1984 (novel)

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First edition in dust jacket, Secker & Warburg, London 1949

1984 (original title: Nineteen Eighty-Four , German Alternative title: Nineteen Eighty-Four ), written from 1946 to 1948 and published in June 1949, a dystopian novel by George Orwell (actually Eric Arthur Blair ), in which a totalitarian surveillance state , by the Socialist Party of England (Engsoc) ruled, portrayed in 1984. The protagonist of the plot is Winston Smith, a simple member of the dictatorial ruling state party who, despite the ubiquitous surveillance , wants to secure his privacy and learn something about the real, unedited past and thus comes into conflict with the system that controls him a brainwashing subjects.

Orwell began writing the book in 1946 while on the island of Jura, off the coast of Scotland, and completed it in late 1948. The title contains the turn of the digits from 1948 to 1984 as an allusion to a future that seemed distant at the time, but (similar to Orwell's previous novel Farm of the Animals ) closely linked to the present. The first edition of the book went on sale in London on June 8, 1949.

The novel is often quoted or its title or the name Orwell mentioned when it comes to commenting critically on state surveillance measures or to point out tendencies towards a surveillance state.


The world is divided into the three warring power blocs Oceania, Eurasia and East Asia, which are at constant war with each other. The action of the novel takes place in Oceania, which includes North and South America , the British Isles , Australia and southern Africa , with Winston Smith living in "landing field 1" (this is England). Never really visible - - In the dictatorial and totalitarian state run by a suppressed Big Brother ( Big Brother run) party elite (Inner Party), the remaining party members (Outer Party) and the broad masses of the people, "proles". The omnipresent Thought Police permanently monitor all party members. With non-turn-off devices (Tele screens, engl. Tele screens ), control the same time all the flats visually and listen to , the stokes state television hatred of the public enemy Emmanuel Goldstein, who allegedly directed against the party underground organization , the Society passes. This hatred is hammered into the people anew every day as part of the ubiquitous propaganda and serves to weld the population together through the common, omnipresent and apparently overpowering enemy image and to distract them from their hard work and hard life.

The English language is cleansed of "harmful ideas" and was a new language ( newspeak - Newspeak replaced). In addition, the party influences thinking in its own way with repeated slogans such as "War is peace", "Freedom is slavery" and "Ignorance is strength". In the course of the plot, the question is also raised whether the party might not be staging the war with the other countries and the terror of the ostracized underground movement Goldstein itself in order to create a pretext for the massive surveillance , the permanent state of emergency and the extensive repression . Citizens are constantly reminded of their surveillance by the slogan "Big Brother is watching you", which is repeated over and over again.

The main character Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth in London and is busy adapting old newspaper reports and thus the past view of history to the current party line . Despite belonging to the Outer Party, Smith rejects the totalitarian system and secretly keeps a diary of his forbidden feelings. Julia, also a party member, becomes his lover and confidante. Smith tries to contact the underground movement persecuted by the party. In the apparently like-minded O'Brien, he believes he has found a helper and campaigner, but this later turns out to be a particularly intelligent and fanatical member of the Inner Party, by whom Winston is finally arrested. Under the torture in the Ministry of Love , Smith collapses psychologically: he betrays Julia, loses his newly won individuality and, after being brainwashed, finally believes that his newly discovered love for his big brother is free .

Part 1

The story begins with a picture of everyday life in a dystopian surveillance state. Winston Smith works for the Department of Truth ( Propaganda Department ) in London. His life is marked by supply problems, constant surveillance, fear and lack of personal relationships. His work consists for the most part in distorting history in the interests of the party , that is, manipulating or deleting inconvenient facts and data and thus falsifying the historical truth for the public and posterity. Like him, all the members of the Outer Party known to him live in Oceania, one of the three super -states ; the other two are Eurasia and East Asia. Their existence is not proven, however, but possibly only faked by the party in order to justify an ongoing state of war. The question even arises as to whether the rockets that frequently hit Oceania are not fired by the party itself.

