The novel “1984.” written by George Orwell is one of the most significant novels of world literature and for sure one of the most famous dystopian novels of all times. It speaks of the totalitarian system that rules in the future (considering the time the novel was written) and about a single person trying to survive.
That single person is Winston Smith. His name emphasizes his mediocrity and in the novel he is show as a single human being that could easily be replaced with another one. Winston is like every other member of the Outer party that consists of lower positioned workers that belong to the accepted part of the society but have no others but the basic privileges and sometimes they don’t even have enough to survive. He gets up on time, does his job, doesn’t show any signs of free will or his own opinion because it’s punishable by death. Still he is just a man guided by his emotions, torn apart by his doubts and inside of him a hatred towards the sanctity awakens. That sanctity, leader and religion is the Big Brother.
Even though he is just the Party’s “god” he is just a picture on the wall and a voice on the Telescreen. He sees, controls and knows everything. He is sinless, and even when he makes a mistake everything changes including the past so tha this predictions of the future and the present would seem correct. Even though the Big Brother is represented and honored as a living person, icon and the absolute ruler he is just a system.
Big Brother is an organization made to conduct dictatorship, rule the people, create one opinion amongst all, and kill any kind of individuality and with that humanity itself. Bog Brother’s duty is to keep up the totalitarian system and he does it by a reign of fear and hatred and the control of basic human emotions. The reign of fear is done by purges. Everyone knows that if they show even the slightest disrespect towards the law they will be deleted – from the history and the present.
The human dissatisfaction turns into hatred towards the enemy. That enemy is not even real. He is artificially made, just like the imaginary wars that are used to justify poverty and control the hate. Hatred is being used to turn up and shut down human needs to find someone responsible for their state and it distracts the people from the real problem and points them to the irrelevant ones. By shutting down human emotions, suffocating individuality, art, philosophy and own opinion prohibition, the man is turned into a worker that will never stand up against his owner because he is incapable to see that everything around him is wrong.
This novel was Orwell’s warning about the worlds future if society allows itself to be manipulated by unknown forces dressed up as seductive icons and cheap pleasures. The lack of critical opinion and inaction against the dissatisfactory systems creates a world consisted of slaves and the minority that lurks and controls everything in the shadows. Their names are unknown and they can only be recognized by their logos and brands. For example Big Brother’s logo was a charming and convincing face.
“1984.” is written from the main character’s perspective, even though it’s written in the 3 person singular. That character represents the world with his inner opinion and his world is meaningless with no stability or truth. Everything can be modified no matter how illogical the modification is.
The character is no even convinced if he is living in the 1984. He can only trust his own memories but even they are fading away due to the hiding of the reality and twisting of the truth. The only thing that seems real in that inhumanly world are his emotions and opinions and they are the main things that are prohibited. Despite everything, the humanity in Winston beats the fear of the system. He bows down to it in the range of his possibilities. He sees the world with all of its insanity and cruelty with the notion that he can’t change anything. The only thing he can try to do is to keep himself unchanged, even if it kills him.
The novel is a significant work of art because its predictions came true in the modern society. This is not only fiction, but a prophecy based on the society’s development. Except for the description of the dystopian world and well characterized characters the novel offers us philosophical thoughts, ethical discussions and above all a critic of the modern society that isn’t only there to entertain us but to warn us.
Time: 1984 in an alternative reality
Winston Smith skipped lunch in the cafeteria of the Ministry in which he worked and decided to spend his free hour at home. He lived in a complex of grey buildings that looked the same and most of the members of the Outer Party lived there. They were ordinary, lower positioned workers that barely made enough to survive. Winston worked in the Ministry of Truth which was dedicated to writing news, history and the present of the Party. They were involved in education, entertainment and programmed art. Winston’s job was to correct historical facts, news paper articles or any kind of documents that opposed to the opinion of the Party. There was also the Ministry of Love whose duty was to enforce the law and find and kill all of the bad members of the Party. From all of the ministries this one was the cruelest. The other two were the Ministry of Peace, which was involved in warfare and the Ministry of Plenty that dealt with the economy.
