George Orwell’s 1984 is a dire warning. Explore the means by which Orwell reaches through the decades and grabs us by the neck: what is he trying to tell us?

The surveillance and invasion of privacy is relevant to today

The black mustachioed face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house front immediately opposite.BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU,the caption said.
like Stalin

The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. the instrument (the telescreen, it was called ) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.
compare these to cellphones

in the real 1984 it was very different because it shows the freedom of people compared the the 1984 text.

1949 more closely resembled 1984 text because it
Wartime rationing of sweets and chocolate ends in the United Kingdom, but is re-instituted shortly thereafter as shortages return.
all broadcasts in The UK are controlled by the BBC
Britain is recovering from WWII and still has post war rations in place
The USSR developed and detonated a nuclear bomb.

State control and surveillance
the KGB spied on the Soviet Bloc countries to keep people supporting the communist government and stop revolutions like the 1956 Hungarian revolution. the KGB would have spies pretending to be western tourists that support the revolution.
During the Cold War, the KGB actively sought to combat “ideological subversion”
A politician who worked under Stalin Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs show some of the terrible actions that Stalin has taken.

“Stalin called everyone who didn’t agree with him an “enemy of the people.” He said that they wanted to restore the old order, and for this purpose, “the enemies of the people” had linked up with the forces of reaction internationally. As a result, several hundred thousand honest people perished. Everyone lived in fear in those days. Everyone expected that at any moment there would be a knock on the door in the middle of the night and that knock on the door would prove fatal … People not to Stalin’s liking were annihilated, honest party members, irreproachable people, loyal and hard workers for our cause who had gone through the school of revolutionary struggle under Lenin’s leadership. This was utter and complete arbitrariness. And now is all this to be forgiven and forgotten? Never!”

KGB favoured active measures (e.g. disinformation), in discrediting the USSR’s enemies.

current surveillance

state surveillance is still common today with security cameras, mass monitoring of peoples internet by governments and private companies.
The CIA has developed a way of using someone’s cellphone as a listening device
Google has everything you have ever looked up and telecom has every text you’ve sent.

earlier in George Orwell’s life
he was a member of the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma in the thirties. “This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes”
he was influenced by the Spanish civil war.
George Orwell hated the misuse of the English language, he loved vivid and descriptive language but hated unclear works. His criticisms of the loss of words in the Newspeak language.
in his essay “politics in the English language he expresses his hate for over used metaphors that lose their meaning this is also shown in 1984 by BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU because the first you hear it t has impact but throughout the text the quote becomes overplayed and boring. (kind of ironic how it is still used)


George Orwell’s 1984 is a dire warning, where Orwell reaches through the decades and grabs us by the neck and says the mass surveillance in 1984 is what will become of today’s society…
in 1984 the state has strict surveillance in everybody’s homes
this parallels his fears of communist Russia and the Great Britain Communist Party that was at the height of it’s power from 1945 to 1950
because Socialism gives the government control so the government will use it’s power to stay in control instead of helping the citizens.
this control is through mass surveillance.
in 1984 it has telescreens, propaganda and war to keep people supporting the government.
now we have cellphones that can monitor your location, E-mails, calls, texts and internet usage. Instead of lies fabricated by the ministry of truth, we have “alternative facts”, lies with no grounding in reality. using war as control can be seen in the USA after the 911 attacks people lost freedom and privacy from the PATRIOT act. Innocent suspects were tortured and Guantanamo Bay still exists, a prison built out of USA’s borders so they don’t break the law.

Surveillance through other people

Parsons – He was a man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms one of those complacently unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom the stability of the party depended.

It was almost normal for people over thirty to be afraid of their children
All children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by the means of such organisations as the spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages.
For hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak had overheard some compromising remark and denounced it’s parents to the thought police.

What is Orwell trying to tell us?
What is 1984?
1984 is about surveillance from telescreens and other people.

telescreens are watching you , quotes .
why Orwell wanted to show this .
comparing them to cellphones
saying they want you to know they are watching
BB is watching you quote
like security cameras.
Orwell’s felling on the quote.

Other people are watching you
being alone is dangerous, no witnesses
even though two people may be against the party they will not know , like Winston and Julia
When Winston sees her in the prole’s quarter “Winston was too paralyzed to move .” ” There was no doubting any longer that the girl was spying on him. She must have followed him here , ” ” Whether she was really an agent of the thought police , of simply an amateur spy actuated by officiousness, hardly mattered. It was enough that she was watching him.”

What is Orwell trying to tell us?
What are the ways of solving this?

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. This is shaping up nicely in that you’re accessing a wide range of ideas to develop your point.

    I think it might help you to further define the point you want to make. I think if you’re wanting to consider surveillance and the invasion of privacy and the resonances we see today, then I’d encourage you to keep strictly to this – examine the multiple forms of state invasion (remembering that the Party’s intention was to control your thoughts, not just your actions) in Nineteen Eighty-Four and then select some aspects of modern society where mass-surveillance or invasion of privacy has resonance.

    Let me know if you would like to talk this through at any time.


    • Oh, and I meant to say, linking the material in Nineteen Eighty-Four to Orwell’s own ideas and preoccupations as an author is clever and rather Marxist of you. Nice going.

  2. Your detailed planning has put you in a strong position to begin the writing of this piece with confidence and clarity.

    Here’s a selection of quotations from Nineteen Eighty-Four that might be of use to you – and also, don’t forget to look back at the class site to see how I’ve encouraged you to handle quotations in your writing.

    I’m really looking forward to reading this as it develops, Lachlan.

    • Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.
    • Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer; though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing
    • The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided: the Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts; the Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war; the Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order; and the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs.
    • He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen.
    • He had committed—would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper—the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.
    • The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past.
    • To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.
    • The great purges involving thousands of people, with public trials of traitors and thought-criminals who made abject confession of their crimes and were afterwards executed, were special showpieces not occurring oftener than once in a couple of years.
    • The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act.
    • All children were to be begotten by artificial insemination (artsem, it was called in Newspeak) and brought up in public institutions.
    • Desire was thoughtcrime
    • In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?
    • When once you had succumbed to thoughtcrime it was certain that by a given date you would be dead.

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