Introduction of 1984
The novel, 1984, was published back in 1949 in June, is a dystopian fiction by George Orwell. It spellbound generations and it continues to do so since its first appearance. The novel was a myth breaker, but it also proved prophetic in giving out the truth and the predictions and forebodings of futuristic political instability, especially mass surveillance. The novel revolves around Winston Smith and his co-worker, Julia, who hated their Party. However, they could not leave it on account of constant surveillance of ‘Big Brother’. They even prove tools to surveil each other.
Summary of 1984
The novel starts in 1984 when the world, after having witnessed wars and revolutions, is finally having a break. There is peace in the three states, among which Oceania is one, where the Party is in the government. Its Ingsoc is being led by Big Brother, an elusive party demagogue, who is meant to watch everybody. This is the condition of Airstrip One, an Oceania province. To uproot dissidents, the Thought Police is active through Telescreens, removing dissidents from the scene.
Winston Smith, a middle-class worker of the Outer Party, is now living in the London urban center and doing a job in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to revise history to conform to Ingsoc’s demands. His task involves revising The Times, a magazine, and destroying its older versions. Interestingly, he harbors dreams of changing or opposing the rules of the Thought Party but also feels guilty of being a ‘thought-criminal’. He is aware that someday he is vulnerable to arrest. It happens that his meeting with Mr. Charrington, an antique connoisseur, leads him to write an anti-party and anti-Big Brother diary, saying that hopes lie with the public.
However, his disappointment reaches new heights when his visit to a prole transpires him about these crackpots. He talks to an old man, who seemed to be suffering from amnesia. As Julia is working with him on a novel, he suspects her for espionage against him. Even his boss, O’Brien, too, is a suspect of doing the same. However, he seems to be a formal member of the Brotherhood, the resistance movement against the Party organized by Emmanuel Goldstein, the opponent of Big Brother. When Smith talks to Syme, another worker, who is engaged in revising Newspeak, comes to know that he would disappear. He seems intelligent and has learned the prospect of revising a newspaper, whose objective, he states is to reduce the thinking capacity of human beings. Following this, he meets his neighbor, Parsons, from whom he learned about the Hate Week preparation.
Winston is immersed in these thoughts when Julia hands over to him a letter confessing her love for him. However, their love affair proves stifling, for intimacy minus descendants is merely an exercise they go through every day. He comes to know that Julia is also a secret opponent of the Party, though, she has no desire to put a political front against the Party, as she knows it is futile. After they believe that they may get caught for their love and meeting, they start dating in a room they rent above the shop of Mr. Charrington. During these love meetings, he also recalls his family and the disappearance of his siblings during the civil war. Although he is a married man having no love for his wife, Katharine, and he cannot divorce her. He knows that the Party does not approve of it. Soon he comes to know that Syme has also disappeared after which O’Brien visits him to invite him to his residence.
When Winston visits him, he is impressed by his luxurious flat but is stunned to know that O’Brien is an active dissident of the Party and the Brotherhood member. Finding no response, O’Brien, later, sends him Goldstein’s book to learn about oligarchical practices. When the Hate Week of the country arrives, suddenly Winston observes the change of enmity toward Eastasia from Eurasia after which the minister recalls him to make new changes in the historical records. Following this, Winston meets Julia and reads the book about how the Party keeps hold of the people, how it moves the people through sloganeering, and how it manages wars to make people stay busy. The main argument, however, lies in that it also seeks to overthrow the Party through proles, though, the book lacks the answer why.
As expected, soon Julia and Winston are arrested when Mr. Charrington is revealed to be an agent of the Thought Police. Although Winston comes into interaction with his other arrested colleagues, he soon meets O’Brien, who proves another agent of the department, having part of the operation to hook him in this supposed crime. During his imprisonment, he undergoes severe torture, starvation, and treatment that intends to indoctrinate him. During this new indoctrination, Winston learns from O’Brien that the Party demonstrates the authority to display their undeniable power. Though, Winston argues his case that he accepts everything but that the Party has not succeeded in coercing him to betray Julia to whom he is associated. He also thinks that he would emerge even after his execution that would be his moment of triumph against the Party.
