Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Template:Infobox Book Nineteen Eighty-Four is a speculative political novel by George Orwell.[1][2][3][4] It tells a story about a nightmarish dystopia where the omnipresent State enforces perfect conformity among citizens.

The novel introduced the concepts of the ever-present, all-seeing Big Brother, Room 101, the Thought Police, and the bureaucrats' and politicians' language of control, and Newspeak. It involves a totalitarian Party that employs indoctrination, propaganda, fear, and ruthless punishment. Nineteen Eighty-Four sold well from the start, and has remained one of the most influential books of the 20th century.

Along with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the first and most cited works of dystopian fiction in English literature. The book has been translated into many languages. Nineteen Eighty-Four and its terminology have become a byword in discussions of privacy and freedom. The term "Orwellian" has come to describe actions or organizations that are thought to be reminiscent of the society depicted in the novel.


Novel history


The novel was written with the working title of The Last Man in Europe. However, the book's publishers in both the United Kingdom and the United States, where it was simultaneously released, moved to change its title for marketing purposesTemplate:Citation needed to Nineteen Eighty-Four. First published on June 8, 1949, the bulk of the novel was written by Orwell on the island of Jura, Scotland in 1948, although Orwell had been writing small parts of it since 1945. The book begins approximately on April 4, 1984 (the first entry in Winston Smith's diary) at 13:00 ("It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen...").


The original working title of The Last Man in Europe was a natural evolution of the theme of the novel itself. When the publishers requested a new title Orwell did not object. It has been suggested that Orwell had originally chosen to call it Nineteen Eighty, but as his writing dragged on due to the advance of his tuberculosis, Orwell changed it to Nineteen Eighty-Two and then to Nineteen Eighty-Four. From this beginning of speculation a number of competing theories have also arisen regarding the meaning of the title. Some have suggested that Orwell simply switched the last two digits of the year in which he wrote the book (1948), but others have suggested that it may also have been an allusion to the centenary of the Fabian Society, a socialist organization founded in 1884. Alternatively, still other theories link it to Jack London's novel The Iron Heel, in which the power of a political movement reaches its height in 1984, or even to G. K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill, also set in that year. Even further suggestions are that it refers to a poem that his wife, Eileen O'Shaughnessy, had written called End of the Century, 1984. The only real knowledge that we have is that the working name was The Last Man in Europe because it related to the storyline of the book, and that the publishers wanted to change the name for purposes of mass marketing.

Orwell's inspiration

The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four also reflects various aspects of the social and political life of both the United Kingdom and the United States of America. There have been suggestions that the primary character was named Winston after Winston Churchill, who had been British Prime Minister during the Second World War.

Orwell is reported to have said that the book described what he viewed as the situation in the United Kingdom in 1948, when the British economy was poor, the British Empire was dissolving at the same time as newspapers were reporting its triumphs, and wartime allies such as the USSR were rapidly becoming peacetime foes ('Eurasia is the enemy. Eurasia has always been the enemy').

Orwell based many aspects of Oceanian society on the Stalin-era Soviet Union. The "Two Minutes' Hate", for instance, being based on Stalinism's habitual demonization of their enemies and rivals, and big brother himself bears a resemblance to Stalin. The motif of "2+2=5" is taken directly from a Soviet propaganda poster during Stalin's industrialization drive. However, as many reviewers/critics have correctly pointed out, it should not be read as an attack on socialism as a whole, but on totalitarianism (and potential totalitarianism) in general.

Nineteen Eighty-Four can be seen as a cautionary tale against totalitarianism, and in particular the betrayal of a revolution by those claiming to defend/support it (as Stalin did 1928 onwards). Orwell had already set forth his distrust of totalitarianism and the betrayal of revolutions in Homage to Catalonia and Animal Farm. Coming Up For Air, at points, celebrates the individual freedom that is lost in Nineteen Eighty-Four. His essay Why I Write explains clearly that all the "serious work" he had written since the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was "written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism". (Why I Write) It must be said however that democratic socialism back then had a different meaning (more revolutionary) than it does today. In fact, Lenin often characterised himself as being a democratic socialist. Perhaps it can be explained by the following: Democratic socialism now means socialism through (parliamentary) democracy (non-revolutionary) while back then it meant something more like socialism which is inherently democratic.

Orwell acknowledged the influence on Nineteen Eighty Four of Yevgeny Zamyatin's Russian novel We, published in 1921

His work for the overseas service of the BBC, which at the time was under the control of the Ministry of Information, also played a significant role as the basis for his Ministry of Truth (as he later admitted to Malcolm Muggeridge). The Ministry of Information building, Senate House (University of London), was the Ministry of Truth's architectural inspiration.

In many ways, Oceania is indeed a future metamorphosis of the British Empire (although Orwell is careful to state that, geographically, it also includes the United States, and that the currency is the dollar). It is, as its name suggests, an essentially naval power. Much of its militarism is focused on veneration for sailors and seafarers, serving on board "floating fortresses" which Orwell evidently conceived of as the next stage in the growth of ever-bigger warships, after the Dreadnoughts of WWI and the aircraft carriers of WWII. And much of the fighting conducted by Oceania's troops takes place in defence of India, which was of course the British Empire's "Jewel in the Crown".

The party newspaper is the London Times, identified in Orwell's time (and to some degree even at present) as the voice of the British ruling class - rather than, as could have been expected, a publication which started life as the paper of a revolutionary party (like Pravda in the Soviet Union).

