Nineteen Eighty-Four

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Novels

Title Nineteen Eighty-Four
Plume (Centennial Edition)
Plume (Centennial Edition)
Author George Orwell
Cover artist C. R. W. Nevinson
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Dystopian, Political Novel
Publisher Secker and Warburg (London)
Released 8 June 1949
Media type Print ( Hardback & Paperback) & e-book, audio-CD
Pages 368 pp (Paperback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-452-28423-6 (Paperback edition)

Nineteen Eighty-Four (commonly abbreviated to 1984) is a dystopian novel by the English writer George Orwell, first published by Secker and Warburg in 1949. The book tells the story of Winston Smith and his degradation by the totalitarian state in which he lives.

Along with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four is among the most famous and cited works of dystopian fiction in literature. However, it was a novel We (1921) by a Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin which influenced Orwell most. Orwell's book has been translated into 62 languages and has left a profound impression upon the English language itself. Nineteen Eighty-Four, its terminology and its author have become bywords when discussing privacy and state-security issues. The term " Orwellian" has come to describe actions or organizations reminiscent of the totalitarian society depicted in the novel.

Nineteen Eighty-Four has, at times, been seen as revolutionary and politically dangerous and therefore was banned by many libraries in various countries. Some people believe that Orwell was a man who saw the future and prophesied the loss of personal freedom and the increase in control that would be brought about.

Novel history


Originally Orwell titled the book The Last Man in Europe, but his publisher, Frederic Warburg, suggested a change to assist in the book's marketing. Orwell did not object to this suggestion. The reasons for the current title of the novel are not absolutely known. In fact, Orwell may have only switched the last two digits of the year in which he wrote the book (1948). Alternatively, he may have been making an allusion to the centenary of the Fabian Society, a socialist organization founded in 1884. The allusion may have also been directed to Jack London's novel The Iron Heel (in which the power of a political movement reaches its height in 1984), to G. K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill (also set in that year), or to a poem that his wife, Eileen O'Shaughnessy, had written, called End of the Century, 1984. A final supposed explanation is that his original re-titling was to be 1980; however, with his illness the book was taking a long time to write, so he felt obliged to push the story further and further into the future.

The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The novel focuses on Winston Smith, who stands, seemingly alone, against the corrupted reality of his world: hence the work's original working name of The Last Man in Europe. Although the storyline is unified, it could be described as having three parts (it has been published in three parts by some publishers). The first part deals with the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four as seen through the eyes of Winston; the second part deals with Winston's forbidden sexual relationship with Julia and his eagerness to rebel against the Party; and the third part deals with Winston's capture by the Party and his imprisonment in the Ministry of Love.

The world described in Nineteen Eighty-Four parallels the Stalinist Soviet Union and Hitler's Nazi Germany. There are thematic similarities: the betrayed revolution, with which Orwell famously dealt in Animal Farm; the subordination of individuals to "the Party"; and the rigorous distinction between inner party, outer party and everyone else. There are also direct parallels of the activities within the society: leader worship, such as that towards Big Brother, who can be compared to dictators like Stalin and Hitler; Joycamps, which are a reference to concentration camps or gulags; Thought Police, a reference to the Gestapo or NKVD; daily exercise reminiscent of Nazi propaganda movies; and the Youth League, reminiscent of Hitler Youth or Little Octobrists/ Young Pioneers.

There is also an extensive and institutional use of propaganda; again, this was found in the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin. Orwell may have drawn inspiration from the Nazi Party; compare the following quotes to how propaganda is used in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

Nazi Party
  • “The broad mass of the nation … will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.” — Adolf Hitler, in his 1925 book Mein Kampf.
  • “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” — Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
  • “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” — Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Göring during the Nuremberg Trials.
Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • “Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortresses! Just think what they have to put up with.” (Page 39)
  • “The rocket bombs which fell daily on London were probably fired by the government of Oceania itself, 'just to keep the people frightened'.” (Page 160)
  • “The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.” (Page 221)
  • “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed…” (Page 223)
  • "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth." (Page 78)
  • "And if all others accepted the lie which the party imposed-if all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became the truth." (Page 37)

