through doublethink that the Party member is able to internalise the constantly shifting reality presented by the Party: '[Winston's] mind slipped away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truth while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy; to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. This was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word "doublethink" involved the use of doublethink.'
With doublethink, Orwell is defining the central split and contradictory nature of all ideologies. For example, classical Marxism holds ideology as something that obscures the truth, yet Marxism is an ideology. And Winston is not immune to his own doublethink: 'He was already dead, he reflected... Now that he recognised himself as a dead man it became important to stay alive as long as possible.'