Inwardly, Winston has long since ceased to identify with the party doctrine . He has his mind kept secret because not only all acts are in Oceania against the ruling party as a crime but have the desire to resist a so-called thought crimes ( thoughtcrime ) is. Winston finds it particularly difficult to pretend in the face of constant video surveillance by televisions, police patrols, neighbors and work colleagues. The members of the outside party are so closely monitored that the nervous twitch of a finger or a false look can lead to arrest and death. Winston eventually begins to secretly record his thoughts in a diary that he discovers with Mr. Charrington, the owner of an old general store.

When one day at work a young woman named Julia , who is involved in the “Youth League Against Sexuality”, catches his eye through eye contact , he suspects that she is a member of the Thought Police (the system's secret police) or an “amateur spy” (self-employed informers) .

Winston's great interest in the past drives him again and again into the slums of the proles (proletarians). When Mr. Charrington shows him a glass ball that surrounds a coral , Winston is immediately fascinated by this piece of the past and buys it. Mr. Charrington later leads Winston into a furnished room that does not appear to have a televison monitor. Winston is so taken with the room that he would like to rent it; but that too is already a dangerous thought, which he rejects again when he becomes aware of it.

Part 2

This part is about Winston's path to internal resistance and ends with his arrest by the Thought Police.

On the way home from Charrington's general store, he meets Julia again. There is no longer any doubt to him that she is a member of the Thought Police . A few days later he meets her a third time at the Ministry of Truth. Just as she is about to walk past him, she falls. While Winston helps her back on her feet, she secretly slips him a small note. Because Winston is near a telescreen, he waits until he gets back to work before risking reading her message to him: "I love you."

In the next few days he tried in vain to contact the young woman. But one day she is sitting alone at a table in the canteen , and Winston joins it. At first he doesn't dare speak to them, because they are watching the televisions everywhere. Therefore they can only exchange a few words with each other. He learns that she is leading a secret personal rebellion against the party. After the two have met a few times in secret and with great effort in the country, Julia agrees to rent the room through Mr. Charrington's shop to live out their togetherness. From now on they will see and love each other more often there. This, too, is a serious crime, because sexuality among party members may only serve the purpose of procreation and is to be gradually replaced by artificial insemination.

Winston tells Julia about O'Brien, a member of the Inner Party, whom he considers to be an opponent of the regime because his behavior is also slightly different from the norm. He and Julia visit O'Brien in his apartment. He has a tele-screen, too, but it can be switched off at least for a short time. In this way, the three of them can talk to each other for half an hour, seemingly unobserved. O'Brien poses as a member of the "Brotherhood", the underground movement of state traitor Emmanuel Goldstein, and gives Winston a copy of Goldstein's infamous book "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism". Before his arrest, Winston got to read the first and third chapters of the book. Basically, he only finds a clear description of things there that were already clear to him and states: “I understand the how, but not the why”. He later learns that O'Brien is co-author of the book.

On the same day, Winston and Julia discuss their future together. While Julia dreams of a happy underground life with Winston, Winston wants to fight the party at all costs. It is clear to him that they will soon be tracked down, tortured and liquidated. In fact, at the same instant, her room is surrounded and broken into. This is the first time they knowingly face a member of the Thought Police: Mr. Charrington, the owner of the shop, who kept them under observation through a telescreen hidden behind a mural.

part 3

This part describes Winston's captivity, torture and re-education, and what happened after his release.

After his arrest, Winston wakes up in a windowless, constantly brightly lit room. He suspects that he was taken to the Ministry of Love . All walls are tiled in white, and there is a tele screen on each one. Around the room there is a bench along the wall, just wide enough to sit on and only interrupted by a toilet opposite the door. New prisoners keep coming to Winston's cell and being picked up again. Winston is also relocated from time to time. He learns of a mysterious "Room 101" that everyone is afraid of. Winston soon loses track of time due to the constant light and the lack of daily rhythm. He hardly gets to eat and is becoming increasingly thin.

At the beginning, Winston goes through some routine interrogations. The officer in charge is O'Brien, who in truth does not belong to the "brotherhood" but to the party leadership. First, Winston must make the usual confessions (including espionage , sabotage , embezzlement and murder) under constant torture. Soon it will be brainwashed . Bit by bit, O'Brien dismantles the worldview of the intellectually inferior Winston. If he is unreasonable, plays stupid, or lies, O'Brien gives him pain with electric shocks on a kind of rack. Occasionally, O'Brien also gives Winston medication for the pain. To demonstrate to Winston that random control of memory is possible with enough effort, he gives him an electric shock through the head, which temporarily affects Winston's long-term memory.

