Avoid the Thought Police by understanding these 1984 discussion questions and answers. 1984 - Questions for Study and Discussion 1984 is one of the greatest works by George Orwell. But, what does it mean? Why is the book so controversial? What does the book have to say about the state of society? Here are a few questions for study and discussion, related to 1984. What is important about the title of 1984? ●Which of Orwell's eerie predictions have come true in the present day? List examples of predictions come true in 1984. Who controls the present controls the past. (present day) For example, Big Brother claims that Oceania has always been at war with East Asia even though months before it was at war with Eurasia. The proliferation of the media: part of Big Brother's ability to control thought rests in the ability to infiltrate all aspects of life through giant TVs, state controlled radio, and hidden microphones. How are the Proles the only hope and how much hope are they? The concept of government as Big Brother. Part of the party's ability to earn loyalty from party members is the notion that government can solve all their problems, much like a Big Brother. Newspeak—do we have an equivalent of this today? In other words, what are some modern examples of Newspeak? What are the conflicts in 1984? What types of conflict (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional) are in this novel? How does George Orwell reveal character in 1984? What are some themes in the story? How do they relate to the plot and characters? What are some symbols in 1984? How do they relate to the plot and characters? Is Winston consistent in his actions? Is he a fully developed character? How? Why? Do you find the characters likable? Would you want to meet the characters? Does the story end the way you expected? How? Why? What is the central/primary purpose of the story? Is the purpose important or meaningful? How does this novel relate to dystopian literature? Is Winston a strong character? How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else? In any other time? What is the role of women in the text? Is love relevant? Are relationships meaningful? Why is 1984 controversial? Why has it been banned? How does 1984 relate to current politics/society/etc.? Would you recommend this novel to a friend? An Irony Overview There are plenty of examples of irony in 1984 by George Orwell. The novel itself, on the surface a satire on negative Utopian novels, contains enough truth to frighten even the most diligent head-in-the-sand citizen. The novel's hero is a middle-aged, out-of-shape, not-so-attractive, varicose ulcer possessing, pencil-necked geek and the novel's heroine is a promiscuous, concerned only about the present, rebel from the waist down (Winston Smith's words) trollop in her mid-twenties. The controlling party's name Ingsoc, a derivative from the English socialists party, possesses no resemblance to actual socialism in its treatment of the working class. The party's idealized hero is called Big Brother, yet the party has managed to eliminate familial love. The Ministry of Truth fabricates lies; the Ministry of Love specializes in torture; the Ministry of Plenty causes shortages; and the Ministry of Peace wages war. The party maintains control with the ironic use of doublethink: the ability to think two completely contradictory thoughts at the same time, believing both to be true. The irony in 1984 by George Orwell is embodied in the party's slogan: War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength. Chapter Summaries for Book 2 of 1984 by George Orwell Quote: War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength (26). Analysis: In addition to being ironic, the party's slogan is an oxymoron, a statement which on the surface is contradictory, but in reality contains truth. The party slogan holds different meanings, depending on who's reading it, making it an intelligent example of verbal irony: for the inner party it means as long as Oceania is at war, the masses are able to direct their anger at an enemy and not at the party; the inner party enjoys its freedom insomuch as it enslaves the masses, be it outer party members, proletariats, or workers in the war zone; as long as the masses remain ignorant to the truth, the party remains strong. Those not understanding the machinations of the inner party believe peace can only be achieved by conquering the world and eliminating the enemies of the party and of Oceania. They believe that to act freely would lessen Oceania's strength and lead it to possible doom. They believe that any deviation from the party weakens the nation, preferring to remain ignorant. Quote: The emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League was wound several times around the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough to bring out the shapeliness of her hips (12). Irony: An obvious example of situational irony as Winston secretly lusts and despises Julia. Ironically, it's on Junior Anti-Sex League hikes that Julia discovers hiding places to take her paramours. More Examples of Irony in 1984 Quote: One did not know what happened inside the Ministry of Love, but it was possible to guess: torture, drugs, delicate instruments that registered your nervous reactions, gradual wearing down by sleeplessness and solitude and persistent questioning. (138) Analysis: The inner party has managed to turn love into something sinister, although the delicate instruments sound provocative. Quote: It is a warfare of limited aims between combatants who are unable to destroy