10 Imaginative Similes in 1984

Simile and 1984

Simile is a literary device that is used to make a comparison. While very similar to a metaphor, a simile is different because it uses the words “like” or “as” to make a comparison.

George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, is not particularly known for his skill with word craft, but rather his eerily predictive dystopian themes. However, Orwell’s use of simile in 1984 illustrates an imaginative ability to create vivid imagery. We’ve comprised a list of 10 imaginative uses of simile so you can learn to identify the use of this literary device.

The List of Examples

• 1984 Book 1 Chapter 1

“The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall.”

In our first example, we get the first glace of how Big Brother communicates inside the home of our protagonist, Winston. In comparing the metal plaque to a “dulled mirror,” Orwell creates an image of a TV screen before there were even TVs.

• 1984 Book 1 Chapter 1

“In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight”

When Orwell wrote 1984, helicopters were in their infancy. In this example, Orwell compares a helicopter to a bluebottle, a type of fly. The imagery is very effective, giving the aircraft quick, insect-like qualities.

• 1984 Book 1 Chapter 1

“A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”

In this evocative example, Orwell displays the ability of powerful emotions to travel within a group of people. Comparing the emotions’ ability to travel quickly as if conducted by electricity gives the emotions a certain amount of power, that whatever person comes into contact will be infected and electrified.

• 1984 Book 1 Chapter 1

“And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.”

Comparing rage to things like fire is not exactly original. However, Orwell gives us a very specific image of a blowlamp, which is more commonly called a blowtorch. Just imagine the burning heat of a blue flame.

• 1984 Book 1 Chapter 2

“He went to the bathroom and carefully scrubbed the ink away with the gritty dark brown soap which rasped your skin like sandpaper and was therefore well adapted for this purpose.”

Orwell is very good at providing similes we can feel. All throughout 1984, Orwell describes products that are very inferior or of poor quality. In this example, Orwell compares the soap Winston uses to sandpaper. You can almost feel the grittiness.

• 1984 Book 1 Chapter 2

“From the table at Winston’s left, a little behind his back, someone was talking rapidly and continuously, a harsh gabble almost like the quacking of a duck, which pierced the general uproar of the room.”

Just like in the last example, Orwell is expert at using similes that compel our senses. In this example, Orwell plays on our sense of sound as he compares a crowd’s banter to the quacking of a duck.

• 1984 Book 1 Chapter 7

“They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies.”

Here we have another visually-stimulating simile. You can almost hear this one.

• 1984 Book 1 Chapter 7

“But this was concrete evidence; it was a fragment of the abolished past, like a fossil bone which turns up in the wrong stratum and destroys a geological theory”

This is a very well-deployed simile. Orwell compares a piece of evidence that the protagonist, Winston, discovers to a fossil that challenges previous theories. This simile is very appealing because it is comparing something abstract from the past to something tangible form the past: a fossil that one can touch and hold.

• 1984 Book 2 Chapter 8

“Seen from the top the stuff looked almost black, but in the decanter it gleamed like a ruby.”

This example occurs in the part of the story where Winston sees and drinks wine for the first time. The imagery Orwell employs is very effective. In comparing the wine to a ruby, we not only get a colorful visual reference, but we also get a sense of the rarity and preciousness of the wine.

• 1984 Book 3 Chapter 4

“It was like swimming against a current that swept you backwards however hard you struggled, and then suddenly deciding to turn round and go with the current instead of opposing it.”

This last example is another simile that plays to our sense of touch. This example makes use of the common metaphor of swimming against the current, meaning moving counter to a trend or tradition. Reading this passage almost makes one feel as if they are in the ocean or in a fast-moving river being swept away and totally out of control.

Conclusion

Throughout these ten examples of simile in Orwell’s 1984, we see the ability of simile to convey imaginative imagery that connects ideas or actions to images. These images provided by the simile makes it easy for readers to engage with an author’s work. Now that you have an idea how simile functions in fiction, see if you can identify this literary device elsewhere in 1984 or other works of fiction.

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