The Importance of a Picture

Pictures can be doctored, especially in the days of Photoshop. But a visual image still makes a story more memorable, and maybe sometimes more believable. This was so for Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984:

(p. 64) Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth. Just once in his life he had possessed–after the event: that was what counted–concrete, unmistakable evidence of an act of falsification. He had held it between his fingers for as long as thirty seconds.
. . .
(p. 67) . . . , in 1973, Winston was unrolling a wad of documents which had just flopped out of the pneumatic tube on to his desk when he came on a fragment of paper which had evidently been slipped in among the others and then forgotten. The instant he had flattened it out he saw its significance. It was a half-page torn out of ‘The Times’ of about ten years earlier–the top half of the page, so that it included the date–and it contained a photograph of the delegates at some Party function in New York. Prominent in the middle of the group were Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. There was no mistaking them, in any case their names were in the caption at the bottom.
The point was that at both trials all three men had confessed that on that date they had been on Eurasian soil. They had flown from a secret airfield in Canada to a rendezvous somewhere in Siberia, and had conferred with members of the Eurasian General Staff, to whom they had betrayed important military secrets. The date had stuck in Winston’s memory because it chanced to be midsummer day; but the whole story must be on record in countless other places as well. There was only one possible conclusion: the confessions were lies.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: The New American Library, 1961 [1949].
(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)

By Canadian law, 1984 is no longer under copyright. The text has been posted on the following Canadian web site:

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