Orwell was extremely frightened of political power being concentrated in a small number of individuals, correctly seeing it as a pathway to the loss of personal freedoms, and foresaw the technology that would make the erasure of those freedoms a simple task. The most obvious and powerful theme of the novel is, of course, totalitarianism itself. This naturally stifles freedom of expression and makes change within the system impossible.
In democratic societies, opposition groups can form political parties, express their ideas freely, and force the state to address concerns or be replaced. In a totalitarian society, this is impossible. Winston believes he finds ways to resist and meaningfully fight back against repression, all of which turn out to be gambits controlled by the state. Orwell argues that people who imagine they would heroically resist such a repressive regime are kidding themselves. Workers at the Ministry of Truth actively adjust newspapers and books on a daily basis to match the ever-changing version of history that suits the purposes of the state.
Without any kind of reliable source of facts, Winston and anyone who, like him, is dissatisfied or concerned about the state of the world, has only their vague feelings on which to base their resistance. Winston daydreams of a past that never actually existed and sees it as the goal of his rebellion, but since he lacks any real information, his rebellion is meaningless. All the information Winston has about the Brotherhood and Emmanuel Goldstein is fed to him by the state itself.
'1984' Themes, Symbols, and Literary Devices
He has no idea if any of it is true—if the Brotherhood even exists, if there is even a man named Emmanuel Goldstein. This is the ultimate goal of totalitarian regimes according to Orwell: A complete subservience to the goals, needs, and ideas of the state. The torture Winston undergoes is designed to destroy his individuality.
In fact, every aspect of life in Oceania is designed to achieve this goal. Newspeak is designed to prevent negative thoughts or any thought that is not approved or generated by the state. The Two-Minutes Hate and the presence of Big Brother posters promote a sense of homogeneous community, and the presence of Thought Police—especially the children, who have been raised in the poisoned environment of the totalitarian state and who function as credulous and uncritical servants of its philosophy—prevents any sort of trust or true kinship.
In fact, the Thought Police do not have to actually exist to achieve this goal. Simply the belief that they do is sufficient to inhibit any individual expression, with the ultimate result that the self is subsumed into Groupthink.
1984 Symbols and Meanings
Big Brother. The most powerful and recognizable symbol from the book—recognized even by people who have not read it—is the looming image of Big Brother on posters everywhere. The posters obviously symbolize the power and omniscience of the party, but they are only ominous to those who retain any kind of individual thought.
For those fully assimilated into the party line, Big Brother is not an ironic term—he is seen as a protector, a kindly older sibling keeping them from harm, whether it be the threat of outside forces, or the threat of unmutual thoughts. Winston is obsessed with the lives of the proles, and fetishizes the red-armed prole woman as his main hope for the future, because she represents the potentially overwhelming power of numbers as well as a mother who will bear future generations of free children.
1984 Analysis & Literary Devices
The science fiction comes in with the crazy technological aspect of Oceania: the weird food, telescreensthe Thought Police. If it sounds futuristic, it's probably science fiction. Orwell originally envisioned the title to be "The Last Man in Europe.
But why not ? Or even ? Well, quite honestly, no one really knows. But there has been a lot of speculation read: made-up stuff to explain. It might be that Orwell, inthought a simple, two-digit switcheroo would do the trick most scholars are partial to this one. Then again, maybe he wanted to honor his late wife, poet Eileen Maud O'Shaughnessy, and named the book after her poem, " End of the Century, ".
There are many other conspiracy theories involving other authors and texts, but those are mostly the result some bored book geek sitting around and finding every possible instance that the year is used in literature. So for now, your guess is as good as ours. With a hint of science fiction, is set in near-future Oceania. Yes, it is the past now, but it was the future at the time the book was written.
The city is still named London, though the country is now called Airstrip One. The super-country of Oceania is in a constant state of war, and bomb explosions are ubiquitous. The living conditions are poor — very poor — with the buildings dilapidated, the food synthetic and rationed out, wages poor, and clothing shoddy. One cannot expect privacy anywhere, as there is a telescreen that monitors behavior visually and audibly in almost every room.
Certainly a setting to make a character feel disgruntled.Below are some examples of symbols and their interpretation, but the list is by no means exhaustive. Winston's varicose ulcer is an expression of his consistently repressed humanity: repressed emotions, actions, sexuality, etc. His ulcer is introduced on the first page and begins itching terribly before he begins his journal.
Orwell continues to refer to the ulcer throughout the work, and it gets better when he's living in a more natural, less repressed manner with Julia.
The paperweight is a concrete remnant of the past, and symbolizes the immutable past. The paperweight is shattered when Winston is arrested, which shows the control the Party exercises over the past. In the room Winston rents there is a painting of a church.
The painting hides the telescreen used to spy on Julia and Winston when they think they are alone. The painting is another symbol of the past, another concrete remnant. Because it hides a telescreen, this symbol could be read as an example of the Party being in control of the past. The red-armed, singing woman represents to Wilson the hope that the "proles" can overcome the Party.
