George Orwell 1984

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Pauline Ticehurst

How far does 1984 reflect the times in which it was written and how far was it a view of the future?

In this essay I intend to investigate experiences and historical events in Orwell’s lifetime. These events may have significantly influenced Orwell’s style, structure and theme, contributing to the political and artistic nature of his novel. I also intend to compare the contradictory interpretations of Orwell’s ‘message’. Did he intend 1984 as a warning, a prediction, or a historical novel? Despite its critics 1984 has made a significant impression on the modern world. Its infiltration into reality television may not be a tribute Orwell would have appreciated but many of his terms and phrases have been used to highlight threats to social and personal freedom. I will use this as a basis to ascertain whether there are other aspects of Orwell’s novel that have become reality in the modern world.

1984 by George Orwell was written in1947/48. This era has been referred to as ‘The age of anxiety, the age of the lost generation’. ( It was a nightmare world where individuality was lost. The totalitarian states of the time, exercised complete control over the lives of their human subjects. The Great War (World War One) facilitated totalitarian regimes, simply because war has only one objective: victory. “Individuality is sacrificed for collectivism and freedom is restricted as governments reject liberal values”. ( This mood of anxiety and conformity, is clearly illustrated in 1984; this is portrayed in the early pages of the novel and is maintained throughout. Orwell cleverly uses his descriptive talent, to set the scene for his reader. At the very beginning of his novel ‘the vile wind, the swirl of gritty dust’ (Page 4) projects a negative image of life in 1984. The maintenance of these visual images is preserved and comparisons, between post-war Britain and 1984, are recognisable. Examples of these are the shortages, rationing and the bombsites of the 1940’s. Orwell successfully engages the readers’ senses to conjure up images within the mind of the reader. ‘The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats’. (Page 4) I found phrases like this one actually made me feel the squalor and deprivation he was describing. The use of visual cues is also a theme, which starts on the first page of Orwell’s novel. He continually presents images that could be describing London during the 1940’s, but are in fact describing life in 1984. ‘A coloured poster too large for indoor display has been tacked to the wall ’(Page 4) Orwell has managed to reaffirm the squalid surroundings by the use of the word ‘tacked’ before he has even described the poster. ‘It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five with heavy black moustache and ruggedly hand-some features’. (Page 4) Many have suggested that Orwell based his character “Big Brother” the leader of the party on Stalin and Hitler because they all shared similar physical characteristics and had the ability to “manipulate the minds of the masses”. (The Worlds Most Evil Men). However, Churchill was also “recognised for his skill in altering peoples minds”(The History Of World War II) which could be interpreted that, the people of the 1940’s were being manipulated, regardless of their countries political status. His creative talent excelled itself with the name of his totalitarian leader. Big Brother conveys an image of trust and loyalty with the idea that he is a member of your family who is a figure affording protection and security. This is a complete contradiction to the lives of the Russian citizens under Stalin or the German people during Hitler’s rein and indeed the population of nineteen eighty four had little opportunity to feel safe. The naming of other characters within...
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