O'Brien, representative par excellence of the oppressive Party, is in many ways depicted as a member of the old British ruling class (in one case, Winston Smith thinks of him as a person who in the past would have been holding a snuffbox — i.e. an old-fashioned English Gentleman).

It is natural that such comparisons and references would crop up in a book by Orwell — a man who started as a loyal servant of the British Empire in the Colonial Police at Burma, became bitterly disillusioned with the Empire and seeker after a revolution, and rediscovered his British patriotism during WWII. However, since the book was used for decades as a staple of anti-Soviet propaganda, this aspect of it was obscured from its widely-known image — though quite obvious to an intelligent reader.

It should also be noted that Oceania’s standard practice of declaring POW's to be "war criminals" as a justification for killing them outright might be considered as Orwell's criticism of the Nuremberg Trials conducted by the victors of WWII against the losers — another aspect of this book which did not quite fit with using it as Cold War propaganda.

Thus, it is more accurate to perceive the novel as a prognostication of the British society in which Orwell grew up set in the future than to see it strictly as propaganda opposed against and attacking the Soviet Union. The best evidence of that is the very fact that the book is still arousing considerable interest at present - whereas, had it been no more than a piece of anti-Soviet propaganda, it could have been expected to disppaear and be forgotten with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.

The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four

Template:Unreferencedsect Image:Bbc1984.jpg

The novel focuses upon one man named Winston Smith who stands, seemingly alone, against the corrupted reality of his world: hence its original working name of The Last Man in Europe. Although the storyline is unified, it could be described as having three parts, and indeed has been published by some in such a fashion. 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 and torture by the Party.

The world described in Nineteen Eighty-Four contains striking and deliberate parallels with 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. In the book, people are encouraged to be engaged in group activities, possibly a reference to the collectivism described in Ayn Rand's Anthem. There are also direct parallels of the activities within the society: leader worship, such as that towards Big Brother, who is as much a reference to the non-existent character of Uncle Sam as he is to actual 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 Octobrists/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 greatest propagandists of the time, the Nazis; compare the following quotes to how propaganda is used in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

  • “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 Template:Citeneeded
  • “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.”
  • “The rocket bombs which fell daily on London were probably fired by the government of Oceania itself, 'just to keep the people frightened'.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”

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. Winston grew up in post-Second World War Britain, during the revolution and civil war. When his parents died during the civil war, he was picked up by the growing Ingsoc (newspeak for "English Socialism") movement and given a job in the Outer Party. Like the rest of the population, Winston lives a squalid and materially deprived existence. He lives in a filthy one-room apartment in "Victory Mansions", and is forced to live on a diet of hard bread, synthetic meals served at his workplace, and vast amounts of industrial-grade "Victory Gin." He is deeply unhappy in his life and keeps a secret diary of his illegal thoughts about the Party. Winston is employed by the Ministry of Truth, which exercises complete control over all media in Oceania: his job in the Ministry's Records Department involves doctoring historical records in order to comply with the Party's version of the past. Since the perception of the past is constantly shaped by the events of the present, 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 an illegal 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. As the relationship progresses, Winston's views begin to change, and he finds himself relentlessly questioning Ingsoc. Unknown to him, he and Julia are under surveillance by the Thought Police, and when he is approached by Inner Party member O'Brien, he believes that he has made contact with the Resistance. O'Brien gives Winston a copy of "the book", a searing criticism of Ingsoc that Smith believes was written by the dissident Emmanuel Goldstein.

Winston and Julia are apprehended by the Thought Police and interrogated separately in the Ministry of Love, where opponents of the regime are tortured and executed. O'Brien reveals to Winston that he has been brought to "be cured" of his hatred for the Party, and subjects 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 actually change the way Winston thinks. This is achieved through a combination of torture and electroshock therapy, until O'Brien decides that Winston is "cured". However, Winston unconsciously utters Julia's name in his sleep, proving that he has not been completely brainwashed. Room 101 is the most feared room in the Ministry of Love, where a person's greatest fear is forced upon them as the final step in the re-education. Winston is dreadfully afraid of rats, and a cage of hungry rats is placed over his eyes, so that when the door is opened, they will eat their way through his skull. In his absolute terror, he tries to think of the one thing he can say to stop the punishment, and he realizes what it is. He says, "Do it to Julia!" At the end of the novel, Winston and Julia meet, but their feelings for each other have been destroyed. Winston has become an alcoholic and we know that eventually he will be killed. The one thing Winston had held on to when facing his inevitable end was that when he was killed, he would still hate Big Brother. This would be his victory, showing that the party's power was not absolute. However, the novel's conclusion reveals that the torture and 'reprogramming' have been successful; Winston realized one truth above all, '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.

History according to 1984

Template:Unreferencedsect 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 "The Book" (i.e., Emmanuel Goldstein's book) reveal that at some point after the Second World War, the United Kingdom descended into civil war, eventually being absorbed by the United States to form 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 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 absorption of Britain by the US, or the external war in which Colchester was bombed. To reconstruct it one needs to try combining the hints scattered in "1984" itself with the analysis and predictions contained in Orwell's non-fiction writings.

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 futile 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.

