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Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever...
•Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read•
“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
Winston Smith toes the Party line, rewriting history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, Winston grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thoughtcrimes. But as he starts to think for himself, Winston can’t escape the fact that Big Brother is always watching...
A startling and haunting vision of the world, 1984 is so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the influence of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.
About the Author
George Orwell (pseudonym for Eric Blair [1903-50]) was born in Bengal and educated at Eton; after service with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, he returned to Europe to earn his living penning novels and essays. He was essentially a political writer who focused his attention on his own times, a man of intense feelings and intense hates. An opponent of totalitarianism, he served in the Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Besides his classic Animal Farm, his works include a novel based on his experiences as a colonial policeman, Burmese Days, two firsthand studies of poverty, Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier, an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia; and the extraordinary novel of political prophecy whose title became part of our language, 1984.
Read an Excerpt
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.
The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a colored poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a meter wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black mustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine, and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.
Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagerness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uni- form of the Party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended.
Outside, even through the shut window pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no color in anything except the posters that were plastered every- where. The black-mustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own. Down at street level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a blue-bottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the Police Patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.
Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the overfulfillment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. 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. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live— did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer; though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A kilometer away the Ministry of Truth, his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape. This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste—this was London, chief city of Airstrip One, itself the third most populous of the provinces of Oceania. He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like this. Were there always these vistas of rotting nineteenth- century houses, their sides shored up with balks of timber, their windows patched with cardboard and their roofs with corrugated iron, their crazy garden walls sagging in all directions? And the bombed sites where the plaster dust swirled in the air and the willow herb straggled over the heaps of rubble; and the places where the bombs had cleared a larger path and there had sprung up sordid colonies of wooden dwellings like chicken houses? But it was no use, he could not remember: nothing remained of his childhood except a series of bright-lit tableaux, occurring against no background and mostly unintelligible.
The Ministry of Truth—Minitrue, in Newspeak*—was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, three hundred meters into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
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. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.
The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometer of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.
Winston turned round abruptly. He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen. He crossed the room into the tiny kitchen. By leaving the Ministry at this time of day he had sacrificed his lunch in the canteen, and he was aware that there was no food in the kitchen except a hunk of dark-colored bread which had got to be saved for tomorrow’s breakfast. He took down from the shelf a bottle of colorless liquid with a plain white label marked VICTORY GIN. It gave off a sickly, oily smell, as of Chinese rice-spirit. Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine.
Instantly his face turned scarlet and the water ran out of his eyes. The stuff was like nitric acid, and moreover, in swallow- ing it one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club. The next moment, however, the burning in his belly died down and the world began to look more cheerful. He took a cigarette from a crumpled packet marked VICTORY CIGARETTES and incautiously held it upright, where- upon the tobacco fell out onto the floor. With the next he was more successful. He went back to the living room and sat down at a small table that stood to the left of the telescreen. From the table drawer he took out a penholder, a bottle of ink, and a thick, quarto-sized blank book with a red back and a marbled cover.
For some reason the telescreen in the living room was in an unusual position. Instead of being placed, as was normal, in the end wall, where it could command the whole room, it was in the longer wall, opposite the window. To one side of it there was a shallow alcove in which Winston was now sitting and which, when the flats were built, had probably been intended to hold bookshelves. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen. It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was now about to do.
But it had also been suggested by the book that he had just taken out of the drawer. It was a peculiarly beautiful book. Its smooth creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for at least forty years past. He could guess, however, that the book was much older than that. He had seen it lying in the window of a frowsy little junk shop in a slummy quarter of the town (just what quarter he did not now remember) and had been stricken immediately by an overwhelming desire to possess it. Party members were sup- posed not to go into ordinary shops (“dealing on the free mar- ket,” it was called), but the rule was not strictly kept, because there were various things such as shoelaces and razor blades which it was impossible to get hold of in any other way. He had given a quick glance up and down the street and then had slipped inside and bought the book for two dollars fifty. At the time he was not conscious of wanting it for any particular pur- pose. He had carried it guiltily home in his brief case. Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession. The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labor camp. Winston fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. The pen was an archaic in- strument, seldom used even for signatures, and he had pro- cured one, furtively and with some difficulty, simply because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink pencil. Actually he was not used to writing by hand. Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything into the speakwrite, which was of course impossible for his present purpose. He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote:
April 4th, 1984.
He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had de- scended upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that this was 1984. It must be round about that date, since he was fairly sure that his age was thirty-nine, and he believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945; but it was never possible nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two.
For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn. His mind hovered for a moment round the doubtful date on the page, and then fetched up with a bump against the Newspeak word doublethink. For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him. How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him, or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.
For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the paper. The telescreen had changed over to strident military music. It was curious that he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say. For weeks past he had been making ready for this moment, and it had never crossed his mind that anything would be needed except courage. The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been run- ning inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, how- ever, even the monologue had dried up. Moreover, his varicose ulcer had begun itching unbearably. He dared not scratch it, because if he did so it always became inflamed. The seconds were ticking by. He was conscious of nothing except the blankness of the page in front of him, the itching of the skin above his ankle, the blaring of the music, and a slight booziness caused by the gin.
Suddenly he began writing in sheer panic, only imperfectly aware of what he was setting down. His small but childish handwriting straggled up and down the page, shedding first its capital letters and finally even its full stops:
April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean. Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him. first you saw him wallowing along in the water like a porpoise, then you saw him through the helicopters gunsights, then he was full of holes and the sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water. audience shouting with laughter when he sank. then you saw a lifeboat full of children with a helicop- ter hovering over it. there was a middleaged woman might have been a jewess sitting up in the bow with a little boy about three years old in her arms. little boy screaming with fright and hiding his head between her breasts as if he was trying to burrow right into her and the woman putting her arms around him and comfort- ing him although she was blue with fright herself. all the time covering him up as much as possible as if she thought her arms could keep the bullets off him. then the helicopter planted a 20 kilo bomb in among them terrific flash and the boat went all to matchwood. then there was a wonderful shot of a childs arm going up up up right up into the air a helicopter with a camera in its nose must have followed it up and there was a lot of ap- plause from the party seats but a woman down in the prole part of the house suddenly started kicking up a fuss and shouting they didnt oughter of showed it not in front of the kids they didnt it aint right not in front of kids it aint until the police turned her turned her out i dont suppose anything happened to her nobody cares what the proles say typical prole reaction they never—
Winston stopped writing, partly because he was suffering from cramp. He did not know what had made him pour out this stream of rubbish. But the curious thing was that while he was doing so a totally different memory had clarified itself in his mind, to the point where he almost felt equal to writing it down. It was, he now realized, because of this other incident that he had suddenly decided to come home and begin the diary today.
