Eastasia and Eurasia have both, at times, been at war with both other nations. Oceania, however is always at war with only one. Why is this so?

  • 45
    Because it's always been at war with only one other nation.
    – user8719
    May 11, 2014 at 19:02
  • You don’t want to fight a war on two fronts. Sep 3, 2016 at 12:48
  • 2
    Are Eastasia and Eurasia ever at war with each other? Is either of them ever at peace (Oceania never seems to be)? Perhaps all three government lie to their people -- and the lies don't have to be consistent. Sep 3, 2016 at 23:00
  • 5
    I'm surprised no one said this before, but has it occurred to anyone that Goldstein's book was written by The Party and that there might NOT be three countries? If the party is bombing the proles to keep the population down, who's to say that there isn't just ONE country using the war as a means of keeping people working against the outside threat of a non-existent country. Besides, who would know if there wasn't another country, since everything is perfectly controlled. Jan 18, 2017 at 18:00

4 Answers 4


As the meme says, "that's the joke".

  • The war is perpetual (more akin to a 'cold war')
  • The war has no definable goals or aims
  • The three combatants are not trying to defeat each other but merely to use up excess resources
  • The combatants periodically switch allegiances, presumably in agreement with each other
  • The combatants are in a gentleman's agreement to restrict fighting (over labour and resources) to within a defined area comprising Northern Africa, the Middle-East and Southern Asia rather than attacking each other directly.
  • When each side changes their allegiances, they each pretend that they were always on the side of their current ally

To quote directly from the book,

The war, therefore if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that the hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word "war," therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist. The peculiar pressure that is exerted on human beings between the Neolithic Age and the early twentieth century has disappeared and has been replaced by something quite different. The effect would be much the same if the three superstates, instead of fighting one another, should agree to live in perpetual peace, each inviolate within its own boundaries. For in that case each would still be a self-contained universe, freed forever from the sobering influence of external danger. A peace that was truly permanent would be the same as a permanent war. This--although the vast majority of Party members understand it only in a shallower sense--is the inner meaning of the Party slogan: WAR IS PEACE.

In the writings of Emmanuel Goldstein, we find some additional relevant information;

In one combination or another, these three super-states are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years. War, however, is no longer the desperate, annihilating struggle that it was in the early decades of the twentieth century. It is a warfare of limited aims between combatants who are unable to destroy one another, have no material cause for fighting and are not divided by any genuine ideological difference.

Between the frontiers of the super-states, and not permanently in the possession of any of them, there lies a rough quadrilateral with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hong Kong, containing within it about a fifth of the population of the earth. It is for the possession of these thickly-populated regions, and of the northern ice-cap, that the three powers are constantly struggling. In practice no one power ever controls the whole of the disputed area. Portions of it are constantly changing hands, and it is the chance of seizing this or that fragment by a sudden stroke of treachery that dictates the endless changes of alignment.

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  • 13
    its a long time since i've read the book, but possibilities are that war does not even exist. missiles are used to kill proles just to keep population low
    – Lesto
    May 11, 2014 at 23:02
  • 3
    @lesto - True, but you can multiply entities endlessly. At some point you have to use Occams Razor to decide what's likely (e.g. that Oceania is involved in some kind of ongoing conflict) versus what's unlikely (e.g. that the War is a complete illusion).
    – Valorum
    May 11, 2014 at 23:04
  • 1
    correct. It's quite possible there is no actual conflict, that it's all propaganda on all sides, no fighting going on anywhere. The tight control of travel, news, and other communications would make such possible (and you can even tell people in different parts of the country that you're at war with someone else, say people along the Eurasia/Eastasia border regions are told you're at war with Oceania, people in the Oceania/Eurasia border that you're at war with Eastasia).
    – jwenting
    May 12, 2014 at 7:13
  • 2
    To me, the war seemed like a mutually beneficial pretext to continue the economic growth achieved by the military industrial complex: hence the constant production of floating fortresses. David Harvey, an economist, writes extensively about economies trying to absorb their 'surplus', and its cited that War is one way of achieving this. The war is happening, but it's being organised toward a perpetual stalemate to keep all parties happy... May 12, 2014 at 12:26
  • 1
    Bear in mind that Winston got Goldsteins book from O'Brien, and O'Brien later told Winston that the book was actually written by the Party. So it cannot be taken as evidence of anything. Sep 3, 2016 at 12:44

We don't really know if it has ever been at war with either if them. We don't even know if Eurasia and East Asia are two countries - or indeed if Oceania includes any more than just Britain. The point of the book is that the Party's power is absolute, and we simply don't know anything other than what they tell us.