Infuriated, O’Brien brings him to 101 room where indoctrination reaches its final stage of re-education. Here the prisoner is forced to confront his worst fear or paranoia. Winston soon sees facing a cage full of rats, a creature he is afraid of. He expresses his willingness after this punishment to betray Julia and work for the Party. However, when he comes face to face with Julia, he feels that she betrays the same feelings. On the other hand, Oceania’s victory against Eurasia is announced through media at which Winston echoes indoctrination in his slogan that he loves Big Brother.
Major Themes in 1984
- Totalitarianism: 1984 shows totalitarianism in its true shape and also warns the readers of its consequences of robbing human beings of the very emotions that make us. The curb on civil liberties and personal freedom are reflected through Julia and Winston’s love affair that, though they try their best, yet their consummation is the betrayal from both sides. Another feature of this totalitarianism prevalent in Oceania is the one-party system of the Party where all and diverse groups are involved in worshiping the elusive Big Brother. Everything can be compared to having a cult personality. Everybody proves an agent of the Party, spying on everybody else with no room for peaceful co-existence. The final slogan of Winston that he loves Big Brother is his frustration at having no freedom.
- Propaganda: The novel also shows the use of organized mass propaganda initiated by the Party through its Ministry of Truth where revision of history books and old magazines is underway. It is Winston’s and his friends’ responsibility to twist facts and create fictions to make the Party seem true. The public feeding system has a very strong establishment to continue with which the Party and Big Brother want to feed the public.
- Love/Sexuality: The loss of love and suppression of sensual desires is another thematic strand that runs throughout the novel. When Winston shows an inclination to befriend Julia, he also shows his neutral feelings toward his wife. On the other hand, Julia, too, does not show the same passion and soon forgets him when he is trapped in trouble. In fact, love and intimacy have undergone depersonalization through an excessive passion for “duty to the Party” which is a means to give birth to the party loyal workers rather than having it enjoyment of the conjugal life. Failure of Winston’s conjugal life with Katharine and unfortunate love for Julia points to this theme.
- Independence: The theme of personal freedom and independence is too obvious through the character of Winston who, though, works independently, does not feel that every other person could be the Party agent. Even O’Brien and Julia belong to the group who yearn for freedom. Though Winston considers O’Brien sympathetic to his ideas in the beginning.
- Identity: The novel shows that most of the characters have names but no identities. The most popular is Big Brother who has the power to know the ideas, thinking, and percepts of the subjects of Oceania. When Winston asks O’Brien that after all, he is a man during his torture, he responds to him with his own argument that he is the last one on this earth. It shows how totalitarian regimes rob a person of his identity and freedom to think.
- Political Loyalty: The surveillance of Big Brother is powerful, inescapable, and intrusive. When Winston starts thinking about rebellious ideas, everything starts working against him. When he comes to know that Mr. Charrington’s flat is bugged, Winston is horrified and then it turns out that Charrington is also the Party agent including O’Brien who is his co-conspirator. That is why seeing no way out by the end Winston raises the slogan of loyalty to Big Brother.
- Poverty vs. Wealth: Although it is a socialist system, the Party shows this contradiction in the living standard through its inner and outer circles in that the inner circle lives in luxury and wealth with servants and other gadgets at their beck and call, while the inner circle is trapped in a routinized lifestyle. The ordinary members have to lead a low-quality life with ordinary food, devoid of love, and family pleasures. That is why Winston finds new love and O’Brien looks at London with nostalgia.
- Technification of Society: The novel also shows the theme of the technification of society in such a way that the people are not immune to propaganda. They do not have an option to think freely. The Thought Police have intrusive sources of telescreens to measure public thinking and change it likewise. However, it is ironic that despite showing such technological progress, some of the mechanical tasks are still lying in the realm of human beings such as Winston’s revision of history, printing machines in the Ministry of Truth, and living in apartments. Perhaps, as the book was written before the technology was discovered the author had given his best guess regarding today’s technical advances. Now, we have GPS and it is easy to trace anyone.
- Use and Abuse of Language: The novel shows the use of language in controlling the public. The party uses several sources such as the Ingsoc system, Newspeak magazine, and doublethink strategy to change the thinking of the people. Winston and O’Brien are employed for this very task in the Ministry of Truth to abuse language to hoodwink the public.