Her singing demonstrates the individual, human spirit that remains undefeated within the "proles". Her tireless work hanging laundry shows the physical strength the working class possesses, a strength that could overthrow the Party.
Homework Online Study Guides. Symbols is a highly symbolic novel, and symbols by their nature are open to multiple interpretations. Varicose Ulcer Winston's varicose ulcer is an expression of his consistently repressed humanity: repressed emotions, actions, sexuality, etc. Paperweight The paperweight is a concrete remnant of the past, and symbolizes the immutable past. Church Painting In the room Winston rents there is a painting of a church.
Proletariat Woman The red-armed, singing woman represents to Wilson the hope that the "proles" can overcome the Party.Which guides should we add? Request one! LitCharts Teacher Editions. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of every Shakespeare play.
LitCharts From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Sign In Sign Up. Download this LitChart! Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on can help. Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. Big Brother. Big Brother represents the totalitarian government of Oceania, which is controlled by the Party and therefore synonymous with it.
Winston learns in Goldstein's book that Big Brother is not a real person but an invention… read full symbol analysis. The Glass Paperweight. The old glass paperweight sold to Winston by Mr. Charrington represents the past.
The level of craftsmanship required to make it is no longer achievable, since production standards have dropped and the Party has abolished… read full symbol analysis. The Red-Armed Prole Woman.
The prole woman symbolizes fertility and reproductive capacity, and represents the strong and vital lower classes. She is compared to an animal a marea fruit a rose-hipand an overripe turnip. Winston feels a… read full symbol analysis.A motif is a recurring pattern or element of a story.
A motif works similar to a symbol by calling attention to important elements of a story. Winston dreams consistently come true in the novel.
In addition to his dreams, Winston often has waking premonitions concerning his fate or the fate of others that are almost always correct. Throughout the novel the Party uses propaganda directly contrasting observable reality. For instance, calling the section of the government engaged in torture the "Ministry of Love". This is an important motif because this phenomenon is employed by actual governments to redirect the thinking of the populace through the use of euphemism or outright lies.
The ubiquitous telesceens in the novel serve to remind the reader of the continual surveillance endured by the characters. Chilling parallels can be drawn to actual, modern practices by governments like those of the United States. Homework Online Study Guides. Motifs A motif is a recurring pattern or element of a story.
Prophetic Dreams Winston dreams consistently come true in the novel. Propaganda Contrasting Reality Throughout the novel the Party uses propaganda directly contrasting observable reality. Telescreens The ubiquitous telesceens in the novel serve to remind the reader of the continual surveillance endured by the characters.This novel takes place in a futuristic and fictionalized version of London.
The exact time in the future is technically unspecified, but the title leads one to believe it takes place in the yearshowing that the possibility for a technology-led totalitarian takeover was not unfathomable at the time the novel was published The new nation is named Oceania and is one of three major powers in the world.
The novel has several motifs that speak to the overall symbolism. Another motif worthy of note is the urban decay of Oceania. Winston notices that the poorer districts where the proles live are the least supervised and thus the most likely to be the catalysts for revolution.
There is the potential for the decay that The Party caused for the city to be their actual downfall, but the proles do not seem to be taking any action. Big Brother also serves to symbolize the mystery of the Inner Party—who is in it, and what they do. The government does not reveal much about themselves to their citizens, an intentional tactic to keep them afraid and compliant. The apartment in the prole district — When Winston begins his affair with Julia, they rent an apartment in the prole district as a safe, unmonitored location where they can be themselves.
The city around them is full to the brim with propaganda so they make the apartment something just for them. In the apartment, there is a glass paperweight and a poster of St. While the poster was already in the apartment, Winston purchases the glass paperweight from the antique shop and it symbolizes his desire to reconnect with his past, before the violent revolution took place and separated him from his family.
The poster symbolizes the lost past as well. The words and the dream first occurred to Winston in the beginning of the novel and he revisits them over and over throughout the story, building up their significance as he ventures more and more into anti-Party activities. These words start to symbolize the hope in the future for Winston, as he envisions living a life in which he can be free. Telescreens — These are devices that are in every home in Oceania. They are a way that The Party can watch over and talk to every single citizen.
He sees the prole woman, and the prole population in general, as the holders of the key to a revolution. They appear to live in the moment, and to be the start of future generations that will take down the oppressive government. In noticing this woman, he imagines a happy future for himself and the rest of the people.Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other quote.
Which guides should we add? Request one! LitCharts Teacher Editions. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of every Shakespeare play.
LitCharts From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Sign In Sign Up. Download this LitChart! Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on can help. Themes All Themes.1984 - Symbols - George Orwell
Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. Big Brother represents the totalitarian government of Oceania, which is controlled by the Party and therefore synonymous with it.
Winston learns in Goldstein's book that Big Brother is not a real person but an invention of the Party that functions as a focus for the people's feelings of reverence and fear. Worship of Big Brother also provides a substitute for organized religion, which has been outlawed by the Party.
For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:. Book 1, Chapter 7 Quotes. It was as though some huge force were pressing down upon you—something that penetrated inside your skull, battering against your brain, frightening you out of your beliefs, persuading you, almost, to deny the evidence of your senses.