Setting and Characters of George Orwell’s 1984

July 12, 2017 Philosophy

Controlling idea Orwell’s purpose in writing 1984 and the understanding of the writer’s thoughts through a thematic analysis of characterization and symbolism Good morning Mr Caruso and good morning students. 1984 has been heralded an influential piece of literature upon its publishing. This speech will be a deconstruction of the novel 1984 and what the author, George Orwell, intended in it’s writing. Many of Orwell’s personal values and political viewpoints have been integrated within the novel and highlighted through his use of characterization and setting. 984 is about totalitarianism, a totalitarian government is one tries to control every aspect of life. It tries to control how people spend every minute of their time, even in private, who they associate with and what there are allowed to say. A totalitarian government will even try to control what people think and what they believe. George Orwell wrote 1984 in the late 1940’s, what he knew about totalitarianism was based on the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Those governments had come into being not so long before and they weren’t very well understood yet.

What Orwell was trying to do with 1984, was to give his reader a clear picture of what it would be like for a free country, like England, to be under a totalitarian rule. 1984 is set in London; the London in the book however is a dreary place. There is never enough to eat, the food is disgusting, there aren’t enough shoes or clothes to go around and the city is pretty dilapidated. There is some sort of war going on but nobody really knows what it’s about. Rockets frequently explode in the streets that blow people to bits.

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The worst part is that the government is always watching everything people do. There are big posters that show Big Brother, who is supposedly the leader of the government, that say “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”. There are thought police, which have microphones and cameras literally everywhere. The government can watch you in your home trough your TV screen and your not allowed to turn your TV off, ever. There are a lot of things you are not allowed to do in this society and if you do them the police might take you away and throw you into a forced labour camp.

You’re not allowed to have close fiends, you’re not allowed to be in love, you can’t date or have sex with someone you like. You’re basically meant to conserve all of your emotional energy for the party, the party being the government. Then there are things you have to do, you have to watch the government programming on TV, most of its news some of it exercise and you have to attend pep rallies. It’s hard to even have time to think your own thoughts because they’re always filling your head with propaganda.

Winston Smith is the protagonist and our medium through which we see the world of 1984. He is 39, has a job with the government and he lives this horrible dreary existence. Winston is a common middle-class man with whom we sympathize; however he is different from the rest of society. Winston doesn’t believe that the way he lives his life now is the way life should be. He tries to image if it could possible be any different. His observance, curiosity and more than anything else his will to seeks the truth make Winston an excellent means through which Orwell presents the world of 1984.

Essentially Winston’s characterization allows for us to draw from important observation that he makes. How he lives in his dreary world, dilapidated living quarters, even his varicose ulcer all emphasise the resolutions he draws from those observations. How Winston despises what the Party is doing and the way he sees the disheartening events of daily life is one example of the way Orwell’s characterization helps convey his understanding of totalitarianism. Winston is very apprehensive of Party philosophy, in particular its control of history through the manipulation of records.

Winston’s hatred of the Parties measures and philosophies was representative of what Orwell himself believed of the totalitarian system. Orwell wanted his society to examine their government and media, to emulate that characteristic that Winston shows throughout 1984 and to prevent historical disfigurement. Winston is not the only character in the novel and as a result we see many other expertly characterized figure in 1984. O’Brian is a mysterious character as we never find definitive answers about who he is and what his motives are.

At roughly 40 he is a burley inner party member defined features and a habit for adjusting his spectacles. A duplicitous and cunning man, O’Brien tricks Winston into believing that he is a member of the anti-Party Brotherhood. O’Brien approaches and inducts Winston into the group, but does that in order to set Winston up for the ultimate crime. Orwell’s portrayal of figures of authority show a devious cruelty; his portrayal of the sub-totalitarian regimes around him. 984’s London seen through the protagonist’s eyes show us Orwell’s intent. Orwell said, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism. ” He wrote because there is some lie that he wants to expose, some fact to which he wants to draw attention. We, when reading 1984, can imagine this frightening and oppressive world. We see the greed in men; we see the promise of totalitarianism.


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