How Symbols Dreams And Images Contribute English Literature Essay

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This extended essay is an investigation of the symbols images and dreams employed by George Orwell to show the dystopic nature of the novel 1984 thus proposing the research question, "How do symbols, dreams and images contribute to Orwell's depiction of a dystopic future in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four"?I was very interested with the correlation between the two and intrigued by Orwell's accurate portrayal of a dystopic world. I believe encountering it from a different perspective will prove innovative and refreshing. Rather than discussing the many conspiracy theories surrounding Orwell's novel, I will discuss the recurring symptoms of man through the ages and link this with Winston's plight. The 21st century has been almost prophesised by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty Four, but it makes sense when think about the ideas explored in the book using a more holistic approach. Focusing more on why the themes are explored, rather than what they are. The Research question I chose is "How do symbols, dreams and images contribute to Orwell's depiction of a dystopic future in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four". This topic will hopefully allow me to research Orwell's ideas in a systematic method. Two of each literary feature was investigated by using the concepts of the novel as a back bone. The conclusion reached within this investigation is that the contribution made by the literary features discussed are not important in showing the dystopic nature of the novel but also as a way to understand the characters and other concepts which are linked with the way they live and the general description of Oceania.

Word count: 262

Table of Contents

Introduction 4

Body 6

Conclusion 13

Bibliography ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………14


1984 is an extreme example of the future could have offered us; oppression, subjugation and totalinariasm. A world in which free thought was a crime and the concept of doublethink was not questioned. Although we can shoot down Orwell's novel as delusionary due to his strong anti - communist feelings, there are similarities which links 1984 to this day and age. Although many comparisons have been made between the novel and the 21st century, do we really understand how it correlates with the modern world?

All three statements in hindsight do not make sense. If I take the first phrase "War is Peace" [1] and swap it around, it should stay the same just as 2+2=4 and 4=2+2. However, after swapping the phrase you get "Peace is War" [2] . The question then arises, how can Peace be understood as war? The two words have totally different meanings. War means a violent confrontation between two separate groups but peace can be defined as an armistice or reconciliation between two or more groups. So how can the two equate? To answer these two questions, there is a need to understand war in 1984 and what it meant to the party and its people rather than associating war to what we believe. The war between Oceania and either Eurasia or Eastasia are continuous and mostly not violent. In Goldstein Emmanuel's book "the theory and practice of Oligarchical collectivism" he states that ", they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact… It would probably be accurate to say that becoming continuous war has ceased to exist" [3] 

War was a way to cope with the people and prevent the crumble of big brothers regime, the word war however is cannot be used in this context. War as stated before is a violent confrontation but as mentioned by Goldstein, it was war waged on its own subjects and not an enemy from the outside. The word warfare may have a similar meaning but it does not necessarily point out to a violent confrontation. We have solved George Orwell's belief of war not necessarily being violent or even being a clash between two separate entities - but something more deep and meaningful. This quote by Walter Lippmann allowed a connection between the 21st century and 1984.

By trying to delve into the meaning of the slogan "War is Peace", we have entered into familiar ground - the modern world. This cemented my thoughts regarding how similar Orwell's ideas in 1984 are to the reality today and gave me the final push to create an extended essay which tried to create viable links between what Orwell foreseen and the situation now. My final question was;

"How do symbols, dreams and images contribute to Orwell's depiction of a dystopic future in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four".This topic not only addresses the symbols and themes of 1984 but makes it relevant to modern readers. Many people have compared the two - creating shallow conclusions that show delusion and paranoia. This question will compare 1984 and the 21st century in a more realistic way, shedding to light the obvious yet subtle similarities.


It seems that our world is destined to become a "Big Brother Society". In his novel, 1984, George Orwell envisioned a world of constant surveillance, where the privacy of the individual was virtually extinct. Although the technology he predicted seems unsophisticated to us today, the concept is still the same. The government is finding it easier and easier to delve into our lives and we are finding it harder and harder to stop them. We know computers will get more powerful by the day, and that technology is becoming more and more entwined in our everyday lives. These advances in technology can be interpreted both positively and negatively. Legislations such as the Patriot Act (America) have given the government an almost limitless exhibition of any of our personal records. It is perfectly legal for them to monitor your family life, check up on organizations you belong to, delve into your medical history, and even do background checks on your personality and education. Orwell predicted a society of full telescreens and monitoring by the thought police. He thought that the government would virtually rule the lives of its citizens. Orwell did not make a factually correct prediction of what the future would be like. However, the fundamental nature of his assumptions is correct. While we are not constantly monitored by telescreens, almost every day we are recorded by surveillance cameras and are totally oblivious to it.