Winston had a special reason to go home and to skip lunch which will cause his hunger until breakfast. Recently he bought a notebook formed as a diary and it was an antique that he found in the suburbs while he was buying razors. The suburbs were the home to the proles – the lowest layer of society that lived estranged from the Party’s society. They lived in poverty and lawlessness. Despite that Winston and others Outer Party’s members went there to buy what they needed and couldn’t find in the Party’s stores. Mostlythey would buy razors, soap, socks…
Winston bought the notebook even though it was forbidden. The members of the Party weren’t allowed to have any personal possessions and definitely not those that served to write down their thoughts because the right to think was unknown in the Party’s regime. Winston came to his small apartment and sat in the corner of the room from which he could see the Telescreen. Winston only had basic furniture in his apartment but he had to have a Telescreen in every room. Nobody knew when they were being watched so they had to be careful always because one wrong move could get them deleted – taken away and killed.
Winston, in spite of fear, bought the notebook, sat behind the table and decided to write. At first he didn’t know what to write so he wrote all sorts of thing which later became thought of hate towards the Big Brother.
Door knocking stopped his writing. He was scared that it was the police but luckily it was only his neighbor that asked him to unplug her sink. She was a tired, old lady whose a bit stupid husband worked in the Ministry and her biggest fear were her kids. As all of the other kids her kids were also in the Spies. They were created by the Party and often they would turn on their own parents because they were encouraged to do so by the Party.
When he’s back at work Winston went through the preparation for the Two Minutes Hate. In those two minutes people would look videos that show their enemies and all the wars they’re going through and all of the members of the Party would sear, spit, yell and hate as loud as they could. During that ceremony Winston saw a young and beautiful female member of the Party but Winston felt repulsed by her just because she represented everything he started to hate and it was the Party and all of its principles, including Big Brother.
He saw O’Brien, a man he thought could have the same thoughts as him. Winston couldn’t know it for sure but judging by his look he even concluded that O’Brien could be a member of the Brotherhood, a movement established by the hated Goldstein – the biggest state’s enemy.
Tomorrow Winston was awaken by a female voice calling him to do his daily exercise. Winston was 39 years old but he already felt like an old man so that morning stretch was hard for him. He went to work, which he neither liked nor disliked, but sometimes he did it with love because he would get creative. He had his tasteless lunch in the cafeteria while his colleague told him all about the new way of speech that will eliminate all unnecessary words and limit the Party member’s opinion even more.
Almost every night Winston would have to attend some kind of organized activity, that is supposed to be fun, but Winston found it rather boring. The activities were called free and they weren’t obligatory but the ones that would attend them would be seen in a different light. If Winston missed any activity in his daily routine he would be considered suspicious. The less freedom he had the more he thought about it. In the regime only animals and proles were free. As he thought about freedom he started thinking about history and its instability so he tried to remember his life as the only remaining, unchanged facts.
Once, as he was walking down the suburbs, he entered a bar. He met an old man, bought him a beer and started questioning him about the past. He wanted to know everything – any little detail that the old man could remember about the past but unfortunately the old man’s recollections were corrupted by the Party’s constant history modifications. His memory was full of holes that he couldn’t fill. The disappointed Winston kept walking down the street and then he found himself in front of the antique shop where he had bought his notebook. When he walked in the salesman recognized him. They started talking about old times and that conversation spurred all memories of his childhood. He bought another forbidden thing – a small red coral and he placed it in his pocket. The store owner showed him a small room above the store. It was small and cozy but the most shocking thing about it was that it had no Telescreen. Winston was determined to come back here.
While he was leaving the shop he noticed a black haired girl following him. It was the same girl he saw at the Two Minutes Hate. She was physically attractive but Winston knew that she, as all of the other loyal Party members, found sex repulsive because the Party promoted asexuality. Winston managed to run away from her and as soon as he got home he had the sudden urge to write.
For days after he saw the girl walking towards him in the hallway. He started sweating and he thought he would be exposed but while walking by him the girl tripped and fell down. Winston helped her but she just got up saying that she’s fine. When Winston was helping her she put a piece of paper into his hand. When he was sure nobody was watching Winston read the note. It said: “I love you”.
