Guide To George Orwell And 1984 English Literature Essay

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George Orwell's Life. In the British colony of Motihari, Bengal India, Eric Arthur Blair was born on July 25th, 1903 into a "lower-upper-middle class" as he puts in The Road to Wigan Pier (Hopkins). His father, Richard Walmesley Blair, worked for the Opium Department of Civil Service there. His mother, Ida Mabel née Limouzin, brought him back to England, only a year after Eric's birth; he did not see his father again until 1907. Eric was stuck in the middle with an older sister Majorie, and a younger sister Avril. When his father finally came home it was only for three months, and then he was off again until 1912.

When Blair was five years old, he went to the Anglican parish school of Henley-on-Thames. After two years, his headmaster recommended him to the headmaster of one of the most successful prepatory schools in England, St. Cyprian's School in Eastbourne, Sussex. Corporal punishment was common then and also a source of his resentment towards authority (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.). At St. Cyprian's school Blair wrote his first published work, "Awake! Young Men of England". Blair excelled and earned a scholarship that allowed his parents to only pay half the tuition to, in his own words, "the most costly and snobbish of the English Public Schools" which was Eton College. He attended Eton from 1917 to 1921. There he ceased doing serious work. Some claim that he was poor student, while others disagree. It was obvious that some of Blair's teachers disliked him. They claimed he was disrespectful towards their authority. (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.).

After finishing up at Eton, Eric had no plans to going to a university; he did not have the finances to do so. (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.) So Blair followed in his father's steps and joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma (present day Myanmar). Over the next five years he grew to love the Burmese and to hate the oppression of imperialism. He resigned and decided to become a writer. His novel Burmese Days, published in the United States and then in London in 1935, was based upon his service in Burma.

After resigning, Blair moved to Paris to try writing short stories, writing freelance for various periodicals. He ended up destroying them because no one published them. (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.). He was forced to do menial jobs; one of them was a plongeur that provided just enough to keep him alive as he claimed in Down and Out in Paris and London. (Hopkins). After contracting pneumonia in 1929 Blair moved to East London and took up his writing name George Orwell, partly to avoid embarrassing his family (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.). He also chose a name that showed his lifelong affection for English tradition and countryside. George is the patron of England, and the River Orwell in Suffolk was one of his adored places in England. (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.). Orwell lived as a tramp in London and the Home of Counties and stayed with miners in the north. There he learned about difference between the social classes, and lived a life poverty. In 1932 Blair was a teacher for a while before he moved to Hampstead, London to work in a bookstore. Orwell married Eileen O'Shaughnessy in 1936. They then adopted Richard Horatio in 1944.

During the Spanish Civil War Blair and his wife wanted to fight for the Spanish government. Blair was shot in the throat while in battle. In Barcelona Blair joined the anti-Stalinist Spanish Trotskyist 'Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista' or the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification. Once the communists gained control and tried to eliminate the POUM, lots of Blair's friends were shot, arrested, or just disappeared. He and his wife barely got out alive in 1937. (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.)

Returning to England Blair resumed his freelance writing for many publications such as, New English Weekly, The Tribune and New Statesman. He then joined the Home of Guards in addition to working in broadcasting with the BBC in propaganda efforts to gain support with the East Asians and Indians. Blair was also the literary editor for the left wing the Tribune; he wrote his column "As I Please" until 1945, becoming a war correspondent for The Observer in the same year. Eileen also died in 1945 while undergoing surgery in Newcastle upon Tyne. During 1946 Orwell live at Barnhill for a year on the Isle of Jura. It was there that he finished writing 1984.

Returning to England once again, Blaire was admitted to the Cotswold's Sanatorium, Gloucestershire for tuberculosis in 1949. In the same year he remarried to Sonia Bronwell. Succumbing to the tuberculosis that had been a burden for the last three years of his life, Eric Arthur Blair also known as George Orwell abruptly died in London on the 21st of January, 1950. He is now buried in the All Saint's Churchyard in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, England.

Overview/Summary of 1984

1984 was published in 1949 and takes place in an imaginary totalitarian society. This society controls and monitors every aspect of the citizens of Oceania, right down to their thoughts. It is ruled by the political group called the Party, and dictated by Big Brother. His posters infest every nook and cranny of the citizens' lives. From their apartment to their work place the eyes of Big Brother are incessantly watching them. The poster reads, "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU."