It had happened that morning at the Ministry, if anything so nebulous could be said to happen.
It was nearly eleven hundred, and in the Records Department, where Winston worked, they were dragging the chairs out of the cubicles and grouping them in the center of the hall, opposite the big telescreen, in preparation for the Two Minutes Hate. Winston was just taking his place in one of the mid- dle rows when two people whom he knew by sight, but had never spoken to, came unexpectedly into the room. One of them was a girl whom he often passed in the corridors. He did not know her name, but he knew that she worked in the Fiction Department. Presumably—since he had sometimes seen her with oily hands and carrying a spanner—she had some mechanical job on one of the novel-writing machines. She was a bold-looking girl of about twenty-seven, with thick dark hair, a freckled face, and swift, athletic movements. A narrow scarlet sash, emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League, was wound several times around the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough to bring out the shapeliness of her hips. Win- ston had disliked her from the very first moment of seeing her. He knew the reason. It was because of the atmosphere of hockey fields and cold baths and community hikes and general clean-mindedness which she managed to carry about with her. He disliked nearly all women, and especially the young and pretty ones. It was always the women, and above all the young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the Party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers-out of unorthodoxy. But this particular girl gave him the impression of being more dangerous than most. Once when they passed in the corridor she had given him a quick sidelong glance which seemed to pierce right into him and for a moment had filled him with black terror. The idea had even crossed his mind that she might be an agent of the Thought Police. That, it was true, was very unlikely. Still, he continued to feel a peculiar uneasiness, which had fear mixed up in it as well as hostility, whenever she was anywhere near him.
The other person was a man named O’Brien, a member of the Inner Party and holder of some post so important and remote that Winston had only a dim idea of its nature. A mo- mentary hush passed over the group of people round the chairs as they saw the black overalls of an Inner Party member approaching. O’Brien was a large, burly man with a thick neck and a coarse, humorous, brutal face. In spite of his for- midable appearance he had a certain charm of manner. He had a trick of resettling his spectacles on his nose which was curiously disarming—in some indefinable way, curiously civi- lized. It was a gesture which, if anyone had still thought in such terms, might have recalled an eighteenth-century noble- man offering his snuffbox. Winston had seen O’Brien perhaps a dozen times in almost as many years. He felt deeply drawn to him, and not solely because he was intrigued by the con- trast between O’Brien’s urbane manner and his prizefighter’s physique. Much more it was because of a secretly held belief—or perhaps not even a belief, merely a hope—that O’Brien’s political orthodoxy was not perfect. Something in his face suggested it irresistibly. And again, perhaps it was not even unorthodoxy that was written in his face, but simply intelligence. But at any rate he had the appearance of being a person that you could talk to, if somehow you could cheat the telescreen and get him alone. Winston had never made the smallest effort to verify this guess; indeed, there was no way of doing so. At this moment O’Brien glanced at his wrist- watch, saw that it was nearly eleven hundred, and evidently decided to stay in the Records Department until the Two Min- utes Hate was over. He took a chair in the same row as Win- ston, a couple of places away. A small, sandy-haired woman who worked in the next cubicle to Winston was between them. The girl with dark hair was sitting immediately behind.
The next moment a hideous, grinding screech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big telescreen at the end of the room. It was a noise that set one’s teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the back of one’s neck. The Hate had started.
As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed onto the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. The little sandy-haired woman gave a squeak of mingled fear and disgust. Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago, nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with Big Brother himself, and then had engaged in counterrevolutionary activities, had been condemned to death, and had mysteri- ously escaped and disappeared. The program of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the pri- mal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. All subse- quent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters; perhaps even—so it was occasionally rumored—in some hiding place in Oceania itself.
Winston’s diaphragm was constricted. He could never see the face of Goldstein without a painful mixture of emotions. It was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard—a clever face, and yet some- how inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheeplike quality. Goldstein was delivering his usual venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Party—an at- tack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level- headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He was abusing Big Brother, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the Party, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, he was cry- ing hysterically that the Revolution had been betrayed—and all this in rapid polysyllabic speech which was a sort of par- ody of the habitual style of the orators of the Party, and even contained Newspeak words: more Newspeak words, indeed, than any Party member would normally use in real life. And all the while, lest one should be in any doubt as to the reality which Goldstein’s specious claptrap covered, behind his head on the telescreen there marched the endless columns of the Eurasian army—row after row of solid-looking men with ex- pressionless Asiatic faces, who swam up to the surface of the screen and vanished, to be replaced by others exactly similar. The dull, rhythmic tramp of the soldiers’ boots formed the background to Goldstein’s bleating voice.
Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The self-satisfied sheeplike face on the screen, and the terrifying power of the Eurasian army behind it, were too much to be borne; besides, the sight or even the thought of Goldstein produced fear and anger automatically. He was an object of hatred more constant than either Eurasia or Eastasia, since when Oceania was at war with one of these powers it was generally at peace with the other. But what was strange was that although Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although every day, and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his the- ories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were—in spite of all this, his influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes waiting to be seduced by him. A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police. He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State. The Brotherhood, its name was supposed to be. There were also whispered stories of a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as the book. But one knew of such things only through vague rumors. Neither the Brotherhood nor the book was a subject that any ordinary Party member would mention if there was a way of avoiding it.
In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O’Brien’s heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl be- hind Winston had begun crying out “Swine! Swine! Swine!” and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein’s nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably. In a lucid moment Win- ston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnec- essary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, 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. 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. Thus, at one moment Winston’s hatred was not turned against Gold- stein at all, but, on the contrary, against Big Brother, the Party, and the Thought Police; and at such moments his heart went out to the lonely, derided heretic on the screen, sole guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies. And yet the very next instant he was at one with the people about him, and all that was said of Goldstein seemed to him to be true. At those moments his secret loathing of Big Brother changed into adoration, and Big Brother seemed to tower up, an invincible, fearless pro- tector, standing like a rock against the hordes of Asia, and Goldstein, in spite of his isolation, his helplessness, and the doubt that hung about his very existence, seemed like some sinister enchanter, capable by the mere power of his voice of wrecking the structure of civilization.