It was hard to approach a girl without looking suspicious but in spite of the fear Winston dared to sit next to her in the cafeteria. They arranged a meeting in the crowded square. They will have a chance to talk without anyone noticing that they’re a couple.
On the square they agreed to meet in the woods outside town – far away from the police, where the chances to be eavesdropped where the smallest. The girl and Winston finally had a chance to meet. She was Julia and she also hated the Party and its rules because she discovered that the most loyal members of the Party belonged to the Inner Party. During their time together they indulge in physical pleasures, which was a sign of revolt against the body purity ideology that the Party imposed on people.
Julia and Winston meet up on different locations and then Winston called her to meet him in the room in the antique shop. He knew it was mad to meet more than once in the same location and he knew they would eventually get caught but he couldn’t resist her. When Julia came to their meeting she would bring food stolen from the Inner Party’s member. She would bring the unobtainable real sugar, white bread, jam, tea and the rarest of all, real coffee.
The adventure with Julia changed Winston’s life. He didn’t feel like an old man anymore, he felt no physical or psychic pain. It seemed like he had a hope for a better future. He worked more and regularly attended the activities so nobody would find him suspicious. He felt less fear and desperation. Love towards Julia made him better and happier and gave his life more meaning.
One day he had another important encounter. O’Brien approached him – the man he hoped was a part of the Brotherhood. O’Brien mentioned him that he had done a few mistakes while modifying the latest article because he didn’t use the new dictionary. He told Winston to come to his place and pick up a copy of the new dictionary, that is about to be published, so he wouldn’t do any further mistakes. Winston consider his invitation an excuse that O’Brien used to get Winston alone and convince him to join the fraternity.
Julia and Winston went to O’Brien’s knowing it was insane to show themselves as a couple anywhere. O’Brien was strict at first but then he got up and turned off the Telescreen. Winston and Julia couldn’t believe it. They never saw anybody turn it off but O’Brien said it was one of the privileges of the Inner Party members. He sat them down and gave them some wine that they never had a chance to drink before. O’Brien told him about the existence of a Brotherhood that worked against the Party. He asked them if they wanted to be a part of it and Julia and Winston agreed to everything except for breaking up their relationship. O’Brien even promised Winston to get him the book of the biggest public enemy Goldstein.
Winston enjoyed his time spent in the room above the antique shop. He would lie down and read with a sense of security because the Telescreen wasn’t watching. He read the forbidden books about the real world history. He learned about the event that preceded the current world situation. He would read and Julia would sleep next to him.
Once, during reading and sleeping, they discussed music when they heard a steel voice behind them telling them they’re dead. They were petrified and realized a camera, hidden behind a painting, was staring at them. The Party was onto them. They ordered them to kneel down and put their hand behind their back so that they could be arrested.
Winston found himself in the cruel Ministry of Love. He had to sit motionless in one of the isolated rooms and wait. He could even move without a voice from the speaker yelling at him. He thought about O’Brien and whether he knew that he was arrested. Winston hoped he would somehow save him.
After a long wait a man walks into the room. Winston was astonished when he saw it was O’Brien. At first he thought that he was captured too, but then O’Brien hit him. Before he passed out Winston realized that O’Brien worked for the Big Brother.
Winston woke up in a bed and different machines and injections were plugged into him. He was kicked and tortured in various ways but so cruel that, in some brief moments, he became immune to the pain. After many tortures O’Brien approached him. He told him about the Party, the way it rules the world, history and present because she writes it. The one that has power over the past and the present can control the truth, no matter what it was. He negated the reality that individuals remembered because the only reality was the one that the Party approved. It was the law for all, and it included Winston so, for example, if the Party told Winston that he sees 4 fingers and O’Brien showed him five he had to tell he saw four.
O’Brien said that Winston wasn’t brought here to be killed but to be improved and turned into a new and accurate Party member. He told him that the Party’s enemies weren’t even real and that the Party invented them so that the people could have someone to hate. He also told him that Big Brother also didn’t exist and that he was only a system that reflects himself in the elimination of those who endanger him. They even created a Brotherhood that served them to discover the bad Party members because those interested in the Brotherhood are dangerous to the system.
