George Orwell, or Eric Arthur Blair that was hi real name, was born in 1903 in India. The family moved to England in 1907. He entered Eton in 1917. He served from 1922 to 1927 in the Indian imperial police in Burma. These years inspired him to write his first novel Burmese days (1934). After that, he lived in Paris for two years as a very poor man. He then moved to England where he worked as a private tutor, teacher and bookshop assistant. The time in Paris and London inspired him to write Down and out in Paris and London (1933). In the year 1935, he met a girl named Eileen O’Shaughnessy. They got married in 1936. In 1936, he was commissioned by Victor Gollancs to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire. His novel the road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a description of the poverty in Lancashire and Yorkshire. He went to Spain in 1936 to fight for the republicans in the civil war. George Orwell was an active anti fascist. In Spain, he joined POUM. Partido Obrero de Unification Marxista. POUM was an anarchistic, communistic organisation. After the capitulation, the communists wanted to remove anarchists. Orwell just barely escapes. His novel Homage to Catalonia (1938) is his account of the civil war. In 1938, he stayed in at a sanatorium in Kent. Here he was diagnosed tuberculosis. Later he spent six months in Morocco where he wrote coming up for air. He served in the home guard during the Second World War where he worked for the BBC eastern service. This was the years 1941-43. In 1945, his novel Animal Farm was published. This novel was an attack on the Soviet Union. It is written in a very allegorical form. It was published as a “Fairy story”. Later he adopted a son, Richard Horatio Blair. George loved his son. When his wife died he was devastated, but he managed to look after Richard by himself. This was not normal for a father to do. His second marriage was with Sonia Brownell. In 1949, the novel 1984 was published. This together with Animal Farm brought him world fame. George Orwell died in January 1950 in London.
George Orwell became a very active socialist. His hatred against dictators of all forms was his drive and inspiration to write. He chose the pseudonym George Orwell because he hated the name Eric. He felt that Eric was no author name. He chose the name George because it was more “English”. Another reason for using a pseudonym was that he was not so very proud of his first book.
His work in London made him very tired of journalistics. Therefore, he began writing 1984. This book had been growing in his head since 1943. 1984 was published the 6th of June 1949. The publishing of the book was hasted because his bad health. His publisher was afraid that Orwell would not be able to read the proofs on the book.
The world of 1984 consists of three superstates, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Oceania is compiled of the British Isles, the Americas, the Atlantic isles, Australasia and the southern parts of Africa. Eurasia is Europe and northern Asia. It stretches from Portugal to the Bering Strait. Eastasia consists of china and south of china, the Japanese islands and large portions of Mongolia, Tibet and Manchuria. These superstates were Always at war with one another. In Oceania, where the story takes place, the government is run by Big Brother and the party. The people, or the proles as they are referred to, are brainwashed by the party. They are told to love Big Brother. No one knows if Big Brother is real or not. He was said to be the first revolutionary against the capitalists of old England. The principles of the party are called Ingsoc, English Socialism. No one is allowed to think or act against Big Brother. On posters everywhere, it is written “Big Brother’s watching you”. Everyone is watched at all time by the “Telescreens”. If someone is suspected of thought or acts against the party, they are accused with “Thoughtcrime”. The infamous “Thought Police” would come. People would be “vaporized”. They would disappear. They would be taken to “miniluv”, the Ministry of love. The ministry of law and order. There are three other ministries as well. The ministry of truth is concerned with news, entertainment, education and “the fine arts”. The ministry of plenty deals with economic affairs. The ministry of peace deals with war. The party has three slogans. “War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength.”
The party has removed all kinds of art and literature that could tell people about the non-totalitarianism before Big Brother. Only literature that is good for the party is kept. Marriage is solely to reproduce. Same thing applies to sex. There are rumours about something called “The Brotherhood.” The Brotherhood is a rebellion against Big Brother.
The party serves the people propaganda everyday. This is called “the two minutes of hate”. It is always about Emmanuel Goldstein, the enemy of party. He is the traitor, the earliest defiler of the party’s purity. All sabotage, all heretics, came from Emmanuel Goldstein. His face is showed every day. The party has constructed a language for Oceania. This language is called Newspeak.
Principles of newspeak
Newspeak was the official language of Oceania. No one actually spoke newspeak, but all the leading articles in The Time were written in it. Newspeak was, according to the plans, to supersede oldspeak, as they called modern English, in the year 2050. The purpose of newspeak was to narrow peoples minds in the sense that if you do not have the words to express something you, in theory, cant think it either. The special thing about newspeak is that the vocabulary grows smaller rather than larger and in this way prevents Thoughtcrime. The reduction of the vocabulary was done in the way that words with an exact, orthodox meaning are kept. Most words are eliminated, but some new words are created. Most words are stripped of unorthodoxy. For example, the word, “free”. The word “free” actually exists in newspeak, but not in the sense of politically free or intellectually free. The word exists only in the sense that you can say: “this dog is free from lice”. In that, way the party could diminish the range of thought. Newspeak is based on English, but can be quite unintelligible for a modern English speaker. Newspeak is made up by the A, B and C vocabulary.