It was even possible, at moments, to switch one’s hatred this way or that by a voluntary act. Suddenly, by the sort of violent effort with which one wrenches one’s head away from the pillow in a nightmare, Winston succeeded in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark-haired girl behind him. Vivid, beautiful hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the mo- ment of climax. Better than before, moreover, he realized why it was that he hated her. He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity.
The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep’s bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his submachine gun roaring and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seats. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-mustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:
WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
But the face of Big Brother seemed to persist for several seconds on the screen, as though the impact that it had made on everyone’s eyeballs were too vivid to wear off immediately. The little sandy-haired woman had flung herself forward over the back of the chair in front of her. With a tremulous murmur that sounded like “My Savior!” she extended her arms toward the screen. Then she buried her face in her hands. It was ap- parent that she was uttering a prayer.
At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of “B-B! . . . B-B! . . . B-B!” over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first “B” and the second—a heavy, murmurous sound, some- how curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamp of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up. It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of over- whelming emotion. Partly it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self- hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise. Winston’s entrails seemed to grow cold. In the
Two Minutes Hate he could not help sharing in the general delirium, but this subhuman chanting of “B-B! . . . B-B!” al- ways filled him with horror. Of course he chanted with the rest: it was impossible to do otherwise. To dissemble your feelings, to control your face, to do what everyone else was doing, was an instinctive reaction. But there was a space of a couple of seconds during which the expression in his eyes might conceivably have betrayed him. And it was exactly at this moment that the significant thing happened—if, indeed, it did happen.
Momentarily he caught O’Brien’s eye. O’Brien had stood up. He had taken off his spectacles and was in the act of re- settling them on his nose with his characteristic gesture. But there was a fraction of a second when their eyes met, and for as long as it took to happen Winston knew—yes, he knew!— that O’Brien was thinking the same thing as himself. An un- mistakable message had passed. It was as though their two minds had opened and the thoughts were flowing from one into the other through their eyes. “I am with you,” O’Brien seemed to be saying to him. “I know precisely what you are feeling. I know all about your contempt, your hatred, your disgust. But don’t worry, I am on your side!” And then the flash of intelligence was gone, and O’Brien’s face was as in- scrutable as everybody else’s.
That was all, and he was already uncertain whether it had happened. Such incidents never had any sequel. All that they did was to keep alive in him the belief, or hope, that others be- sides himself were the enemies of the Party. Perhaps the rumors of vast underground conspiracies were true after all—perhaps the Brotherhood really existed! It was impossible, in spite of the endless arrests and confessions and execu- tions, to be sure that the Brotherhood was not simply a myth. Some days he believed in it, some days not. There was no evidence, only fleeting glimpses that might mean anything or nothing: snatches of overheard conversation, faint scribbles on lavatory walls—once, even, when two strangers met, a small movement of the hands which had looked as though it might be a signal of recognition. It was all guesswork: very likely he had imagined everything. He had gone back to his cubicle without looking at O’Brien again. The idea of follow- ing up their momentary contact hardly crossed his mind. It would have been inconceivably dangerous even if he had known how to set about doing it. For a second, two seconds, they had exchanged an equivocal glance, and that was the end of the story. But even that was a memorable event, in the locked loneliness in which one had to live.
Winston roused himself and sat up straighter. He let out a belch. The gin was rising from his stomach.
His eyes refocused on the page. He discovered that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped aw k- ward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals—
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
over and over again, filling half a page.
He could not help feeling a twinge of panic. It was absurd, since the writing of those particular words was not more dan- gerous than the initial act of opening the diary; but for a mo- ment he was tempted to tear out the spoiled pages and abandon the enterprise altogether.
But he did not do so, however, because he knew that it was useless. Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. 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.
It was always at night—the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the reg- isters, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.
For a moment he was seized by a kind of hysteria. He began writing in a hurried untidy scrawl:
theyll shoot me i dont care theyll shoot me in the back of the neck i dont care down with big brother they al- ways shoot you in the back of the neck i dont care down with big brother—
He sat back in his chair, slightly ashamed of himself, and laid down his pen. The next moment he started violently. There was a knocking at his door.
Already! He sat as still as a mouse, in the futile hope that whoever it was might go away after a single attempt. But no, the knocking was repeated. The worst thing of all would be to delay. His heart was thumping like a drum, but his face, from long habit, was probably expressionless. He got up and moved heavily toward the door.
As he put his hand to the doorknob Winston saw that he had left the diary open on the table. DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER was written all over it, in letters almost big enough to be legible across the room. It was an inconceivably stupid thing to have done. But, he realized, even in his panic he had not wanted to smudge the creamy paper by shutting the book while the ink was wet.
He drew in his breath and opened the door. Instantly a warm wave of relief flowed through him. A colorless, crushed-looking woman, with wispy hair and a lined face, was standing outside.
“Oh, comrade,” she began in a dreary, whining sort of voice, “I thought I heard you come in. Do you think you could come across and have a look at our kitchen sink? It’s got blocked up and—”
It was Mrs. Parsons, the wife of a neighbor on the same floor. (“Mrs.” was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party—you were supposed to call everyone “comrade”—but with some women one used it instinctively.) She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older. One had the impression that there was dust in the creases of her face. Winston followed her down the passage. These amateur repair jobs were an almost daily irritation. Victory Mansions were old flats, built in 1930 or thereabouts, and were falling to pieces. The plaster flaked constantly from ceilings and walls, the pipes burst in every hard frost, the roof leaked whenever there was snow, the heating system was usually running at half steam when it was not closed down altogether from motives of economy. Repairs, except what you could do for yourself, had to be sanctioned by remote committees which were liable to hold up even the mending of a window pane for two years.
“Of course it’s only because Tom isn’t home,” said Mrs. Parsons vaguely.
