George Orwell’s 1984 is more than a work of fiction. It is a dire warning. Explore the means by which Orwell reaches through the decades and grabs us by the neck: what is he trying to tell us?

Action Points:

Phase 1- Research

  1. Make a decision about what aspect of 1984 is relevant to today. e.g. Totalitarian State, Control Through Fear, Invasion of Privacy, Newspeak vs Fake News, Surveillance, Thought Crime.
  2. Identify Key Moments and supporting quotes in 1984.
  3. Consider the actual 1984 era in the light of this.
  4. Research parallels with 2017. e.g. News Items, Media, New Media and Internet, Multinationals, Contemporary Dystopia.
  5. Decide on your lens. e.g. Feminism, Marxism, Dystopian Genre Study, Setting, Historical Context.
  6. Plan the structure of your answer.
  7. Draft a practice paragraph.

 

1) The aspect of 1984 that holds most relevance today is small percentages of the population holding the majority of the wealth and power. It the novel, the state is the controlling influence of the country, but in modern day society the situation is very similar, only corporate interests are the ones determining the way that resources are divided. In addition, the issue of surveillence is very topical nowadays, in a very similar way to 1984, with Governments being accused of spying on their citizens. The parallels are so evident that 1984 is topping bestseller lists again, decades after being written.

2) The first key moment is when Winston writes the diary, planting the seed for his thought crimes and attempted rebellion. Then Winston meets Julia, someone he can trust and share with, and he gets out of Big Brother’s constant gaze with her guidance. Later on, Winston joins O’Brien and commits to the idea of rebelling against the Party. Winston and Julia get caught, imprisoned, tortured. They betray each other, signifying the triumph of the Party (and therefore thematically power) over love and freedom. Winston loves Big Brother. The Party beats everyone eventually.

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. These ideas have tremendous currency and form an excellent starting point for your critical review. I’d now encourage you to have a very detailed look through your notes for evidence – particularly quoted evidence of what George Orwell says about these elements of the novel. It is through the quotes that you’ll develop the level of sophistication you need.

    Let me know if I can help!

    CW

    Reply
  2. Because of the data loss you experienced, we have agreed that you should receive 1 extra period to complete this assessment. I’ll also paste some quotes that I’ve found interesting into a comment below in case these are of use.

    CW

    Reply
    • Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.
    • Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer; though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing
    • The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided: the Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts; the Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war; the Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order; and the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs.
    • He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen.
    • He had committed—would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper—the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.
    • The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past.
    • To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.
    • The great purges involving thousands of people, with public trials of traitors and thought-criminals who made abject confession of their crimes and were afterwards executed, were special showpieces not occurring oftener than once in a couple of years.
    • The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act.
    • All children were to be begotten by artificial insemination (artsem, it was called in Newspeak) and brought up in public institutions.
    • Desire was thoughtcrime
    • In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?
    • When once you had succumbed to thoughtcrime it was certain that by a given date you would be dead.
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