The A vocabulary, consists everyday words like, eating, drinking, walking, talking. It’s made almost entirely up by already known words like Dog, tree, food. Although Far fewer than in English and more exact meanings. All words are cleared of ambiguity and impossible to use philosophically or politically. They can only be used as concrete expressions.
Grammatically every word can be used as verb, noun, adjective and adverb. Verb and noun is the same. For example, the verb “think” and the noun “thought” both are covered by “think”. The goal is to get rid of unnecessary conjugations. Even when something is connected, like for instance, cut and knife only knife is used. You must say, “To knife something”. Adjectives are formed by the suffix –ful and adverbs by -wise. Speedful means rapid, speedwise means quickly. Some of the original adjectives are used like good, strong, big, black, soft, but the total number is small as most adjectives are made by the suffix –ful. None of the original adverbs are retained except those already ending in wise. Every word is negatived by adding the affix un-. For example, ungood. They are also made stronger by adding the affix plus-, even stronger by doubleplus-. Uncold means warm, doublepluscold means extremely cold. The words can also be modified by using the affixes ante- post- up- down-. All verbs the preterite and the past participle were the same as ended in -ed. The preterite of steal is stealed and the preterite of think is thinked Etc. all forms like swam, gave, brought, spoke, taken etc. are abolished. All plurals are made by adding –s or –es. For example, Man, ox, life is mans oxes lifes. Comparison of adjectives are made by adding -er -est. good, gooder, goodest. The only words that are allowed irregularity are the pronouns, the relatives, the demonstrative adjectives, and auxiliary verbs. Except whom, which is scrapped as unnecessary.
The B vocabulary consists of words made for political purposes, to impose a specific mental attitude on the user. These words are always noun-verbs. The word goodthink meaning both orthodoxy and “to think in an orthodox manner”. Crimethink is Thoughtcrime and thinkpol is Thought Police. Words like honour, justice, morality, internationalism, democracy, science, religion etc. does no longer exist. All these words are contained in a single word. Crimethink. A few others of these “blanket words” exist. The idea behind it is that the lesser one knows about illegal things the lesser chance there is of committing them. Another of these “blanket words” is Sexcrime. Sexcrime covers fornication, adultery, homosexuality and everything that is not normal intercourse between man and wife for the sole purpose of producing children. It is therefore impossible to follow heretical thought beyond the fact that it is heretical. The necessary words to describe it do not exist. No words in the B vocabulary are ideological neutral. There are many euphemisms like the word Joycamp which means “forced-labour camp” and Minipax, meaning “ministry of peace”, but really, “ministry of war.” another way to force meanings onto peoples minds was by adding “good” to all party related, and “bad” to all enemies. Many abbreviations are made to make people not think about what is really meant. For example, the word “communist international” is abbreviated to “cominterm”. It is easier to utter cominterm because it is shorter than the original word and there is smaller chance of thinking what it really means. The same with “minitrue”, “ministry of truth.” Almost all the words in newspeak consist of two or three syllables. This is to make the speech staccato and monotone.
The C vocabulary consists of scientific and technical terms, but they are stripped for undesirable meanings. They are also only used by people that work with special things. They are seldom used in everyday speech. Although no actual word for science exists in newspeak.
In newspeak, a possible sentence is “Big Brother is ungood”, but that is an absurdity in the same way as to say, “Light is dark” and in the way that you don’t have any words to argument it with. Another possible newspeak sentence is “all mans are equal.” That is just wrong in the same way as saying “all flowers are blue.” You can say it, but is, as everybody knows, not true. It would mean that all men are of equal strength or height. Politically equal does not exist.
The first part of the book depicts the nightmarish, totalitarian world which 1984 is set in. Big Brother, the party, and the main character Winston Smith are introduced. Winston is a man of 39 years of age and has rebellious thoughts. His wife Katharine is totally devoted to the party. Winston and Katharine are separated. Part 1 describes Winston’s thoughts against the party and the world around. The “Two minutes of hate” is described. The “two minutes of hate” is a kind of ritual played out very day. It is propaganda from the party, a kind of Religious brainwashing. We can maybe draw a similarity to certain religious sects today who are constantly brainwashing their followers until total devotion. We can also say that Big Brother is a kind of Christ figure who is here to save the people from the evil Satan. Emmanuel Goldstein is given the role of Satan. Another similarity is media today. They present people that we are supposed to hate. Of course in a much smaller scale, but it still is there. The two minutes of hate is also present in everyday commercials on the television. Between programs we are presented with a couple of minutes of commands to buy stuff that we probably don’t need. The hierarchical oligarchy that makes up Oceania begins with the “proles”, the proletarians who are the working class of the society. They are largely uneducated and are the “slaves” of the party. Above them are the outer party whose task is to make the party run smoothly. They are also being constantly brainwashed and surveyed at al time. The next layer is the inner party. They live of the fruits the party and the proles give them. At the top lies Big Brother. Whether he is real or not does not matter as long as the proles have someone to worship.