The Parsonses’s flat was bigger than Winston’s, and dingy in a different way. Everything had a battered, trampled-on look, as though the place had just been visited by some large violent animal. Games impedimenta—hockey sticks, boxing gloves, a burst football, a pair of sweaty shorts turned inside out—lay all over the floor, and on the table there was a litter of dirty dishes and dog-eared exercise books. On the walls were scarlet banners of the Youth League and the Spies, and a full-sized poster of Big Brother. There was the usual boiled- cabbage smell, common to the whole building, but it was shot through by a sharper reek of sweat, which—one knew this at the first sniff, though it was hard to say how—was the sweat of some person not present at the moment. In another room someone with a comb and a piece of toilet paper was trying to keep tune with the military music which was still issuing from the telescreen.
“It’s the children,” said Mrs. Parsons, casting a half- apprehensive glance at the door. “They haven’t been out today. And of course—”
She had a habit of breaking off her sentences in the middle. The kitchen sink was full nearly to the brim with filthy gr e e n- ish water which smelt worse than ever of cabbage. Winston knelt down and examined the angle-joint of the pipe. He hated using his hands, and he hated bending down, which was always liable to start him coughing. Mrs. Parsons looked on helplessly. “Of course if Tom was home he’d put it right in a moment,” she said. “He loves anything like that. He’s ever so good with his hands, Tom is.”
Parsons was Winston’s fellow employee at the Ministry of Truth. He was a fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms—one of those completely un- questioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended. At thirty-five he had just been unwillingly evicted from the Youth League, and before graduating into the Youth League he had managed to stay on in the Spies for a year beyond the statutory age. At the Ministry he was employed in some subordinate post for which intelligence was not required, but on the other hand he was a leading figure on the Sports Committee and all the other committees engaged in organizing community hikes, spontaneous demonstrations, saving campaigns, and voluntary activities generally. He would inform you with quiet pride, between whiffs of his pipe, that he had put in an appearance at the Community Center every evening for the past four years. An overpowering smell of sweat, a sort of unconscious testimony to the strenuousness of his life, followed him about wherever he went, and even remained behind him after he had gone.
“Have you got a spanner?” said Winston, fiddling with the nut on the angle-joint.
“A spanner,” said Mrs. Parsons, immediately becoming invertebrate. “I don’t know, I’m sure. Perhaps the children—”
There was a trampling of boots and another blast on the comb as the children charged into the living room. Mrs. Par- sons brought the spanner. Winston let out the water and dis- gustedly removed the clot of human hair that had blocked up the pipe. He cleaned his fingers as best he could in the cold water from the tap and went back into the other room.
“Up with your hands!” yelled a savage voice.
A handsome, tough-looking boy of nine had popped up from behind the table and was menacing him with a toy auto- matic pistol, while his small sister, about two years younger, made the same gesture with a fragment of wood. Both of them were dressed in the blue shorts, gray shirts, and red necker- chiefs which were the uniform of the Spies. Winston raised his hands above his head, but with an uneasy feeling, so vicious was the boy’s demeanor, that it was not altogether a game.
“You’re a traitor!” yelled the boy. “You’re a thought-criminal! You’re a Eurasian spy! I’ll shoot you, I’ll vaporize you, I’ll send you to the salt mines!”
Suddenly they were both leaping around him, shouting “Traitor!” and “Thought-criminal!”, the little girl imitating her brother in every movement. It was somehow slightly frightening, like the gamboling of tiger cubs which will soon grow up into man-eaters. There was a sort of calculating ferocity in the boy’s eye, a quite evident desire to hit or kick Winston and a consciousness of being very nearly big enough to do so. It was a good job it was not a real pistol he was holding, Winston thought.
Mrs. Parsons’s eyes flitted nervously from Winston to the children, and back again. In the better light of the living room he noticed with interest that there actually was dust in the creases of her face.
“They do get so noisy,” she said. “They’re disappointed because they couldn’t go to see the hanging, that’s what it is. I’m too busy to take them, and Tom won’t be back from work in time.”
“Why can’t we go and see the hanging?” roared the boy in his huge voice.
“Want to see the hanging! Want to see the hanging!” chanted the little girl, still capering round.
Some Eurasian prisoners, guilty of war crimes, were to be hanged in the Park that evening, Winston remembered. This happened about once a month, and was a popular spectacle. Children always clamored to be taken to see it. He took his leave of Mrs. Parsons and made for the door. But he had not gone six steps down the passage when something hit the back of his neck an agonizingly painful blow. It was as though a red-hot wire had been jabbed into him. He spun round just in time to see Mrs. Parsons dragging her son back into the door- way while the boy pocketed a catapult.
“Goldstein!” bellowed the boy as the door closed on him. But what most struck Winston was the look of helpless fright on the woman’s grayish face.
Back in the flat he stepped quickly past the telescreen and sat down at the table again, still rubbing his neck. The music from the telescreen had stopped. Instead, a clipped military voice was reading out, with a sort of brutal relish, a description of the armaments of the new Floating Fortress which had just been anchored between Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy. Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little sav- ages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it. The songs, the processions, the banners, the hiking, the drilling with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship of Big Brother—it was all a sort of glorious game to them. All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph describ- ing how some eavesdropping little sneak—“child hero” was the phrase generally used—had overheard some compromis- ing remark and denounced his parents to the Thought Police. The sting of the catapult bullet had worn off. He picked up his pen half-heartedly, wondering whether he could find something more to write in the diary. Suddenly he began thinking of O’Brien again.
Years ago—how long was it? Seven years it must be—he had dreamed that he was walking through a pitch-dark room. And someone sitting to one side of him had said as he passed: “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.” It was said very quietly, almost casually—a statement, not a com- mand. He had walked on without pausing. What was curious was that at the time, in the dream, the words had not made much impression on him. It was only later and by degrees that they had seemed to take on significance. He could not now re- member whether it was before or after having the dream that he had seen O’Brien for the first time; nor could he remember when he had first identified the voice as O’Brien’s. But at any rate the identification existed. It was O’Brien who had spoken to him out of the dark.
Winston had never been able to feel sure—even after this morning’s flash of the eyes it was still impossible to be sure— whether O’Brien was a friend or an enemy. Nor did it even seem to matter greatly. There was a link of understanding be- tween them more important than affection or partisanship. “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,” he had said. Winston did not know what it meant, only that in some way or another it would come true.
