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Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

Until they become conscious they will never rebel. Is this part meaning that if they became conscious, they will rebel?

second part: they rebelled but it doesn't matter because they didn't do it consciously?

This part of 1984 is a bit tricky for me and I want to understand it properly.

  • If they became conscious, they would rebel, but they will not rebel, because in order to do that they have to be conscious already. There is a circle in the conditions which makes the rebellion unlikely. – Michael Login Aug 18 '18 at 20:07
  • until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious. but this part means that to start rebellion they have to be conscius? why is this part in present perfect? – nnnn Aug 18 '18 at 20:27
  • I'm sorry for being a bit imprecise—the second part means they can obtain consciousness only after rebellion: they have to have rebelled to get consciousness... but they will not, because.... and so on. – Michael Login Aug 18 '18 at 20:40
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    No A until B, but B only if A - that's the scheme. – Michael Login Aug 18 '18 at 20:46
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Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

The sentence is describing how the people are "caught" in a loop that they cannot get out of.

Until they become conscious they will never rebel

essentially says:

They can't rebel now, because they are not conscious yet. (People who are unaware of a good reason to start a rebellion generally won't rebel).

Then:

and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

essentially means:

They will stay in their "unconscious" state until a rebellion breaks out.

Ergo, they are stuck.

It's worth noting that unconscious in this context means "unaware of their miserable existence, as if in a stupor." It doesn't mean the people have fainted or passed out.

NOAD defines it as:

conscious (adj.) having knowledge of something; aware: we are conscious of the extent of the problem.

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