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1984 Reading Assignments

Pre-reading assignment –
Section One –
Chapters 1-8

See packet for questions and activity

Section Two –
Chapters 1-10 (you can omit chapter 9)

See packet for questions and activity

*Extra Credit Option*
Read, summarize, and comment on chapter 9.

Section Three –
Chapters 1-6

See packet for questions and activity

Take Home Final
Eric Blair, pseudonym George Orwell, was a master writer and story teller. He wrote his first poem at the age of four or five, by dictation to his mother. In the last sixteen years of his life (born in 1903 - died in 1950) he wrote nine major books and 700 essays and articles.

In the essay WHY I WRITE, published in 1947, Orwell says:
"...In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer. First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (The Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism: but these experiences were not enough to give me an accurate political orientation. Then came Hitler, the Spanish Civil War, etc. By the end of 1935 I had still failed to reach a firm decision. The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows. And the more one is conscious of one's political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one's aesthetic and intellectual integrity."

"...I write because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. ...Of late years I have tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. ANIMAL FARM was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write. ..."

As we all know, the book Orwell went on to write was 1984. It has since been translated into 62 languages and it, along with ANIMAL FARM, had sold more than 40 million copies by 1984. In the USA it sold 1,000 copies a day that year. Quoting Orwell again from WHY I WRITE:

"...All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such things if one were not driven on by some demon that one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. ..."

Not only figuratively but also literally was the writing of 1984 like a bout of some painful illness for George Orwell. Throughout its writing he was fighting tuberculosis and was at times admitted to the hospital where his typewriter was taken away from him. Undaunted he sat in bed, propped up on pillows, and wrote in longhand with ball-point pen. He was administered a newly developed drug to which he developed a severe allergic reaction. His skin flaked, his mouth became painfully ulcerated, and his hair and nails fell out. After several months recuperating in the sanatorium Orwell returned to his home on the remote Scottish island of Jura, one of the most inaccessible spots in the British Isles, and finished writing "1984" in December 1948. He then went immediately back into hospital and was never again healthy enough to be discharged. "1984" was published in June 1949 and Orwell died seven months later on January 21st, 1950, at the age of 46.
In "1984" George Orwell describes how a hierarchical world tyranny is set up, how it stays in power, how it treats its people, and what life is like living under such a system. "1984" is in fact a coded blueprint for world tyranny, laying bare its structure and exposing its components.

Orwell wrote "1984" for us, the future, in the hope we would recognize the signs and symptoms of tyrannical world government and prevent its establishment in our world. Let's make sure he did not write in vain. ~ Jackie Jura

The plot has three main movements, corresponding to the division of the book into three parts. Book One creates the world of 1984, a totalitarian world where the Party tries to control everything, including thought and emotion. In this part Winston develops his first unorthodox thoughts.

The second part of the novel deals with the development of his love to Julia, someone with whom he can share his private emotions. For a short time they create a small world of feeling for themselves. They are connected with O'Brien. Winston thinks O'Brien is a rebel like himself.

The third part of the novel deals with Winston's punishment. Generally the plot is very simple: a rebel, a love affair, and finally capture, torture, and concession.

Apart from Julia, O'Brien, and Winston, there are no important characters; there is no attempt to create a range of social behavior, and the complex personal interactions therein, all traditional concerns of a novel. Indeed, one of Orwell's points is that life in 1984 has become totally uniform. So the traditional novel would be unthinkable. In fact, Winston is the only character worth writing about; all the other characters are robots already.

Winston Smith: Orwell named his hero after Winston Churchill, England's great leader during World War II. He added a common last name: Smith. The action of this novel is built around the main person, Winston Smith, and therefore the understanding of his personality and his character is important for the understanding of the whole book. Winston was born before the Second World War. During the War, there was a lack of food, and Winston has taken nearly all of the food that was allocated to the family, although his younger sister was starving to death. In 1984 Winston often dreams of this time, and he often remembers how he once has stolen the whole chocolate, that was given to the family. He also knew that his illegal love affair was an act of revolution, would be disclosed by the Thought Police. But nevertheless, he is kind of naive.