O'Brien explains to Winston the steps involved in re-education: learn, understand, and accept. To break Winston's resistance to the system, O'Brien wants to manipulate his will. To do this, O'Brien forces him to look at his gagged and emaciated body from the torture in the mirror. Since Winston sees himself as a champion for humanity ("learn"), one tries to make it clear to him that resistance is pointless, since humanity is at the mercy of the party of Oceania (as well as East Asia and Eurasia) just as he is. Disgusted by himself, Winston feels his sight as pathetic and undignified ("understand") and gratefully accepts the nourishing hand of the party ("accept").

O'Brien reveals to him the party's secret: power (over people) as an end in itself. The party's power only serves to exercise power: “If you want to imagine a picture of the future, then imagine a boot that steps into the face of a person - over and over again.” The end result of re-education is not logical the pardon, but the ultimate death: “You are a difficult case. But don't give up hope. Everyone will be healed sooner or later. At the end we will shoot you. ”The commandments maintained by the medieval Inquisition (“ You shouldn't! ”) And the totalitarian systems (“ You should! ”), Which only ever produced martyrs because the victims did not“ accept ”,“ affirmed ” "Are replaced by the party's commandment:" You have to be! ". O'Brien: "Everyone is washed clean [" cured "]."

From now on, Winston is getting enough to eat and is being nursed back to health. You even make a new set of teeth for him. While he is recovering physically, he trains himself in contemplating and stopping crime and practices outsmarting his own mind. Winston's re-education seems to be coming to an end. But when he calls out loudly for Julia one night in a dream, O'Brien realizes that Winston still detests Big Brother and that his love for Julia is unbroken. He is taken to the infamous room 101. There everyone can expect their own personal hell. Knowing of Winston's fear of rats, O'Brien has a cage with two starved specimens fastened in front of Winston's face and threatens to open the cage door. To avert this danger, Winston sacrifices the last good that is still left of his original self: his love for Julia. He betrays her by pleading with O'Brien not to torture him, but Julia. With this his self-respect and his inner resistance are finally broken. As a result, he is released from custody.

After his release, Winston is still employed by the Truth Department, but in his new position he has almost no duties, so he spends a lot of time solving chess problems in a shabby café. He also drinks a lot of gin . He meets Julia one last time. She, too, shows traces of torture, a scar disfigured her face, and her formerly athletic body has become misshapen. She reveals to Winston that she betrayed him and that the party knew how to destroy their feelings for him. Later Winston catches himself cheering along with the crowd while looking at the war reports. He realizes that he is cured of his lifelong rebellion against the community. He has a vision of his execution: In a public trial, Winston tears, gratefully and humbly confesses his love for Big Brother, who helped him to achieve “victory against himself”. The daydream ends with "the long-awaited bullet penetrating his brain". The brainwashing was successful.

The book ends with Winston's realization that he truly loves his big brother.


Figure constellation

Winston Smith

Winston Smith, the main character of the novel, is a 39 year old, emaciated, frail, brooding and resigned man who doubts the slogans put out by the party and its leader, Big Brother. In order to be able to record the actual course of events (in contrast to the party's incessant falsification of history, which he knows from his work in the Ministry of Truth ), he begins to write a diary. He wants the overthrow of the government and the downfall of Big Brother and is therefore looking for like-minded people he thinks he can find in Julia and O'Brien. Winston in his resistance seeks to understand how the party can wield such total power. His thoughts often revolve around the possibility of using language for mind control (see under " Newspeak "). Orwell put the name of the protagonist together from the first name of Winston Churchill and the simple everyday surname Smith.