Major Characters in 1984
- Winston Smith: Winston Smith, is the protagonist and main character of 1984. He is a 39 years old man, working in the Party office in Oceania. His task includes correction of errors in the documents of the Party and revision of the history in the old magazines. However, his lurking animosity for the Party’s authoritarianism leads him to befriend the Party agents who pose them as rebels working to overthrow Big Brother. Despite his marriage, he falls in love with Julia and has an affair, another Party worker, though this affair ends prematurely. Winston is caught, and he does not seek disagreement when he is given up by agents. He undergoes severe physical and mental torture. Seeing no way out, he secures his release by raising a slogan in support of Big Brother. He knows that with excessive surveillance nobody can slip out of the Party clutches. Though he carries his old feelings, after the release he suppresses it and becomes animated just like everyone.
- Julia: Julia, a young woman, and the Party Worker, also works with Winston in the same department and almost in the same capacity. Although she responds to Winston’s advances with positive overtures, her frigidness, demonstrated later, shows that she might have alerted the Party high command about Winston’s rebellious nature. Despite demonstrating some opposing ideas, she does not think it an ideal course of action to stage overthrow of the Party. That is why she also undergoes torture but demonstrates much improvement after they win release. She also proves more loyal than before after her release.
- O’Brien: O’Brien is the inner party member and holds a top position. He suspects that Winston might be rebellious, and he becomes alert. He immediately plans to hook Winston through his espionage and gets him arrested. Working as a dedicated government servant, O’Brien has various natural contradictions in his character except for his fidelity and loyalty to the Party and Big Brother.
- Big Brother: Big Brother is an elusive character and the main leader of the Party. He is also the ruler of Oceania, who is popular for his omnipresent surveillance capabilities. The phrase “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” is the catchword in Oceania. Although some of the citizens, like Winston, think that he does not exist, it seems that somebody has adopted this name to terrify the population into submission. He seems the symbol of the all-powerfulness of the ruling faction.
- Parsons: Mrs. Parsons is the second female character after Julia. As a neighbor of Winston, she seems to be tired of this rule despite being a mother of the two children working in the Spies and Youth Language. She later, hands over both of their parents to the Thought Police for their political edification.
- Tom Parsons: Tom Parsons’ significance in the novel lies in his being a jolly and simple neighbor of Winston. He despises Parsons for his all-acceptance mentality. He becomes the victim of his children’s espionage activity who hands him over to the Thought Police for the edification of his political ideas.
- Charrington: Charrington’s significance in the novel lies in his secretive nature of work for the Thought Police. Surprisingly and sadly, Winston, he seems a simpleton antique shopkeeper. Winston does not know his reality when he meets Julia in the apartment on the upper floor of his shop. However, the truth is only revealed after their arrest.
- Katharine: She is Winston’s wife, though he does not discuss her much and she appears only when his flirtation with Julia starts. Katharine is loyal to the Party and the government and is only interested in childbearing responsibility.
- Martin, Comrade Withers, and other minor characters: Martin is a small man working for O’Brien as his servant, while Withers is a loyal worker but is later turned to vapor for his infidelity. Some other minor characters, too, appear in the course of novels such as Aaronson, Rutherford, and Jones and leave some impression of not much significance.
Writing Style 1984
George Orwell is popular for his pithy, symbolic, and well-knit writings as a seasoned writer and a veteran political commentator. His authorial intrusions in his narratives are prominent, as he often employs foreshadowing about political predictions and future events. The most important is the use of symbols, phrases, and suitable diction that make his narrative effective though this futuristic outlook sometimes looks far-fetched. It has won him a great readership across the globe. His style is also marked with the short, curt and concise slogans, which have now become popular catchphrases in the political circles.
Analysis of Literary Devices in 1984
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the conflict of Winston Smith with the oppression of the Party in Oceania. The rising action occurs when he starts dating Julia and meeting O’Brien about dissidence and resistant movement. The falling action occurs when he faces arrest and subsequent torture with the final sloganeering in support of Big Brother.
- Adage: It means the use of a statement that becomes a universal truth. The novel, 1984, shows this use of the statement in its famous sentence given in all capitals; “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” (Chapter-1)
- Allegory: 1984 shows the use of allegory in its political story that demonstrates that totalitarianism is unsuitable for human beings, power brings corruption and absolute power brings absolute corruption. It also shows that some characters may not exist without their ideational representation such as Big Brother, while others have been made to represent abstract ideas. Surprisingly, this allegory is very much applicable to current times.