The most complete expression of Orwell's predictions in that direction are contained in "The Lion and the Unicorn" which he wrote in 1940. There, he stated that "the war and the revolution are inseparable (...) the fact that we are at war has turned Socialism from a textbook word into a realizable policy". The reason for that, according to Orwell, was that the outmoded British class system constituted a major hindrance to the war effort, and only a Socialist society would be able to defeat Hitler. Since the middle classes were in process of realizing this, too, they would support the revolution, and only the most outright Reactionary elements in British society would oppose it — which would limit the amount of force the revolutionaries would need in order to gain power and keep it.

Thus, 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".

Such a revolutionary regime, which Orwell found highly desirable and was actively trying to bring about in 1940, is of course a far cry from the monstrous edifice presided over by Big Brother, which was his nightmare a few years later. Still, one can see how the one may degenerate into the other (and The Party does provide "traitors" with "a solemn trial" before shooting them...)

The term "English Socialism", repeated numerous times in "The Lion and the Unicorn", is rather parochial — had events developed as Orwell predicted, the Scots and Welsh would have undoubtedly had a major share in such a revolution. Its importance for understanding "1984" is that the official Party ideology is "Ingsoc", an abbreviation of "English Socialism". This shows that Orwell perceived of the monstrous regime which he described in "1984", not only as a betrayal and perversion of Socialist ideals in general, but also as a perversion of Orwell's own specifically and dearly cherished vision and hope of Socialism.

In 1940 Orwell was quite optimistic about the chances of Socialism — his brand of Socialism. In 1947, when he wrote "Toward European Unity" he was far more pessimistic (which may have had to do, not only with objective conditions in the world, but also with his fast deteriorating health). He no longer had hopes in the possibility of a Socialist revolution in Britain alone. The only real chance (and he considered it a slim chance) was through a Socialist Federation of Western Europe, "The only region where for a large number of people the word Socialism is bound up with liberty, equality and internationalism". Such a federation, embracing some 250 million people, would provide a large-scale working model of "a community where people are relatively free and happy and where the main motive in life is not the pursuit of money or power".

A lot of preconditions had to be fulfilled for that vision to materialise. The Western European countries had to remain independent both of the Soviet military might and of looking to the Soviet Union for their model of Socialism. Britain had to divest itself of its empire, since exploiting the labour of colonial masses was incompatible with building a true Socialist society. It also had to cut itself completely out of the American orbit, and ally with the West European countries in a common revolution. Orwell was not sanguine about the chances of all these conditions materialising, but stated in conclusion: "One thing in our favour is that a major war is not likely to happen immediately" — which would at least give some breathing space to the forces seeking Democratic Socialism.

"1984" was written at almost precisely the same time as "Toward European Unity", and the fictional history unfolding in the past of the novel could be considered as the exact mirror image of that article. A major war does break out almost "immediately" from the time of writing in 1948, the opposite happens of all the indispensable conditions for Democratic Socialism, and things go from bad to worse.

From the memories of Winston Smith, scattered through the book, one can try to piece out the following:

  • At the outbreak of war, when Colchester was A-bombed, the child Winston experienced an air-raid alarm and was taken by his parents to a tube station, where he heard an old man saying "We didn't ought to 'ave trusted them". This implies a sense of betrayal, felt in the British public in the aftermath of a surprise attack. The context would suggest a Soviet attack, possibly after a period of relative rapprochement or a failed peace effort.
The outbreak of war might have followed the withdrawal of US forces from Europe — a quite plausible future development when the book was written, before the creation of NATO and when the main available precedent was the American withdrawal from Europe in the aftermath of WWI. That would account both for the feeling of betrayal and for the Soviet success in sweeping, while Britain was heavily bombed but protected by the Channel from a ground invasion, westwards to the Atlantic and southwards into the Middle East. (A newsreel from the Middle East which Smith watches shows a boat full of Jewish refugees being sunk by an Oceanian helicopter; evidently, in this history the state of Israel, founded in 1948, had had only an ephemeral existence.).
The major invasion was followed by the Soviet Union being transformed into "Eurasia" and adopting the ideology of "Neo-Bolshevism" (possibly under the impact of absorbing the Communists of France, Italy etc. into its ruling party).
The isolated Britain kept its empire and was perforce drawn into a closer alliance and eventual political amalgamation with the United States — that might have been the time when the Dollar became the common currency.
At that time, in Smith's life, his father was still around and his sister was not yet born. The time must be the early 1950's, since Smith was born in 1944 or 1945 and these are for him dim childhood memories; in other words, for Orwell writing in 1948 this was the very immediate future. Winston Smith is about the same age as Richard Horatio Blair, Orwell's adopted son, who was born in May 1944.
  • After that, the war in Europe seems to have stabilized into exchanges of aerial bombardments (by tacit agreement avoiding the use of nuclear arms) and to naval blockades and submarine warfare, with ground battles confined to extra-European theatres. In effect, Orwell conceived the future war as taking virtually the same course that WWII took in 1940 after the Fall of France. This is the period from which come Winston Smith's later childhood memories, a time when the father was gone and the mother was left alone with Winston and the baby sister.
That was a time of very great economic privations — much worse even than the systematised and controlled privations which daily life in 1984 Oceania entails. There was presumably the destruction left by nuclear bombardment, which destroyed a part of Britain's industrial capacity, and also left agricultural areas contaminated ("1984" mentions Winston and Julia meeting in countryside areas still devastated and deserted after thirty years), the need to fight a full-scale war again without being fully recovered from the effects of WWII (in our history Britain only fully recovered in the 1950s, and in 1948 when Orwell wrote, there were predictions of a much longer time needed for recovery). To these would be added Soviet/Eurasian attacks on the supply lines, for which (unlike with Nazi Germany in WWII) the coasts of Spain, Portugal and North Africa, as well as those of France, would be fully available for Soviet/Eurasian submarine bases and airfields. (The development of the "virtually unsinkable" Floating Fortresses might have come later, as a means of securing the Atlantic sea-lanes and ensuring at least a trickle of vital supplies to Britain/Airstrip One — which would explain the popularity of the sailors serving in these fortresses, used in the Party's propaganda. The Floating Fortresses might have been inspired by WWII Project Habbakuk's virtually unsinkable reinforced ice aircraft carriers, if Orwell had heard of them.)