The voice from the telescreen paused. A trumpet call, clear and beautiful, floated into the stagnant air. The voice continued raspingly:
“Attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this mo- ment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end. Here is the newsflash—”
Bad news coming, thought Winston. And sure enough, following on a gory description of the annihilation of a Eurasian army, with stupendous figures of killed and prisoners, came the announcement that, as from next week, the chocolate ration would be reduced from thirty grams to twenty.
Winston belched again. The gin was wearing off, leaving a deflated feeling. The telescreen—perhaps to celebrate the victory, perhaps to drown the memory of the lost chocolate—crashed into “Oceania, ’tis for thee.” You were supposed to stand to at- tention. However, in his present position he was invisible.
“Oceania, ’tis for thee” gave way to lighter music. Winston walked over to the window, keeping his back to the telescreen. The day was still cold and clear. Somewhere far away a rocket bomb exploded with a dull, reverberating roar. About twenty or thirty of them a week were falling on London at present.
Down in the street the wind flapped the torn poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ing- soc. The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure forever? Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back at him:
WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
He took a twenty-five-cent piece out of his pocket. There, too, in tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin the eyes pursued you. On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrapping of a cigarette packet—everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed—no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centime- ters inside your skull.
The sun had shifted round, and the myriad windows of the Ministry of Truth, with the light no longer shining on them, looked grim as the loopholes of a fortress. His heart quailed before the enormous pyramidal shape. It was too strong, it could not be stormed. A thousand rocket bombs would not batter it down. He wondered again for whom he was writing the diary. For the future, for the past—for an age that might be imaginary. And in front of him there lay not death but annihilation. The diary would be reduced to ashes and himself to vapor. Only the Thought Police would read what he had written, before they wiped it out of existence and out of memory. How could you make appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically survive?
The telescreen struck fourteen. He must leave in ten minutes. He had to be back at work by fourteen-thirty.
Curiously, the chiming of the hour seemed to have put new heart into him. He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some ob- scure way the continuity was not broken. It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage. He went back to the table, dipped his pen, and wrote:
To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone—to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:
From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of double- think—greetings!
He was already dead, he reflected. It seemed to him that it was only now, when he had begun to be able to formulate his thoughts, that he had taken the decisive step. The consequences of every act are included in the act itself. He wrote:
Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.
Now that he had recognized himself as a dead man it be- came important to stay alive as long as possible. Two fingers of his right hand were inkstained. It was exactly the kind of detail that might betray you. Some nosing zealot in the Ministry (a woman, probably; someone like the little sandy-haired woman or the dark-haired girl from the Fiction Department) might start wondering why he had been writing during the lunch interval, why he had used an old-fashioned pen, what he had been writing—and then drop a hint in the appropriate quarter. 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.
He put the diary away in the drawer. It was quite useless to think of hiding it, but he could at least make sure whether or not its existence had been discovered. A hair laid across the page-ends was too obvious. With the tip of his finger he picked up an identifiable grain of whitish dust and deposited it on the corner of the cover, where it was bound to be shaken off if the book was moved.
Excerpted from "1984"
Copyright © 1983 George Orwell.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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What People are Saying About This
1984 is a fantasy about disaffected journalists, novelists, poets, professors, and schoolmasters imposing an idealistic philosophy on the countries of the West amalgamated into the superpower Oceania which is no more than a notion of the nature of reality forged in an Oxford or Cambridge common room.
The most solid, the most brilliant thing George Orwell has done.
1984 has been an extraordinary experience for me. It is...overwhelming in its keenness and prophetic power. I hardly know which to praise more -- Orwell's insight into the fate of man and its totalitarianism or his compassion for him.
Reading Group Guide
In 1949, on the heels of another literary classic, Animal Farm, George Orwell wrote 1984, his now legendary and terrifying glimpse into the future. His vision of an omni-present and ultra-repressive State is rooted in the ominous world events of Orwell's own time and is given shape and substance by his astute play on our own fears.
As the novel opens, we learn that in year 1984, the world has been divided into three states: Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia, all of which, it is said, are almost continually in battle with one another. This world structure has come about following a nuclear war which took place sometime in the 1950's. In the state of Oceania, a revolution has resulted in the rise of an all-seeing figurehead known only as Big Brother, and a secretive group of individuals referred to as The Party. Under this regime, basic freedoms of expression—even thought—are strictly forbidden. History and memory are actively erased and rewritten so as to support the omnipotence and infallibility of The Party and its pronouncements. To this end, the State even employs its own language, Newspeak, and its own thought process, Doublethink.
It's against this background that we are introduced to Winston Smith, a low-level Party member (not to be confused with the elite group which surrounds Big Brother) who works in the Ministry of Truth. His job here, paradoxically, is to destroy and rewrite news articles and State facts and figures so as to align them with the most current views of The Party. A resident of Airstrip One—formerly London, England—Smith lives in a world devoid of even the simplest liberties. In this repressive society, where thoughts themselves can be ascertained and monitored, Winston finds himself alone and in quiet "revolution" against Big Brother. Boldly, he even goes as far as to write his own thoughts down on paper— a crime worthy of abduction by the Thought Police.
Early in the novel, Winston meets Julia, another worker at the Ministry of Truth, whom he has been watching from afar. Secretly, the two begin a love affair. This liaison inspires Winston to indulge his ever-growing obsession with revolution, and he and Julia begin to discuss, however implausible, ideas for the overthrow of The Party. Winston's eventual (and inevitable) capture at the hands of the Thought Police leads to his purification and re-education by inner Party members.
Orwell's strict attention to detail and realistic description of a world thirty-five years ahead of his own add validity to 1984, and make its larger conclusions all the more frightening. Even today, the novel remains a bleak and shadowy forewarning of what might someday occur.
ABOUT GEORGE ORWELL
Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933.
In 1936, he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there. At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded, and Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm, was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.
George Orwell died in London in January 1950. A few days before, Desmond MacCarthy had sent him a message of greeting in which he wrote: "You have made an indelible mark on English literature . . . you are among the few memorable writers of your generation."
