1984: Part 1, Chapters 1 & 2

Over the next little while, for iHub Reads, I will be posting about the novel 1984 by George Orwell, as it is my subject for the study.

In the first two chapters, the main character, Winston Smith, is introduced, along with his surroundings.

Winston, lives in London, Airstrip One, Oceania (what is now London, England), and lives in an old, drafty Victorian rowhouse. He works for the Ministry of Truth, the government’s propaganda department.

The government is figureheaded, if not run, by somebody called “Big Brother.” He seems to be respected and revered by the people, while simultaneously being feared as the person who is always “watching.”

The government is made up of four ministries, namely that of Truth (Minitrue in Newspeak), responsible for literature, education, the news, and entertainment (all propaganda); that of Love (Minilux), which administers justice and presumably carries out the state’s torture methods on prisoners and criminals; the Ministry of Peace (Minipax), which is made up of the Military and its support staff; and the Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty), which issues the rations (and so starves people in the process).

The names of these ministries are ironic, and play to Orwell’s idea of doublespeak, where the government attempts to confuse these concepts, which we consider opposites, in the minds of the people. This is further exemplified in the motto of Oceania, “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.”

Big Brother, and the Ministry of Love, monitor the people using telescreens, which are equipped with sound and video transmission systems and play state propaganda constantly.

It is mandatory for Winston, and at least his coworkers at the Ministry (if not everyone else), to take part daily in a Two Minutes¬†Hate, wherein they watch a propaganda video, usually directed towards Emmanuel Goldstien, who was formerly very high up in the Party, “perhaps even in the Brotherhood,” before betraying the Party by publishing a book denouncing the Party¬†and promptly fleeing the country.

Winston, however, demonstrates resistance to the authoritarianism of the government by purchasing a journal (books are a very rare item in Oceania) and pen (equally as rare), and commits thoughtcrimes: outward expression of discontent with Big Brother, the Party, or the Government. He wrote “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” repeatedly down a page while not even thinking about it. However, this last detail is irrelevant to the Ministry of Love, as even talking in one’s sleep could constitute a thoughtcrime.

I have enjoyed reading the beginning of this book, and look forward to reading further into what is turning out to be a very interesting novel.

Leave a Reply