While Winston is restless, fatalistic, and concerned about society at large, Julia is emotional, pragmatic , intent on enjoying the moment and getting the most out of her life. She hates the party because it tries to destroy her personal happiness in order to plan it firmly for the community. Julia's rebellion against the party is therefore much more personal. While Winston tries to join the brotherhood and deal with the abstract manifesto of its founder Emmanuel Goldstein, Julia wants to lead a free sex life. She wants a relationship with Winston and is considering future plans for it. She is not, like Winston, convinced that the Thought Police will catch her and is therefore much more anxious to deceive her colleagues, neighbors and the Thought Police. That is why she is involved in the "Youth League Against Sexuality" (called in more recent German editions: "Junior Anti-Sex League"), is the most passionate about two-minute hatred and attends a surprising number of demonstrations together with Winston. “It pays off, she says, it serves as a cover. If you keep the rules on a small scale, you can break them on a large scale. ”(Part 2, Chapter 3) Julia claims that she has had numerous affairs with party members. Although the reader does not know whether she is making this claim at Winston's request or whether it is really true, it clearly shows that she is unwilling to let the party take her pleasure from her.

Julia has a natural spirit of life, in contrast to Winston's desperation and longing for death, and also a better sense of reality. So she recognizes that behind the picture at Winston, from which the tele-screen finally breaks out, bugs could be hidden.

In the end she betrays Winston in order to save herself, but is reeducated in a similar way to Winston.


O'Brien is a Ministry of Love spy appointed to monitor Outer Party members for thought crimes. To this end, he pretends to be Winston and Julia and poses as an enemy of the party.

Winston meets O'Brien while working at the Department of Truth . During the obligatory two-minute hatred , they exchange a look that is reason enough for Winston to assume that O'Brien is an enemy of the party. O'Brien is admired by Winston for his elegance and supreme cleverness. Winston often dreams of O'Brien and a functioning resistance movement. O'Brien is a member of the Inner Party and therefore has more privileges than members of the Outer Party. So he can put the tele screen in his apartment and owns some luxury goods like wine. So Winston confides in him, receives Goldstein's revolutionary book from him (which, as it turns out at the end, was partly written by O'Brien himself). Winston meets O'Brien again in the third part of the book at the Ministry of Love . This meeting was foretold by O'Brien (in a Winston's dream): we will meet where there is no darkness . O'Brien now turns out to be a staunch supporter of Big Brother. Through torture in the Ministry of Love, he tries to free Winston from anti-party thoughts.

Big Brother

The literary figure of Big Brother is practically invisible to the people, but omnipresent in their image. Nobody ever saw him and he seems to be just the fictional personification of a collective rule. Whether he really exists is one of the questions that torments Winston. From O'Brien he only receives an ambiguous answer to this question in the spirit of the party: There is Big Brother, and he will live forever because the party wants it that way. Big Brother is a fiction, a mass suggestion that is neither entirely true nor entirely false. You can neither know that it exists nor that it does not exist. So it exists in the mind precisely because it could exist.

Emmanuel Goldstein

Like big brother, Emmanuel Goldstein has a timeless nature. He is a former member of the party leadership, but is now hated as "public enemy number one". He denounces the betrayal of the socialist ideas of the revolutionary time and wants to carry out a counter-revolution through the "brotherhood" and the changing enemies of Oceania. Goldstein and the Brotherhood may be a Party created illusion, bait designed to attract dissenters to make it easier for the Thought Police to catch potential Thought Criminals. He is also the only opponent who has not been declared a “non-person”, as his function as an enemy image is indispensable for the system. In that sense, he's just as immortal as Big Brother. In the novel it remains open whether Goldstein actually exists.

In the book “The theory and practice of oligarchical collectivism”, often simply “The Book”, Goldstein is said to have explained the anatomy of the system. This book was actually written by party officials, including O'Brien. He admits that the book contains the truth about the party's crimes, but that cannot be changed.

The model for this figure is Leon Trotsky , who was declared a figure of hatred and traitor in the Soviet Union under Stalin .

Orwell's inspiration

Former seat of the Ministry of Information , corresponds to the description of the four ministries in the novel, whereby the Ministry of Love has no windows in the book

Orwell explains in his essay Why I Write that he has repeatedly warned against totalitarianism in his work since the Spanish Civil War . The Building of the Government of Oceania is a parody of a famous speech by Roosevelt on the Four Freedoms . As Orwell later told Malcolm Muggeridge , much of Winston's day-to-day work came from Orwell's own experience with the BBC . At that time the BBC was still subordinate to the Ministry of Information , whose former seat looks similar to the ministries described in the novel.

