Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four  
British first edition cover
Author(s) George Orwell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Dystopian, political fiction, social science fiction
Publisher Secker and Warburg (London)
Publication date 8 June 1949
Media type Print (hardback & paperback) & e-book, audio-CD
Pages 326 pp (Paperback edition)
ISBN 978-0452284234
OCLC Number 52187275
Dewey Decimal 823/.912 22
LC Classification PR6029.R8 N647 2003

Nineteen Eighty-Four (first published in 1949) by George Orwell is a dystopian novel about Oceania, a society ruled by the oligarchical dictatorship of the Party.[1] Life in the Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control, accomplished with a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (Ingsoc), which is administrated by a privileged Inner Party elite.[2] Yet they too are subordinated to the totalitarian cult of personality of Big Brother, the deified Party leader who rules with a philosophy that decries individuality and reason as thoughtcrimes; thus the people of Oceania are subordinated to a supposed collective greater good.[3] The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record is congruent with the current party ideology.[4] Because of the childhood trauma of the destruction of his family — the disappearances of his parents and sister — Winston Smith secretly hates the Party, and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.

As literary political fiction and as dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, and memory hole, have become contemporary vernacular since its publication in 1949. Moreover, Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which refers to official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of the past in service to a totalitarian political agenda.[5]


History and title

A 1947 draft MS of the first page of Nineteen Eighty-Four, showing the editorial development.

George Orwell "encapsulate[d] the thesis at the heart of his unforgiving novel" in 1944, and three years later wrote most of it on the Scottish island of Jura, during the 1947–48 period, despite being critically tubercular.[6] On 4 December 1948, he sent the final manuscript to the Secker and Warburg editorial house who published Nineteen Eighty-Four on 8 June 1949;[7][8]. By 1989 it had been translated in to some 65 languages, then the greatest number for any English-language novel.[9] The title of the novel, its terms, its Newspeak language, and the author's surname are contemporary bywords for privacy lost to the State; while the adjective Orwellian connotes a totalitarian dystopia characterised by government control and subjugation of the people. As a language, Newspeak applies different meanings to things and actions by referring only to the end to be achieved, not the means of achieving it; hence, the Ministry of Peace (Minipax) deals with war, and the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) deals with brainwashing and torture. The Ministries do achieve their goals; peace through war, and love of Big Brother through mind control.

The Last Man in Europe was one of the original titles for the novel, but, in a 22 October 1948 letter to publisher Fredric Warburg, eight months before publication, Orwell wrote about hesitating between The Last Man in Europe and Nineteen Eighty-Four;[10]. Warburg suggested changing the Man title to one more commercial.[11] Speculation about the choice of title includes perhaps an allusion to the novels The Iron Heel (1908), by Jack London, or The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904), by G. K. Chesterton, both of which occur in 1984,[12] or to the poem "End of the Century, 1984" by Eileen O'Shaughnessy who was Orwell's first wife.

In the novel 1985 (1978), Anthony Burgess proposes that Orwell, disillusioned by the onset of the Cold War (1945–91), intended to title the book 1948. The introduction to the Penguin Books Modern Classics edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four reports that Orwell originally set 1980 as the story's time, but the extended writing led to renaming the novel, first to 1982, then to 1984. Alternatively, the name was chosen because it is an inversion of the 1948 composition year.[13] Throughout its publication history, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been either banned or legally challenged as intellectually dangerous to the public, just like Brave New World (1932), by Aldous Huxley; We (1924), by Yevgeny Zamyatin; Kallocain (1940), by Karin Boye; and Fahrenheit 451 (1951), by Ray Bradbury.[14] In 2005, Time magazine included Nineteen Eighty-Four in its list of 100 best English-language novels since 1923.[15] Among literary scholars, the Russian dystopian novel We, by Zamyatin, is considered to have inspired Nineteen Eighty-Four.[16][17]

Copyright status

The novel will be in the public domain in the United Kingdom and the European Union in 2020, and in the United States in 2044[18] although it is already in the public domain in Canada,[19] Russia,[20] South Africa,[21] and Australia.[22]

On 17 July 2009, after learning the publisher MobileReference had no US rights to their edition of the book[citation needed], withdrew the MobileReference edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four from sale (several other editions were unaffected).[23] Amazon also electronically deleted it from the synchronised e-book reader devices, which also made inaccessible the annotations made by users in their devices.[24] The deletion prompted customer complaints, and Orwellian comparison to Nineteen Eighty-Four. Amazon formally stated that they were “[c]hanging our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.”[25]


The banner of the Party in the 1984 film adaption of the book.

Nineteen Eighty-Four occurs in Oceania, one of three intercontinental super-states who divided the world among themselves after a global war. Most of the action takes place in London, the "chief city of Airstrip One",[26] the Oceanic province that "had once been called England or Britain".[27] Posters of the Party leader, Big Brother, bearing the caption BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU adorn the landscape, while the ubiquitous telescreen transceiving television set) monitors the private and public lives of the populace. The social class system of Oceania is threefold:

  • (I) the upper-class Inner Party, the élite ruling minority
  • (II) the middle-class Outer Party, and
  • (III) the lower-class Proles (from proletariat), who make up 85% of the population and represent the uneducated working class.

