October 24, 2012
Potential Outcomes of Progress: Orwell’s 1984
1) Summary of the Book
1984 is an eye-opening novel written by George Orwell. Orwell wrote the novel in 1949 to outline how he projected society would be in 1984 if progress continued upon its current track. Orwell published the book as a warning that society must be careful about progress for progress’s sake, or conditions could end up similar to the way society is in his work 1984. The novel is divided into three chapters, or books, each with multiple subunits, and these sections tell the story in chronological order. The book ends with an appendix on the principles of newspeak, the new language of Oceania. The novel follows Winston Smith’s experiences in London in 1984. Smith is a low-ranking member of “the Party,” the all-controlling ruling entity of their county Oceania. The Party (represented by Big Brother) has telescreens (two-way microphones and cameras) and spies everywhere with the purpose of finding and snuffing out anyone who is not fully and unquestioningly devoted to the Party. The citizens of Oceania are not allowed to own their own property, are not allowed any privacy (even in their thoughts), are not encouraged to have sexual desires, are forced to live under strict rations in constant wartimes, and are forced to alter their memories and records as The Party sees fit. The book focuses on Smith’s secret disobedience of the Party; he thinks he joins an underground resistance movement However, he is eventually captured and tortured into honest belief of everything that the Party and Big Brother claim and represent. 2) Summary of the Chapters
The beginning of the first chapter takes place in April of 1984 and introduces the reader to the book’s protagonist, Winston Smith. Smith is coming home to his dilapidated apartment building (ironically called “Victory Mansions”) and reflects both on his troublesome varicose ulcer and on the large posters plastered everywhere, all advertising the same blown-up face and stating “Big Brother is Watching You.” The reader learns that although Smith is a low-ranking member of the Party, he is still under their oppressive control. Smith enters his apartment and sits in the alcove in his room hidden from the telescreen; he proceeds to commit “thoughtcrime” by writing his true feelings against the Party in his secret diary.
In the second and third parts of the chapter, Winston reflects on how there are spies everywhere searching for thoughtcrime and how a parent’s own child will turn him in. Winston thinks about his childhood and how the Party has falsified historical records as they saw fit, even though Winston is not allowed to acknowledge or even be having these thoughts. Winston also reflects on a man named O’Brien, with whom he works and whom he suspects may also secretly question the Party as he does.
In the middle of the first chapter, Smith goes to his job at the Party, where he falsifies old records in order to account for the Party constantly switching war enemies and eliminating questioning citizens. While at work, Winston hears an announcement from The Party stating that they are increasing rations, when Winston really knows that they are decreasing them. Winston observes how everyone believes this unquestioningly, but then wonders if he has given himself away when he realizes that a dark-haired woman has been watching him. When he goes home, Smith writes in his diary about how he would love to have a steamy sexual affair because the Party discourages sex for any means other than reproduction.
In the close of the first chapter, Smith writes in his diary about how any hope for rebellion lies in the “proles,” the lowest class in Oceania, and a rumored secretive resistance group called “The Brotherhood.” Smith considers how bad the conditions are that everyone lives in, but then realizes that no one has any previous better conditions to compare it to, thanks to...