Summary of plot

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
A social pyramid of the classes listed in the Book, with Big Brother on top, and the proles at the bottom
A social pyramid of the classes listed in the Book, with Big Brother on top, and the proles at the bottom

Winston Smith, a member of the Outer Party, lives in the ruins of London, the chief city of Airstrip One — a front-line province of the totalitarian superstate Oceania. He grew up in post- Second World War Britain, during the revolution and civil war. When his parents disappeared during the civil war, he was picked up by the growing Ingsoc (newspeak for "English Socialism") movement, placed into an orphanage and eventually given a job in the Outer Party.

Winston lives a squalid existence in a one-room apartment in "Victory Mansions", and eats black bread, synthetic meals served at his workplace, and drinks industrial-grade "Victory Gin." He is discontented with his lifestyle, and keeps an ill-advised journal of his negative thoughts and opinions about the Party. This journal, along with any other eccentric behaviour, if found, would result in his torture and death through the dealings of the Thought Police (he starkly explains the very definite result of his " thoughtcrime" in a journal entrance: " Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death"). The Thought Police have telescreens in every household and public area, as well as hidden microphones and spies in order to catch potential thought criminals who could endanger the sanctity of the Party. Children are carefully brainwashed from birth to report any suspected thought criminal, even their parents.

The Ministry of Truth, which exercises complete control over all media in Oceania, employs Winston at the Ministry's Records Department, where he doctors historical records in order to comply with the Party's version of the past. Since the events of the present constantly shape the perception of the past, the task is a never-ending one.

While Winston likes his work, especially the intellectual challenge involved in fabricating a complete historical anecdote from scratch, he is also fascinated by the real past, and eagerly tries to find out more about the forbidden truth. At the Ministry of Truth, he encounters Julia, a mechanic on the novel-writing machines, and the two begin a necessarily clandestine relationship, regularly meeting up in the countryside (away from surveillance) or in a room above an antique shop in the Proles' area of the city. The owner of the shop exchanges various facts on the mysterious pre-revolutionary past with Winston and sells him artifacts from this period, as well as renting the room to them. Julia and Winston find their new hiding place a paradise, as they believe that there is no telescreen and so they believe themselves completely alone and safe.

As their relationship progresses, Winston's views begin to change, and he finds himself relentlessly questioning Ingsoc. Unknown to the two (or to the reader), he and Julia are under surveillance by the Thought Police. When he is approached by Inner Party member O'Brien, Winston believes that he has made contact with the Resistance or Brotherhood which is opposed to the ideals of the Party. O'Brien gives Winston a copy of "the book", a searing criticism of Ingsoc believed by Smith to have been written by the dissident Emmanuel Goldstein, leader of the Brotherhood.

Winston and Julia are eventually, and unavoidably apprehended by the Thought Police in their supposed sanctuary, which actually contains a hidden telescreen, and are then interrogated separately in the Ministry of Love, where opponents of the regime are tortured and executed. O'Brien appears at the Ministry of Love, and reveals that he will help Winston "be cured" of his hatred for the Party, by subjecting Winston to numerous torture sessions. During one of these sessions, he explains to Winston the nature of the endless world war, and that the purpose of the torture is not to extract a fake confession, but to alter the way that Winston thinks.

The party intends to achieve this with a combination of torture and electroshock therapy, continuing until O'Brien decides that Winston is "cured". Eventually, Winston is sent into Room 101, the most feared room in the Ministry of Love, where a person's greatest fear is forced upon them as the final step in their "re-education." Since Winston is morbidly afraid of rats, a cage of the hungry vermin is placed over his eyes, so that when the door is opened, they will eat their way through his skull. In terror, as the cage is placed onto his head, he screams, "Do it to Julia!", breaking his vow to never betray her, in order to stop the torture.

Near the end, Winston and Julia again meet, but their feelings for each other have been destroyed. Winston has become an alcoholic and he knows that eventually he will be killed. The one thing Winston had held on to was his hatred of Big Brother, which he felt would be his victory over the party's otherwise absolute power. However, by the end of the novel, we see that the torture and 'reprogramming' have been successful, because Winston realizes that "He loved Big Brother."