From the ATM to the health club locker room, surveillance cameras follow us everywhere. Furthermore, people can Google us and easily find out almost anything about us, from how our house looks like to what role we had in the elementary school production of 'Wicked'. When Orwell wrote 1984, the world was experiencing the rise of the extreme left and extreme right in the communists and fascists. With the rise of these two totalitarian forms of government Orwell correctly predicted that, the world would become less and less private. He designed "The Party" to emulate these two organizations and amplify their cruelness, to serve as a warning of what things could come to if they went unchecked. That fear of extremism which Orwell had is instantly recognized when O'Brien says, "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others." [4] 

The 21st century is a very big system, working like a clock without fail. This is assured by each country and their governments. Each government have their method of control, however most prefer and count on democracy. Unlike 1984, governments allow citizens who are above the legal age (this varies) to vote on the party they believe holds their priorities. A country wouldn't want to enter a debate or a commotion with another country only to start a war. A war in the 21st century spells imminent danger to the civilians of the corresponding countries. Technology allows a missile 100x stronger than the bomb that levelled Hiroshima to arrive in foreign airspace in 3 hours maximum. This type of discreet war began in the cold war, in which intimidation and the façade of strength was more important than the number of soldiers out in the field. This method of war is now called political warfare. The interesting thing about political warfare is that it isn't violent and does not occur in pretence to a war - but occurs every single day. This is because propaganda is the fuel for Political warfare.

In Oceania, rumours, myths, ideas and false information controls the minds of the citizens. The Party uses propaganda as a powerful weapon against the citizens. There are many types of propaganda used.

One of the main arguments George Orwell was posing within his novel was that "Knowledge is power". The Big Brother regime in 1984 used knowledge as a weapon, not only to subdue them - but to control the past. The issue of changing history is explored when Winston is asked as part of his job, to change Big brother's speech to accommodate the change in war rivals - Eurasia and Eastasia. He is ultimately mystified by the actions led by the government in which he states "I understand HOW, I do not understand WHY" [5] Orwell italicises the phrase and highlights the two words 'how' and 'why' to question the readers understanding of the party's intentions. Why are they doing this? It also raises human's innate gullibility in knowing and yet not knowing the implications of what they know. As Winston begins to understand the basic function of the Party, it is illuminated that Big Brother's biggest tool is his ability to create or even manipulate knowledge without discretion. For example, in Goldstein Immanuel's book "The Theory And Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism", he discusses the nature of Oceania's war with Eastasia/Eurasia stating that "To understand the nature of the present war- for in spite of the re-grouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war- one must realise in the first place that it is impossible for it to be decisive. None of the three superstates could be definitively conquered even by the other two in combination…. There is no longer… anything to fight about" [6] In this case, this nonexistent war is used by the regime to ensure that its sense of love and obligation towards the party never yields. If we know take on objective lens on the 21st century, are we able to detect similarities. Propaganda plays a big role in the way we see the world and its many complexities. From newspapers to the internet, propaganda is bound to affect you in one or more ways. Although we may not use it as a way to control mankind oppressively, but its nature is to manipulate or hide the truth.Propagandais defined as "a message which attempts to alter public perceptions and/or induce action. It serves some specific agenda. Propaganda can appear in any form or medium and may or may not be obvious as propaganda. Its actual source may not be obvious. Not all propaganda is evil - some serves reasonable purposes, like promoting action on public health issues. According to Lasswell (1927) "It refers solely to the control of opinion by significant symbols, or, to speak more concretely and less accurately, by stories, rumours, reports, pictures, and other forms of social communication. Propaganda is concerned with the management of opinions and attitudes by the direct manipulation of social suggestion rather than by altering other conditions in the environment or in the organism." " [7] From this we can derive that propaganda has been used as a tactic by mankind since the ancient Greeks to either gain the upper hand in warfare or in terms of today - wealth. From advertisements to the way we elect our government, there is someone moving the strings above it all - making sure that you believe in this. From this information posed forth, we can argue that there is a deeper, subtler meaning to George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty Four" which proceeds beyond the many conspiracy theories which surrounds his "amazingly accurate rendition of the 21st century". Although Orwell's almost infamous hatred towards communism is noticed, he also explores the ailments of the human condition. If this essay successfully argues this idea, it will mean that the novel was not a prophetic example of our world but rather the almost cyclic nature of human behaviour. From ancient Rome to Britain (post WW1) and from Germany (post WW2) to now - we exhibit the same characteristics and the same troubles continue to harm us. However far the world develops, these will not change.Using the past, Orwell has supposedly predicted the future.

Winston's hunger for individuality is the biggest reason for his rebellion towards the party. After realizing the Party has brainwashed its subjects. Through his experience, he noticed many instances in which he believed did not make sense for a human being. For example, the Party has banned/ prohibited having "relations" with a woman for just enjoyment. There has to be a valid reason, namely getting children to strengthen lengthen the Party's reign. Other aspects such as your family, your children and even your own heartbeat are monitered constantly. This reduces any chance a man/woman can betray the regime. By controlling man's basic urges and necessities - they have created obedient subjects. Thereare many instances where Individuality plays a big part in his final rebellion. For example, attraction is not a virtue which is endorsed by the party - but he feels it when he sees Julia. He asks himself if other people thought about aspects such as this like him. Winston just wanted to feel like his life had substance. Today, Individuality is seen as a virtue rather than a prohibition. People go to extreme measures to assert their individuality. However, most of our alterations are only skin deep. Often changing aspects of our being such as how we look and how we talk - nevertheless, other than a few minor differences regarding moral, religion, etiquette, and beliefs, we are all humans with the same basic human characteristics. It is quite ironic that George Orwell creates a book which subtly explores the human condition, while the story is of a man which is denied to be a human. We can argue that individuality, like the other themes of "Nineteen Eighty Four" explain and illuminate human's reoccurring and almost undying characteristics which have defined us from other animals since the time of the cave men.