As the government, the Party controls the population with four ministries:

In this last one, the protagonist Winston Smith (a member of the Outer Party) works as an editor revising historical records to concord the past to the contemporary party line orthodoxy — that changes daily — and deletes the official existence of unpersons, people who have been "vaporized"; who have not only been killed by the state, but effectively erased from existence.

The story of Winston Smith begins on 4 April 1984: "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen";[28] yet he is uncertain of the true date, given the régime’s continual historical revisionism. His memories and his reading of the proscribed book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein, reveal that after the Second World War, the United Kingdom fell to civil war and then was integrated to Oceania. Simultaneously, the USSR annexed continental Europe and established the second superstate of Eurasia. The third superstate, Eastasia comprises the regions of East Asia and Southeast Asia. The three superstates fight a perpetual war for the remaining unconquered lands of the world, in pursuit of which they form and break alliances as convenient. From his childhood (1949–53), Winston remembers the Atomic Wars fought in Europe, western Russia, and North America. It is unclear to him what occurred first — either the Party's civil war ascendance, or the US's annexation of the British Empire, or the war wherein Colchester was bombed — however, the increasing clarity of his memory and the story of his family's dissolution suggest that the atomic bombings occurred first (the Smiths took refuge in a tube station) followed by civil war featuring "confused street fighting in London itself", and the societal postwar reorganisation, which the Party retrospectively call "the Revolution".


Oceanian society: Big Brother atop, The Party in middle, the Proles at bottom, in 1984.

The story of Winston Smith presents the world in the year 1984, after a global atomic war, via his perception of life in Airstrip One (England or Britain), a province of Oceania, one of the world's three superstates; his intellectual rebellion against the Party and illicit romance with Julia; and his consequent imprisonment, interrogation, torture, and re-education by the Thinkpol in the Miniluv.

Winston Smith

Winston Smith is an intellectual, a member of the Outer Party, who lives in the ruins of London, and who grew up in some long post-World War II England, during the revolution and the civil war after which the Party assumed power. At some point his parents and sister disappeared, and the Ingsoc movement placed him in an orphanage for training and subsequent employment as an Outer Party civil servant. Yet his squalid existence consists of living in a one-room flat on a subsistence diet of black bread and synthetic meals washed down with Victory-brand gin. He keeps a journal of negative thoughts and opinions about the Party and Big Brother, which, if uncovered by the Thought Police, would warrant death. The flat has an alcove, beside the telescreen, where he apparently cannot be seen, and thus believes he has some privacy, while writing in his journal: "Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death". The telescreens (in every public area, and the quarters of the Party's members), hidden microphones, and informers permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone and so identify anyone who might endanger the Party's régime; children, most of all, are indoctrinated to spy and inform on suspected thought-criminals — especially their parents.

At the Minitrue, Winston is an editor responsible for historical revisionism, concording the past to the Party's contemporary official version of the past; thus making the government of Oceania seem omniscient. As such, he perpetually rewrites records and alters photographs, rendering the deleted people as "unpersons"; the original documents are incinerated in a "memory hole". Despite enjoying the intellectual challenges of historical revisionism, he becomes increasingly fascinated by the true past and tries to learn more about it.

the book is an easy read


One day, at the Minitrue, as Winston assisted a woman who had fallen, she surreptitiously handed him a folded paper note; later, at his desk he covertly reads the message: I LOVE YOU. The name of the woman is "Julia", a young dark haired mechanic who repairs the Minitrue novel-writing machines. Before that occasion, Winston had loathed the sight of her, presuming she was a member of the fanatical Junior Anti-Sex League, because she wore the red sash of the League, and because she was the type of woman he believed he could not attract: young, beautiful, and puritanical; nonetheless, his hostility towards her vanishes upon reading the message. Cautiously, Winston and Julia begin a love affair, at first meeting in the country, at a clearing in the woods, then at the belfry of a ruined church, and afterwards in a rented room atop an antiques shop in a proletarian neighbourhood of London. There, they think themselves safe and unobserved, because the rented bedroom has no telescreen, but, unknown to Winston and Julia, the Thought Police were aware of their love affair.

Later, when the Inner Party member O'Brien approaches him, Winston believes he is an agent of the Brotherhood, a secret, counter-revolutionary organisation meant to destroy The Party. The approach opened a secret communication between them; and, on pretext of giving him a copy of the latest edition of the Dictionary of Newspeak, O'Brien gives Winston The Book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein, the infamous and publicly reviled leader of the Brotherhood. The Book explains the concept of perpetual war, the true meanings of the slogans WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, and how the régime of The Party can be overthrown by means of the political awareness of the Proles.


The Thought Police capture Winston and Julia in their bedroom, to be delivered to the Ministry of Love for interrogation. Charrington, the shop keeper who rented the room to them, reveals himself as an officer in the Thought Police. After a prolonged regimen of systematic beatings and psychologically draining interrogation, O'Brien, who is revealed to be a Thought Police leader and becomes Smith's inquisitor, tortures Winston with electroshock, showing him how, through controlled manipulation of perception (e.g.: seeing whatever number of fingers held up that the Party demands one should see, whatever the "apparent" reality, i.e. 2+2=5), Winston can "cure" himself of his "insanity" — his manifest hatred for the Party. In long, complex conversations, he explains the Inner Party's motivation: complete and absolute power, mocking Winston's assumption that it was somehow altruistic and "for the greater good". Asked if the Brotherhood exists, O'Brien replies that this is something Winston will never know; it will remain an unsolvable quandary in his mind. During a torture session, his imprisonment in the Ministry of Love is explained: "There are three stages in your reintegration . . . There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance", i.e. of the Party's assertion of reality.

