This novel, like Orwells earlier work Animal Farm and Aldous Huxleys Brave New World, is an example of anti-utopian fiction, that kind of fiction which shows man at the mercy of some force over which he has no control. Anti-utopian novels are usually intended as a criticism of the time in which the author lives. Nineteen Eighty Four, a satire of totalitarian barbarism told through the eyes of Winston Smith, is no exception. Orwell deliberately keeps the plot in 1984 simple, without any narrative twists or shocking surprises until the very end. He is very careful to present the idea that it is our society and government, not people, that are mixed up. The plot is not merely a boy meets girl story, but helps to pull the characters through the story.
For Orwells purposes, the plot need not be too complex, for it might detract from his message. By keeping the time frame of 1984 to a short period and involving relatively few main characters, Orwell focuses on the important issues of totalitarianism and total government control through brainwashing. In connection with the plot of this novel, Orwells setting is of supreme importance, for it creates the ambience of the story. Orwells setting is well done, and helps formulate the readers opinions about what he is reading.
Nineteen Eighty Four begins in spring, the traditional time of rebirth and romance. But the reader soon learns this is not an accurate description of the times. The air is cold and the city is a ruin. With just a few indications of setting, the reader begins to understand what this novel stands for.
London, a city central to the Western tradition and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, has been destroyed through the revolution from capitalism to totalitarianism. It is virtually an open sewer. Everything, from the language and culture to its history and people, is being demolished. Orwell also uses setting to communicate mood and situations, arousing hate in the reader towards Ingsoc and Big Brother. The best examples of this are the Two Minutes Hate and Winstons electroshock treatment.
By using normal surroundings and twisting them, Orwell communicates the idea that our own world is vulnerable to the tyranny portrayed in Oceania. In 1984, Orwell manipulates his setting so that once the reader has finished the book, he carries Orwells ideas and feelings about totalitarianism into life. Orwells diction and style are powerful and overwhelming. He describes pain and suffering in graphic detail, and his presentation keeps the reader alert by shifting suddenly in unexpected directions.
In this novel, Orwell wonderfully implements a dichotomy between the reality of our world and the unreality of fiction. The barrier between what is real and what is depicted in the novel is obliterated as Orwell satirizes and mimics contemporary society. Orwells style captivates the reader into the reality of the world in 1984. In a complex work such as 1984, there are numerous structural relationships upon which the author bases his central themes and ideas.
Orwell comments on politics, economics, war, love, and truth among other things. In the microcosm of 1984, the love which develops between Winston and Julia is exemplary of the struggle of those who have to exist in a society which scorns love and sexual desire. The Partys altering of the past in order to deceive its citizens and create in them a sense of utopia is designed to reveal the conflict between truth and the mutability of truth. Obviously the most important theme of the novel centers around the evils of totalitarianism. Orwell portrays not just what the world is becoming, but what it is.
The bewildering and anti-human experience of a person living in a totalitarian state is likely to bring about the kind of alienation apparent in 1984. Winston, the most obvious example, is severely cut off from the outside world. Alone and lonely, he feels alienated from his family, his neighbors, and the rest of society. Even with Julia, Winston does not find someone who shares the same thoughts and opinions that he does. He hates women and children.
The Partys war against love and sex for purposes other than reproduction has succeeded in cutting off Winston from half of the human race. As a result of the Partys oppression, Winstons psychological and sexual life has been crippled. Winston is able to perform his duties for the Party without thought or question, but inwardly he represses every contrary or unorthodox thought in the vain hope that he will not be discovered by the Thought Police. Secretly he despises the mindless Party members who are so intellectually and spiritually brainwashed that they can be easily led and made to do anything.
Winstons diary is his attempt to leave behind some record of the evils of Ingsoc, yet he is unable to write anything more than rambling incoherences, as he has alienated himself from his own feelings. Winston does not actively or consciously estrange himself from the rest of society. Rather, his alienation is a passive response to a world he cannot endure, and he effectively shuts the door on the outside world. Nineteen Eighty Four suggests that the government alienates each member of society from one another, and warns the reader what life can be like without the privileges of fundamental civil and human rights. Through the character of Winston Smith, Orwell shows the destruction of the sane individual who can not adapt to an insane society.