Winston Smith is the protagonist of the novel. He is thirty-nine years old and works in Ministry of Truth. There he creates and rewrites history, news, education, entertainment, and propaganda. Secretly Winston resents the Party and writes in his diary (quite a dangerous act) about rebelling against it and Big Brother. He manages to escape the monitoring of the Telescreen by hiding away in a nook, much like one made for bookshelf. If he is caught he will be arrested by the Thought Police.

Winston somehow befriends Mr. Charrington, he is a prole, someone that is hardly under the control of the Party and lives in utter poverty. Mr. Charrigton is the owner of a junk shop. Mr. Charrington also wonders what life was like before the tyranny of the Party and Big Brother.

One fateful day at work, Winston runs in a girl, who later reveals herself as Julia. She secretly slips Winston a note reading "I love you." Winston is taken aback that she would even think about telling him that. Any romantic affair is strictly forbidden. Despite the terribly dangerous risk Winston went for it. They meet in areas where Big Brother's eyes were not constantly watching; in the country, in a church, in the woods. They eventually rent out an apartment above Mr. Charrington's junk shop. Finally they have private place to meet. It is an oasis away from the oppressive Party and the eyes of Big Brother.

Winston also befriends his co-worker, O'Brien. He finds an excuse to invite Winston and Julia over to his home. This is a very odd occurrence, indeed. Again, despite Winston's suspicion of O'Brien's actions he is excited. Winston is finally starting to believe the hope that maybe, one day, Big Brother's eyes no longer be looking over his shoulders. Once at O'Brien's Winston receives a document called The Book. The Book contains the real truth about the Big Brother and the history of the three super-states of Eurasia, Eastasia, and Oceania. O'Brien enlists Julia and Winston to join the Brotherhood, an organization dedicated to rebelling against Big Brother. After this exciting event, Julia and Winston return to their apartment above Mr. Charrington's junk shop.

As they are reading The Book the Thought Police break in and arrest them. They discover that Mr. Charrington is a secret agent for the Thought Police. Julia and Winston are hauled off to separate parts of the Ministry of Love. Once Winston arrives he discovers that O'Brien is in fact working for the Party itself. The very man he trusted to free him from the tyranny of Big Brother is delivering him right in Big Brother's arms. O'Brien begins the process of "re-integrating" him. He is brainwashed and tortured into fully believing anything that the Party may tell him. The culmination of the "re-integrating" was holding Winston's biggest fear, rats, in front of him and threatening to release them. Winston finally cracks and betrayed Julia to be let go. They convinced Winston to trade the life of his love in for the love of Big Brother. Afterwards Winston finds out that Julia had done the same thing. They both were doomed to serving Big Brother forever.

Critical Analysis of 1984


I believe that the influences in writing 1984 can be traced all the way back to Orwell's childhood. He went to St. Cyprian where his teachers said he showed no respect for their authority. St. Cyprian also enforced corporal punishment. (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.) His resentment of authority had started young. While serving in Burma he witnessed oppression of Imperial rule. I think this is when his eyes were opened to how unfair the social classes of life are. Also Orwell lived in poverty with the miners of north London. (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.) It was there that he got to experience the unfairness of poverty firsthand. During Orwell's service in Spanish Civil war is where he witnessed the relentless cruelty of communism. (C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc.) 1984 was written as a warning against the rise of communism. He had witnessed their relentless lust for power. They would stop at nothing to control every aspect of people's lives if nothing was done about it. "In 1949, many American intellectuals were supporting communism, because the Cold War had yet to escalate they simply saw communism as a moral experiment, whereas Orwell was deeply disturbed by the widespread cruelty and oppression. Most of all he was concerned with their devices of monitoring and controlling people's lives" (SparkNotes Editors) This then influenced Orwell to write a warning book about the imminent threat of a totalitarian society.

Main Themes

The main theme of 1984 is that the world could soon become a totalitarian society. It shows what life would be like if we were ruled by a power thirsty totalitarian society. The following quote summarizes the point Orwell was trying to get across to his readers:

One of the themes of 1984, inspired by the history of twentieth-century communism, is that totalitarian regimes are viciously effective at enhancing their own power and miserably incompetent at providing for their citizens. The grimy urban decay in London is an important visual reminder of this idea, and offers insight into the Party's priorities through its contrast to the immense technology the Party develops to spy on its citizens.(SparkNotes Editors)