Confession and betrayal

In the first stage of political re-education, Winston Smith admits to and confesses to crimes he did and did not commit, implicating anyone and everyone, including Julia. In the second stage of re-education for reintegration to the society of Oceania, O'Brien makes Winston understand that he is rotting away. Winston counters that: "I have not betrayed Julia"; O'Brien agrees, Winston had not betrayed Julia because he "had not stopped loving her; his feelings toward her had remained the same". One night, in his cell, Winston awakens, screaming: "Julia! Julia! Julia, my love! Julia!" O'Brien rushes in to the cell, but not to interrogate Winston, but to send him to Room 101, the most feared room in the Ministry of Love, where resides each prisoner's worst fear, which is forced upon him or her. In Room 101 is Acceptance, the final stage of the political re-education of Winston Smith, whose primal fear of rats is invoked when a wire cage holding hungry rats is fitted onto his face. As the rats are about to reach Winston’s face, he shouts: "Do it to Julia!", thus betraying her, and relinquishing his love for her. Julia, also, betrayed Winston, in what O'Brien described as "a text book case" of betrayal. At torture’s end, upon accepting the doctrine of The Party, Winston Smith is reintegrated to the society of Oceania, because he loved Big Brother.

Re-encountering Julia

After reintegration to Oceanian society, Winston encounters Julia in a park; each admits having betrayed the other:

"I betrayed you", she said baldly.
"I betrayed you", he said.
She gave him another quick look of dislike.
"Sometimes", she said, "they threaten you with something — something you can't stand up to, can't even think about. And then you say, 'Don't do it to me, do it to somebody else, do it to so-and-so.' And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn't really mean it. But that isn't true. At the time when it happens you do mean it. You think there's no other way of saving yourself and you're quite ready to save yourself that way. You want it to happen to the other person. You don't give a damn what they suffer. All you care about is yourself."
"All you care about is yourself", he echoed.
"And after that, you don't feel the same toward the other person any longer."
"No", he said, "you don't feel the same."

Throughout, a song recurs in Winston's mind:

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me—

The lyrics are an adaptation of ‘Go no more a-rushing’, a popular English campfire song from the 1920s, that was a popular success for Glenn Miller in 1939.[29][30][31]


Smith has accepted the Party's depiction of life, and sincerely celebrates a news bulletin reporting Oceania's decisive victory over Eurasia for control of Africa. He then realises that "he had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother".


Principal characters

  • Julia  — Winston's lover, is a covert "rebel from the waist downwards" who publicly espouses Party doctrine as a member of the fanatical Junior Anti-Sex League.
  • Big Brother  — the dark-eyed, mustachioed embodiment of The Party who rule Oceania.
  • O'Brien  — a member of the Inner Party who poses as a member of The Brotherhood, the counter-revolutionary resistance, in order to deceive, trap, and capture Winston and Julia.

Secondary characters

  • Aaronson, Jones, and Rutherford  — Former members of the Inner Party whom Winston vaguely remembers as among the original leaders of the Revolution, long before he had heard of Big Brother. They confessed to treasonable conspiracies with foreign powers and were then executed in the political purges of the 1960s. In between their confessions and executions, Winston saw them drinking in the Chestnut Tree Café - with broken noses, suggesting that their confessions had been obtained by torture. Later, in the course of his editorial work, Winston sees newspaper evidence contradicting their confessions, which he quickly destroys.
  • Ampleforth  — Winston's one-time Records Department colleague who was imprisoned for leaving the word "God" in a Kipling poem; Winston encounters him at the Miniluv. Ampleforth is a dreamer and an intellectual who takes pleasure in his work, and respects poetry and language, which traits and qualities cause him disfavour with the Party.
  • Charrington  — An officer of the Thought Police posing as a sympathetic antiques-shop keeper.
  • Katharine  — The emotionally indifferent wife whom Winston "can't get rid of". Despite disliking sexual intercourse, Katharine continued with Winston because it was their "duty to the Party". Although she was a "goodthinkful" ideologue, they separated because she could not bear children.
  • Parsons  — Winston's naïve neighbour, and an ideal member of the Outer Party: an uneducated, suggestible man who is utterly loyal to the Party, and fully believes in its perfect image. He is socially active and participates in the Party activities for his social class. Although friendly towards Smith, and despite his political conformity, he punishes his bully-boy son for firing a catapult at Winston. Later, as a prisoner, Winston sees Parsons is in the Ministry of Love, because his children had reported him to the Thought Police after overhearing him speak against the Party whilst he slept.
  • Mrs. Parsons  — Parsons's wife is a wan and hapless woman who is intimidated by her children, who represent the new generation of Oceanian citizens, without memory of life before Big Brother, without family ties; the model society moulded by the Inner Party.
  • Syme  — Winston's colleague at the Ministry of Truth, whom the Party "vaporised" because he remained a lucidly-thinking intellectual. He was a lexicographer who developed the language and the dictionary of Newspeak, in the course of which he enjoyed destroying words, and wholeheartedly believed that Newspeak would replace Oldspeak (Standard English) by the year AD 2050. Although Syme's politically orthodox opinions aligned with Party doctrine, Winston noted that "He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly". After noting that Syme's name was deleted from the members list of the Chess Club, Winston infers he became an unperson who never existed.

