George Orwell



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George Orwell

  • PLOT
  • UTOPIA / ANTI-UTOPIA
  • SETTING
  • THEMES
  • CHARACTERS, NAMES

PLOT

  • 3 parts → three stages of Winston’s rebellion against the party:
  • Starts keeping a diary (remembers the Two Minutes’ Hate of the morning, where he had been impressed by two people: a dark-haired woman, O’Brien → thinks he shares his feelings)
  • DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER

Starts leading a “double” life, writing his diary and working at re-writing history at the Ministry of Truth

  • Starts leading a “double” life, writing his diary and working at re-writing history at the Ministry of Truth
  • (Syme, the philologist → illustrates some of the principles on which Newspeak is based; W. thinks one day he will be vapourized since he’s too intelligent)
  • “If there is hope, it lies in the proles”

2. W. meets the dark-haired girl in a corridor; she falls down, he helps her, she slips a note into W’s hand (“I love you”)

  • 2. W. meets the dark-haired girl in a corridor; she falls down, he helps her, she slips a note into W’s hand (“I love you”)
  • After some days she gives him instructions to meet in a crowd after work; they make an arrangement to meet in a wood next Sunday afternoon
  • Her name’s Julia, she’s against all that the Party stands for. They make love
  • They meet again; W. rents a room above Mr Charrington’s shop (rats)

O’Brien gives W. his address and offers him a copy of the new dictionary of Newspeak; they go to his house, speak about Goldstein, he illustrates the ideas of the Brotherhood to them

  • O’Brien gives W. his address and offers him a copy of the new dictionary of Newspeak; they go to his house, speak about Goldstein, he illustrates the ideas of the Brotherhood to them
  • W. goes to the room with a copy of Goldstein’s book, he and Julia read some passages, they fall asleep
  • A voice wakes them up: the room is invaded by police, they are arrested

3. W. is in a cell in the Ministry of Love. After some time in which W. thinks he will be loyal to Julia, O’Brien enters the room

  • 3. W. is in a cell in the Ministry of Love. After some time in which W. thinks he will be loyal to Julia, O’Brien enters the room
  • Starts undergoing interrogation (physical + mental torture)
  • O’Brien explains to W. the Party cannot allow opposition
  • re-integration through 3 stages: learning, understanding, acceptance
  • pain at wrong answers, humiliation

Time passes, W. tries to make himself accept the views of the Party

  • Time passes, W. tries to make himself accept the views of the Party
  • Finally , he is sent to Room 101
  • Strapped in a chair with a cage with rats in front of his face (Room 101 contains the worst thing in the world)
  • W. panics, shouts that Julia should be tortured in his place

W. has been released; a heavy drinker

  • W. has been released; a heavy drinker
  • Remembers a meeting with Julia in which they both revealed they had betrayed each other; their love has been destroyed
  • Remembers his childhood but pushes the memory away
  • The telescreen announces a great victory over Eurasia, W. is caught up in the excitement
  • He realizes he loves Big Brother

utopia

  • Plato’s Republic → ideal world governed by philosophers
  • Renaissance: 1516 T. More’s Utopia
  • 1627 F. Bacon’s New Atlantis
  • Revival in the 19th century:
  • W. Butler’s Erewhon (1872)
  • W. Morris’s News from Nowhere
  • (1890)

antiutopia

  • Often, no journey; distance in time, not in space; the “traveller” is internal
  • Promotes the creation of a better society by showing a negative one as terrible
  • Exaggeration of trends already present
  • Nightmarish vision of the future

Examples

  • J. Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels 1726
  • Jack London’s The Iron Heel 1907 (changes in society and politics; not much attention to technological developments)
  • Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We 1920 (a war, perhaps about oil, swept off most of the world’s population; use of technology to control people)
  • Orwell wrote essays on all of them

Another famous example

  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)
  • Ironical title taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest V.i
  • O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in it!

A science fiction novel

  • A science fiction novel
  • A frightening vision of the future
  • Historical, social, political, scientific issues of the time (mass production, totalitarian regimes, modern views of sex and social relationships, reproduction in labs)

SETTING

  • London; part of one of the three superpowers leading the world (Oceania, Eurasia, Eastasia)
  • Dominated by the dictatorship of Big Brother; his face is present everywhere
  • Social organization
  • Stalinist Russia some aspects Nazi Germany of Western capitalism

Manipulation of minds

  • Manipulation of minds
  • Abolition of any form of freedom
  • System of doublethink
  • Subjection of history and the arts to the aims of the party
  • Urban settings
  • Miserable life conditions of the proles
  • Simplified language

THEMES

  • TOTALITARIANISM see essay The Prevention of Literature (about the freedom of thought and expression; analyses the mechanisms at the basis of totalitarian thought)
  • Rebellion of the individual; total control of the Party
  • He can’t become a martyr
  • His destruction and reintegration goes through 3 stages: learning, understanding, acceptance

Inability and need to communicate (diary, sex, intellectual relationship with O'Brien)

  • Inability and need to communicate (diary, sex, intellectual relationship with O'Brien)
  • Squalid world in which love, pleasure and the arts are canalized towards pre-established aims
  • Sex= one of the primary drives in man’s life; manipulated and transformed into
  • love for BB
  • hatred for the enemy
  • energy spent in the service of the party

a grey world, with no pleasure or joy

  • a grey world, with no pleasure or joy
  • symbols of a dreary, squalid, hopeless life:
  • physical infirmities of the characters
  • widespread mismanagement
  • constant presence of dust everywhere

NAMES, CHARACTERS

  • Winston Smith: Winston Churchill + the most common surname in England
  • Universal + highly individualized character
  • Everyman + exceptional man
  • ↓ ↓
  • ordinariness integrity/intellectual
  • awareness

his job (Orwell’s work for the BBC)

  • his job (Orwell’s work for the BBC)
  • the way to experience love
  • the effort to remember
  • Part III: he thinks he can retain inner integrity while conforming outwardly (that’s why he needs to be taken to Room 101)

Julia relates to the romantic character of Shakespeare’s Juliet, but very practical-minded and matter-of-fact

  • Julia relates to the romantic character of Shakespeare’s Juliet, but very practical-minded and matter-of-fact
  • no surname = woman
  • not explored in any depth
  • extension and contrast with Winston
  • great resourcefulness, animal vigour;
  • “practical” rebellion against the Party; optimism; not interested in politics, but great capacity for original ideas

Big Brother

  • Big Brother
  • sounds like the name given to Stalin (Little Father)
  • the embodiment of power, like God
  • Emmanuel Goldstein
  • Jewish origin; maybe inspired to L. Trotsky
  • Emmanuel = the saviour, the Messiah

O’Brien

  • O’Brien
  • relationship with Winston
  • (Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, The Brothers Karamazov)
  • Torturer-tortured (Stockholm syndrome; love, complicity)

Quotes

  • "Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress toward more pain."

"Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves."

  • "Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves."

"We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation . . . we make the brain perfect before we blow it out."

  • "We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation . . . we make the brain perfect before we blow it out."

"We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent there will be no need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."

  • "We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent there will be no need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."


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