Methods of exercise of power

Control of the past

A fundamental concept of the Thought Control Party is control of the past. That is why a gigantic effort is being made in the Ministry of Truth to adapt all existing documents to the current party line. Predictions made by the Party or Big Brother e.g. B. on the production of goods or the course of the war are adjusted to the facts that actually occurred so that “the party is always right”. Nobody should be able to refute statements of the party by means of historical documents. Reports that express themselves in a positive way about people who have meanwhile become “non- persons” by “ disappearing ” or “ vaporizing ” (“vaporizing”) are rewritten. In addition, the constant change in reports on the war situation gives the population the impression that the state has always been enemies with the respective enemy, so that the frequent change of war opponents disappears from the consciousness. To make this possible, the party newspaper, the Times , is regularly updated, including all historical editions, and old editions are reprinted while retaining the date. The old copies that no longer fit into the party line are taken from the archives and destroyed.

Lenin's speech on May 5, 1920
Vladimir Lenin Leon Trotsky Lev Kamenev 1920.jpg
Lev Kamenev and Leon Trotsky disappeared from the photo.jpg

on the left with Kamenev and Trotsky on the steps, on the right with empty steps

There is also a famous historical model for this that Orwell may have known, a photograph of Lenin . In the original version, Trotsky and Kamenev stand next to him. In the second version, Trotsky has been retouched, but Kamenev is still there. In the third version, Kamenev has also disappeared.

War is peace

In Orwell's world, the three superpowers only wage limited wars on the periphery . It is enough for them to persuade the population to be content with the poverty and want resulting from the state of war. Since this is in the interests of all three governments, it prevents the great war between them. The fact that they are constantly changing their allies does not change that (see balance of power ). The situation ensures the rule of all three superpowers, because they are unwilling and / or unable to adequately provide for the population. In order to underline that the population can (and must) be satisfied with the state of affairs, the party spreads the slogan “War is peace”, whereby peace is the state that is always desired and to be achieved and which is regularly within reach in the party's propaganda moves.

However, in the course of the novel even Julia and later Winston suspect that the government of Oceania itself may drop bombs to keep the war present. The presumption is fed by the fact that these bombings are never aimed at the residential areas of the party members, but always fall on the areas of the proles .

Double thinking

Zwiedenken (in more recent German editions: Doppeldenk , English doublethink ) is a central thesis of the book. If the party says 2 + 2 = 5, then so be it. It is also not enough just to say it and lie , you really have to believe it. Since the party controls the mind, when the party says this, people believe that 2 + 2 = 5, and when people believe it, then it is so. On the other hand, O'Brien admits to Winston that there are e.g. B. for scientific purposes it is sometimes necessary to know that 2 + 2 = 4. This is where the actual dichotomy begins, as the party member loyal to the party is required to “switch between two truths” (in one moment 2 + 2 = 5, in the next 2 + 2 = 4) without being aware of it. There is no objective truth outside the party. Under the torture , Winston actually sees the requested five fingers once, although O'Brien only shows him four. O'Brien: “Reality is in the head. ... There is nothing we cannot do. ... You need to get rid of these nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of nature. We make the laws of nature. "

Hate week

Hate Week is a propaganda event dedicated to hatred of political and military opponents. How interchangeable these opponents are for the system is shown by an episode in which the hate speaker is slipped a piece of paper in the middle of his speech saying that the opponent has changed. Without faltering or once making a promise, he continues his speech; The object of hate is now the new opponent. Hate Week's little sister is the daily two-minute hate that everyone must participate in.

Against his will, Winston cannot avoid the feelings of hatred that are generated there; they only partially turn them against the party, instead of, as actually wanted, against the (substitute) object specified by the party. Within the collective situation, which has mass psychological effects (Winston is infected by the hatred), the participants react to their pent-up negative emotions, guided by the party in ways that are convenient for them. At the same time, the content produced by the party arouses fears, from which people, as it is assured, only Big Brother can protect.


Historical template: Around Stalin (2nd from left) Antipov (2nd photo), Schwernik (3rd photo) and finally Kirov (4th photo) disappear .

Political opponents are liquidated ("liquefied") - vaporized ("evaporated") in Newspeak, or hanged publicly in front of a mass audience. The party is not satisfied with that alone: ​​every memory of the murdered must be erased; they become non- persons - they don't exist, they never existed. This is illustrated by the example of a work colleague from Winston named Syme, who worked enthusiastically on the development of Newspeak, but one day " disappeared " and "never existed". A whole department in Winston's Ministry is busy destroying and rewriting documents that mention non-persons. The model for this is obviously the Soviet Union under Stalin. There the history of the revolution was constantly being rewritten. Even photos were retouched or manipulated for it .