The world in 1984

Ingsoc (English Socialism)

In the year 1984, Ingsoc (English Socialism), is the regnant ideology and pseudo-philosophy of Oceania, and Newspeak is its official language, of official documents.

Ministries of Oceania

In London, the Airstrip One capital city, Oceania's four government ministries are in pyramids (300 metres high), the façades of which display the Party's three slogans. The ministries' names are antonymous doublethink to their true functions: "The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation". (Part II, Chapter IX — The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism)

Ministry of Peace (Newspeak: Minipax)

Minipax reports Oceania's perpetual war.

The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. At present, when few human beings even have enough to eat, this problem is obviously not urgent, and it might not have become so, even if no artificial processes of destruction had been at work.

Ministry of Plenty (Newspeak: Miniplenty)

The Ministry of Plenty rations and controls food, goods, and domestic production; every fiscal quarter, the Miniplenty publishes false claims of having raised the standard of living, when it has, in fact, reduced rations, availability, and production. The Minitrue substantiates the Miniplenty claims by revising historical records to report numbers supporting the current, "increased rations".

Ministry of Truth (Newspeak: Minitrue)

The Ministry of Truth controls information: news, entertainment, education, and the arts. Winston Smith works in the Minitrue RecDep (Records Department), "rectifying" historical records to concord with Big Brother's current pronouncements, thus everything the Party says is true.

Ministry of Love (Newspeak: Miniluv)

The Ministry of Love identifies, monitors, arrests, and converts real and imagined dissidents. In Winston's experience, the dissident is beaten and tortured, then, when near-broken, is sent to Room 101 to face "the worst thing in the world" — until love for Big Brother and the Party replaces dissension.


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. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

Part II, Chapter IX — The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

Political geography

Perpetual War: The news report Oceania has captured Africa, 1984.

Three perpetually warring totalitarian super-states, control the world:[32]

The perpetual war is fought for control of the "disputed area" lying "between the frontiers of the super-states", it forms "a rough parallelogram with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin and Hong Kong",[32] thus northern Africa, the Middle East, southern India and south-east Asia are where the super-states capture slaves. The remainder of the world, i.e. much of Africa, southern India, South-east Asia, the South Pacific, and Antarctica, is evidently of little or no importance.

Goldstein's book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism explains that the super-states' ideologies are alike and that the public's ignorance of this fact is imperative so that they might continue believing in the detestability of the opposing ideologies. The only references to the exterior world for the Oceanian citizenry (the Outer Party and the Proles), are Minitrue maps and propaganda ensuring their belief in "the war".

The Revolution

Winston Smith's memory and Emmanuel Goldstein's book communicate some of the history that precipitated the Revolution; Eurasia was established after World War II (1939–45), when US and Imperial soldiers withdrew from continental Europe, thus the USSR conquered Europe against slight opposition. Eurasia does not include the British Empire because the US annexed it, Latin America, southern Africa, Australasia, and Canada, thus establishing Oceania and gaining control over a quarter of the planet. The annexation of Britain was part of the Atomic Wars that provoked civil war; per the Party, it was not a revolution but a coup d'état that installed a ruling élite derived from the native intelligentsia. Eastasia, the last superstate established, comprises the Asian lands conquered by China and Japan. Although Eurasia prevented Eastasia from matching it in size, its larger populace compensate for that handicap; despite an unclear chronology most of that global reorganisation occurred between 1945 and the 1960s.[citation needed]

The War

In 1984, there is a perpetual war among Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, the super-states which emerged from the atomic global war. "The book", The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein, explains that each state is so strong it cannot be defeated, even with the combined forces of two super-states—despite changing alliances. To hide such contradictions, history is re-written to explain that the (new) alliance always was so; the populaces accustomed to doublethink accept it. The war is not fought in Oceanian, Eurasian or Eastasian territory but in the arctic wastes and a disputed zone comprising the sea and land from Tangiers (northern Africa) to Darwin (Australia). At the start, Oceania and Eastasia are allies combatting Eurasia in northern Africa.

That alliance ends and Oceania allied with Eurasia fights Eastasia, a change which occurred during the Hate Week dedicated to creating patriotic fervour for the Party's perpetual war. The public are blind to the change; in mid-sentence an orator changes the name of the enemy from "Eurasia" to "Eastasia" without pause. When the public are enraged at noticing that the wrong flags and posters are displayed they tear them down—thus the origin of the idiom "We've always been at war with Eastasia"; later the Party claims to have captured Africa.

"The book" explains that the purpose of the unwinnable, perpetual war is to consume human labour and commodities, hence the economy of a super-state cannot support economic equality (a high standard of life) for every citizen. Goldstein also details an Oceanian strategy of attacking enemy cities with atomic rockets before invasion, yet dismisses it as unfeasible and contrary to the war's purpose; despite the atomic bombing of cities in the 1950s the super-states stopped such warfare lest it imbalance the powers. The military technology in 1984 differs little from that of World War II, yet strategic bomber aeroplanes were replaced with Rocket Bombs, helicopters were heavily used as weapons of war (while they didn't figure in WW2 in any form but prototypes) and surface combat units have been all but replaced by immense and unsinkable Floating Fortresses, island-like contraptions concentrating the firepower of a whole naval task force in a single, semi-mobile platform (in the novel one is said to have been anchored between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, suggesting a preference for sea lane interdiction and denial).