Julia: The name Julia was carefully chosen. It immediately suggests Juliet, the Shakespearean character whose name has become connected with romantic love. Julia is a woman around 25, working in a special department of the Minitrue, producing cheap Pornography for the proles. She had already a couple of illegal love affairs. Unlike Winston, she is basically a simple woman, something of a lightweight who loves her man and uses sex for fun as well as for rebellion. She is perfectly willing to accept the overnight changes in Oceania's history. If Big Brother says black is white, fine. If he says two and two make five, no problem. She may not buy the Party line, but it doesn't trouble her. Orwell draws Winston's love object lovingly. Julia is all women, sharp and funny as she is attractive, but she may also be a reflection of the author's somewhat limited view of the opposite sex.

O'Brien: Probably the most interesting thing about O'Brien is that we have only Winston's opinion of him. This burly but sophisticated leader of the Inner Party is supposed to be the head of the secret Brotherhood dedicated to the overthrow of Big Brother. In his black overalls, he haunts both Winston's dreams and his waking moments to the very end of the novel. Another very interesting thing about O'Brien is that the reader doesn't precisely know if he is a friend or an enemy of Winston. He is almost a kind of father for Winston. The relation between O'Brien and Winston has all attributes of a typical relationship between a father and a child: the father is all-knowing, all-mighty; he teaches, punishes and educates his child, and protecting it from anything that could harm the child.

Big Brother: Big Brother is not a real person. All-present as he is, all-powerful and forever watching, he is only seen on TV. Although his picture glares out from huge posters that shout, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, nobody sees Big Brother in person. Orwell had several things in mind when he created Big Brother. He was certainly thinking of Russian leader Joseph Stalin; the pictures of Big Brother even look like him. He was also thinking of Nazi leader Adolph Hitler and Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Big Brother stands for all dictators everywhere. For Inner Party members, Big Brother is a leader, a figurehead they can use to frighten people and justify actions. For the unthinking proles, Big Brother is a distant authority figure. For Winston, Big Brother is an inspiration. Big Brother excites and energises Winston, who hates him.
• The paperweight that Winston buys in the old junk shop represents the fragile little world that Winston and Julia have made for each other.

• The "Golden Country" stands for the old European pastoral landscape. It represents a place where Winston can never be hurt. It is his place where he is truly free and he relates that to the place Where Julia and he first meet.

• The nursery rhymes have a romantic value to them. They have become distorted and manipulated by the Party. The only people allowed to sing these rhyme were the proles. This signifies, in a small way, that the proles have more freedom then the outer Party members.

• Orwell divides the fictional superstates in the book according to the division that can be found in our history's own Cold War. Oceania stands for the United States of America, Eurasia for Russia and Eastasia for China. The fact that the two socialistic countries Eastasia and Eurasia (in our case Russia and China) are at war with each other, corresponds to our history.

Political System
Party: The Party of Oceania poses about 19% of the whole population of Oceania's mainland. Generally one could divide the Party into the Inner Party, which is comparable to the communistic Nomenclature, and the Outer Party. Winston Smith himself is a member of the Outer Party. The members of the Inner Party hold high posts in the administration of the country. They earn a great deal of money, and possessions. The people of the Outer Party live in dull grey and old flats. Because of the war there is often a lack of the most essential things.

The life of the Outer Party is dictated by the Party, even their spare time is used by the Party. There are so-called community hikes, community games and all sort of other activities. And refusing the participation at these activities is even dangerous. The life of a Party member is dictated from his birth to his death. The Party even takes children away from their parents to educate them in the sense of Ingsoc. The children are taught in school, to report it to the police (Toughtpolice) when their parents have unorthodox thoughts, so-called "Thoughtcrimes." After the education the Party members start to work mainly for one of the four Ministries (Minipax, Minitrue, Miniluv, Miniplenty).

The further life of the "comrades" continues under the watchful eyes of the Party. Everything the people do is targeted by the telescreens. Even in their homes people have telescreens. Each unorthodox action is then punished by "joycamps" (Newspeak word for forced labor camps").