At the end of the novel there is an appendix on Newspeak (the artificial language invented and, by degrees, imposed by the Party to limit the capacity to express or even think "unorthodox" thoughts), in the style of an academic essay.

Backstory to novel

The War of Nineteen Eighty-Four
Part of World War II and the Cold War

From top clockwise: The Russian invasion of Finland, the Soviet-Japan War, Clement Attlee's socialist victory, the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty.
Several historical forerunners of Orwell's world.
Date late 1940s–early 1960s
Location North America, Western Europe, Soviet Union, East Asia
Result Inconclusive
Soviet mass takeover
British revolution
East Asian unification
European-North African unification
American- Oceanian-British unification
South Africa, West/ South Asia disputed zones
British Isles
Soviet Union
East Asia

The novel does not give a full history of how the world of 1984 came into being. Winston's recollections, and what he reads from Goldstein's book, reveal that at some point after the Second World War, the United Kingdom descended into civil war, eventually becoming part of the new world power of Oceania. At roughly the same time, the Soviet Union expanded into mainland Europe to form Eurasia; and the third world power, Eastasia — an amalgamation of east Asian countries including Korea, China and Japan — emerged some time later.

There was a period of nuclear warfare during which some hundreds of atomic bombs were dropped, mainly on Europe, western Russia, and North America. (The only city that is explicitly stated to have suffered a nuclear attack is Colchester.) It is not clear what came first — the civil war which ended with the Party taking over, the merging of the British Empire and the United States, or the external war in which Colchester was bombed.

In articles written during the Second World War, Orwell repeatedly expressed the idea that British democracy as it existed before 1939 would not survive the war, the only question being whether its end would come through a Fascist takeover from above or by a Socialist revolution from below. (The second possibility, it should be noted, was greatly supported and hoped for by Orwell, to the extent that he joined and loyally participated in "the Home Guard" throughout the war, in the expectation that that body would become the nucleus of a revolutionary militia). After the war ended Orwell openly expressed his surprise that events had proven him wrong.

Ingsoc (English Socialism)

Ingsoc is the ideology of the totalitarian government of Oceania. Ingsoc is Newspeak for "English Socialism".


English Socialism apparently came to dominance during a communist or socialist revolution, but as The Party is constantly rewriting history it is difficult to tell precisely how it came about. In addition to rewriting history, The Party is also constantly rewriting the language, so as to make the true meanings of words, and the ideas behind them, ambiguous. Hence, The Party changed the term "English Socialism" to the shorter and more esoteric "Ingsoc."

Class structure under Ingsoc

Under Ingsoc, society is composed of three levels:

  1. The Inner Party, which makes policy decisions and runs the government, which is referred to as simply The Party.
  2. The Outer Party, which works in the state jobs and is the middle class of the society. "Members are allowed no vices other than cigarettes and Victory Gin." The Outer Party is also under the most scrutiny, being constantly monitored by two-way telescreens and other implements of surveillance.
  3. The Proles, which form the vast lower class, the rabble that is kept happy and sedate with beer, gambling, sports, casual sex and prolefeed ("rubbishy texts"). The proles are named for the proletariat, the term Marx used for the working class. The Proles make up 85% of the population of Oceania.

The classes do not mix much, although the narrator describes an evening at a movie theatre where proles and Party members are both in attendance. The main character is also able to patronise a prole pub without attracting much attention -- or so he thinks -- and to visit the flat of O'Brien, an Inner Party member, on a pretext of borrowing a special edition of a Newspeak dictionary.

Ministries of Oceania

Oceania's four ministries are housed in huge pyramidal structures, each roughly 300 metres high and visible throughout London, displaying the three slogans of the party (see below) on their facades.