Living standards

In 1984, the society of Airstrip One lives in poverty; hunger, disease and filth are the norms and ruined cities and towns the consequence of the civil war, the atomic wars and purported enemy (but quite possibly self-serving Oceanian) rockets. Social decay and wrecked buildings surround Winston; aside from the ministerial pyramids, little of London was rebuilt. The standard of living of the populace is low; almost everything, especially consumer goods, is scarce and available goods are of low quality; half of the Oceanian populace go barefoot — despite the Party reporting increased boot production. The Party claims that this poverty is a necessary sacrifice for the war effort; "the book" reports that this is partially correct, because the purpose of perpetual war is consuming surplus industrial production. The Outer Party has no access to anything that could be used to commit suicide -- there are no tall buildings, no sharp objects, even razors for personal grooming, etc.

The Inner Party upper class of Oceanian society enjoy the highest standard of living. O'Brien resides in a clean and comfortable apartment, with a pantry well-stocked with quality foodstuffs (wine, coffee, sugar, etc.), denied to the general populace, the Outer Party and the Proles, who consume synthetic foodstuffs; liquor, Victory Gin, and cigarettes are of low quality.[33] The brand "Victory" (as in the cigarettes and gin) is taken from the low-quality "Victory Brand Cigarettes" (also known as Vs) that were often the only ones that could be obtained in Britain on minimal ration coupons during World War II by the average member of the public and often issued to soldiers, as this brand was made in India and could be shipped to Britain more easily than American cigarettes, which had to cross the U-boat-infested waters of the North Atlantic. These were of low quality and often derided by the people who used them. In Spike Milligan's War Memoirs, he jokingly claimed Vs Cigarettes were made in India from dung left over by the sacred cows.[citation needed]

Winston is astonished that the lifts in O'Brien's building function and that the telescreens can be switched off. The Inner Party are attended to by slaves captured in the disputed zone. O'Brien has an Asian manservant, Martin. The proles live in poverty and are kept sedated with alcohol, pornography and a national lottery, yet the proles are freer and less intimidated than the middle class Outer Party, and jeer at the telescreens. "The Book" reports that the state of things derives from the observation that it is the middle class, not the lower class, which traditionally started revolutions, therefore tight control of the middle class penetrates their minds in determining their quotidian lives, and potential rebels are politically neutralised via promotion to the Inner Party or "reintegration" by Miniluv; nonetheless Winston believed that "the future belonged to the proles".[citation needed]



Nineteen Eighty-Four expands upon the subjects summarised in the essay Notes on Nationalism (1945)[34] about the lack of vocabulary needed to explain the unrecognised phenomena behind certain political forces. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Party's artificial, minimalist language 'Newspeak' addresses the matter.

  • Positive nationalism: Oceanians' perpetual love for Big Brother; Neo-Toryism, Celtic nationalism and British Israelism are (as Orwell argues) defined by love.
  • Negative nationalism: Oceanians' perpetual hatred for Emmanuel Goldstein; Stalinism, Anglophobia and antisemitism are (as Orwell argues) defined by hatred.
  • Transferred nationalism: In mid-sentence an orator changes the enemy of Oceania; the crowd instantly transfers their hatred to the new enemy. Transferred nationalism swiftly redirects emotions from one power unit to another (e.g., Communism, Pacifism, Colour Feeling and Class Feeling).

O'Brien conclusively describes: "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."

Sexual repression

With the Junior Anti-Sex-League, the Party encourages its members to eliminate the personal sexual attachments that diminish political loyalty. In Part III, O'Brien tells Winston that neurologists are working to extinguish the orgasm; the mental energy required for prolonged worship requires authoritarian suppression of the libido, a vital instinct.


In the book, Inner Party member O'Brien describes the Party's vision of the future:

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—forever.
—Part III, Chapter III, Nineteen Eighty-Four

This contrasts the essay "England Your England" (1941) with the essay "The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius" (1941):

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.

The geopolitical climate of Nineteen Eighty-Four resembles the précis of James Burnham's ideas in the essay "James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution"[35] (1946):

These people will eliminate the old capitalist class, crush the working class, and so organize society that all power and economic privilege remain in their own hands. Private property rights will be abolished, but common ownership will not be established. The new ‘managerial' societies will not consist of a patchwork of small, independent states, but of great super-states grouped round the main industrial centres in Europe, Asia, and America. These super-states will fight among themselves for possession of the remaining uncaptured portions of the earth, but will probably be unable to conquer one another completely. Internally, each society will be hierarchical, with an aristocracy of talent at the top and a mass of semi-slaves at the bottom.


A major theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four is censorship, especially in the Ministry of Truth, where photographs are doctored and public archives rewritten to rid them of "unpersons" (i.e. persons who have been arrested, whom the Party has decided to erase from history). On the telescreens figures for all types of production are grossly exaggerated (or simply invented) to indicate an ever-growing economy, when the reality is the opposite. One small example of the endless censorship is when Winston is charged with the task of eliminating reference to an unperson in a newspaper article. He proceeds to write an article about Comrade Ogilvy, a fictional party member, who displayed great heroism by leaping into the sea from a helicopter so that the dispatches he was carrying would not fall into enemy hands.