Winston's memories of this time are full of political chaos and violence, as seen through an uncomprehending child's eyes. There is a specific mention of rival militias roaming the streets, each one composed of boys all wearing shirts of the same colour (a vision which Orwell might have taken from the last years of Weimar Germany, where Nazi, Communist and other militias constantly fought in the streets).

That corresponds, presumably, to the time when The Party (which at the time must still have had a name, being only one of several contending parties) was led by Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford, and Big Brother had not yet risen to prominence. (The three are clearly modelled on Bukharin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, the prominent Bolshevik leaders whom Stalin supplanted and executed).

Apparently, Orwell conceives of the three as sincere revolutionaries moved by outrage at the injustice of capitalism. There is the specific mention of Rutherford's "brutal cartoons", depicting slum tenements, starving children, street battles and capitalists in top hats, which "helped inflame popular opinion before and during the Revolution". The revolutionaries eventually win — or so it seems. What Orwell hoped for in vain during WWII does take place during the WWIII of the 1950s, Orwell's immediate future — a revolution in Britain. But now he sees it as the beginning of a nightmare, not of hope.

The difference can be partly explained by the fact that the revolution takes place in far more brutal conditions than those of WWII Britain where Orwell hoped for a relatively mild revolution — and more similar to the conditions of 1917 in Russia from which the incipient Soviet regime had its introduction to brutality. While Rutherford's cartoons were obviously exaggerated, in order to be so effective in rousing public fury they must have to some degree reflected the reality of deep privations and social polarization in the immediate pre-revolutionary time. Under such conditions, the revolutionaries' victory could have easily been accompanied by widespread retaliations against "war profiteers" and "fat cats" (there was widespread resentment against such people in WWII Britain, where conditions had never been that bad). Such retaliations, condoned as "unavoidable excesses", would have set the new regime on a road of arbitrary brutality from its very inception.

Also, Orwell's essential conditions for the revolution to develop towards Democratic Socialism, set out in "Toward European Unity", were all not fulfilled — Western Europe is occupied and in no condition to join in the revolution, and Britain is inextricably tied to both the U.S. and to its oppressive overseas empire. Indeed, the brutal all-out exploitation of colonial peoples as semi-slave labour could have been started by the old regime in the immediate aftermath of the occupation of Europe, as a desperate measure of survival, and deepened rather than abolished by the newly-arrived revolutionaries. Altogether, the revolutionary regime was inexorably perverted into the merciless tyranny of Big Brother.

At some time soon after, the revolution which started in Britain spread to America and won there as well. This is simply mentioned, with no detail and no information of the situation in the American part of Oceania beyond a passing mention of a Party congress in New York and a reference in "The Book" to "Jews, Negroes and South Americans of pure Indian blood" being "found in the highest ranks of the Party". America is not part of this story any more than the detailed history of China, it is just a faraway place of which we know nothing.

The later history of Oceania seems modelled, in a rather one-to-one basis, on Soviet history. Oceania's 1950s are based on the Soviet 1920s, a time of civil war and revolutionary turmoil. Similarly, the 1960s are the 1930s, the time when Stalin/Big Brother, consolidated his power and smothered all opposition. (Stalin's Moscow Show Trials took place in 1936, Big Brother's equivalent in 1965). By the end of the 1960s, Big Brother has completed the process of turning the revolution into a pretext for creating a terror state.

By the year 1984, the citizens of Oceania had been separated into three distinct, isolated classes — the Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the proles. However, in the view of Emmanuel Goldstein (which seems to be Orwell's) these are but new names for classes which have essentially existed throughout human history — though under the new dispensation they are more rigid and unchangeable than ever before.

On the global level, as "The Book" (supposedly written by Emmanuel Goldstein though in fact its descriptive part turns out to be endorsed by the Party) explains, the three powers eventually realized that continuous stalemate war was preferable to conquest, as war allowed them to spend their surplus labour manufacturing products that would be wasted during fighting, rather than improving people's standards of living (an impoverished population being easier to control than a rich one).

By the time the novel is set, the three powers have taken over most of the world, but a large area is still disputed between them. This area, containing the northern half of Africa, the Middle East, southern India, Indonesia, and northern Australia, provides slaves, or low-paid workers who are effectively slaves, for all three powers.

The powers rarely if ever fight on their own territory — Airstrip One (the official name of Great Britain) has become the target of Eurasian rocket bombs, but it is hinted that the Oceanian government itself may launch these weapons in order to convince the population that it is under constant attack.

Ministries of Oceania

Oceania's four ministries are housed in huge pyramidal structures, each roughly 300 meters 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 wars.
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 Minitrue, "rectifying" historical records and newspaper articles to make them conform to IngSoc'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 of time, 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 deceptive — the Ministry of Peace makes war, the Ministry of Plenty administers over shortages, the Ministry of Truth spreads propaganda and lies, and the Ministry of Love inflicts misery.