- Antagonist: At first, it appears that Big Brother is the main antagonist of 1984 in the opening chapters. However, as the story progresses O’Brien is revealed to be the antagonist later when he leads the arrest of Winston Smith after becoming his confidant in resistance against the Party.
- Allusion: There are various examples of allusions given in the novel, 1984. However, some of these may be modern allusions Orwell might not have in mind when writing it such as surveillance tools used by the internet companies, the rise of Communism, and the implementation of the communist system. The references of Ingsoc, Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia are to the Russian communist system, while the three states refer to the Managerial Revolution written by James Burnham and published in 1941.
- Conflict: The are two types of conflicts in the novel, 1984. The first one is the external conflict that starts among Winston Smith, the Party, and its agents in which he faces defeat when he faces arrest after O’Brien betrays him. The second is the internal conflict that is going on in his mind about his ideas of freedom and rights, and the system of the Party in which he is living and working.
- Characters: 1984 presents both static as well as dynamic characters. Winston Smith is a dynamic character who changes, though, he becomes the same again. However, all the rest of the characters are merely puppets of the Party. Hence, they are all static or flat characters.
- Climax: The climatic in the novel occurs in the second chapter when the love of Julia and Winston reaches its peak and both start dating each other, but the Thought Police arrest them.
- Foreshadowing: The first example of foreshadowing in the novel occurs when the first chapter opens as “It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week” (Chapter-1). The slogan of “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” is also a type of foreshadowing which heralds the use of telescreens, the Thought Police, and the siblings spying on the parents.
- Hyperbole: Hyperbole or exaggeration occurs at several places in the book. For example,
i. The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting three hundred million people all with the same face. (Chapter-1)
ii. He knew what it meant, or thought he knew. The place where there is no darkness was the imagined future, which one would never see, but which, by foreknowledge, one could mystically share in. (Chapter-1)
- Imagery: Imagery means the use of five senses for the description. For example,
i. The person immediately ahead of him in the queue was a small, swiftly-moving, beetle-like man with a flat face and tiny, suspicious eyes. (Chapter-1)
ii. From over scrubby cheekbones eyes looked into Winston’s, sometimes with strange intensity, and flashed away again. (Chapter-1)
iii. The sunlight, filtering through innumerable leaves, was still hot on their faces. (Chapter-1)
The first example shows images of sight, the second one of sound and color, and the third one also shows of color.
- Metaphor: 1984 shows good use of various metaphors. For example,
i. Chocolate normally was dullbrown crumbly stuff. (Chapter-1)
ii. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour” (Chapter-1)
iii. Folly, folly, his heart kept saying: conscious, gratuitous, suicidal folly. (Chapter-1)
- Mood: The novel, 1984, shows a satirical tone. However, it also shows characters to be sarcastic and ironic at times according to the circumstances and contexts. It, however, becomes tense during the love affair of Winston and Julia.
- Narrator: The novel, 1984 is told from a third-person point of view. It is also called an omniscient narrator who happens to be the author himself as he can see things from all perspectives. Here George Orwell is the narrator of 1984.
- Personification: Personification means to attribute human acts and emotions to non-living objects. For example,
i. ‘If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say this or that even, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture. (Chapter-1)
ii. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. (Chapter-4)
iii. Both of these examples show the Party and power personified.
- Protagonist: Winston Smith is the protagonist of the novel. He enters the novel from the very start and captures the interest of the readers until the last page.
- Paradox: 1984 shows the use of paradox in slogans such as war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength (Chapter-1)
- Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places. For example,
‘Why should it be? And if it were, what difference would that make? Suppose that we choose to wear ourselves out faster. Suppose that we quicken the tempo of human life till men are senile at thirty. Still what difference would it make? Can you not understand that the death of the individual is not death? The party is immortal.’ (Chapter-4)
This example shows the use of rhetorical questions and their answers given by the same character, O’Brien.
- Theme: A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel, 1984, not only shows the futuristic thematic idea but also demonstrates human sufferings, love, hate, political ideals and several others.
- Setting: The setting of the novel, 1984, is further Oceania state and its city of London.
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes. For example,
i. His tiny sister, clinging to her mother with both hands, exactly like a baby monkey. (Chapter-1)
ii. He clung to O’Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm around his shoulders. (Chapter-2)
The first simile compares the girl, Winston’s sister, to a tiny monkey and second Winston to a baby.