The inhabitants of Oceania, particularly the party members, have no real privacy. Many of them live in apartments equipped with two-way telescreens, so that they may be watched or listened to at any time. Similar telescreens are found at workstations and in public places, along with hidden microphones. Written correspondence is routinely opened and read by the government before it is delivered. The Thought Police employ undercover agents, who pose as normal citizens and report any person with subversive tendencies. Children are encouraged to report suspicious persons to the government, and some even denounce their own parents.

This surveillance allows for effective control of the citizenry. The smallest sign of rebellion, even something so small as a facial expression, can result in immediate arrest and imprisonment. Thus, citizens (and particularly party members) are compelled to absolute obedience at all times.

The Newspeak appendix

"The Principles of Newspeak" is an academic essay appended to the novel. It describes the development of Newspeak, the Party's minimalist artificial language meant to ideologically align thought and action with the principles of Ingsoc by making "all other modes of thought impossible". (For linguistic background about how language is a creation of culture, see the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.)[36] Note also the possible influence of the German book LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii, published in 1947, which details how the Nazis controlled society by controlling the language.

Whether or not the Newspeak appendix implies a hopeful end to Nineteen Eighty-Four remains a critical debate, as it is in Standard English and refers to Newspeak, Ingsoc, the Party, et cetera, in the past tense (i.e., "Relative to our own, the Newspeak vocabulary was tiny, and new ways of reducing it were constantly being devised", p. 422); in this vein, some critics (Atwood,[37] Benstead,[38] Pynchon[39]) claim that, for the essay's author, Newspeak and the totalitarian government are past. The countervailing view is that since the novel has no frame story, Orwell wrote the essay in the same past tense as the novel, with "our" denoting his and the reader's contemporaneous reality.


During World War II (1939–1945) Orwell believed that British democracy as it existed before 1939 would not survive the war, the question being "Would it end via Fascist coup d'état (from above) or via Socialist revolution (from below)?"

Later he admitted that events proved him wrong: "What really matters is that I fell into the trap of assuming that ‘the war and the revolution are inseparable'".[40] Thematically Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Animal Farm (1945) share the betrayed revolution; the person's subordination to the collective; rigorously enforced class distinctions (Inner Party, Outer Party, Proles); the cult of personality; concentration camps; Thought Police; compulsory regimented daily exercise and youth leagues. Oceania resulted from the U.S. annexation of the British Empire to counter the Asian peril to Australia and New Zealand. It is a naval power whose militarism venerates the sailors of the floating fortresses, from which battle is given to recapturing India, the "Jewel in the Crown" of the British Empire. Much of Oceanic society is based upon the U.S.S.R. under Joseph StalinBig Brother; the televised Two Minutes Hate is ritual demonisation of the enemies of the State, especially Emmanuel Goldstein (viz Leon Trotsky); altered photographs and newspaper articles create unpersons deleted from the national historical record, including even founding members of the regime (Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford) in the 1960s purges (viz the Soviet Purges of the 1930s, in which leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution were similarly treated).

In his 1946 essay Why I Write, Orwell explains that the serious works he wrote since the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) were "written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism".[41] Nineteen Eighty-Four is a cautionary tale about revolution betrayed by totalitarian defenders previously proposed in Homage to Catalonia (1938) and Animal Farm (1945), while Coming Up for Air (1939) celebrates the personal and political freedoms lost in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Biographer Michael Shelden notes Orwell's Edwardian childhood at Henley-on-Thames as the golden country; being bullied at St Cyprian's School as his empathy with victims; his life in the Indian Burma Police — the techniques of violence and censorship in the BBC — capricious authority.[42] Other influences include Darkness at Noon (1940) and The Yogi and the Commissar (1945) by Arthur Koestler; The Iron Heel (1908) by Jack London; 1920: Dips into the Near Future[43] by John A. Hobson; Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley; We (1921) by Yevgeny Zamyatin which he reviewed in 1946;[44] and The Managerial Revolution (1940) by James Burnham predicting perpetual war among three totalitarian superstates. Orwell told Jacintha Buddicom that he would write a novel stylistically like A Modern Utopia (1905) by H. G. Wells.[citation needed]

Extrapolating from World War II, the novel's pastiche parallels the politics and rhetoric at war's end—the changed alliances at the "Cold War's" (1945–91) beginning; the Ministry of Truth derives from the BBC's overseas service, controlled by the Ministry of Information; Room 101 derives from a conference room at BBC Broadcasting House;[45] the Senate House of the University of London, containing the Ministry of Information is the architectural inspiration for the Minitrue; the post-war decrepitude derives from the socio-political life of the UK and the USA, i.e. the impoverished Britain of 1948 losing its Empire despite newspaper-reported imperial triumph; and war ally but peace-time foe, Soviet Russia became Eurasia.

