1984 George Orwell

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

I love that line. This story remains eternally fresh and contemporary, with terms such as “Big Brother”, “Thought Police”, that we instantly recognize and understand, often as bywords for modern social and political abuses.

1984 George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four has been translated into more than 65 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide, giving George Orwell a unique place in world literature.

“Orwellian” is now a universal shorthand for anything repressive or totalitarian. This dystopian novel is about, very essentially, a world where the bad guys are winning. It’s a literary inversion of the concepts of utopia where the society has achieved its goals at the cost of its people. Much of dystopian fiction (think of Fahrenheit 451, The Hunger Games, and The Giver) owes a debt to 1984.

Related: Animal Farm

The idea for Nineteen Eighty-Four, alternatively, “The Last Man in Europe”, had been incubating in Orwell’s mind since the Spanish civil war. His novel, which owes something to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian fiction We, probably began to acquire a definitive shape during 1943-44, around the time he and his wife, Eileen adopted their only son, Richard. Orwell himself claimed that he was partly inspired by the meeting of the Allied leaders at the Tehran Conference of 1944. Isaac Deutscher, an Observer colleague, reported that Orwell was “convinced that Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt consciously plotted to divide the world” at Tehran.


The book is set in 1984 in Oceania, one of three perpetually warring totalitarian states (the other two are Eurasia and Eastasia). Oceania is governed by the all-controlling Party, which has brainwashed the population into unthinking obedience to its leader, Big Brother. The Party has created a propagandistic language known as Newspeak, which is designed to limit free thought and promote the Party’s doctrines. Its words include doublethink (belief in contradictory ideas simultaneously), which is reflected in the Party’s slogans: “War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery,” and “Ignorance is strength.” The Party maintains control through the Thought Police and continual surveillance.

The book’s hero, Winston Smith, is a minor party functionary living in a London that is still shattered by a nuclear war that took place not long after World War II. He belongs to the Outer Party, and his job is to rewrite history in the Ministry of Truth, bringing it in line with current political thinking. However, Winston’s longing for truth and decency leads him to secretly rebel against the government. He embarks on a forbidden affair with Julia, a like-minded woman, and they rent a room in a neighborhood populated by Proles (short for proletariats). Winston also becomes increasingly interested in the Brotherhood, a group of dissenters. Unbeknownst to Winston and Julia, however, they are being watched closely (ubiquitous posters throughout the city warn residents that “Big Brother is watching you.”).


When Winston is approached by O’Brien—an official of the Inner Party who appears to be a secret member of the Brotherhood—the trap is set. O’Brien is actually a spy for the Party, on the lookout for “thought-criminals,” and Winston and Julia are eventually caught and sent to the Ministry of Love for a violent reeducation. The ensuing imprisonment, torture, and reeducation of Winston are intended not merely to break him physically or make him submit but to root out his independence and destroy his dignity and humanity.

In Room 101, where prisoners are forced into submission by exposure to their worst nightmares, Winston panics as a cage of rats is attached to his head. He yells out for his tormentors to “Do it to Julia!” and states that he does not care what happens to her. With this betrayal, Winston is released. He later encounters Julia, and neither is interested in the other. Instead Winston loves Big Brother.

Literary Analysis

Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-four as a warning after years of brooding on the twin menaces of Nazism and Stalinism. Its depiction of a state where daring to think differently is rewarded with torture, where people are monitored every second of the day, and where party propaganda trumps free speech and thought is a sobering reminder of the evils of unaccountable governments. Winston is the symbol of the values of civilized life, and his defeat is a poignant reminder of the vulnerability of such values in the midst of all-powerful states.

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.

Literary Elements in 1984

Setting: The setting of the novel, 1984, is further Oceania state and its city of London.

Theme: A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon, in this case, the horrors of totalitarianism. 1984 also shows the futuristic thematic idea but also demonstrates human sufferings, love, hate, political ideals and several others.

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.

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.

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.

Writing Style

Tone: direct and somewhat journalistic. Orwell’s style is also marked with the short, curt and concise slogans, which have now become popular catchphrases in the political circles.

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.

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.

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.

Literary Devices in 1984

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 abstract representation such as Big Brother, while Orwell made others to represent abstract ideas. Surprisingly, this allegory is very much applicable to current times.

Allusion: Orwell gave various examples of allusions 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.


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.

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.


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 screens, the Thought Police, and the siblings spying on the parents.

Orwell 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.

Big Brother, fictional character, the dictator of the totalitarian empire of Oceania in the novel Nineteen Eighty-four (1949) by George Orwell. Though Big Brother does not appear directly in the story, his presence permeates Oceania’s bleak society. Ubiquitous posters displaying his photograph feature the slogan “Big Brother is watching you”; hidden devices in every room enable his Thought Police to monitor the activities of all citizens. Oceania’s constant, vicious wars, its propagandistic language (Newspeak), and its Anti-Sex League are the most blatant manifestations of his control. His public personality is a mixture of benevolence, charisma, brutal militarism, and insinuation.


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 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.

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.


1984 shows the use of paradox in slogans such as war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength (Chapter-1)

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)

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.

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