Literary Devices In 1984

Introduction to 1984

1984 is a famous dystopian novel penned by George Orwell. It was published in 1949. The novel is considered one of the most influential works of the 20th century. The story occurs in a imaginary future world in a country called Oceania. The world is engaged in never-ending war and government surveillance. The main character in the novel is Winston Smith, a regular man living under the oppressive rule of the Party and Big Brother. Big Brother is the face of the totalitarian government that controls everything. The novel explores many serious themes about government power, psychological manipulation and threats to freedom through Winston’s life in this dystopian world.

Summary of “1984

The book begins by introducing Winston’s life in London which is part of Oceania. Winston works for the Ministry of Truth altering documents to match the government’s changing stories and propaganda. He begins secretly writing in a diary criticizing Big Brother, which is illegal.

Winston meets Julia and they begin an illegal affair. They rent a room above a shop from Mr. Charrington who they think is just a regular man. However, Charrington is later revealed to secretly be a member of the Thought Police which arrests dissidents.

Winston is approached by O’Brien, a party leader, who gives him a secret book that explains the ideology behind the tyrannical party. Winston reads the book with Julia in their private room. However, the room contains a hidden telescreen and they are arrested.

At the Ministry of Love, Winston is tortured by O’Brien until he breaks down mentally and swears total loyalty to Big Brother. In the end, the psychological torture works and Winston’s spirit is crushed. He mindlessly follows whatever the Party wants.

Themes in “1984

Totalitarianism vs Freedom: The novel shows how a totalitarian government like the Party can control every aspect of citizens’ lives. Winston longs for freedom of thought which is taken away.

Propaganda and Mind Control: The Party and Big Brother brainwash citizens with propaganda, revised history books, and psychological manipulation. They limit information so people don’t know any other way.

Privacy vs Surveillance: The Party uses extensive surveillance through cameras and microphones to watch the citizens constantly. This destroys any sense of privacy.

Past, Present and Future: The Party is able to shape the past, present and future to suit its needs through propaganda, torture and thought control. They change facts and history to fit their agenda.

Main Characters in “1984”

Winston Smith: Winston is the main character and rebel seeking freedom from the oppressive Party rule. He works in the Ministry of Truth changing old news reports.

Julia: Julia acts like a model Party member in public but rebels against Big Brother in private. She has an affair with Winston.

O’Brien: O’Brien is a member of the Inner Party who tricks Winston into thinking he is part of the resistance movement. He ultimately tortures Winston.

Big Brother: Big Brother is the face of the Party shown on posters and telescreens. He is a symbolic figurehead that the citizens must love and obey completely.

Mr. Charrington: Charrington runs a antique shop but is later revealed to be member of the Thought Police spying on Winston and Julia’s affair.

George Orwell’s Writing Style

The tone of the novel is serious. Orwell uses simple direct language and avoids ornate or flowery language. The vivid and gritty details make the imaginary world of Oceania like a real and terrifying. The world sticks in the reader’s imagination. The book has an ominous, tense and gloomy mood from beginning to end. The writer creates a bleak dystopian atmosphere. Orwell develops complex themes related to politics, power, freedom and humanity behind the plot. The themes of the novel provoke discussion. Winston is an everyday man who is not heroic or noble. His flaws make him relatable. In the end, he fails to overthrow the Party which is tragic.

Literary Devices used in “1984”

1- Metaphor

A metaphor makes a direct comparison between two unlike things.

“It was like trying to make a move at chess when you were already mated.”

The use of the game of chess as a metaphor manifests a situation where someone feels completely stuck with no way to change the outcome. In chess, “mated” means that you are in a position where you are guaranteed to lose, no matter what move you make next. This means that the character feels like they are in a hopeless situation. Every choice seems to lead to failure, just like a chess player who can’t escape a checkmate. It is a way to show the feeling of being trapped or without any good options left.

2- Personification

Personification gives human attributes to non-human things.

“On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall.”

The poster is given the human ability to “gaze”, which means to look steadily and intently. This makes the poster seem more powerful and a bit creepy, as if it is watching over everyone. It helps to show how the government in the story is always keeping an eye on people, which makes them feel watched all the time.

3- Simile

A simile uses “like” or “as” to compare two different things using figurative language.

“The words kept coming back like an uncontrollable refrain.”

The writer uses a simile to compare the repeating words to a refrain in a song that you can’t stop hearing. Here, the comparison is made to show how the words keep returning to the character’s mind over and over again. It is like a catchy part of a song (the refrain) that you find yourself humming or thinking about without even trying. It helps us understand that the character can’t easily forget or ignore these words, much like how a song can stick in your head.

4- Allusion

An allusion references something from outside the story such as history, literature or religion.

“Mrs. Parsons, with her dusting mop, had already ambushed him at a turning and denounced him to his face as a thought criminal.”

Mrs. Parsons confronts the character with a dusting mop and calls him a “thought criminal”, It is an allusion to the extreme surveillance and control in the society of the novel. Here, calling someone a “thought criminal” refers to the idea in the novel that the government controls not just actions but even what people are allowed to think. It alludes to the constant fear and suspicion among people, where even an ordinary moment like being confronted by a neighbor while cleaning can turn into an accusation of breaking the law just by thinking the wrong thing. This allusion helps to paint a picture of oppressive and invasive society in the novel, where no one is safe from being accused, even in their own homes or for their own thoughts.

5- Hyperbole

Hyperbole is intentional exaggeration done for effect.

“A great bank of clouds had risen almost unnoticed, and now they roofed the plain from end to end.”

The writer uses hyperbole to emphasize the dramatic appearance and vastness of the clouds. The words “roofed the plain from end to end” have been employed to exaggerate and show just how big and overwhelming the clouds seemed covering the entire sky as if they were a giant roof. This helps to paint a vivid picture of the scene, which makes the clouds seem more imposing and significant than they might actually be.

Literary Devices In 1984
Literary Devices In 1984

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