George Orwell was born in India in 1903. His true name was Eric Blair. He was the son of a colonial official and when he was a child he moved to England by his mother. He was policemen, political journalist, critic and writer. His life and works were characterized by the unresolved conflict between his bourgeois background and education and his emotional identification with the working class He died in 1950. His most important works are “1948” and “Animal Farm”.
1948: the plot
In 1984, Winston Smith lives in London which is part of the country Oceania. The world is divided into three countries that include the entire globe: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. Oceania, and both of the others, is a totalitarian society led by Big Brother, which censors everyone’s behavior, even their thoughts. Oceania is run by the Party, the Inner and Outer Party. To control the population the Party has four ministries acting to stamp out any thoughts of individuality or rebellion. Indeed the Party is introducing Newspeak, a way of talking which does away with all subversive language. Winston is disgusted with his oppressed life and secretly longs to join the fabled Brotherhood, a supposed group of underground rebels intent on overthrowing the government. Winston meets Julia and they secretly fall in love and have an affair, something which is considered a crime. Smith starts to focus his attention on a man called O’Brien, a powerful man within the Inner Party, but one Smith believes is also a member of the Brotherhood. But indeed O’Brien is a member of the Thought Police who arrest Smith and Julia, where they are taken to the Ministry of Love for torture. This ends up with both being sent to Room 101 separately. Finally Winston makes a voluntary confession of his “crime”, implicating Julia in the process and the novel end with him expressing his now no longer cynical enthusiasm for the party, his spirit finally broken.
Features and themes
Thought he set his story in a totalitarian state in the future, Orwell was also describing the political scenario of his own time in a way which echoed both the horrors of Nazism and the terrible oppressions of Stalinist Russia. He wants to warn people what can happen when governments are given too much power. He wants to show us how such governments can develop, and what methods they use to keep the people they are governing in their power. Contemporary critics have underlined the prophetic quality of Orwell's novel, envisaging a world where the mass media increasingly serves the interests of economic powers, simplifying and manipulating both language and images to control information and influence public opinion.