Nineteen Eighty-Four is a novel by George Orwell. The protagonist is a man named Winston Smith who works to rewrite history for "Big Brother". The novel begins in the 1984-version of London, ruled by Oceania. There are three superstates: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia; the three are constantly at war. This dystopian society is run by a fictional leader named Big Brother, head of a totalitarian organization called The Party. As Winston Smith slowly plummets into depression, he meets a woman named Julia. Julia awakens a hatred for the government he did not know he had. As the two fall in love, they meet a spy called O'Brien who will help them in their fight against Big Brother and the corrupt government.
The novel starts with Winston Smith starting to write a diary. He says it is his first crime, a thought crime, punishable by the Thought Police. Smith works in the Ministry of Truth. He has to rewrite history there, in spite of the ministry's name, he invents lies and updates all the newspapers and sources that reference the original fact he tries to hide. The data he overwrites is thrown into a memory hole, where it is burned to ashes.
There are four Ministries:
- Ministry of Love: issues torture to traitors and criminals (Miniluv in Newspeak)
- Ministry of Truth: changes the truth to favor the Party's lies. Responsible for news and entertainment. (Minitrue in Newspeak)
- Ministry of Plenty: responsible for the rationing of goods. (Miniplenty in Newspeak)
- Ministry of Peace: handles perpetual war against Eurasia or Eastasia (Minipax in Newspeak)
There is an ever-present device: The telescreen. Orwell thought that in the far future the television would transmit in two ways. The telescreen transmits video, as well as also being a camera to spy on people. At the beginning of the book a woman who is leading some exercises at the telescreen tells Winston to make a better effort in his exercises. They do not know when they are watched, it is a panoptic telescreen.
The Party is headed by Big Brother. There are pictures of him everywhere, and it is also the default image of the telescreen when it is not transmitting television. He is facing front and there is a slogan written on his pictures: "Big Brother is watching you". The reason for the message is to remind people of not to commit any crimes, not even a crime thought.
The public enemy of the party is Goldstein. He is thought to command forces of revolution. He is shown shouting at the camera during the "Two Minutes of Hate". This is a daily activity in which he speaks and all the people get mad at him, shouting at the screen.
The language is also being changed. A friend of Winston is working on this and he shows Winston a dictionary of the new language: Newspeak. They delete words and concepts for no one to ever think about them. They delete concepts about liberty, revolution and the like.
Winston lives in England, a sector of Oceania. They are always at war against Eurasia or Eastasia. When they are fighting Eurasia, Eastasia is the enemy and vice versa. The strange thing about the war is that when they switch the enemy, they do it forever, that is, they say Oceania has always been at war with the new enemy, which is entirely false.
Winston hates a woman called Julia. She works in Pornosec and he think she is asexual, like most women at that time, including his past wife. But she is in love with him. She gives him a paper confessing her love and they actually engage in a love relationship. They use a room rented by a friend of Winston to be together.
Winston meets O'Brien, a man of the Inner Party. O'Brien invites him to his home and give a book written by Goldstein himself. Winston and Julia start to read the book, which is totally against the party. It speaks about the purpose of the everlasting war and the characteristics of the system implanted by the Party. But Winston does not know the danger that is coming to his life and Julia's.
Parallels in history
The novel was inspired by National Socialism in Germany and Stalinism in the Soviet Union in 1924-1952. Big Brother was inspired by Stalin, even his physical characteristics are similar. Goldstein was inspired by Trotsky, because he was an early Bolshevik revolutionary who became the enemy of Stalin and the party. His real name was Bronstein, very much like Goldstein. The switch of enemies took place when the USSR became an enemy of Germany, which was once an ally.
- "Big Brother is watching you."
- “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”
- "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."
- Text of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four on Wikilivres. The novel is in the public domain in Canada but is still under copyright in the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Quotations from and about Nineteen Eighty-Four on Wikiquote.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four, a movie adaptation filmed and released in 1984, on Moviepedia