George Orwell

1984 (1949)

 

George Orwell: (1903-1950)

1903 Born Eric Blair in India. Moved to England with his mother at the age of one.

Noticed at an early age by his teachers, finally receiving an Eton scholarship.

Aldous Huxley was his French teacher. Some teachers dislike his disrespect of authority.

1922-27 Joined the British Imperial Policeman in Burma.

In London, lived among lower class to gain experience, later writing about it.

1928-29 Lived in Paris in an attempt to proper as a writer.

1936 Moved to Spain to fight for the Republican against the Fascist regime.

Realizing the corruption of capitalism, Orwell saw that Fascism (individual less important than state) is not a suitable replacement.

He believed in democratic socialism as opposed to the violent insurrections of Fascism.

Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949) criticize totalitarianism (state regulating all).

 

1984 (published 1949)

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU

Party slogans displayed everywhere:

WAR IS PEACE - FREEDOM IS SLAVERY - IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Winston Smith, outer Party member, works in Ministry of Truth in London, Ociania, altering history to suit Party’s goal.

Telescreens watch people’s actions and project the face of Big Brother, the leader.

Party controls all: including history and language. Anti-Party thoughts illegal (Thoughtcrime)

Party implementing Newspeak, a language free of rebellious words.

Troubled by false history Party presents, aware of actual history he remembers, Winston wonders through poor areas where Proletariats (or proles) live free of Party monitoring.

In a diary, purchased illegally from Mr. Charrington’s shop in the proles, Winston questions Party’s prohibition of free thought, sex and individuality.

Winston starts an affair with Julia, renting a room above Charrington’s shop.

O’Brien, an Inner Party member, invites Winston to his luxurious apartment and invites Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood (an anti-Party group)

Julia and Winston captured, revealing Charrington as a member of the Thought Police.

Taken to the Ministry of Love, Winston learns that even O’Brien is a Party spy.

Resisting months of torture, Winston is finally taken to Room 101 to face his worst fears: rats. (put in a box strapped to his head, threatened to have them released on his face)

Winston gives up, begging O’Brien to torture Julia instead, a surrender that O’Brien was aiming at as a clear indication that Winston is now completely brainwashed by the Party.

Released, Winston’s feelings for Julia are gone, his love for Big Brother is beyond doubt.

 

Themes

The Dangers of Totalitarianism

Before cold war (mid-1940s to early-1990s), intellectuals supported communism. Having seen cruelties of communist regime in Europe, worried about escalating role of technology as an aid for government control, Orwell demonstrates the dangers of totalitarianism.

Language as Mind Control

Language controls people’s thoughts as it structures and limits the possibilities of expression.

By controlling language (in the invention of Newspeak) people’s rebellious thoughts can be controlled and eliminated. (An interesting theme when taken into postcolonial literature)