The use of violence in Nineteen Eighty Four serves to reinforce the sombre and depressing tone of the novel in general. As Winston rebellion gains momentum and begins to question the party and opt to live in Goldstein's refuge, Orwell begins to increase the instances of violence which are either related to the war between Eurasia/Eastasia or thought crime. The reader begins to understand the dangers of his rebellion and the likely chance of torturing him and finally made an example of. In the eyes of big brother and the Thought police, any ideas or original thoughts are considered as betrayal and tortured for harbouring conspiracies against the state. When Winston and Julia are finally caught, Orwell puts emphasis on Winston's torture in the ministry of Love by dedicating a third of the book on what Winston witnesses and how he progresses as he is physically and psychologically tormented. In Nineteen Eighty Four, there is only one phrase which matches itself with parallels itself with violence and that is "room 101". Room 101 is the room where the Party applies the ultimate torture to people that have been detained by the Thought Police.  If people do not crack under regular torture, they end up in this room. The aim of this room is to find your greatest fear/ weakness and use it against you to finally surrender your emotions and your resolve. The reaction of one of a man who is sentenced to room 101 is that repulsive and is used to increase the dramatic intensity of the reader, anticipating Winston's torture. Orwell explains the man as "already very pale, turned a colour Winston would not have believed possible. It was definitely, unmistakably, a shade of green. 'Do anything to me!' he yelled. 'You've been starving me for weeks. Finish it off and let me die. Shoot me. Hang me. Sentence me to twenty five years. Is there somebody else you want me to give away? Just say who it is and I'll tell you anything you want. I don't care who it is or what you do to them. I've got a wife and three children. The biggest of them isn't six years old. You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I'll stand by and watch it.' But not room 101" [8] this long quote portrays the pure violence and terror of the Party's torture room - but also the ability of Big brother and the party to completely destroy a man physically and mentally to the point where he believes seeing his own wife and children killed. Throughout the ages, mankind has always found a way to be resilient and somehow overcome any and all obstacles. For this basic instinct to be numbed - tells us a lot about how far the party will go to repress man's natural characteristics. It encompasses violence, as the main aim is to control, brainwash, and finally realise their mistakes in front of the general public.However, should we be surprised - violence has always been of key importance, solving many of our issues and creating civilisations. From the Crusades to the Arab spring - we have always fought to protect, conquer or overthrow. From this fact the question arises, do humans despisefighting? The answer will be yes. Everyone wants safety and peace for his/ her family/friends. However, if I ask a question such as, will human ever stop fighting? The answer will be no. In the same way animals fight for territory, humans have a tendency to begin a fight from trifling issues. Violence is a product of our emotion. World War 1 was set off by the anger the Austria-Hungarians felt over the assassination of their Archduke. The Cold war occurred due to hostilities between the USSR and the USA and even the Vietnam War was caused by the fear of communism. Even the book being investigated - "Nineteen Eighty Four" is a result of George Orwell's concern towards the events occurring in the world in the late 1930s. Even now, where we try to solve most international issues using the United Nations - but like everything we create there are flaws. Winston's struggle against the thought police resonates with us, not because we are also oppressed - but because violence is one of many human conditions which haven't changed for many millennia. Many authors, playwrights and movie directors continue to create similar stories of the troubles a person faces under an oppressive regime/government; nevertheless, no one has explored the aspects which make us human in such an aesthetic and profound way. Indeed, George Orwell explores violence, one of many human attributes to inform our understanding of the modern world. [9] 


Winston's relationship with Julia is seen as the core of Winston's rebellion against the party. However, unlike the modern rendition of relationship which involves love, commitment and understanding. Winston's relationship is based on the animalistic urge for physical contact. Unlike a physical rebellion one might encounter when overthrowing a government - Winston and Julia use their bodies as a way to rebel against a regime that controls everyone's actions. Many may argue that Julia and Winston have a relationship based on love, but when they are tortured - we notice that there were slight feelings of partiality, nevertheless, it was not enough for them to stop betraying each other. From the dawn of time, men and women who loved each other were bound by the power of relationship, friendship, family and children. There doesn't seem to be any person who denies love and relationship as a natural characteristic of a human being. Therefore, Orwell uses Winston's struggle to maintain his humanity to inform the readers understanding of the modern world.

After investigating the implications of this question, a possible scope or area that could emerge from this essay are how characters are embedded within the main concepts of the novel. This can be done by investigating how Winston, Julia and other characters such as Parsons and Symes are integrated with the main ideas which are portrayed by George Orwell.