The term "English Socialism" has precedents in his wartime writings; in the essay "The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius" (1941), he said that "the war and the revolution are inseparable... the fact that we are at war has turned Socialism from a textbook word into a realisable policy" — because Britain's superannuated social class system hindered the war effort and only a socialist economy would defeat Hitler. Given the middle class's grasping this, they too would abide socialist revolution and that only reactionary Britons would oppose it, thus limiting the force revolutionaries would need to take power. An English Socialism would come about which "... will never lose touch with the tradition of compromise and the belief in a law that is above the State. It will shoot traitors, but it will give them a solemn trial beforehand and occasionally it will acquit them. It will crush any open revolt promptly and cruelly, but it will interfere very little with the spoken and written word".[46]

In the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, "English Socialism" — contracted to "Ingsoc" in Newspeak — is a totalitarian ideology unlike the English revolution he foresaw. Comparison of the wartime essay The Lion and the Unicorn with Nineteen Eighty-Four shows that he perceived a Big Brother régime as a perversion of his cherished socialist ideals and English Socialism. Thus Oceania is a corruption of the British Empire he believed would evolve into a "federation of Socialist states... like a looser and freer version of the Union of Soviet Republics".[cite this quote]

Cultural impact

"Happy 1984" stencil graffiti, denoting mind control via video games, on a standing piece of the Berlin Wall, 2005.
Wall of an industrial building in Donetsk, Ukraine

The effect of Nineteen Eighty-Four on the English language is extensive; the concepts of Big Brother, Room 101, the Thought Police, thoughtcrime, unperson, memory hole (oblivion), doublethink (simultaneously holding and believing contradictory beliefs) and Newspeak (ideological language) have become common phrases for denoting totalitarian authority. Doublespeak and groupthink are both deliberate elaborations of doublethink, while the adjective "Orwellian" denotes "characteristic and reminiscent of George Orwell's writings" especially Nineteen Eighty-Four. The practice of ending words with "-speak" (e.g. mediaspeak) is drawn from the novel.[47] Orwell is perpetually associated with the year 1984; in July 1984 an asteroid discovered by Antonín Mrkos was named after Orwell.

References to the themes, concepts and plot of Nineteen Eighty-Four have appeared frequently in other works, especially in popular music and video entertainment. An example of this is the world-wide hit reality television show Big Brother, in which a group of people live together in a large house, isolated from the outside world but continuously watched by television cameras.

In November 2011 the United States government argued before the U. S. Supreme Court that it wants to continue utilizing GPS tracking of individuals without first seeking a warrant. In response, Justice Stephen Breyer questioned what this means for a democratic society by referencing Nineteen Eighty-Four. Justice Breyer asked, "If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States. So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like1984. . ."[48]

Adaptations and derived works

Film, television, and stage direct adaptations
  • The genre of dystopian fiction
  • Orwell's Revenge (1994), by Peter W. Huber
  • 1985, by Anthony Burgess
  • Fahrenheit 56K, by Fernando de Querol Alcaraz[50]
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  • Little Brother (2008), by Cory Doctorow
  • "Repent Harlequin', Said the TickTockMan" by Harlan Ellison
  • 1984, a famous Apple Computer advertisement
  • Big Brother, a reality TV series originally from the Netherlands
  • Room 101, a BBC television series
Music albums