- The world within which Winston lives is replete with contradictions. For example a, major tenet of the Party's philosophy is that War is Peace. Similarly, the Ministry of Love serves as, what we would consider, a department of war. What role do these contradictions serve on a grand scale? Discuss other contradictions inherent in the Party's philosophy. What role does contradiction serve within the framework of Doublethink? How does Doublethink satisfy the needs of The Party?
- In the afterword, the commentator describes 1984 as "a warning." Indeed, throughout the text, Orwell plants both subtle and overt warnings to the reader. What do you think are some of the larger issues at hand here?
- Describe the role that O'Brien plays in Winston's life. Why do you think that initially, Winston is drawn to O'Brien? Why does he implicitly trust him, despite the enormous dangers involved?
- Discuss the significance and nature of Winston's dreams. Deconstruct the dream wherein O'Brien claims that they "shall meet in a place where there is no darkness" (page 22), and the dream in which Winston's mother and sister disappear (page 26). What are the underpinnings of these dreams? What deeper meanings do they hold? Why do you think the author devotes as much time as he does to Winston's dreams?
- Discuss Winston as a heroic figure. What qualities does he posses that could define him as one?
- Compare and contrast some of the other characters in Winston's world: Parsons, Syme, O'Brien. How does Winston view each one? How do they differ from Winston? What opinion do you think each one has of Winston?
- On pages 147-148, Winston reflects on the omnipresence of The Party: "He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them….Facts at any rate, could not be kept hidden. They could be tracked down by inquiry, they could be squeezed out of you by torture. But if the object was not to stay alive, but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately make?" What, in essence, is Winston saying about the lone individual in relation to The State? Does this contention remain true throughout the novel?
- Early on in the novel, we learn of Winston's belief in the proles as a liberating force. What accounts for Winston's almost blind faith in the proles? What are some of the characteristics of the proles that, in Winston's eyes, make them the ultimate means for overthrowing Big Brother?
- From her first appearance as "the dark-haired girl," through to the end of the novel, Julia is a key figure in 1984. Trace the path of Julia in relation to Winston's life; in what ways does she influence him? Did you trust her, initially? Overall, do you feel she had a positive or negative impact upon him?
- After his first formal meeting with O'Brien, Winston receives a book, ostensibly written by Emmanuel Goldberg. In reading passages from this book, Winston is further enlightened as to "how" the current society came into being. Focus on these passages, and in particular, on the theory of the High, Middle and Low classes (page 179). If true, what does this theory hold for the proles? Is Winston's plan for the proles now altered? Why or why not?
- During Winston's interrogation, O'Brien explains that whereas preceding totalitarian regimes had failed, The Party was truly successful in its consolidation of power (page 226). How, according to O'Brien, does the The Party as an oligarchy differ from Nazism or Russian Communism? How does he define the role of the martyr, both in terms of The Party and the other totalitarian systems?
- Following his capture in Mr. Charrington's spare room, Winston undergoes a process of "philosophical cleansing" and re-education against which he valiantly, but unsuccessfully fights. Discuss Winston's "capitulation" at the hands of O'Brien. How is Winston brought to "love Big Brother?" In sacrificing Julia, how has Winston, in essence, signaled his own end?
- How would you describe the author's tone in 1984? Does it add to or detract from the character's discourse?
- Discuss the role of sex and intimacy in 1984. What specific function does the Party's directive on sexual interaction serve?
- In the final analysis, how accurate was Orwell in his vision of the future? In what ways does our contemporary society compare to his idea of society in 1984? Are there examples in which he was correct? What is most opposite? Do you see a potential for aspects of Orwell's "vision" to come true?
- During his final encounter with O'Brien, Winston argues that, if all else fails, the inherent nature of the individual-the "spirit of man"-is strong enough to undermine a society such as that created by The Party. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Is Winston's belief applicable to the world we live in today? Can you cite examples in our own recent history that support or dismiss Winston's belief in the resiliency and righteousness of the human spirit?
- Prior to meeting her, Winston fantasizes about Julia in violent, humiliating ways. Later, he describes in his diary an encounter with a middle-aged, toothless prostitute. How do you account for these thoughts? How does Winston's understanding of women change after his first liaison with Julia?
- Given Winston's own acknowledgment that he is under constant surveillance, and that it would only be a matter of time before the Thought Police caught him, no one in his world could be trusted. Prior to his capture, which character or characters did you envision as betraying Winston? How did you foresee his ultimate demise? Did you, on the contrary, feel that by some chance he would overcome the forces aligned against him, and fulfill his wish to conquer The Party?
- Imagine yourself as Winston Smith at the beginning of 1984. What would you do to undermine The Party? Knowing what you know now, how would you extricate yourself from the fate that awaits you?
- Refer back to Winston's conversation with the old man at the pub (page 78). Why is Winston so determined in his approach to the old man? What is Winston hoping to learn from him?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
So what can I say about this book that hasn't been said before? Having read it I can see how it has become regarded as classic fiction. Of course the year 1984 has come and gone and many folks say had it been titled "2009" it would have been much more accurate. For those of you who haven't read it, it is a complex novel but with a fairly basic plot. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a functioning member of a society in the future who meets a woman he is attracted to. Much of the book surrounds their attempt to form a relationship in this society that just won't allow that sort of thing. Of course the real point and value of the novel is to illustrate where our current society may be headed if we don't change course, a sort of anti-utopian (dystopian?) novel. This book has brought us common terms such as "Big Brother", "doublethink", and "thought police." There are long sections where Winston reads to his girl friend from the official government manual detailing how the society came to be as well as the evolution of the government-speak ("Newspeak") language. I am glad that I've read this novel but at the same time I can't say that I would ever want to read it again. My political/societal views are already pretty much cemented in place and this book, while thought provoking, did not change my views. I do agree that it should be studied at the High School level though, not only for its value to the world of literature but also as a way to kick start young people's thinking on what a society should and shouldn't be. Essentially 1984 presents a juggernaut state that has become unmoored from whatever benign ideals once berthed it and has drifted off beyond site of a reassuring oasis-like coastline. A state in which its inhabitants no longer strive to achieve their original goals be they based on economical, religious or political ideals and have allowed the state to become a living entity in itself with the destruction of the human spirit as its sole aim. Be sure to watch the three different movies made from this book: 1984 (1954) Peter Cushing is Winston Smith 1984 (1956) Edmond O'Brien is Winston Smith Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) John Hurt is Winston Smith
I am a high school student. This was not a required reading peice for me. I saw it sitting in Barnes and Noble on a shelf with suggeseted reading. When I first started reading the book it was BORING! I had to force myself to go on. After about the first hundred pages though, it started to get interesting. The story is ok, but this is a book you shouldn't be reading for just the plot. There is so much more to it than the plot. Every person who reads this book will get a different meaning from it. To me this book says that peoples minds can be molded very easily. Even the strong can be made weak after a certain amount of torture. Perhaps this is a negative thought, but it started me thinking on a much larger scale. I owe a lot of things to this book. I think more clearly since I read this book. I think about more important things, things most 16 yr olds wouldn't think of. This book has truely shown me the light towards literature so to speak. Whether you are required to read this or not, I think you should. If you have already read it, read it again. I'm sure 10 years from now the book will have a deeper meaning. I can't wait to read it again and find out what those meanings will be.