The Party

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. Image:Bbc19842.jpg 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". However, it is never quite clear whether Big Brother truly exists or not, or whether he is a fictitious leader created as a focus for the love of the Party which the Thought Police and others are there to engender. It is perfectly possible that the conflict between Big Brother and Emmanuel Goldstein is in fact a conflict either between two fictitious or dead leaders, whose true purpose is to personify both the Party and its opponents.

His political opponent (who is therefore a criminal) is the hated Emmanuel 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 supernation 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).

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


Each of these is of course either contradictory or the opposite of what we normally believe, 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. 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.

Political geography

Template:Unreferencedsect Image:1984 fictious world map.png The world is controlled by three functionally similar totalitarian superstates engaged in perpetual war with each other: Oceania (ideology: Ingsoc or English Socialism), Eurasia (ideology: Neo-Bolshevism), and Eastasia (ideology: Death Worship or Obliteration of the Self). In terms of the political map of the late 1940s when the book was written, Oceania covers the greater part of the British Empire (or the Commonwealth), and the Americas, Eastasia corresponds to China, Japan, Korea, and northern India. Eurasia corresponds to the Soviet Union and Continental Europe. That Great Britain 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 basically 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


The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is built around an endless war involving the three global superstates, with two allied powers fighting against the third. The allied states occasionally split with each other and new alliances are formed, but as Goldstein's book explains, this does not matter, as each superstate is so strong it cannot be defeated even when faced with the combined forces of the other two powers. The war rarely takes place on the territory of the three powers, and 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 engaged with fighting Eurasian troops in northern Africa. Mid-way through the novel, the alliance breaks apart and Oceania, newly allied with Eurasia, begins a campaign against Eastasian forces in India. During "Hate Week" (a week of extreme focus on the evilness of Oceania's enemies), Oceania and Eurasia are enemies once again. The public is quite blind to the change, and when a speaker, mid-sentence, changes the enemy from Eurasia to Eastasia (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 quite effectively tear them down.

The book that Winston receives explains that the war cannot be won, 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, they are no longer used by the three powers 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 few and far between. 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.

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 so as 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. 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 far, far below those of society's elite before the revolution. The proletariat, 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. 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. Smith, like many other members of the Outer Party, lives in a filthy one-room apartment with no comforts. All members of the Outer Party are required to wear scruffy overalls, and clothes in general are of very low quality. Members of the Outer Party are subject to a rigid timetable, being awoken each morning by the telescreens, and are required to participate in group "leisure" activities. Apart from Victory Gin, everything from artificial foods to badly-made razor blades is in very short supply, and living standards as a whole appear to be declining further.

The social stratification serves to make members of the Outer Party appreciative of what they have, however meager: this helps to keep them governable, for they are less likely to take their status for granted as would those who live in plenty. An Outer Party member can at least be grateful not to be a Prole, who will always be much worse off. An Outer Party member will be obedient for fear of being executed, and he will learn to love the Party for providing a higher standard than them. He may also aspire to the higher status and standard of living of the Inner Party, and apply extra effort and diligence.

But the ultimate goal of this impoverishment and stratification is the preservation of the hiearchical society, which Orwell states through "The Book" to be only maintainable via ignorance and poverty.


Newspeak, the "official language" of Oceania, is extraordinary in that its vocabulary decreases every year; the state of Oceania sees no purpose in maintaining a complex language, and so Newspeak is a language dedicated to the "destruction of words". As the character Syme puts it:

Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well... If you have a word like 'good', what need is there for a word like 'bad'? 'Ungood' will do just as well... Or again, if you want a stronger version of 'good', what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like 'excellent' and 'splendid' and all the rest of them? 'Plusgood' covers the meaning, or 'doubleplusgood' if you want something stronger still.... In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words; in reality, only one word. (Part One, Chapter Five)

The true goal of Newspeak is to take away the ability to think anything not desired by the state (thought-crime), let alone act against the state, by eliminating words to express the concepts. For example, though a person could say, "BB is ungood" (Big Brother is bad), this would be seen as totally meaningless to any member of the party, and he would have no words to support his claim. Syme openly discusses this aim, this indiscretion being the presumed reason for his disappearance later on. Since the thought police had yet to develop a method of reading people's minds to catch dissent, Newspeak was created. (This concept has been examined — and widely disputed — in linguistics: see the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.)


The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is a political, not a technological, dystopia. The technological level of the society in the novel is mostly crude and less advanced than in the real 1980s. Apart from the telescreens, speech-recognizing typewriters, and novel-writing machines (the credibility of which is stated to be dubious), technology is barely more advanced than in wartime Britain. Orwell explains that, in the latter part of the twentieth century, technology has been driven by only two things: "war, and the desire to determine against his will what another human being is thinking."

Living standards are low and declining, with rationing and unpalatable ersatz products; in that regard, Orwell's vision is diametrically opposed to the technologically advanced hedonism of Brave New World.

None of the three blocs has much genuine interest in technological progress, since it could destabilise their grip on power. Some scientific advance is conducted in the field of interrogation, developing techniques against thought criminals through advanced torture, drugs, and hypnosis, but in other fields, technology is stagnant. Atomic weapons are avoided in the perpetual war, since the whole point of the conflict is to be indecisive and wasteful. The technologies employed are obsolete and deliberately wasteful. This stagnation is related to what is perhaps the most frightening aspect of the novel: for all their brutality, the regimes are not going to burn themselves out in strategically significant conquests or technological arms races. Rather, they have reached a stable equilibrium which could theoretically last forever—" a boot stamping on a human face ...forever".

