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Dystopian World in The Novel '1984' Awaits Us in The Future

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Analysis & interpretation focused on surveillance through description of Big Brother society being watched without your consent has always been one of societies biggest fears, and because of that fact, a big topic. We always see the subject in our daily lives, from series plots to drawing parallels with the government of China watching their citizens every move in the streets. However, surveillance does not have to be a camera watching you, it could also be a computer looking at your data for data mining or simply Social Network analysis to help homepages show the appropriate Ads for you. 

Surveillance is a freedom taker, but sometimes a necessity. Nonetheless, the feeling of having your every move watched and judged has made many people take security in covering their cameras around the house and shut down Facebook. “1984”, is a novel about a dystopian society in the future. George Orwell took inspiration from his own fears, and Stalin’s time in the Soviet Union and wrote “1984” as a fiction against totalitarianism and the betrayal of evolution.

The novel takes place 40 years after the book was released in 1949, on a cold April day in Winston Smith’s apartment, 1984. On p.5 l.14, we are introduced to the fictional world of; “London, chief city of Airstrip One, itself the third most populous of the provinces of Oceania.” Being what we know today as England, Airstrip one is a country, part of the super-country Oceania, where bomb explosions are omnipresent, and the state is constant war. The super-country was set together by Greenland, Australia, Southern Africa and the whole of America, both south and north. Living conditions are not at its best peak, and privacy is a thing not to be expected anywhere. Where London today is the hub of artistry and free expression, the society in “1984” is negatively set by George Orwell, to create a dystopian setting around the character, in an authentic and powerful universe. Orwell manages to establish an atmosphere, making the reader more involved and therefore gives the freedom of imagining the whole setting.

The setting within the first chapter is all in all very pessimistic and grey. In the novel, we are introduced to the world, that Orwell with sentences like “a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him“. The citizens of Oceania are constantly being surveilled and controlled. Everyone has a “telescreen“ in their apartment which is used by the thought police to make sure that nobody doubts the Party or does anything illegal. Both movements at daylight and sound are being recorded and the Telescreen also functions as a TV which broadcasts propaganda. Only the Proles don’t get surveilled because the Party looks at them as the workers of society who only work and breed. The ministries with their functions and the three slogans of the government are perfect examples for doublethink. „War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is “strength” are contradictory in themselves but still used as their slogans because people accept that there can be two true beliefs which contradict themselves at the same time. The Party created a new language for the people of Oceania called Newspeak. This language only offers restricted grammar and a limited vocabulary through which they can control/limit the freedom of thought, free will, and personal identity. If people cannot communicate about these things it makes it way harder to come up with something that can – theoretically – overthrow the totalitarian government. To make sure that nobody has any doubts of the totalitarian world they live in, having unspoken thoughts which disagree or interfere with the ideology, are considered “thoughtcrime”. The Ministry of Truth (Minitrue in Newspeak) was way bigger than any other object in sight of Winston Smith’s apartment, dwarfing the normal houses and displaying the power-difference between the government and the citizens. The dictated life of Oceania’s citizens makes it hard to express one’s individuality and kind of synchronize everyone to do whatever they are supposed to do and not leave their predefined way of life. 

Winston Smith is the central character in the story. The name Winston is taken from Winston Churchill, who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom altering through the 1940s to 1955. He was also the one leading Britain to their victory during WW2, which could lead you to assume he is going to do remarkable things throughout the books I general. The last name Smith is also the most common to be used in the English language. The reader sees the world from his point of view, and therefore identifies with him easily. Orwell makes him identify as a regular man, who yet will try to make a difference, for the circumstances to be better. Winston is very self-aware of his every move, which you need to be in a situation like that. He is progressing his life with a lot of caution, knowing that every little thing he is doing, is being watched. He knows that “even a back can be revealing” and where to sit in the room to not be seen by the television. The mood is very calm, and he does not feel uptight or uncomfortable with being watched until he takes a little drink in the kitchen. “Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine”. One may say that he is in need of some help to keep him sane, and as we hear on. It could be a necessity and the one thing that keeps him from getting down.

After all, he does live in an apartment all by himself. However, it could also just be for the nerves, as he is about to go against the rules and write a diary, but we are not given the feeling that he is uneasy about it beforehand, it is after he writes the approximate date in the book, that the feelings overwhelm him, and he feels helpless. He starts doubting himself and he starts writing down, and only stops and gets out of the mental zone he put himself into when he physically starts hurting by a cramp. He knows what he is doing is wrong, he knows the consequences, but he goes against Big Brother anyway. He is not being a product of society, as he does not constantly compare himself to the rest of the community, he does not copy or emulate what other people are doing. He is not constantly infecting other people with desires and values. He is going out of that part and writes in a diary instead. He is going against society, and against Big Brother.

Big brother is the first clear symbol we meet in the text. Winston sees posters of a man with the words “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” written on. The man is supposedly the head of the Party and leader of the nation, but even Winston does not know if he exists. By symbolizing the party’s exterior, he is being a reassurance and threat at the same time. No one can escape his sight. The Big Brother is also a symbol of the uncertainty of how the higher ranks show themselves because it is hopeless to know who the true ruler of Oceania is, why they act the way they do, and how they live their lives different from the citizens, or if they even are that different.

On top of Big Brother, the televisions are also a major symbol which represents the constant control and abuse of power. Technology is being abused by the Party to show constant propaganda and spread their knowledge and message throughout the country without any problem. This could possibly be for protection against resistibility and possible fight back from the community, which could occur if the Party were not in full control.

“1984” was written in 1949, which makes the time 1984 and unknown factor. The novel can be seen as a prediction or a message with a warning to the future humanity, where his own fear has played a large role. The most active themes we see throughout the chapter is the political factor of communism and surveillance. The word “party” is being used to tell that the political situation is based on the Communistic government that was in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, which is a good detail to have in mind when thinking about the life under such political regime. The dreariness of the telescreen and the helicopters hovering around windows to look at people, show us how irritating and heavy this situation is on the community, whilst showing the theme of surveillance which Winston is very aware of, as he is about to act out a crime. The symmetry of the Ministries also shows the obedience that is being enforced and glorified by the party. When Winston begins to write in the diary about the movie, he had seen previously, it is to point out that the hope of revolution lies with the proles, and not with the strict Party.

George Orwell’s novel “1984” can be related to today’s modern world. With the huge amount of new technology that we have, we can control everything at our fingertips. Smart-Home Systems like Alexa or Google Home are always listening to the conversations which are happening in their recording-range and could, in theory, be used to listen to our private conversations if the company behind it decides to do so.

Everything on the internet gets logged as well with Cookies, and providers know what we have looked up and can, therefore, target us with personalized advertisement better than ever before in history. Maybe we already live in a world, where the speed of technology advancement is going so fast, we don’t even realize we are heading towards a society like Georg Orwell’s dystopian world.


  • Lancelot Nelson, “George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty – Four” Owlcation, HubPages Inc., Nov. 30, 2018,
  • Cathy Lowne, “Nineteen Eighty-four”, Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., Mar 25, 2011,
  • Jennifer Thonton, “1984 by George Orwell: How Big Brother Maintained Control”, Academia, – , 2018,

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