After answering a question in SciFi if the Big Brother existed as a real person, I got responses that the last chapter, the Appendix (which can be found here), definitely proves that Oceania ceased to exist because it describes Newspeak from a historical perspective. One proponent cited an essay to put the argument forward.

As a non-native speaker and unsure about the exact usage of English, especially during the time the novel was written, I would like to ask if the argument is correct.

First I find the usage of the word "Appendix" strange which indicates normally a technical description outside the given text. The whole text sounds for me more like Orwell had worked out the technicalities of the Newspeak, but could not find a place in the novel where it really fits. Second I believe to remember that several old German books used past tense in descriptions, so I wonder if this might have been used in WWII English, too.

Does the text (especially "Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism") in the Appendix definitely and unambigously prove that

a) the Appendix really belongs to the story and
b) Oceania ceased to exist in the future of 1984 ?

Further clarifications are welcome.

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is requesting literature interpretation. – tchrist Aug 20 '14 at 22:39

While you could certainly argue that the usage of the past tense is merely in line with the telling of the entire story in the past tense, and that the tense is coming from the narration rather than because the events have passed, there are a lot of solid clues that the old system has fallen by the wayside.

I think the most important clue is that the Appendix is presented in third person, and in a very historical manner. It's hard to explain how the tone is working, but you may be able to divine it yourself with a few quotes from the book itself, which I happen to have handy:

"It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak..."

"Newspeak was the official language of Oceania... there was not, as yet, anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication..."

"It was with the final, perfected version... that we are concerned here."

"It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten..."

etc. etc.

As an English speaker this all feels like it has a quite clear academic tone, and that it would have been the sort of thing written in a history book, but I can definitely see how that would be less clear to a someone with English as a second language.

Edit: I suppose I should add that the reason the academic subtext is so important is that no such text would be written within the novel's universe with the system of government presented therein. The text appears, from all respects, to describe how Newspeak failed in a historical fashion, as though it is from within that same world (some time between 1984 and 2050, most likely).

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    It's also worth noting that the Appendix wasn't written in Newspeak. So it does seem like a history book from the future, but one where the nations, the culture, the events of 1984 have passed away, leaving a future very like our present (or George Orwell's present). – Dan Bron Aug 20 '14 at 21:23
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    @DanBron That is a good point, though you could argue also that the appendix is only really describing the failings of Newspeak, which explains why they wouldn't still be using it. That it could be permitted to write about the a failed government project in the 1984 universe is questionable, though. – Draco6slayer Aug 20 '14 at 21:40
  • @Draco6slayer: It's only questionable if the Ingsoc government were still in power at the time the Appendix was (will be?) written. – Dan Aug 21 '14 at 2:04

It is at least as plausible, and more in keeping with the circular bleakness of Orwell's vision, to argue that the Appendix has the same origin as The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, which was contrived by the Party to trap potential rebels. There is no reason to think that the oligarchy would confine itself to Newspeak: the pragmatics of government would require the governors to remain fully cognizant of facts beyond the capacity of Newspeak to express.

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