one another, have no material cause for fighting, and are not divided by any genuine ideological difference (153). Analysis: Continual warfare exists as an end in itself. All three nations at war have no reason to fight other than fighting keeps the ruling party in power; hence the saying "War is Peace." Quote: They can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect (173). Analysis: O'Brien speaks of the Proles and the impossibility that they will ever rise up in rebellion, having no capacity for intelligence. It's like that loser kid in school who is allowed to sleep in class. Predictions Which of Orwell's eerie predictions have come true in the present day? 1. List examples of predictions come true in 1984. Who controls the present controls the past. For example, Big Brother claims that Oceania has always been at war with East Asia even though months before it was at war with Eurasia. Real World Examples (answers will vary): Scientists have always warned of Global Warming. There has never been such a thing as global cooling. We've always been against the war in Iraq. We've never been for it. The proliferation of the media: part of Big Brother's ability to control thought rests in the ability to infiltrate all aspects of life through giant TVs, state controlled radio, and hidden microphones. Real World Examples: It's difficult to go anywhere--the grocery store, public transportation, dentist office--without seeing a giant TV transmitting messages. As of yet, these messages are not controlled by government, the barrage of media resembling Fahrenheit 451 more than 1984; the apparatus, however, is in place. Think The Patriot Act, for example, on how government can monitor your actions. The concept of government as Big Brother. Part of the party's ability to earn loyalty from party members is the notion that government can solve all their problems, much like a Big Brother. Real World Examples: Governments justify their expansion by promising to solve all your problems and in doing so making useless personal responsibility: let us provide your health care; let us take care of your retirement; let us take care of the unequal distribution of wealth; we'll fix everything. Just give us more money and give up a little freedom. What is Newspeak? 1. What is Newspeak? Newspeak was a simplification of language to render thoughtcrime impossible. It eliminates words that symbolized illegal things-god, family, love. It eliminates shades of meaning--atrocious and awful could be represented by one word, doubleunplusgood. It contracted words and combined them--duckspeak, speakwrite, Minitruth, Minilove. 2. What is the purpose of Newspeak? The purpose of Newspeak is to render thoughtcrime impossible. If the word god does not exist, for example, then there would be no way for an individual to express thoughts that included a power higher than government. Documents such as The Declaration of Independence, therefore, would be impossible to understand even if it remained in existence. 3. What are some modern examples of Newspeak? Terrorists have become enemy combatants. Wars have become military operations. Wartime civilian deaths have become collateral damage. A failing grade has become an inability to meet standards. Wasteful spending and high taxes are now economic stimulus plans. How is Society Kept Under Control? 1. What techniques do the party use to control thought? Physical torture, endless wars, state controlled media, spying. 2. How does Ingsoc differ from authoritarian regimes of the past? The main difference between Ingsoc and authoritarian regimes of the past is their ability to eliminate martyrs. All thought 3. criminals repent before their death; hence, the powerful last line of the book: "He (Winston) loved Big Brother." How are the Proles the only hope and how much hope are they? The Proles are the only segment of society that is not controlled every second of the day. Unfortunately, they do not have enough sense to realize they're being controlled; they are satisfied with simply surviving (this could also qualify as a prediction above). The original title for the novel was The Last Man in Europe, but the publisher (Frederic Warburg) asked for a different title. So, what make George Orwell decide to use 1984? There are many possible reasons for the author's choice of the title of 1984. Here are a few points to consider... Orwell finished writing the novel in 1948, so he switched around the last two numbers of the year. It could have been a simple switcharoo, made after his publisher asked for a more marketable (catchy) title. The Iron Heel, by Jack London, alludes to a political movement that comes to power in 1884. London's novel is often considered the earliest example of the dystopian-novel form, so the sideways reference to the earlier novel would make sense. Was it a hat-tip to the man (and his work)--admired by Orwell? There may be a connection between the title of the novel and the title of a poem: "End of the Century, 1984," by Eileen O'Shaughnessy (George Orwell's wife at the time of the publication of his infamous novel, 1984. The Napoleon of Notting Hill, G. K. Chesterton is also set in 1984. Chesterton's novel was published in 1904, and offer an alternate reality of London--without any change in technology. A quote from The Napoleon of Notting Hill also appears in Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. The year (1984) may have seemed to the author to offer a significant gap of time to sound plausible--without throwing the novel into a altered reality that was overly futuristic.