Proles: The proles make up the majority of the population of Oceania, about 85%. The Party itself is only interested in their labor power, because the proles are mainly employed in the industry and in the farms. Without their labor force Oceania would certainly fail. Despite this fact the Party completely ignores this social caste, like a worthless vermin. The curious thing about this behavior is that the Party calls itself a Socialistic Party, and generally socialism (at least at the beginning and middle of this century) is a movement of the proletariat. One of the main phrases of the Party is "Proles and animals are free." In Oceania the proles live in very desolate and poor quarters. Compared to the districts where the members of the Party live, there are much fewer telescreens, and policemen. And as long as the proles don't commit a crime (crime in our sense, not in the sense of the party) they don't have any contact with the state. Therefore, in the districts of the proles one can find things that are abolished and forbidden for the Party members, like old books, furniture, prostitution and alcohol. The proles don't pose a threat to the party; they are uneducated and too unorganized.

Newspeak: the official language of Oceania, devised to meet ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984, there is nobody who really uses Newspeak in speech or writing. Only the leading articles are written in this "language." But it is generally assumed that in the year 2050 Newspeak would superset Oldspeak, or common English. The purpose of Newspeak is not only to provide medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other methods of thought impossible. Another reason for developing Newspeak is to make old books (those written before the era of the Party) unreadable.

With Newspeak, Doublethink would be even easier. Its vocabulary is so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This is done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings whatever. Generally Newspeak words are divided into three groups: the A, B(also called compound words) and the C Vocabulary.

A-Vocabulary: The A-Vocabulary consists of the words needed in business and everyday life, for such things as drinking, working, and the like. The words of this group are nearly entirely composed of Oldspeak words, but in comparison, their number is very small. Nevertheless the meaning of these words is much more defined, and it allows no other interpretation.

B-Vocabulary: The B-Vocabulary consists of words which have been deliberately constructed for political purpose. Without the full understanding of the principles of Ingsoc it is very difficult to use and understand these words correctly. The B-Vocabulary is in all cases compound words, and they consisted of two or more words, merged together in an easy pronounceable form. Example: goodthink—Goodthink means very roughly orthodoxy, or if it is regarded as a verb "to think in a good manner." The infected as follows: noun-verb goodthink; past tense and past participle, goodthinked; present participle, goodthinking; adjective, goodthinkful; adverb, goodthinkwise; verbal noun, goodthinker. The B-Words are not constructed on any etymological plan. The words of which they are made up can be placed in any order mutilated in any way which makes them easy to pronounce (e.g. toughtcrime, crimethink thinkpol, tought police). Many of the B-Words are euphemisms. Such words for instance as joycamp (forced labour camp) or Minipax (Ministry of Peace in charge of the army), mean almost exact opposite of what they appear to mean. Again some words are ambivalent, having the connotation good when applied to the party, and bad when applied to its enemies. Generally the name of any organization, building, and so on is cut down to a minimum number of syllables and to a minimum of length, in an easy pronounceable way.

C-Vocabulary: The C-Words are consisting of technical and scientific terms.
From the foregoing account it is very easy to see that in Newspeak the expression of unorthodox opinions, above a very low level, is impossible. It is only possible to say "Big Brother is ungood." But this statement can't be sustained by reasoned arguments, because the necessary words are not available. Ideas hostile to Ingsoc can only be entertained in a vague and inarticulate form. One could in fact only use Newspeak for political unorthodoxy, by illegitimately translating some of the words back into Oldspeak. For example "All mans are equal" was a possible Newspeak sentence, but only in the same sense in which "All man have the same weight" is a possible Oldspeak sentence. It did not contain a grammatical error, but it expressed a palpable untruth; i.e. that all man have the same size, weight, etc. The concept of political equality no longer existed. In 1984, when Oldspeak is still the normal mean of communication, the danger theoretically exists that in using Newspeak words one might remember their original meanings. In practice it is not difficult for a person well-grounded in Doublethink to avoid doing this, but within a couple of generation even the possibility of such a lapse would have vanished. A person growing up with Newspeak as his sole language would no more know that equal had once had the secondary meaning of "politically equal." There would be many crimes and errors which would be beyond of the power to commit, simply because there were nameless and therefore unimaginable. It is to be foreseen that with the passage of time Newspeak words would become fewer and fewer, their meanings more and more and more rigid, and the chance to put them to improper uses always diminished. So when Oldspeak had been once and for all superseded the last link with the past would have been severed.