The Ministry of Peace 
Newspeak: Minipax.
Concerns itself with conducting Oceania's perpetual war.
The Ministry of Plenty 
Newspeak: Miniplenty.
Responsible for rationing and controlling food and goods.
The Ministry of Truth 
Newspeak: Minitrue.
The propaganda arm of Oceania's regime. Minitrue controls information: political literature, the Party organization, and the telescreens. Winston Smith works for the Records Department (RecDep) of Minitrue, "rectifying" historical records and newspaper articles to make them conform to Big Brother's most recent pronouncements, thus making everything that the Party says true.
The Ministry of Love 
Newspeak: Miniluv.
The agency responsible for the identification, monitoring, arrest, and torture of dissidents, real or imagined. Based on Winston's experience there at the hands of O'Brien, the basic procedure is to pair the subject with his or her worst fear for an extended period, eventually breaking down the person's mental faculties and ending with a sincere embrace of the Party by the brainwashed subject. The Ministry of Love differs from the other ministry buildings in that it has no windows in it at all.

The ministries' names are an example of doublethink — the Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Plenty: starvation, the Ministry of Truth: lies, and the Ministry of Love: torture.

The Party

The ideal set up by the Party was something very huge, terrible and glittering—a world of steel and concrete of monstrous marching and terrifying weapons—a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts, wearing the same clothes and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting—three hundred million people all with the same face. The reality was decaying, dingy cities where underfed people shuffled to and fro in leaky shoes, in patched-up nineteenth-century houses that smelt always of cabbage and bad lavatories. He seemed to see a vision of London, vast and ruinous, city of a million dustbins, and mixed up with it was a picture of Mrs Parsons, a woman with a lined face and wispy hair, fiddling helplessly with a blocked wastepipe. (Page 77)

In his novel, Orwell created a world in which citizens have no right to a personal life or to personal thought. Leisure and other activities are controlled through a system of strict mores. Sexual pleasure is discouraged; sex is retained only for the purpose of procreation, although artificial insemination (ARTSEM) is more encouraged.

The mysterious head of government is the omniscient, omnipotent, beloved Big Brother, or "B.B.", usually displayed on posters with the slogan "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU". It is never made clear whether Big Brother is an actual person or whether he is a fictitious leader created as a focus for the love of the Party. It is possible that the conflict between Big Brother and Emmanuel Goldstein is in fact a conflict either between two leaders who are either fictitious or dead, and whose true purpose is to personify both the Party and its opponents.

Big Brother's political opponent (who is therefore a criminal) is the hated Goldstein, a Party member who the reader is told had been in league with Big Brother and the Party during the revolution. Goldstein is said to be the leader of the Brotherhood, a vast underground anti-Party fellowship. The reader never truly finds out whether the Brotherhood exists or not, but the implication is that Goldstein is either entirely fictitious or was eliminated long ago. Party members are expected to vilify Goldstein, the Brotherhood and whichever superstate Oceania is currently warring via the daily " Two Minutes Hate."

A typical two-minutes hate is depicted in the novel, during which citizens ridicule and shout at a video of the hated "bleating" Goldstein as he releases a litany of attacks upon Oceanic governance (indeed, the image ultimately morphs into a bleating sheep) on a background of enemy soldiers (in the book's portrayal of the two minutes they are Eurasian, but after the switch to the war with Eastasia, it is expected that the background changes to Eastasian soldiers).

The three slogans of the Party, on display everywhere, are:


Each of these is of course either contradictory or the opposite of what is normally believed, and in 1984, the world is in a state of constant war, no one is free, and everyone is ignorant. The slogans are analysed in Goldstein's book. Though logically insensible, the slogans do embody the Party. For instance, through constant "war", the Party can keep domestic peace; when freedom is brought about, the people are enslaved to it, and the ignorance of the people is the strength of the Party. If (like Winston) anybody becomes too smart, they are whisked away for fear of rebellion. Through their constant repetition, the terms become meaningless, and the slogans become axiomatic. This type of misuse of language, and the deliberate self-deception with which the citizens are encouraged to accept it, is called doublethink.

One essential consequence of doublethink is that the Party can rewrite history with impunity, for "The Party is never wrong." The ultimate aim of the Party is, according to O'Brien, to gain and retain full power over all the people of Oceania; he sums this up with perhaps the most distressing prophecy of the entire novel: If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake…We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.