  • 6
    Actually we do, the appendix at the rear of the book specifically mentions Oceania as comprising Britain and the United States; ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/o79n/appendix.html and the appendix is written from an historical perspective after the collapse of the Big Brother Party system
    – Valorum
    May 11, 2014 at 19:32
  • 4
    @Richard Where does it say anything about collapse? The only mention of 2050 I see is "It was chiefly in order to allow time [...] that the final adoption of Newspeak had been fixed for so late a date as 2050." Nowhere does it say that this date arrived and Newspeak wasn't adopted. While the writer of the appendix knows too much for his own good, it can be another Goldstein (i.e. another Inner Party official writing the truth and simultaneously believing in the Party, in an act of doublethink).
    – Andres F.
    May 11, 2014 at 19:53
  • 3
    That's the whole point. He couldn't possibly have written it from an in-universe perspective post-Big-Brother unless he was living in a post-Big-Brother world. The fact that it's in the past tense is a defining factor.
    – Valorum
    May 11, 2014 at 19:56
  • 3
    @Richard I get that, but where does the writer claim he is living in a post-Big-Brother society? I don't see the perspective. Is it because he is using the past tense? That could mean he is explaining how things worked in Winston's time, not that they stopped. I doubt Big Brother no longer exists because Oceania's regime is shown to be fool-proof. There is no hope in the proles (who simply don't care), and every other person is watched to the point even their thoughts are known and broken. Even Inner Party members who know too much get recycled. How would it end?
    – Andres F.
    May 11, 2014 at 22:57
  • 6
    (For the record, @Richard managed to convince me that the writer is indeed living in a post-Big Brother society)
    – Andres F.
    May 12, 2014 at 3:59

It is probably just a coincidence.

According to Emmanuel Goldstein's book, there are only 3 political entities on Earth in the year 1984 in the book 1984. I will call them "countries" here, but they are more like empires or conglomerates. I'm not sure if we are ever told the explicit term for them, even in Newspeak.

These 3 countries are always at war with each other. The 2 times we are told which side is which, Oceania, Winston's home, is allied with Eurasia against Eastasia at first, then it switches sides to be allied with Eastasia against Eurasia (maybe those 2 are switched, I haven't read the book in awhile).

We don't know whether Oceania ever aligns itself against both countries at once, but it could have. The war has been going on for 25 years, according to Emmanuel, and it will probably go on forever, or at least a very, very long time, and with the Party constantly rewriting history, not many people would remember years later even if it did happen, and would have almost no way of knowing when alliances changed before they were born.

My point is, we only ever see 2 examples of the alliances in this war, and the book only lasts probably a couple months in what has, according to the most reliable source we have outside of Winston (which isn't saying much), already been a 25-year-long war and which may never end. Winston never says for sure any other times when the alliances shifted, probably because he doesn't remember and can't look the information up - even if he could, he knows it wouldn't be accurate. You seem to be trying to extrapolate from 2 examples to an entire endless war.

If you want to see the relevant quotes, @Richard's answer has some.

  • Makes sense. I could imagine that the party sometimes decides that they <del>are now</del> were always fighting both superpowers at once to add some extra pressure and existence fear when necessary.
    – Philipp
    May 12, 2014 at 13:41

I actually don't believe Oceania extends beyond Great Britain. I have no reason to believe the details of Goldstein's book as the book was given to Winston by somebody plotting to vaporize him. I don't think there is a war on at all. I think the entire "war" as seen by oceanics, is a false flag operation.

Look at North Korea. It is currently at war with the USA. It has always been at war with the USA. But talk to any American and they'd have no clue what you're talking about. North Korea paints the rest of the globe as being as or more miserable than they are. Just a series of wars in which North Korea has the most powerful allies and is a global ruling power.

The reality? North Korea is a hermit state whose economy has ground to a halt by modern global standards. It's allied tacitly and almost embarrassingly with China who in reality has zero support for the nation or its people. It's a tiny nation of lies and oligarchy.

Yet it believes it's in the middle of a Great War that it is winning.

This model is much easier to sustain than the one painted by Goldstein. Especially since there WOULD be times when Oceania would be at war with both Eurasia and eastasia. Since they'd eventually be allied with each other at some point.

Also per the past tense of the appendix, I think George was writing from the point of view of George Orwell. Using the past tense as writers do when they're finally effing DONE the book.

  • 4
    This seems like headcanon rather than something backed up by the text of the book
    – Valorum
    Sep 3, 2016 at 14:29
  • Exactly @ Ella, the appendix was written by George Orwell as George Orwell, no evidence to support some ficticious author writing the book after "The Collapse" of Ingsoc. Nov 16, 2016 at 14:05

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