An example of that technology is the Telescreen. It is installed in every apartment in Oceania. Orwell was trying to say that an oppressive totalitarian society would only advance in the ways that increased power (GradeSaver) For example the weapons and bombs were still the same from the time that Orwell wrote 1984, but the Telescreens were now everywhere. When just 40 years before, you would mostly just find radios in people's houses. The social classes would be strikingly different in a totalitarian society. The following quote describes the differences of the classes:

Orwell presents this dichotomy (the differences between the classes) to demonstrate how totalitarian societies promote the wealth of the ruling regime while decreasing the quality of life for all other members of society. Such governments often tout their hopes for establishing an equal society when in reality the separation between their living conditions and those of the citizens is vast. Winston looks out on the city of London and sees a dying world. Meanwhile, O'Brien looks out on the city of London and sees a society trapped in a single moment in time, defined and controlled by the Party. (GradeSaver)

The Inner Party members lived a life of luxury at the cost of the quality of life the Party members and the Proles. The Party members lived with the bare necessities in one room apartments. The final theme is that once a civilization as prestigious in the absolute rule in the lives of people as Oceania is, there was no stopping it.(GradeSaver) Winston had tried to rebel with Julia, but he was ultimately defeated. He ended up loving Big Brother. The fact that Orwell decided to set the year in 1984 showed how concerned he was about a totalitarian society developing. He wanted to get his point across. He was shouting for people to rise against communism while it was young; before it matured into unbeatable totalitarianism.

Stylistic Devices

The entire novel of 1984 uses symbolism for what the world may soon become like, if nothing was done about the communism that was developing in Europe. The very world that Winston lives represents what life may very well become like. "The Telescreens symbolize how the government was using its technology to for its own uses instead of exploiting its knowledge to improve its civilization" (SparkNotes Editors)

Big Brother is another example of symbolism. He represents the ever present figure of artificial safety in totalitarian society, but in reality it he is a continual threat. Where ever you go the poster read, "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU". The citizens of Oceania may not know where he came from, but they do know that he, or something, is always there. He might give them a sense of security, but his eyes are always looking for a fault. Another symbol was the new language, Newspeak. It shows how a government could even use language to control people. Newspeak eliminated any words that lead to rebellion. The following summarizes Newspeak:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [English Socialism] but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought-that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc -should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on word…. To give a single example; The word free still existed in Newspeak but it could only be used in such statements as 'This dog is free from lice' or 'This field is free from weeds.' It could not be used in its old sense of 'politically free' or 'intellectually free,' since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.(Hopkings)

1984 also had subtle hints of satire threaded through it. Orwell is showing how things are just going to get worse.

Every image the reader receives from Winston Smith is pessimistic. Hate week, for example, is a big event in Oceania. The citizens prepare for it like Christmas. Instead of jolly songs with family and friends over punch, Hate week is celebrated with fists in the air while chanting about death, Goldstein, and whatever the party wanted the citizens to disgust. (

Oceania is a world full of gloom and hate. Orwell made a world where the norm was gloom and despair. He even admits it himself saying, "It wouldn't have been so gloomy if I hadn't been so ill," while he was fighting off his tuberculosis in Jura. He was trying to show how even communists said they were going to make life better it would actually be ten times worse..


Winston Smith. This is the main character of 1984. He is an average man living in an average apartment, in seemingly average Totalitarian Society. What is unaverage about Winston is that he resents living in that society, he keeps a journal of his hatred toward Big Brother, and last but not least he falls in love with a girl. It is the unaverage things about Winston that set him apart in 1984. He questions the authority of Big Brother and ponders the days before the Party. In an attempt to find out the truth he is tricked into joining the Brotherhood, and ends up being betrayed. He shows how every effort to beat the Party is futile. Winston ends up denying the things closest to him and loving the things he once resented.

Julia is Winston's secret lover. She slips him a note declaring her love for him. They end up having an affair. Meeting where Big Brother's eyes do not reach, they escape their prison of their daily lives. She too is imprisoned and betrays Winston for Big Brother.

O'Brien is double agent he pretends to befriend Winston and Julia. In the end he reveals himself as a Thought Police. He convinces Winston and Julia that he is a part of the Brotherhood and to join it themselves. He is the hope to Winston's dream of overpowering the Party, but just as things seemed to start going the right way everything shattered into an unfixable mess. O'Brien delivers Winston into the arms of Big Brother.Winston was hauled off into the hands of the Party by the very man he believed could rescue him from the Party.