The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.

Political geography

Not all boundaries are given in detail in the book, so some are speculation. Note: At the end of the novel, there are news reports that Oceania has captured the whole of Africa, though their credibility is left uncertain.
Not all boundaries are given in detail in the book, so some are speculation. Note: At the end of the novel, there are news reports that Oceania has captured the whole of Africa, though their credibility is left uncertain.

The world is controlled by three functionally similar totalitarian superstates engaged in perpetual war with each other:

  • Oceania (ideology: Ingsoc or English Socialism),
  • Europe (ideology: Neo-Bolshevism), and
  • Eastasia (ideology: Obliteration of the Self, usually rendered as " Death worship").

In terms of the political map of the late 1940s when the book was written, Oceania covers Britain, Ireland, Australia, Polynesia, and the Americas, Eastasia corresponds to China, Japan, Korea, and northern India. Eurasia corresponds to the Soviet Union and Continental Europe.

That Great Britain (and Ireland) is in Oceania rather than in Eurasia is commented upon in the book as a historical anomaly. North Africa, the Middle East, southern India, and South East Asia form a disputed zone which is used as a battlefield and source of slaves by the three powers. Goldstein's book explains that the ideologies of the three states are the same, but it is imperative to keep the public ignorant of that. The population is led to believe that the other two ideologies are detestable. London, the novel's setting, is the capital of the Oceanian province of Airstrip One, the former Great Britain.

The war

Eternal War
Part of World War II and the Cold War

The attacks described as black (Eurasian) and white (Oceanian) arrows in the last chapter of the novel.
Date early 1970s–present
Location North Africa
West Asia
South Asia
Central Asia
Result Not applicable
Economic and social stability
Oceania Eurasia
Big Brother

The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is built around a never-ending war involving the book's three superstates, with two allied powers fighting against the third. But as Goldstein's book explains, each superstate is so strong it cannot be defeated even when faced with the combined forces of the other two powers. The allied states occasionally split with each other and new alliances are formed. Each time this happens, history is rewritten to convince the people that the new alliances were always there, using the principles of doublethink. The war itself never takes place in the territories of the three powers; the actual fighting is conducted in the disputed zone stretching from Morocco to Australia, and in the unpopulated Arctic wastes. Throughout the first half of the novel, Oceania is allied with Eastasia, and Oceania's forces are combating Eurasia's troops in northern Africa.

Midway through the book, the alliance breaks apart and Oceania, newly allied with Eurasia, begins a campaign against Eastasian forces. This happens during "Hate Week" (a week of extreme focus on the evilness of Oceania's enemies, the purpose of which is to stir up patriotic fervor in support of the Party), Oceania and Eastasia are enemies once again. The public is quite abnormally blind to the change, and when a public orator, mid-sentence, changes the name of the enemy from Eurasia to Eastasia (still speaking as if nothing had changed), the people are shocked as they notice all the flags and banners are wrong (they blame Goldstein and the Brotherhood) and tear them down. This is the origin of the rare colloquialism, "we've always been at war with Eurasia." Later on, the Party claims to have captured India. As with all other news, its authenticity is questionable.

The book that Winston and Julia receive explains that the war is unwinnable, and that its only purpose is to use up human labor and the fruits of human labor so that each superstate's economy cannot support an equal (and high) standard of living for every citizen. The book also details an Oceanian strategy to attack enemy cities with atomic-tipped rocket bombs prior to a full-scale invasion, but quickly dismisses this plan as both infeasible and contrary to the purpose of the war.

Although, according to Goldstein's book, hundreds of atomic bombs were dropped on cities during the 1950s, the three powers no longer use them, as they would upset the balance of power. Conventional military technology is little different from that used in the Second World War. Some advances have been made, such as replacing bomber aircraft with "rocket bombs", and using immense "floating fortresses" instead of battleships, but such advances appear to be rare. As the purpose of the war is to destroy manufactured products and thus keep the workers busy, obsolete and wasteful technology is deliberately used in order to perpetuate useless fighting.