I came to 1984 after reading a series of novels by Russian authors about life in Stalingrad during the onslaught by Hitler and then after the cruelty of Stalin. It's easy to see how Orwell extended the grim realities of the concentration camps of Germany and the labor camps of Russia into this dark prophecy. Of course, in many instances his vision has become realized. Big Brother seeks to invade our privacy at every turn via electronic media. Governments pose rhetoric immersed in 'doublespeak'. The Thought Police exist to bully our free expression. Power is exercised by imposing real human suffering upon multitudes. 'The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.' Oil comes to mind here. And munitions. And diverse other commodities. In 1984 the war is endless. 'Everywhere there is the same pyramidical structure, the same worship of a semi-divine leader, the same economy existing by and for continuous war.' Sound familiar? The High, or the 'priests of power' only fall when assaulted by the Middle and usually assisted by the Low classes. Then the Middle becomes the High and oppresses the Low for which change only means a new master. The protagonist, Winston, a 'minority of one' questions his own sanity but ultimately defends the 'spirit of man' as a force which cannot be overpowered. In the closing pages we see Orwell's true convictions about the infallible power of Big Brother and the triumph of the human spirit. This dark view has real overtones of Nietzsche and Machiavelli, who wrote with the view of realism based upon the inhumanity they witnessed in their heydays by 'princes' with the 'will to power'. But the 'spirit of man' is truly formidable and cannot be overcome, except temporarily, by totalitarian figures and corrupt democracies. The next US national election will be telling about down which road America will travel. 1984 is a cautionary, post-World War II tale but to say it's unrealistically dark and couldn't happen here and now is to overlook eons of history. And to be unconscious of the powers of orthodoxy infringing greedily and corporately upon the spirit of man in our time.
If before you read 1984 you never saw how government intrudes in our daily lives and how things are so easily controlled, you will after reading it. Orwell's Dystopian classic lays out how easily we, the masses can so eaisly be decieved by political rehtoric, mind control and constant fear and brutality. How we can be misled to think the wrong thing is the right thing... and how we could be made to feel greatful for it. After reading this book, I can't look at our world the same ever again. So many shades of 1984 are apparent in everyday life and everything we do, political bills that have been passed, an economy spiraling out of control. You have to remind yourself that 1984 was written way back in 1949! It is a frightening prophecy of a world that is only a mere nudge from becoming our own. 1984 is a warning of letting anyone have too much control. Of how through deception, freedom is made into slavery without us even knowing the difference. If you ever thought that there was something wrong with our world, that their was something more than what we can see or hear going on, read this book, it's simply amazing. But beware, once you see 1984 through Orwell's eyes, you may never see our own world ever the same through your own eyes. You will be awakend, and may never go back to sleep.
After reading Animal Farm I decided to move onto 1984. It is one of my favorite books, better then Brave New World in my opinion. The scene that Orwell creates is amazing yet the ideas and situations he presents seem extremly feasible in society today. I highly recommend this book.
I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone, especially people who are interested in politics and current affairs. 1984 is mostly symbolic and highly philosophical; I think Orwell's goal in writing 1984 was to explain his thoughts on Totalitarianism, and the power of [big] government; this book was written around the time of the spread of communism, a time when Orwell wanted to warn Western nations about why communism is ultimately bad. It's highly effective, and chilling to the core when you start to make parallels between Orwell's society and our own.
This book made me see the world, and governments in general, in a different light. Once you read this book, you will see allusions to "Big Brother" everywhere, mostly on cable news stations and radio talk shows. When bored, I often think about the concept of "doublethink", "proles", and constant surveillance; thinking about it never gets old. I still crack open my copy to read an excerpt or two from time to time. I would recommend that anyone else should do the same.
This particular book was an essential read: speaking to the society that we live in, the world around us, and the politics we take for granted. The book speaks to the heart of the political ¿human condition,¿ writing a manifesto against the apathy of constituents. 1984 tells the story of a single character who lives in a futuristic England, know ruled by a totalitarian government that is designed to keep it¿s citizens uninformed and uninterested. We watch as the main character descends into the bowels of the government, and meets a political leader who speaks to the way the government is constructed, and why it is ¿designed¿ in this way.
1984 holds on, sweeping the reader into the plot, and holds on to the very end. A great read for those interested in politics, and even those who simply want to be thrilled by a great book.
Literature is the ability to make the reader think. It spawns thought of the plot, the setting, and the subject matter. 1984 achieves this. I had to force myself to read this book because it attacked my view of the world, and I found the basis improbable. But as I read, the development amazed me. Everything about this book is brilliant especially how it unfolds. If you enjoy literature and not entertainment fiction, then this is a book for you to read. If you enjoy to think, purchase it.
I first read this book as a teen, it was a class assignment. I recently read it again and I'm still blown away by it. I don't know many people that have not read this masterpiece. It was first published about sixty years ago. In today's times it is definitely a profound and visionary book to read again. I assume that it is still recommended reading to students. It certainly should be.
So much depth! What a cool world Orwell has created here! What interesting characters! What a relevant story! Help me, God, I never thought a book this great was possible. This book transcends all thoughts that it is "just a book"; it feels so real!