Test Over George Orwell and 1984

Multiple Choice

1) Where was George Orwell born?

a. London, England b. Motihari, Bengal

c. New York, New York. d. Liverpool, England

2) How many siblings did Orwell have?

a. 2 b. 5

c. 1 d. None of the above

3) What was Orwell's first job?

a. A zookeeper b. A journalist

c. An Imperial police officer d. A bookkeeper

4) When was Orwell born?

h. June 29th i. July 25th

j. January 1st k. June 25th

5) When did Orwell and his mother move back to England?

a. On his 5th birthday b. When he was just one year old

c. After Orwell finished elementary school d. They never left

6) What is the name of Orwell's mom?

a. Irene b. Edith

c. Ruth d. Ida

7) What is the name of Orwell's dad?

a. Felipe b. George

c. Ricardo d. None of the above

8) When did Orwell marry his first wife?

a. 1934 b. 1945

c. 1926 d. 1936

9) How many children did Orwell have?

a. None b. One

c. Three d. Two

10) When did Orwell's first wife die?

a. 1965 b. 1943

c. 1984 d. 1945

11) What was the George Orwell's last writing?

a. Animal Farm b. 1984

c. How to Shoot an Elephant d. 2084

12) In which super-state did 1984 take place?

a. Oceania b. Eurasia

c. Eastasia d. All of the above

13) Who is the protagonist of 1984?

a. Winston Churchill b. Josh Cowin

c. Winston Smith d. O'Brien

14) Who is the love interest of the story?

a. Mary b. Winston's wife

c. Julia d. Megan

15) Where does Winston work?

a. The Ministry of Truth b. The Ministry of Peace

c. The Ministry of Love d. The Ministry of Plenty

16) Why is Winston arrested?

a. He is having a love affair b. He is keeping a diary

c. He enlisted in the Brotherhood d. All of the above

17) What tells the truth about Big Brother?

a. A book c. The Book

c. The Telescreens d. It was destroyed years ago

18) What is Winston's greatest fear?

a. Raspberries b. Blueberries

c. Big Brother d. Rats

19) Where is Winston taken to be "re-intergrated"?

a. The Ministry of Peace b. The Center of Integration

c. Eurasia d. The Ministry of Love

20) How does Winston manage to keep a diary?

a. He writes in a nook meant for a bookshelf b. He does not keep a diary

c. He pretends to be doing business d. He writes in a closet


1) George Orwell's real name is Eric __________ __________.

2) Oceania is a __________ society.

3) Julia and Winston's escape from reality is in their __________ above __________ _____ _____.

4) Winston receives a not that reads, "__ _____ _____".

5) Orwell's first published work was "_____! _____ ___ __ _____".

6) Orwell was Down and Out in __________ ___ __________.

7) The posters of Big Brother read "_____ __________ _____ __________ _____".

8) __________ actually turns out to be a Thought Police agent and arrests Winston.

9) Orwell witnessed the cruelty of ________ when he served in the __________ __________ War.

10) Orwell uses both ___________ and ___________ as stylistic devices.


Explain the message Orwell was trying to get across to his readers in 1984

Answer Key

Multiple Choice

1) b. 2) a. 3) c. 4) k. 5) b 6) c. 7) c. 8) d. 9) b. 10 d) 11) b. 12) a. 13) c.

14) a. 15) d. 16) d. 17) c. 18) d. 19) d. 20) c.


1) Arthur Blair

2) totalitarian

3) apartment; Mr. Charrington's junk shop

4) I love you

5) Awake Young Men of England

6) Paris and London


8) O'Brien

9) communism; Spanish Civil

10) symbolism; satire


Orwell was trying to warn his readers about the dangers of communism developing into a tyrannical totalitarian society. The sole purpose of 1984 was to show his readers what may happen to society in a couple of decades if nothing was done to stop communism. They would take over every aspect of their citizen's lives and use them to bring their government even more power. The pent up hatred from the citizens' terrible lives would be used against themselves and for the betterment of the government. They hatred would not be directed to the government itself but to its appointed enemy, such as Eurasia or Eastasia. This only made the Party stronger. That is how it would be; they could use anything from distortion of language (as in Newspeak) to constant surveillance of people's thoughts to further their power. Winston tried to trump Big Brother but in the end Winston ended up truly loving his original hate, and hating his love, Julia. The fact that he put this novel in the future showed his acute concern of this becoming a reality soon. Orwell was trying to tell his readers that if communism was not put to an end soon it would grow into an unbeatable, invincible, ever-growing, totalitarian society that would consume every aspect of people's lives.