Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 September 2020
This chapter considers the politics of the archive in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The manipulation of history and of the individual experience of time is a key way through which power maintains its dystopian and totalitarian hold on Oceania. I examine images of manipulated public and individual archives in Nineteen Eighty-Four, from the memory holes to doublethink, arguing that the Party’s control of time is aimed at fashioning the present as the culmination of history and at ensuring the future as mere reproduction of the present. If the Party’s power works along temporal lines, the same is true of Winston’s rebellion, which begins in earnest with Winston writing a diary addressed to the future and the past. I examine images of archives that seek to fissure the Party’s totalitarian control of time, from Winston’s fragile memories to the diary itself. The volatility and violent erasures characteristic of Oceania’s archives entail that Winston’s challenge to the totalitarian closure of the Party’s endless present – a challenge encapsulated by his diary – is unsuccessful. Yet Winston’s testimony finds its hoped-for future readers: us. The chapter concludes by gesturing to how the trope of a diary counteracting power’s control of the archive returns in ensuing dystopian novels.