The themes of Nineteen Eighty-Four


Nineteen Eighty-Four expands upon the themes summarised in Orwell’s preparatory essay, Notes on Nationalism (1945): [5]. 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 the below examples 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 Trotskyism, 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.

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

Sexual repression

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 religious authorities, 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 [6], 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".

The fact that the appendix is written in the past tense, as well as other grammatical and non-grammatical features, has led some to argue that it can be seen to be describing Newspeak, and by extension Ingsoc, as a thing of the past, possibly implying a more ambiguous ending for the novel than is commonly thought (Atwood [7], Benstead [8]). However, there is no explicit statement in the appendix to suggest that it existed or was written in the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and it could simply be a part of the third person narrative that is deployed throughout the rest of the novel.

Furthermore, it could be argued that Orwell, as an advocate of plain English, would be unlikely to underpin such a significant plot detail with such a subtle clue.

Cultural impact

Nineteen Eighty-Four has had a surprisingly large impact on the English language. Many of its concepts, 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) arguably originated with the novel.


In 1981, Jackson County, Florida challenged the novel on the grounds that the book was "pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter." [9] Supporters of the book have called this accusation preposterous, saying it casts more light on the accusers than the book.

The book's proponents admit that there are some passages relating to sex, and some to torture, but they are by no means extreme for the time, and are quite relevant to the plot. Still, some people have objected to the book for those depictions. It's worth noting that the book never declares explicitly that any sex takes place.

Emmanuel Goldstein, a Jew, is described as "the Enemy of the People" by the Party, and is the subject of the Two Minutes Hate. As the party is seen throughout the book as evil, making its main opponent Jewish cannot be seen as an antisemitic attitude on the part of Orwell. In fact, the Soviet Union was antisemitic in some ways, and the Goldstein character may reflect this.



Nineteen Eighty-Four has been made into a cinema film twice — in 1956 and in 1984. The film made in 1984 is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the novel, and was critically acclaimed. The film's soundtrack was performed by the band Eurythmics, and a single taken from this, "Sexcrime (1984)", was a hit in several countries. The film is notable for containing Richard Burton's last performance.

The Terry Gilliam film Brazil has been interpreted as a 'tribute' to the novel, although Gilliam claims not to have read the book before making his film.


The first radio broadcast of Nineteen Eighty-Four was a one-hour adaptation transmitted by the NBC radio network at 9.00 p.m. on August 27, 1949 as number 55 in the series N.B.C. University Theater, which adapted the world's great novels for broadcast. Another broadcast on the NBC radio network was made by the Theater Guild on Sunday April 26, 1953 for the United States Steel Hour.

In the United Kingdom, the BBC Home Service produced a 90-minute version with Patrick Troughton and Sylvia Syms in the lead roles, first broadcast on October 11, 1965. In April and May 2005, BBC Radio 2 broadcast a reading of the novel in eight weekly parts.


Nineteen Eighty-Four was adapted for television by the BBC in 1954, and again in 1965.

It was voted No. 7 in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's television special, My Favourite Book, which sought to find Australia's favourite book.

The scene involving Winston in Room 101 from the 1984 movie adaptation of the book was ranked among the 100 scariest moments of TV history, as voted by Channel 4 viewers.


Lorin Maazel, better known as a conductor, has composed the opera, 1984. The libretto is by Tom Meehan, who worked on The Producers and JD McClatchy, professor of poetry at Yale University. The opera directed by Canadian director Robert Lepage premiered on May 3 2005 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. See Science-fiction operas.

Big Brother Awards

Each year, the national members and affiliated organizations of Privacy International present the "Big Brother" awards to the government and private sector organisations which have done the most to threaten personal privacy in their countries. Since 1998, over forty ceremonies have been held in sixteen countries and have given out hundreds of awards to some of the most powerful government agencies, individuals and corporations in those countries.