Goldstein's book hints that, in fact, there may not actually be a war. The only view of the outside world presented in the novel is through Oceania's media, which has an obvious tendency to exaggerate and even fabricate "facts". Goldstein's book suggests that the three superpowers may not actually be warring, and as Oceania's media provide completely unbelievable news reports on impossibly long military campaigns and victories (including a ridiculously large campaign in the Sahara desert), it can be suggested that the war is a lie.

The other two super-states, Eurasia and Eastasia, may actually only be a fabrication by the government of Oceania. And Oceania may actually be the sole undisputed dominator of the world. On the other hand, Oceania may actually be controlling only a rather small part of the world and brainwashing its citizens into believing that Oceania dominates the whole planet Earth (eg. North Korea today) or - as in the novel - that they are battling/allying with Eurasia/Eastasia.

It is noted in the novel that there are no longer massive battles, but rather expert fighters occasionally appearing in small skirmishes. This may be relatively paradoxical considering the massive amounts of resources wasted to keep the war effort running, given that so few soldiers are actually fighting.

Living standards

By the year 1984, the society of Airstrip One lives in abject squalor and poverty. Hunger, disease, and filth have become the social norm. As a result of the civil war, atomic wars, and Eurasian rocket bombs, the urban areas of Airstrip One lie in ruins. When travelling around London, Winston is surrounded by rubble, decay, and the crumbling shells of wrecked buildings.

Apart from the gargantuan bombproof Ministries, very little seems to have been done to rebuild London, and it is assumed that all towns and cities across Airstrip One are in the same desperate condition. Living standards for the population are generally very low — everything is in short supply and those goods that are available are of very poor quality. The Party claims that this is due to the immense sacrifices that must be made for the war effort. They are partially correct, since the point of continuous warfare is to be rid of the surplus of industrial production to prevent the rise of the standard of living and make possible the economic repression of people.

The Inner Party, at the top level of Oceanian society, enjoys the highest standard of living. O'Brien, a member of the Inner Party, lives in a relatively clean and comfortable apartment, and has access to a variety of quality foodstuffs such as wine, coffee, and sugar, none of which is available to the rest of the population. Winston, for example, is astonished simply for the reason that the elevators in O'Brien's building actually work. Members of the Inner Party also seem to be waited on by slaves captured from the disputed zone.

Although the Inner Party enjoys the highest standard of living, Goldstein's book points out that, despite being at the top of society, their living standards are (apart from the slaves) only upper-middle-class by pre-Revolution standards. The proles, treated by the Party as animals, live in squalor and poverty. They are kept sedate with vast quantities of cheap beer, widespread pornography, and a national lottery, but these do not mask the fact that their lives are dangerous and deprived — proletarian areas of the cities, for example, are ridden with disease and vermin.

However, the proles are subject to much less close control of their daily lives than Party members. The proles, which Winston Smith meets in the streets and in the pubs, seem to speak and behave much like working-class Englishmen of Orwell's time. In addition, the prole criminals whom he meets in the first phase of his imprisonment are far less subdued and intimidated than the intellectual "politicals", some of them rudely jeering at the telescreens with apparent impunity.

As explained in Goldstein's book, this derives from the social theory which the regime believes in — and which seems to work in the framework of the book — namely, that revolutions are always started by the middle class and that the lower classes would never start an effective rebellion on their own. Therefore, if the middle classes are so tightly controlled that the regime can penetrate their very thoughts and their most minute daily life, the lower classes can be left to their own devices and pose no threat. Hence Winston's comment that "If there is hope, it lies with the proles".

As Winston is a member of the Outer Party, we discover more about the Outer Party's living standards than any other group. Despite being the middle class of Oceanian society, the Outer Party's standard of living is very poor. Foodstuffs are low quality or synthetic; the main alcoholic beverage — Victory Gin — is industrial-grade; Outer Party cigarettes are shoddy.