Isaac Deutscher said it best in his justifiably hostile critique of this book: 'Orwell borrowed the idea of '1984', the plot, the chief characters, the symbols, and the whole climate of his story' from Russian writer Evgeny Zamyatin's 'We'. Orwell's true genius was not his spinning of this 'literary masterpiece', but his interpretation and subsequent modification of Zamyatin's novel. I do believe that on its own '1984' could merit some positive criticism, but when it is held up next to the original the cracks begin to show through. Do yourself a favour, don't get caught up in the 'pop culture' of Big Brother, Newspeak and Doublethink. Read 'We' instead.
When I first started reading the book it was BORING! I had to force myself to go on. After about the first hundred pages though, it started to get interesting. and take a extra 15% off promo code from bookscoupons.com
This book is so good.... i couldn't put it down when i was reading it ... The only thing was the ending was pretty sad and it was kind of generic(no element of suprise)
A must read for those who watch political and social movements. The repression of speach and liberty are main ideas here as well as revisionist history. Do we rewrite the past? Do we clean it up for our own desires? Do we uncover issues that were not properly dealt with? How do we view news? The media? The government? Our language? All of these are within this classic.
I see a lot of negativity towards conservatives and relating them to this book. I'm sorry, but the dangers seen in this book (of fiction, in case you forgot) are due to large global governments and social programs, which are liberal points. Not to mention if you disagree with liberal policies you are often called a bigot, Nazi, or a fascist. These are obviously huge staples of liberal agenda today and these are the major points in the book: large govt, socialism, and only one way of thinking. Failure to recognize this is complete bias.
This book is definitely amazing but you can read it for free online if you look it up on google.
A book that can really excercise the "inner good" portion of your brain. Orwells writing style can be a bit dry but that is quite fitting in this novel. 1984 is a reminder that government and "Big Brother" only have the control we allow. It would seem hard to write a book as this and not pander to either political faction but as "right-wing" as I may be this book didn't offend. Rather it gives quite a timeless lesson on our ability to recognize when were being duped by the powers that be.
I absolutely loved this book and the characters Orwell created were compelling and completely believable. Sadly there are many vast similarities in this book to today's times which really make you stop and think where this world is heading. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
This book is sooooooo good!!!! Although some parts were confusing, overall it was great!!!! It almost changes the way you think about society as a whole and if you think about it, some of the content is coming true!!! I highly recomend reading this book!!
The novel 1984 by George Orwell is one truly deserving of praise. A novel depicting the at the time fears of communism by providing the reading public with a "painting" of a true dystopian society: Oceania. This picture of a truly unfavorable future is the exact message Orwell tries to convey in his book. His portrayal of a somewhat rebellious main character shows the dangers of a government too controlling, any consequences it could have, and what people feel under that influence. The book, being written after WWII focuses on the dangers of extreme communism, and it does a marvelous job at conveying its anti-communist message. One simply can't say that this book is one of the books that fails at carrying out its designed message, or that the author is one that is new to this topic. As with the novel Animal Farm, George Orwell successfully provides us as readers with dramatic plot developments, dynamic characters, unforgettable settings, and a sense of intellectuality that not most authors are capable of delivering. The novel is centered on the character of Winston Smith, a member of the controlling government party controlling Oceania (Future UK), although he is not high ranking. From the beginning Winston is shown to be more adventurous and rebellious than most of the members of the party, engaging in acts with prostitutes, visiting old world antique stores, even purchasing the at the time illegal Journals to write his OWN thoughts in, an act considered one of the most dangerous in the government. As the party begins to prepare for Hate Week (A holiday where they "celebrate" their hatred for their enemies), Winston is captivated by the beauty of a young woman, who unbeknown to him shares those feelings. The two secretly begin exchanging messages, which lead to a full blown sexual rebellion against the party. Their relationship furthers, his acts plunge him deeper into rebellious acts against a totalitarian government, and it shows no sign of stopping, and just when it seemed to be at the peak of rebellion, Winston meets a man by the name of O'Brien, who introduces him to the dark world of The Brotherhood, the anti party entity that goes against everything he's been taught. Treason with a side of sexual betrayal. Will Winston escape from his rebellious actions, or will he live to suffer the consequences? Unfortunately, I am only a reviewer, it's up to you as a reader to choose weather it peeks your interest. All in all, George Orwell succeeds once again at showing the downsides of improper governmental control, and gives us a greatly captivating story to boot. Once you start you won't be able to stop. Five Stars!
Amazingly relevant 68 years later.
A high school assignment that was unappreciated is a timeless work of art being read 30 years later. The story the author tells was as fitting at his writing then as it is now.
My brother had told me to read this book because it is really good. As you start to read it you kind of like it but when your in the middle of the book its amazing. This is a book where you have to do a lot of thinking but not too much to where it is school. The book has given me a new perspective to our government today and how it can be really corrupt. There are .any things in the book that can tie into our society today. Some of those things are in the book there is something called newspeak which can be a related to texting. Also the government ( I think specifically the IRS) has the ability to look through your computers even when they are off. There are so many ways that this book is similar to our society today that I could be listing them off all day. Also there are ways that the book is not similar to our society. I hope you read this book because it is a very well written novel!!!
Big Brother Says Two Plus Two Equals Five Welcome to Oceania. Our guide to this world is Winston Smith, a member of The Party who works at the Ministry of Truth making sure that all documents conform to The Party line. And in this socialist vision of the world, The Party, as embodied by Big Brother, is all powerful. However, Winston is old enough to have vague memories of life before The Party took over England. While he outwardly tows the line, he is hoping that at some point The Party can be overthrown. As he starts a forbidden affair with Julia, it looks like his hopes might come to be. Do they have hope of overthrowing the government? Or is Big Brother really all powerful? I know I read this book back in high school, but that was a few years ago, so I decided it was time to read it again. As a novel, it isn’t that good. There are long, preachy passages and it’s easy to let your mind start to wander. Yes, some world building is needed, but entirely too much of it takes place. However, in a study of how a totalitarian government can take over power and never let it go, this book is chilling. And before you shake it off and say, “That would never happen here,” look around. I see it happening on both sides of the spectrum, and politicians on both sides encouraging it. We need to start heeding the warning that Orwell put in this book before we become part of Oceania. So read this book. Think about it. And figure out how you will keep the government from turning into Big Brother.