Related works






  • David Bowie released the album Diamond Dogs (1974) which contains the songs: "Rebel Rebel", "1984," "We Are The Dead," "Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)," and "Big Brother". The project was originally conceived as a full length theatrical production but Bowie was denied the rights by George Orwell's widow.
  • Pink Floyd pay a clear homage to George Orwell in their album Animals. The album cover has an image of Battersea Power Station which is also an image used in the film of 1984. The songs are all deeply linked with Orwell's Animal Farm.
  • In John Lennon's 1973 quasi-protest song "Only People", he repeatedly sings the line "We don't want no Big Brother..."
  • Radiohead's album Hail to the Thief contains the song "2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm)", where not only the title refers to Nineteen Eighty-Four but the first lines of the song seem to be referring to the hopelessness of Winston's struggle:
"Are you such a dreamer
to put the world to rights?"
  • Jimi Hendrix's album Electric Ladyland includes a song titled "1983 ... (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)" in which the narrator flees a war torn world to live in the ocean with his lover. The lyrics include, "Oh say, can you see it's really such a mess, every inch of Earth is a fighting nest. Giant pencil and lipstick tube shaped things, continue to rain and cause screaming pain, and the arctic stains from silver blue to bloody red as our feet find the sand." The song is rather abstract, but it is difficult not to view the title as a hint at the subject matter.
  • Rick Wakeman, from Yes released the album 1984 in 1981, to lyrics by Tim Rice. This is a concept album directly based on the novel.
  • Subhumans released the album The Day The Country Died in 1982, which appears to be influenced by Nineteen Eighty-Four. One of the songs is called "Big Brother", with lyrics like "There's a TV in my front room and it's screwing up my head", referring to the telescreen of the novel. Much like the novel, the album is largely dystopian, with songs like "Dying World" and "All Gone Dead", the latter of which contains lyrics like "It's 1984 and it's gonna be a war". According to Dick Lucas, the song "Subvert City" is based on the ideas of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley
  • "Nineteen Eighty Bore" is a song from the anarcho-punk band Crass, focusing on the alleged mind-numbing affects of television.
  • 1984 (For The Love of Big Brother) is the title of an album by the Eurythmics which was originally released in November 1984 as a partial soundtrack for the film adaptation. It contains the following tracks:
(3:28) "I did it just the same"; (3:59) "Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)"; (5:05) "For the love of big brother"; (1:22) "Winston's diary"; (6:13) "Greetings from a dead man"; (6:40) "Julia" (4:40) "Doubleplusgood"; (3:48) "Ministry of love"; (3:50) "Room 101".
  • Oingo Boingo released a song called "Wake up (It's 1984)" on their 1983 album Good For Your Soul. Taking heavily from the movie as well as the book, it serves as commentary to current society.
  • Rage Against the Machine released the album called The Battle of Los Angeles in 1999 featuring the track "Testify" containing the phrase "Who Controls the Past Now, Controls the Future, Who controls the Present Now, Controls the Past...", a slogan used by the Party in the Nineteen Eighty-Four novel. Also on the same album, the song "Voice of the Voiceless" contains the lyrics "Orwell's hell a terror era coming through, but this little brother is watching you too".
  • Bad Religion released the album called The Empire Strikes First in 2004 featuring the track "Boot Stamping on a Human Face Forever" with the title of the song being a direct reference to the Nineteen Eighty-Four novel. In the novel, O'Brien suggests the image of a boot stamping on a human face forever as a picture of the future. The song seems to be referring to the hopelessness of rebellion against the Party. The lyrics of the title track also states "You don't need to be afraid, you deserve Two Minutes Hate". The lyric book art style is Orwellian themed. In their album Suffer, The song "Part II (The Numbers Game)" makes references to the book, with lines such as "Big Brother schemes to rule the nation" and "The government observes with their own eletric eye".
  • Marilyn Manson's album Holy Wood includes a song called "Disposable Teens" in which he sings that he's "a rebel from the waist down". This is a direct reference to Orwell's book, when Winston accuses Julia of being "only a rebel from the waist downwards".
  • Incubus's album A Crow Left of the Murder includes the song "Talk Show On Mute", about how one day, the television might be watching us instead of us watching them, showing a world where humans are monitored at all times. Among its lyrics is the line
"Come one, come all, into 1984"
  • Manic Street Preachers released the album The Holy Bible in 1994 which contains the song "Faster". At the beginning of the song a voice (John Hurt, sampled from the movie version of 1984) quotes a line from the book, although not word for word: "I hate purity. I hate goodness. I don't want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt."
  • Benzene Jag, an obscure punk band formed in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada released a 45 rpm single called "Fuck off 1984" in 1983.
  • Anaal Nathrakh's album Domine Non Es Dignus includes a song called "Do Not Speak" that opens with a sample of "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot, stamping on a human face, for ever." Due to Anaal Nathrakh's lyrics being unpublished, the exact influence of 1984 is unknown. However the words "pain, frustration, faded memories" are intelligible, and 1984 certainly fits with the apocalyptic, despairing, anti human themes of the band.
  • In the song "George Orwell Must Be Laughing His Ass Off" by Mea Culpa, the second verse begins with "If 2 plus 2 don't equal 5 I guess I'm just no fun".
  • Singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke published a song called "When Two and Two are Five" with Jennifer Kimball (as The Story).
  • The Pet Shop Boys have a song called "One and One Make Five" on their 1993 album Very.
  • The song "The Panama Deception" by Anti-Flag begins with the text "Their two plus two does not equal four. Their two plus two equals whatever they want us to die for".
  • Open Hand released a song called "Newspeak" on their 2005 album You and Me. The song title and lyrics deal heavily with the ideas of newspeak and being thought controlled.
  • The Rare Earth hit single "Hey Big Brother", released in 1971, sings of the future arrival of Big Brother, first addressing this future Big Brother directly and then finishing by expressing a rebellious defiance against his arrival.
  • The Dead Kennedys' 1979 single "California Über Alles" contains the lyrics "Big Bro on white horse is near", and also "Now it is 1984 / Knock knock at your front door / It's the suede-denim secret police / They've come for your uncool niece" in reference to the thought police of the novel.
  • The Dutch synthesizer musician Ed Starink composed and recorded a "Big Brother Suite" in 1983. He remixed that suite in July 1991 in his new digital studio and relased it with the album "Retrospection" under his own Star Inc. label. In the liner notes of this album, he explains that "1984" by Orwell inspired him to create a work that was a mixture of the 12-tone system and rhythmical pop influences. The suite contains the following tracks: (8:08) "Big Brother"; (0:52) "Two and two make five"; (4:09) "Minitrue"; (1:25); "Lunatic"; (5:46) "Julia"; (0:41) "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism" (3:50); "The Ministry of Love, Including Room 101".
  • The album Vistoron, released in 2004 by Japanese electronic musician Susumu Hirasawa under the name KAKU P-MODEL, contains a track titled "Big Brother". Hirasawa has offered Big Brother as a free download in MP3 file format.
  • Van Halen released the album "1984" that year.
  • New Zealand band Shihad start off their debut album Churn with the quote "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever" on the song "Factory".
  • Rock singer Darais Kemp released two songs on his album Sweet Sweet ("Room 101" and "Two Minutes Hate") that explicitly alluded to the novel.
  • Sage Francis references "Big Brotherly love" and declares "don't forget what two plus two equals" in the political song "Hey Bobby".
  • Anti-Flag released a song called "1984".
  • German band de:BAP referred to George Orwell and 1984 in their live recording of the song "Ne schöne Jrooß" on their 1983 live album "Bess demnähx": "Leven Orwell, vierunachzig ess noh, ess mittlerweile nur noch een läppsch Johr" (Cologne dialect for: "Dear Orwell, '84 is near, meanwhile it's only one more shabby year to go"). In concerts after 1984, they replaced the second verse with: "Ess mittlerweile leider vill ze vill wohr" ("Unfortunately, much too much has meanwhile beome reality").
  • Five for Fighting has a song called 2+2 makes five on the bonus CD to his album The Battle for Everything.
  • British Oi! band Combat 84 chose their name based on 1984.
  • The song '1977' by British punk band, the Clash, includes imagery of civil disorder on the streets of London, similar to that described in Orwell's explanation of the Party's rise to power, and a coda that consists of a lyrical count-up from the year 1977 that ends on 1984.
  • The song 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' by British band, the Arctic Monkeys, includes the lyrics "Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984. From 1984!"
  • The second album, What Will the Neighbours Say? by British band Girls Aloud contained the track Big Brother which features the line "Big Brother's watching me and I don't really mind".


