when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that
happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions
of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist,
and never again could exist, any standard against which it could
This quote from Book One, Chapter VIII,
emphasizes how one’s understanding of the past affects one’s attitude
about the present. Winston has just had a frustrating conversation
with an old man about life before the Revolution, and he realizes
that the Party has deliberately set out to weaken people’s memories
in order to render them unable to challenge what the Party claims
about the present. If no one remembers life before the Revolution,
then no one can say that the Party has failed mankind by forcing
people to live in conditions of poverty, filth, ignorance, and hunger.
Rather, the Party uses rewritten history books and falsified records
to prove its good deeds.