See also

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Portal icon Books portal


  1. ^ Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition (1996). HarperCollins:New York. p. 734.
  2. ^ The Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition, Columbia University Press: 1993, p. 2030.
  3. ^ Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition (1996). HarperCollins: New York. p. 734.
  4. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Sixth Edition. University of Oxford Press: 2000. p. 726.
  5. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Sixth Edition. University of Oxford Press: 2000. p. 726.
  6. ^ Bowker, Chapter 18. "thesis": pp. 368-9
  7. ^ Bowker, pp. 383, 399
  8. ^ "Charles' George Orwell Links". Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  9. ^ John Rodden. The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of "St. George" Orwell
  10. ^ CEJL, iv, no. 125.
  11. ^ Crick, Bernard. Introduction to Nineteen Eighty-Four(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984)
  12. ^ By Jack of Kent (2009-02-28). ""Why did George Orwell call his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four? by David A. Green". Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  13. ^ Nineteen Eighty-four, ISBN 978-0-141-18776-1; p. xxvii (Penguin)
  14. ^ Marcus, Laura; Peter Nicholls (2005). The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82077-4.  p. 226: "Brave New World [is] traditionally bracketed with Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four as a dystopia..."
  15. ^ "Full List — All Time 100 Novels". Time Inc.. Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  16. ^ [ "Freedom and Happiness" (a review of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin) by Orwell, Tribune, 4 January 1946.
  17. ^ "1984 thoughtcrime? Does it matter that George Orwell pinched the plot?", Paul Owen, The Guardian, 8 June 2009.
  18. ^ Hirtle, Peter B.. "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States". Retrieved 25 March 2010.  As a work published 1923–63 with renewed notice and copyright, it remains protected for 95 years from its publication date
  19. ^ Canadian protection comprises the author's life and 50 years from the end of the calendar year of his or her death.
  20. ^ Russian law stipulates likewise
  21. ^ South African copyright law protects literary works for the author's life plus fifty years; see the Copyright Act, No. 98 of 1978, as amended.
  22. ^ Australian law stipulates life plus 70 years, since 2005. The law is not retroactive, and excludes works published in the lifetime of the an author who died in 1956 or earlier
  23. ^ Pogue, David (17 July 2009). "Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  24. ^ Stone, Brad (18 July 2009). "Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle". The New York Times: p. B1. 
  25. ^ Fried, Ina (17 July 2009). "Amazon says it won't repeat Kindle book recall". (CBS Interactive). Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  26. ^ Part I, Ch. 1.
  27. ^ Part I, Ch. 3.
  28. ^ "striking thirteen" (1:00 pm). In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the 24-hour clock is modern, the 12-hour clock is old-fashioned, Part I, Ch. 8.
  29. ^ "Under the spreading chestnut tree". Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  30. ^ Anne Gilchrist said itis "a version of an old English tune called 'Go no more a-rushing', which was arranged for virginals by William Byrd and Giles Farnaby — by the latter under the title of 'Tell mee, Daphne' ... So 'Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree' is really an Old English — perhaps originally a dance — tune, preserved traditionally and lately modernized."
  31. ^ Anne G. Gilchrist, "'Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree': The Adventures of a Tune." The Musical Times, Vol. 81 (Mar. 1940), pp. 112-113.
  32. ^ a b Part II, Ch. 9
  33. ^ Reed, Kit (1985). "Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell". Barron's Educational Series. Retrieved 2 July 2009. 
  34. ^ "George Orwell: "Notes on Nationalism"". May 1945. Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  35. ^ "George Orwell – James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution – Essay". Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  36. ^ "Ethnolinguistics". Retrieved 22 February 2010. [dead link]
  37. ^ Margaret Atwood: "Orwell and me". The Guardian 16 June 2003
  38. ^ Benstead, James (26 June 2005). "Hope Begins in the Dark: Re-reading Nineteen Eighty-Four".
  39. ^ Thomas Pynchon: Foreword to the Centennial Edition to Nineteen eighty-four, pp. vii–xxvi. New York: Plume, 2003. In shortened form published also as The Road to 1984 in The Guardian (Analysis)
  40. ^ "London Letter to Partisan Review, December 1944, quoted from vol. 3 of the Penguin edition of the Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters.
  41. ^ "George Orwell: Why I Write". Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  42. ^ Shelden, Michael (1991). Orwell — The Authorized Biography. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060921617. ; pp 430–434
  43. ^ John A. Hobson, 1920: Dips into the Near Future
  44. ^ George Orwell, "Review", Tribune, 4 January 1946.
    paraphrasing Rayner Heppenstall, he reportedly said "that he was taking it as the model for his next novel". Bowker, p. 340.
  45. ^ "The real room 101". BBC. Retrieved 9 December 2006. 
    Meyers (2000), p. 214.
  46. ^ Orwell, Sonia and Angus, Ian (eds). The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 2: "My Country Right or Left" (1940-43; Penguin)
  47. ^ Ralph Keyes (2009). I Love It When You Talk Retro. St Martins. p. 222. 
  48. ^ "Justice Breyer warns of Orwellian government". The Hill. 2011-11-8. Retrieved 2011-11-9. 
  49. ^ Recovered from Library of Congress in 2010 PDF
  50. ^ "Literatura Prospectiva. Mundo Espejo. ''Fahrenheit 56K''. Fernando de Querol Alcaraz". 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  51. ^ Knodel, Lisa (27 February 2004). "[Compact Disks]". Dayton Daily News. 


  • Aubrey, Crispin & Chilton, Paul (Eds). (1983). Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984: Autonomy, Control & Communication. London: Comedia. ISBN 0-906890-42-X.
  • Bowker, Gordon (2003). Inside George Orwell: A Biography. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 031223841X. 
  • Hillegas, Mark R. (1967). The Future As Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians. Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-0676-X
  • Howe, Irving (Ed.). (1983). 1984 Revisited: Totalitarianism In Our Century. New York: Harper Row. ISBN 0-06-080660-5.
  • Meyers, Jeffery. Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation. W.W.Norton. 2000. ISBN 0-393-32263-7
  • Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. A novel. London: Secker & Warburg. 
  • Orwell, George (1984). Davison, Peter. ed (Hardcover). Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Facsimile Manuscript. London, United Kingdom: Secker and Warburg. ISBN 0-436-35022-X. 
  • Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. A novel. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co. 
  • Orwell, George (1977 (reissue)). 1984. Erich Fromm (Foreword). Signet Classics. ISBN 0451524934. 
  • Orwell, George (2003 (Centennial edition)). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Thomas Pynchon (Foreword); Erich Fromm (Afterword). Plume. ISBN 0452284236. 
Afterword by Erich Fromm (1961)., pp. 324–337.
Orwell's text has a "Selected Bibliography", pp. 338–9; the foreword and the afterword each contain further references.
The Plume edition is an authorised reprint of a hardcover edition published by Harcourt, Inc.
The Plume edition is also published in a Signet edition. The copyright page says this, but the Signet ed. does not have the Pynchon forward.
Copyright is explicitly extended to digital and any other means.
  • Orwell, George. 1984 (Vietnamese edition), translation by Đặng Phương-Nghi, French preface by Bertrand Latour ISBN 0-9774224-5-3.
  • Shelden, Michael. (1991). Orwell — The Authorised Biography. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-69517-3
  • Smith, David & Mosher, Michael. (1984). Orwell for Beginners. London: Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative. ISBN 0-86316-066-2
  • Steinhoff, William R. (1975). George Orwell and the Origins of 1984. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0472874004. (bibrec[dead link])
  • Tuccille, Jerome. (1975). Who's Afraid of 1984? The case for optimism in looking ahead to the 1980s. New York: Arlington House. ISBN 0-87000-308-9.
  • West, W. J. The Larger Evils – Nineteen Eighty-Four, the truth behind the satire. Edinburgh: Canongate Press. 1992. ISBN 0-86241-382-6

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