View previous topic | View next topic

Textual misrepresentation

Page 1 of 1

Brock
1388976.  Sun Sep 05, 2021 10:30 am Reply with quote

This thread was inspired by a discussion in the "What Are You Listening To?" thread about Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (post 1388956 et seq.), where it was revealed that the Cliffs Notes study guide to the book repeated the common myth that the portrait was kept in an attic. Here's another example I found a while ago (my boldface):

https://www.cliffsnotes.com/student-life/2016/september/what-the-opening-sentence-in-orwells-1984-suggests-about-the-book

CliffsNotes wrote:
George Orwell's well-known dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-four, opens with the following statement that should seem out of the ordinary:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

The thirteenth stroke here doesn't refer to military time but to an old saying. References to a thirteenth stroke of the clock indicate that some event or discovery calls into question everything previously believed. Put another way, the thirteenth stroke of the clock calls into question not only the credibility of itself but of the previous twelve.

But notice in this opening line that it isn't just one clock malfunctioning, but the clocks. Presumably all of them. In this world, the clocks striking thirteen is not an aberration, but a normal way of life.

In this way, Orwell subtly alerts the reader that statements of truth in this fictional society should be called into question.


Plausible, eh? Except that it's complete rubbish. "Military time" is the US term for the 24-hour clock, and the "thirteen" is the opening sentence does refer to the 24-hour clock, as anyone who bothered to continue reading for a few pages would realize:

George Orwell wrote:
The telescreen struck fourteen. He must leave in ten minutes. He had to be back at work by fourteen-thirty.


The clocks weren't malfunctioning at all. Should I really believe that "CliffsNotes study guides are written by real teachers and professors"?

 
Jenny
1388981.  Sun Sep 05, 2021 10:46 am Reply with quote

Most of us don't work on military time, and no clock that I know of in ordinary life strikes thirteen or fourteen. So the statement in the notes that "the clocks striking thirteen is not an aberration, but a normal way of life" thus alerting us to this being a completely different set of parameters to our normal world is true enough. I think the point about statements of truth in this fictional society being called into question is interesting and could be argued, but isn't necessarily solid.

 
Jenny
1388982.  Sun Sep 05, 2021 10:48 am Reply with quote

Also bear in mind that in 1948 when this novel was written, the telescreen was not something most people had access to, let alone being a normal part of the world.

Possibly the note writer confused you by using the word 'malfunctioning', when the clocks clearly are not malfunctioning but working in the way they were designed to do in the world of the novel.

 
Brock
1388983.  Sun Sep 05, 2021 10:56 am Reply with quote

The CliffsNotes writer said "the thirteenth stroke doesn't refer here to military time". It does. The novel is set in a future where the 24-hour clock is routinely used, as my quote demonstrates. There are many similar quotes elsewhere in the book.

The novel is of course about distortions of truth; but I really don't believe that the opening sentence has anything to do with that aspect of the book.

 
Jenny
1388995.  Sun Sep 05, 2021 12:55 pm Reply with quote

But in the book it doesn't refer to military time, which is distinct from normal usage. It conjures a world in which that time has become the normal usage, and thus tells us about a controlled society that is different from what we experience in our normal world (especially as it was in 1948). In that regard, it is about distortion.

 
Brock
1389004.  Sun Sep 05, 2021 2:08 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
But in the book it doesn't refer to military time, which is distinct from normal usage. It conjures a world in which that time has become the normal usage


Indeed, it does. As you say, in the book people routinely tell the time using the 24-hour clock. At the start of chapter 4 we're told that "the old-fashioned clock with the twelve-hour face was ticking away on the mantelpiece", and that "the clock's hands said seventeen-twenty[*]: it was nineteen-twenty really. She was coming at nineteen-thirty". The 24-hour time is presented as the default and the 12-hour time as something unusual.

[*]That's what my source says, although surely it should be "seven-twenty"?

Quote:
and thus tells us about a controlled society that is different from what we experience in our normal world (especially as it was in 1948). In that regard, it is about distortion.


I agree with all of this except the "thus". Nineteen Eighty-Four tells us about a society in which the government controls all information, and uses that power to exert control over its citizens. The fact that that society happens to use the 24-hour clock is incidental. There is no suggestion that the government tries to use the 24-hour clock to exert political control. The time is one of the few things in the novel that the government doesn't try to distort!


Last edited by Brock on Sun Sep 05, 2021 2:16 pm; edited 1 time in total

 
Jenny
1389007.  Sun Sep 05, 2021 2:16 pm Reply with quote

Please point me to where it says in the book (and remember that the text is the only point of shared reality here) that military time is being used. To the best of my recollection the word 'military' is absent in any discussion of time.

 
Brock
1389008.  Sun Sep 05, 2021 2:17 pm Reply with quote

You are correct. I think you must have misunderstood my post.

 

Page 1 of 1

All times are GMT - 5 Hours


Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group