  • Brazil is a dystopic black comedy feature film directed by Monty Python member Terry Gilliam.
  • Equilibrium starring Christian Bale resembles Nineteen Eighty Four. The movie tells the story of "Libria" after being ravaged by the Third World War and therefore suppresses all human feelings in order to stop the outbreak of war again. Cleric Preston (Bale) is the leader of a police force who draw comparison to the Thought Police from the book. Also, all people in the movie are forced to take vials of a liquid drug known as Prozium — called intervals — to stop themselves from succumbing to thoughts. Libria is also controlled by the "Father", another comparison to "Big Brother" from the novel which can be drawn here.
  • The Island (2005 film) - also includes constant surveilance, thought police, restrictions on relationships and physical contact.
  • The Matrix has Mr. Anderson living in the apartment room 101.
  • Me and the Big Guy is a comedic short-film that satires the relationship betwixt Winston and Big Brother by portraying its main character, Citizen 43275-B, entirely grateful of the Revolution and treating his telescreen as if it were his own best friend.
  • V for Vendetta takes place in a dystopian future not unlike the world imagined in 1984. The use of government spying, state censored media, and a police state designed for everyone's "protection" are common to both films. In contrast to his role of Winston in the film adaptation of 1984, John Hurt plays the Big Brother-like character of Sutler.

Video Games

  • Half-Life 2 features an Eastern European city, ambiguously titled "City 17", which is under the oppression of a Big Brother type figure, Dr. Breen. Dr. Breen rules from a massive tower named the citadel (which in game bears a striking resemblance the imagery described in 1984 of the ministries dominating the London skyline). Dr. Breen, however, is just a figurehead for an inter-dimensional empire called The Combine. Throughout the game, the player discovers that The Combine invaded several years prior (due to the events of the first game) through a "portal storm" and conquered the entirety of humanity in 7 hours. City 17 features many similarities to Orwell's Airstrip One. Thousands of robots hover around the city, providing constant surveillance to every member of the dystopian society. "Civil Protection" police units (the unit itself sports a title which is drawn from 1984's concept of doublethink) randomly beat civilians and snuff out dissent. The government distributes synthetic food, employs a "Suppression Field" which sterilizes all human reproductive ability, and posts propaganda almost everywhere one turns. It is even hinted at early in the game that The Combine have contaminated the water supply with mind-erasing drugs.

See also


  • Orwell, George. (1949). Nineteen-Eighty-Four. London: Secker & Warburg. (later edn. ISBN 0451524934)
  • Aubrey, Crispin & Chilton, Paul (Eds). (1983). Nineteen-Eighty-Four in 1984: Autonomy, Control & Communication. London: Comedia. ISBN 0-906890-42X.
  • Hillegas, Mark R. (1967). The Future As Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians. Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-809-30676-X
  • Howe, Irving (Ed.). (1983). 1984 Revisited: Totalitarianism In Our Century. New York: Harper Row. ISBN 0-060-80660-5.
  • Shelden, Michael. (1991). Orwell — The Authorised Biography. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-695173
  • Smith, David & Mosher, Michael. (1984). Orwell for Beginners. London: Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative. ISBN 0-86316-066-2
  • 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



External links

ELECTRONIC EDITIONS WARNING: Nineteen Eighty-Four will NOT enter the public domain in the United States of America until 2044 and in the European Union until 2020, although it is public domain in countries such as Canada, Russia, and Australia. (A list of free downloads appears under the external links section below.)

The following free online or downloadable editions of Nineteen Eighty-Four are available:

Other links:

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