Winston Smith works for the party in the ministry of truth in the records department. His job is to rewrite history to the benefits of the party. Winston nurses a growing hatred against Big Brother and the party. He is not allowed to say anything out loud against the party. In that case, he would be arrested for Crimethink. Nevertheless, he keeps on writing in his diary, DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER. Winston is curious about the real history of Oceania.
The first encounter Winston has with privacy is when he wanders around in the prole area and discovers an antique store. This is where he meets Mr. Charrington. Charrington is the owner of the store. Winston buys a glass paperweight. Charrington shows him a private room with old furniture. Winston wants to rent this room but does not do it yet. When he leaves, he meets a black haired girl that works at his ministry. This girl is maybe the most important element of the book. This concludes the first part of the book. Winston’s dreams and longing for a new life.
The second part starts with an encounter with the black haired girl. She gives Winston discretely a folded sheet of paper, which says, “I love you” this is the start of a relationship with this girl. Her name is Julia. Julia manages later to give him directions to a place in the countryside where they can meet in private. Winston follows her directions and finds himself in the countryside making love with Julia. This is a serious Crimethink. A Sexcrime. He also finds out that she hates the party. They later rent Charringtons room. There they can live in privacy.
Next, they encounter O’Brien. O’Brien is an inner party member who apparently has the key to The Brotherhood. Suddenly Winston and Julia find themselves in the middle of it. O’Brien asks them how far they are willing to go for the brotherhood. He asks if they are willing to commit suicide, kill children, etc. they answer yes to all the questions except the one where they are asked to leave each other and never see one another again. They are then given the book of the brotherhood written by the biggest enemy of the party, Emmanuel Goldstein. After they have come home and read a bit in the book. A telescreen appear in the room and Mr. Charrington stands there with the Thought Police. He was an agent of the Thought Police. This betrayal leads to Winston and Julia’s arrest. This part of the book is all about the introduction to the brotherhood and a possible freedom from Big Brother. Here we encounter the first major betrayal.
In part, three we follow Winston inside the inner party. He is arrested and sent to the ministry of love. There he sits in a cell with other people. He is tortured with fear and hunger. One by one they are all sent to “room 101”. This is apparently the worst place in the world. After a while, O’Brien comes in and reveals that he is not a member of the brotherhood, but another agent of the Thought Police. Winston is now being tortured in many ways. He is constantly being forced to believe such claims that 2 + 2 = 5 and similar things. After a while, he starts to believe this. He really believes that 2 + 2 = 5. He is not only saying it to stop the torture, he really believes it. He cannot betray Julia so he is sent to “room 101”. Here he is exposed to his greatest fear, rats. They are about to let the rats at his face, when he in panic says just what they want to hear. He screams, “Do it to Julia!” This is the point where Winston succumbed to the party. Afterwards Winston and Julia are let free. They no longer love each other. They actually don’t really like each other even. Winston is filled with a great love of Big Brother. He is no longer a threat to the party. He is now totally devoted to Big Brother.
Even though 1984 seems to be a protest against socialism, which is not the case. It is in fact a criticism against totalitarianism and dictatorship. The vivid descriptions of the brainwashing sequences are powerful reminders of the world as it could have been. This book is not a prophecy; it is more a warning to humanity. In many ways, 1984 has actually come true. For instance, there are many conspiracy theories against the American government. We can actually draw parallels to the American government. There are many secrets going on there. The FBI can be said to be a form of Thought Police. They are said to make people who know to much, disappear just like the “vaporisation” in 1984. Of course, these are only speculations, but we can say for sure that 1984 is highly relevant today. It is a major criticism against all dictators and capitalism. Most of all it is a warning about totalitarianism.
This book has coined many new words that are in use in everyday speech. Some of the words actually have found ways in to the dictionaries. For instance, the newspeak word, Doublethink that means to hold two contradictory beliefs in your head at once. We can probably find many similarities between the totalitarianism in 1984 and the world we live in today. It is just more subtle. In the entire world, we can find slaves of the society. Even though they don’t want to admit it they are slaves of the television, trends, commercials and religion. Even the newspeak-like abbreviations in SMS languages.
Do we know what its like to be free? Will we ever find out?