After an undetermined time span of torture they finally stopped. They took him to recover and it seemed Winston accepted all of the Party’s rules. Before they let him go they had to break him completely. They took him to the notorious room 101. He was faced with his biggest fear – a rat. They threatened to let the rat out if he didn’t betray Julia. Winston fought with himself as much as he could but in the rush of fear he yelled that they should do this to Julia and not him. That was the way they knew he was broken.
After Winston was set free, he remembered everything but he didn’t even consider to turn against Big Brother. He saw Julia once and they confessed to each other that they both betrayed each other during the torture. Winston was disgusted by the thought of being with a woman again and breaking the law. Even though he remembered everything he confessed to himself that he loved the Big Brother now.
Characters: Winston Smith, Julia, O’Brien
Winston Smith was the representative of the small people. His name was ordinary and common just like him existence. He is a part of the system and he stands out in no way. He did the job he had to, followed the rules, and doesn’t dare to do a mistake or seem different. Just like everyone else he is deeply frustrated by the life he leads, the laws and the state’s organization. The system tries to take away his humanity and he tries to do impossible – keep it and follow the rules in the same time. As long as he lives the unnatural life, a revolt awakens in him and he wants to fight back. That resistance meant the risk of being killed but the road to death was the road to the truth. He not only discovered his humanity built of memoires, feelings, hope, passion, love but he also discovers the truth about Big Brother and the system during his torture session.
Julia was a young girl that fell in love with Winston and starts a forbidden affair with him. She seems to be the perfect Party member: top of the class, the representative of Spies, the best at her competitions, a volunteer…She is dedicated to the Party, Big Brother, sexual purity, the hatred towards the enemies and everything that the Party proclaimed. In reality she hated it. She didn’t decide to live against the rules, she just decided to avoid them. She gave into passion, but carefully, bought stolen groceries, risked and did everything to keep her life fulfilled even at the cost of life. Julia knew that death would catch up to her eventually because it catches up to the most loyal Party members so she decided to live the best life she could. She is determined because fear and desperation still didn’t get a hold of her. Because of her youth she doesn’t know the world before the Party and the Party managed to install in her some fake beliefs. She didn’t care about that because, since the reality can be easily differed, the today’s truth doesn’t have to be the tomorrow’s truth. The only thing she bows down to are her whishes, desires, pleasures and cravings that she fed carefully.
O’Brien was a man for who Winston hoped belonged to the Brotherhood, a movement against the Party. Winston was convinced that he was but later he found out O’Brien was actually working for the Big Brother. He betrayed Winston and became one of his main torturer. O’Brien told Winston all of the Party’s secrets. He is the man that knows all of the darkest parts of the system but still works for it. He accepts those parts and doesn’t feel guilty about his position nor actions.
O’Brien, next to the Party, is the main bad guy in the novel because of his cruelty, lack of empathy and the dedication to the Party that isn’t as ignorant as the people think. It actually really calculated. He understands how things work, has a high position and with his actions encourages the system. He tries to make Winston one of his loyal servants and he succeeds.
George Orwell Biography
Geroge Orwell was born in 1903 in India that was a British colony. He went to school in England and he served in the police of Burma and he wrote about his experience in his first novel “Burmese Days”.
He spent some time in Paris and then in London where he washed the dishes. In 1933 he published his first book “Down and Out in Paris and London” and the next “Burmese Days”.
In 1936 he came to Spain where a civil war started and he wanted to fight on the republican’s side. Soon he was vanished and came back to England. He published a book called “Homage to Catalonia”.
During the II. World War he volunteered but because of health issues he wasn’t accepted into the army so he worked as a writer for BBC during the time London was bombed. In 1944 he finished “Animal Farm” that came out in August 1945.
His most famous and significant work “1984.” was published in 1949, just a year before his death. “1984.” is a political novel with surprising accuracy, considering the year it was written in. Orwell saw it all as a fiction.
He died in January, 1950.