1984 at a Glance
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.