1984 – Is it a Warning?


Written by: George Orwell

Type of Work: Novel

Genres: utopian literature; social criticism

First Published: 1949

Setting: Oceania

Main Characters: Winston, Julia, O’Brien Big Brother, Emmanuel Goldstein

Major Thematic Topics:  the existence of fact through memory, Control through fear, Feminism, Motifs – repressed sexuality, dreams and flashbacks. 

Major Symbols: Newspeak  the proles, birds, television screens, glass paperweight

Overall Idea and Blurb summary

In a totalitarian future society, a man whose daily work is rewriting history tries to rebel by falling in love. Winston wrestles with oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party scrutinises human actions with ever-watchful Big brother. Defying a ban on individuality, Winston dares to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia. These criminal deeds bring Winston into the eye of the opposition, who then must reform the nonconformist. The setting of 1984 is a dystopia: an imagined world that is far worse than our own, as opposed to a utopia, which is an ideal place or state.

Planning for Assessment

Control through fear –  Throughout the book George Orwell expresses ideas and themes that are a relevant aspects of our world today. “Control through fear” is prominent within the workings of this century, parallel to ideas within the text 1984. Well educated and forceful systems are placed upon the citizens in the novel based on the looming idea of big brother. The greater being that is always watching controls their manipulated minds to an extent where this society is deemed normal. Therefore fear is always present, governing all people’s movements and views, concocting the perfect community for any government to control with ease. In 1984 the “big brother” is believed to be in charge, followed by 4 ministries, the ministries of plenty, love, war and truth. This corrupt system truly understands the meaning of fear itself and the forcefulness it is capable of constructing. A person who is scared will not live the life of their choice, will follow authority and never rebel. By recognising this statement to be true great power is upheld and progresses to extreme governing of the law as well as the mind.

Resonances in our society draw distinct parallels between features in George Orwell’s utopian vision of the near distant future. 1984 is a compelling text which leaves readers questioning their current society and state of mind George Orwell’s vision of the future serves as a legitimate warning focused on the welfare of humanity. Feminism a reoccurring theme throughout the text is conveyed through the oppression of women’s rights and sexual antics. Feminism in our century is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

Important Quotes

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.    

”If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.”        

 “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”  

 “Big Brother is Watching You.”                                                                                   

 “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your choosing”


  1. In our conversation where I indicated that this plan and outline were well suited to the task, I gave the advice to speak to Janus about the process he used to add textual/language analysis to his piece, which was previously making astute and well-supported observations about the novel, but which needed more depth and nuance. The challenge is to demonstrate an understanding of the novel that exceeds what someone might gain from reading a plot summary on spark notes.

    We also clarified that Nineteen Eighty-four is by no means a feminist text, but it certainly is interesting to look at it using a feminist critical framework (a summary of which is available on the class site)

    Do let me know if you need any further input on this – and do get a doctors’ note so you can have the full time to complete this piece, which should work out to be very interesting.



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