1. Biography

George Orwell is the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, a British writer with political conscience. He was born in India but educated in England at Eton College. He served the Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922 to 1927. In sick health, he returned to Europe to live in poverty as a struggling writer. Orwell joined the Republican forces in the Spanish civil war, and wrote a chilling account of this experience. He went on to write many books, mostly autobiographical, and achieved successes as a brilliant writer.

2. Synopsis

The novel takes place in a theoretical and fictional dystopian totalitarian society. The story begins in London on April 4, 1984 after an atomic world war divides the world into three states. London is the capital of Oceania which is run by INGSOC(English Socialism). The controllers are called "The Party." The Party is divided into two sections, The Inner Party, and The Outer Party which are the "Rich" and the "middle-class." There is a third group of people called "The Proles," or "The Proletariat" which are the poor, and considered to be animals by the party. The main leader of this government is Big Brother. The novel is told in third person and partly first person, and is also divided into three parts. In the first part the main character and his conflicts with the world he lives in are revealed. Winston Smith is a bureaucrat who works for the government by altering history at the Ministry of Truth. He begins to ponder the reason things are so bad and commits a terrible crime. In the second part, he falls in love with Julia, and is taken in by a man named O'Brien, a member of the anti-party society called the Brotherhood. O'Brien turns out to be a true member of The Inner Party. Winston and Julia are captured and hauled off to the Ministry of Love (Minilove in Newspeak). Here, during the final part of the story, Winston is incarcerated and rehabilitated by The Party. O'Brien constantly tells Winston that Winston is crazy, and that he is trying to help him. During these sessions he reveals the true purposes of INGSOC. The party's goals can be summed up in their mottoes. "WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH(Orwell, 7)."

3. Theme

Under the rule of INGSOC, members of The Party are engrossed in their work. It is essential that the government keeps its people happy in order to avoid rebellions and "thought crimes." Winston's greatest downfall springs from his only pleasure, his work. He found it easy to become lost in the intricacies of his duties guided only by the principles of INGSOC and his best estimate of what the Party wanted him to say. A typical task might include correcting an article in the Times, written entirely in Newspeak. In one instance he reviews an article which read:

times 3.12.83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling(Dr. Tom Costa., 1).

In Oldspeak (or standard English) this might be rendered:

The reporting of Big Brother's Order for the Day in the Times of December 3rd 1983 is extremely unsatisfactory and makes references to nonexistent persons. Rewrite it in full and submit your draft to higher authority before filing(Dr. Tom Costa., 1).

The ability of Winston to do this job can be accredited to the control of his government. Through the use of various techniques such as propaganda and the "Thought Police," Big Brother is able to not only brainwash his people, but also to reprogram them to love and serve him.

4. Structural Feature

How does Orwell use distortion and irony to reveal the true motive of the IGNSOC government?

By distorting the motive of a government into three elusively ironic statements, "WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH(Orwell, 7)." Orwell is able to convey the reality of IGNSOC's goals. "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" is the basic idea that ignorant people are content people. The Outer Party is kept ignorant because the truth is adjustable, and the Proles are kept content with ineffectual liberties such as love, sex, and families. "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY" breathes insecurity into the individualist. It implies that as an individual you will sink, as a group you are immortal. "WAR IS PEACE" leads people to believe that war is a good thing when in reality it is only good for the government that they should believe this.