Subjects of Nineteen Eighty-Four


Nineteen Eighty-Four expands upon the subjects summarised in Orwell’s preparatory essay, on Nationalism ( 1945): . In it, Orwell expresses frustration at the lack of vocabulary needed to explain an unrecognised phenomenon that he felt was behind certain forces. He addresses this problem in Nineteen Eighty-Four by inventing the jargon of Newspeak.

A fictional society, to which the readers have no preconceived bias, was a tool in illustrating why Orwell thought examples shown below were different manifestations of the same forces at work, despite their being ideologically incompatible.

Positive nationalism

This is apparent in the novel, in the Oceanians’ undying love for Big Brother, whose physical existence is doubtful. Orwell lists Celtic Nationalism, Neo-Toryism and Zionism as examples of positive nationalism.

Negative nationalism

This is apparent in the novel, in the Oceanians’ undying hatred for Goldstein, whose continued existence is doubtful. Orwell lists Stalinism, Anti-Semitism and Anglophobia as examples of negative nationalism.

Transferred nationalism

In the novel, an orator, mid-sentence, alters the alleged enemy of Oceania, and the crowd instantly transfer their same feelings of hatred toward the new alleged enemy. In Notes on Nationalism, Orwell describes transferred nationalism as swiftly redirecting emotions from one power unit to another, as if not by reasoned change in opinion, but as if one’s beliefs are serving one’s loyalties, which can be altered, but with the original fanaticism intact. Orwell lists Communism, Political Catholicism, Pacifism, Colour Feeling, and Class Feeling as examples of transferred nationalism.

O'Brien, in one of his most conclusive statements, describes nationalism for its own sake: “The object of power is power; The object of torture is torture.”

Sexual repression

The Party imposes anti-eroticism on its members (sponsoring the Junior Anti-Sex-League, etc.), since sexual attachments might diminish exclusive loyalty to the Party. In the novel, Julia describes party fanaticism as "sex gone sour;" Winston, aside from during his affair with Julia, suffers from an ankle inflammation, alluding to Oedipus Rex and symbolizing an unhealthy repression of the sex drive. Orwell supposed that the sufficient mental energy for prolonged worship requires the repression of a vital instinct, such as the sex instinct. This possibly alludes to the restrictions on sexuality imposed by authorities (civil, political, religious or otherwise, such as in the German National-socialist regime), be it consciously or by selective pressures on doctrine.


It is not clear to what extent Orwell believed his work was prophetic.

He describes what he believed was the future of England in his essay England, Your England:

"The intellectuals who hope to see it Russianised or Germanised will be disappointed. The gentleness, the hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies. It needs some very great disaster, such as prolonged subjugation by a foreign enemy, to destroy a national culture. The Stock Exchange will be pulled down, the horse plough will give way to the tractor, the country houses will be turned into children's holiday camps, the Eton and Harrow match will be forgotten, but England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same."

This is in stark contrast to O'Brien's forecast:

"There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face …for ever."

Appendix on Newspeak

The novel includes an appendix, The Principles of Newspeak , written in the style of an academic essay. The appendix describes the development of Newspeak, and explains how the language is designed to standardise thought to reflect the ideology of Ingsoc; that is, by making "all other modes of thought impossible".

There still exists to this day a literary debate about whether the appendix should be read as part of the narrative. Because it is written in third person past tense these people argue that: for whoever wrote the appendix, Newspeak, and the totalitarian government, is a thing of the past.(Atwood , Benstead ).

Cultural impact

Nineteen Eighty-Four has had a significant impact on the English language. Many of its concepts, such as Big Brother, Room 101, thought police, doublethink and Newspeak, have entered common usage in describing totalitarian or overarching behaviour by authority. Doublespeak or doubletalk is a subsequent elaboration on the word doublethink that never actually appeared in the novel itself. The adjective "Orwellian" is often used to describe any real world scenario reminiscent of the novel. The practice of suffixing words with "-speak" and "-think" ( groupthink, mediaspeak) as well as the abbreviation of "luv" for love arguably originated with the novel.


In 1981, Jackson County in the U.S. state of Florida challenged the novel on the grounds that it contained pro-communist material and sexual references.

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