Doublethink: a kind of manipulation of the mind. Generally one could say that Doublethink makes people accept contradictions, and it makes them also believe that the party is the only institution that distinguishes between right and wrong. This manipulation is mainly done by the Minitrue (Ministry of Truth), where Winston Smith works. When a person that is well grounded in Doublethink recognizes a contradiction or a lie of the Party, then the person thinks that he is remembering a false fact. With the help of the Minitrue it is not only possible to change written facts, but also facts that are remembered by the people, so complete control of the country and its citizens is provided.

PRE-READING – Choose one activity to complete
List the freedoms you enjoy both in your home and in your community. List the freedoms you are denied. What is the reason for the denials? Do you accept the reasons? Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

Are there ways in which government or the private sector intrudes upon the privacy of U.S. citizens? What are some of these ways? Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

QUESTIONS PART ONE – answer on a separate sheet of paper.
1. What are the Party mottos? What is unusual about them?

2. What is Newspeak? What is its purpose? (A look at the Appendix might be helpful here.) Why is it essential for the Party to rid the language of synonyms and antonyms?

3. Who is Big Brother and discuss what the significance of his name is.

4. How does the Party control history? Why?

5. Who is Emmanuel Goldstein and how is he presented to the people of Oceania? What is the probable significance of using the obviously Jewish name?

ACTIVITIES FOR PART ONE – Choose one activity to complete
Create a Newspeak dictionary, prepare a speech written in Newspeak, or rewrite a newspaper article in Newspeak.

Winston says that “Your worst enemy…was your own nervous system.” Have you ever experienced a time when you felt this way? Have you ever felt helpless or not in control of your own life? Write a short essay explaining the situation and how you dealt with it.

Identify examples of doublethink in Part One. Discuss examples of doublethink from recent history. Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

Discuss how language is important to freedom. Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

QUESTIONS—PART TWO – answer on a separate sheet of paper
Why does the party permit couples to marry but discourage love?

Julia tells Winston that even though the Party can torture a person and make him say anything, they cannot make him believe it. How do you feel about this statement? How easy is it to brainwash a person? Do you think governments actually use brainwashing? Discuss.

Why are the three superpowers always at war according to the Brotherhood’s handbook?
ACTIVITIES FOR PART TWO – Choose one activity to complete

Write a diary from Julia’s point of view (or O’Brien’s or Parsons’.)

Create a constitution or bill of rights for the Brotherhood. Include rules, constraints, and rights. Use the U.S. Constitution as a guide for form.

Debate: Laws protect freedom. Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

Winston reads from Goldsmith’s book that “The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion.” Explore the history of using print to influence opinion. Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

Explore the symbolic significance of the clock, the paperweight, the song the prole woman sings, and the nursery rhyme about the bells. Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

QUESTIONS—PART THREE – answer on a separate sheet of paper
How does Parsons feel about being imprisoned as a result of his own daughter reporting him for thoughtcrime?

Before Winston is interrogated, he sees many prisoners escorted off to Room 101. From their reactions, he gathers the room is extremely unpleasant. What is in Room 101?

When and in what way does Winston betray Julia?

How does Winston ultimately feel about Big Brother?

ACTIVITIES FOR PART III – Choose one activity to complete
The concept of memory and existence discussed provides an interesting debate point topic: Does the past exist if no one remembers it? How can it be proven? Debate this topic after reviewing O’Brien’s argument.

Who wrote Goldstein’s book? If it was the Party, then why? Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

O’Brien says the proles will never revolt, yet Winston came to the conclusion that the future’s only hope lay with the proles. What brings each man to say what he does? Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

Create a newspaper with three or four sections written from the Party’s point of view. Concentrate on propaganda techniques.

Place the book on a historical time line. What happened before the book was published? What has happened since? Discuss: Which of Orwell’s predictions have become a part of history, not only in communist countries but in the free world? Answer in well thought out paragraphs.

The Appendix provides some interesting activities: (a) Write Newspeak sentences using grammatical rules, (b) Summarize the A, B, and C vocabularies, (c) Translate some famous quotes into Newspeak.