In George Orwell's 1984, Winston Smith wrestles with oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party scrutinizes human actions with ever-watchful Big Brother. Defying a ban on individuality, Winston dares to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia. These criminal deeds bring Winston into the eye of the opposition, who then must reform the nonconformist. George Orwell's 1984 introduced the watchwords for life without freedom: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. Written by: George Orwell
Type of Work: novel
Genres: utopian literature; social criticism
First Published: 1949
Main Characters: Winston Smith; Julia; O'Brien; Big Brother/Emmanuel Goldstein Major Thematic Topics: mutability of the past; the existence of fact through memory; memory; history; language; oppression of writers Motifs: repressed sexuality; dreams
Major Symbols: Newspeak; prole woman; birds; telescreens; glass paperweight The three most important aspects of 1984:
The setting of 1984 is a dystopia: an imagined world that is far worse than our own, as opposed to a utopia, which is an ideal place or state. Other dystopian novels include Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, and Orwell's own Animal Farm. When George Orwell wrote 1984, the year that gives the book its title was still almost 40 years in the future. Some of the things Orwell imagined that would come to pass were the telescreen, a TV that observes those who are watching it, and a world consisting of three megastates rather than hundreds of countries. In the novel, the country of Eastasia apparently consists of China and its satellite nations; Eurasia is the Soviet Union; and Oceania comprises the United States, the United Kingdom, and their allies. Another of Orwell's creations for 1984 is Newspeak, a form of English that the book's totalitarian government utilizes to discourage free thinking. Orwell believed that, without a word or words to express an idea, the idea itself was impossible to conceive and retain. Thus Newspeak has eliminated the word "bad," replacing it with the less-harsh "ungood." The author's point was that government can control us through the words.
Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party. He works in the Records Department in the Ministry of Truth, rewriting and distorting history. To escape Big Brother's tyranny, at least inside his own mind, Winston begins a diary — an act punishable by death. Winston is determined to remain human under inhuman circumstances. Yet telescreens are placed everywhere — in his home, in his cubicle at work, in the cafeteria where he eats, even in the bathroom stalls. His every move is watched. No place is safe. One day, while at the mandatory Two Minutes Hate, Winston catches the eye of an Inner Party Member, O'Brien, whom he believes to be an ally. He also catches the eye of a dark-haired girl from the Fiction Department, whom he believes is his enemy and wants him destroyed. A few days later, Julia, the dark-haired girl whom Winston believes to be against him, secretly hands him a note that reads, "I love you." Winston takes pains to meet her, and when they finally do, Julia draws up a complicated plan whereby they can be alone. Alone in the countryside, Winston and Julia make love and begin their allegiance against the Party and Big Brother. Winston is able to secure a room above a shop where he and Julia can go for their romantic trysts. Winston and Julia fall in love, and, while they know that they will someday be caught, they believe that the love and loyalty they feel for each other can never be taken from them, even under the worst circumstances. Eventually, Winston and Julia confess to O'Brien, whom they believe to be a member of the Brotherhood (an underground organization aimed at bringing down the Party), their hatred of the Party. O'Brien welcomes them into the Brotherhood with an array of questions and arranges for Winston to be given a copy of...