White always mates because the better player has opted for the white pieces. But black is free to win if he can. In that its citizens are free to play the game of memory control, of working out the devices of orthodoxy, the Orwellian State bears a direct relation to the one in which English Socialism, not Ingsoc, operates.

-1985 by Anthony Burgess (bolds by me)

The sentence states that the citizens of Orwellian state are free to play two games. One is memory control. The second is "working out the devices of orthodoxy".

I interpret the first game like this: State has a memory control mechanism. It changes history. But citizens are free to remember the "old" history. And they are free to win if they can. (I'm not 100% sure about this reading).

But as to the second game, I can't even give an interpretation. What are the "devices of orthodoxy", how citizens are supposed to work them out, and why this is a game?


2 Answers 2


First, by way of preamble, it will help to know something about chess. Chess is a game of deep strategy played on a board with pieces between two players, one against the other, playing by making moves alternately. By convention the two are referred to as white and black. In chess, white has an intrinsic advantage over black. Often in chess puzzles (such as the ones Winston comes across in "The Times") white is set up to win.

Second, you are mistaken when you say there are "two games"; there is only one game of chess being referred to.

Thus, the extract says:

  1. A (single) game of chess is taking place between the state (white) and the citizen (black) and when the stronger player of the two plays white the result of the game will be in favour of white.
  2. The citizen still has the potential to win if stronger than white
  3. The citizen has the ability to "double bluff" the state into seeming to be acceptable ("citizens are free to play the game of memory control, of working out the devices of orthodoxy")
  4. In this respect the Orwellian state is similar to English Socialism (i.e. the English Socialism of Anthony Burgess's time at writing of his novel - 1977) rather than that of Ingsoc.
  • So about 3. Memory control game means - pretending to "forgot" the erased history; "working out the devices" mean pretending to be orthodox. And these basically mean the same thing. Did I undersand right?
    – Abw
    Sep 26, 2023 at 4:49

I believe that the intent is the use of orthodox to mean "conforming to established doctrine", specifically to work within the rules. While the government has created a set of strict rules, within which they intend to rule the people, they too are bound by those rules, and a clever person can use those rules to beat the system.

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