The term Newspeak (English: Newspeak , in older versions as Newspeak translated) refers to a language that for political reasons modified artificially was. Newspeak is the official language introduced in Oceania: the tenth and, towards the end of the book, the eleventh edition of the dictionary defining Newspeak will be created at the time of the plot. Newspeak is divided into three parts. Part A covers everyday language, which should be free from any political and ideological meaning. Part B represents the indispensable minimum of ideological and political vocabulary. Part C is by far the most extensive and contains the technical and scientific terms.

Newspeak is intended to gradually replace everyday language ("old speech") and is used to reduce vocabulary in order to make differentiated or nuanced thinking more difficult. This is shown by the sentence "Altdenker unbellyfeel Engsoz" (Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc) in the commentary of the party newspaper in Newspeak. The best possible translation in old speech is: "He whose worldview was formed before the revolution can never feel and understand the principles of English socialism in its ultimate depth". But this would only be an inadequate translation.

If there was a corresponding opposite for every adjective in old-speaking , every opposite is formed by a preceding un- in Newspeak . That is, for example, the opposite of good offense and hot unwarm . Increasing forms by a leading plus ( comparative ) or double plus ( superlative labeled): For example, better and best by plusgut or doppelplusgut replaced. In addition, almost all irregularities are brought into line with the rules. Longer terms like Ministry of Truth are simply shortened to mini- truth . Behind this, the original meaning of the words also fades.

Another means are euphemisms (glossing over), neologisms and reinterpretations. The system's detention and torture camps are called pleasure camps . The Ministry behind it is the Ministry of Love . The political prisoners are thought criminals . In party slogans such as war is peace , freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength , the words are simply given new meanings so that they cannot be used against the party. Words also have different meanings depending on their reference (person), so "black and white", whether used for party members or enemies, can mean special party loyalty or treason. In doing so, the party prevents an alternative system from being conceived from the start. In Newspeak one could certainly say: “Big brother is bad”, but this statement cannot be differentiated or justified, because the necessary vocabulary is missing. For an Orthodox party member, such a criminal thinking or deldenk therefore contains a completely untenable, absurd statement and remains only a gross curse and harmless for the party.

Orwell provides a good example of this in the appendix to the novel (depending on the edition), where he explains the principles of Newspeak:

“The words 'Communist International', for example, are reminiscent of a picture of worldwide brotherhood, red flags, Karl Marx and the Paris Commune . The word ' Comintern ', on the other hand, suggests a tightly organized body with a well-defined doctrine. It refers to something that is recognized as easily […] like a chair or a table. 'Comintern' is a word that can be uttered without a fuss, but 'Communist International' is a phrase that everyone hesitates about for at least a short time. Likewise, the associations evoked by a word like 'Minitrue' are rarer and easier to control than those generated by the 'Ministry of Truth'. "

- Appendix to the Nineteen Eighty-Four edition . Penguin Books 1990, ISBN 0-14-012671-6

Because of the extensive work involved in translating all of Altsprech's books into Newspeak, the time for the final introduction of Newspeak has been set for 2050.

(Thought) crime

In 1984 critical thoughts, so-called thought crimes , which question the doctrine of the fictional state of Oceania , are treated as state crimes. The declared aim of the ruling totalitarian party is to deprive citizens of the possibility of committing thought crimes through the introduction of a new language ( called Newspeak ), through constant falsification of history and through total control and threats. For example, Oceania is alternately at war with Eurasia or with East Asia, while it lives in peace with the other. If Oceania is at war with a state, then it has always been at war with that state and will always be at war with this state in the future, while the other state has always been and will always be at peace with the other state. Anyone who does not acknowledge this is committing a thought crime. It is also considered a crime not to wear the joyful, serious or even hateful facial expression that is required depending on the occasion.


The world of "1984"

The three superpowers

Oceania is one of the three remaining superpowers in the world, alongside Eurasia and East Asia . Oceania consists of the former states of America , Great Britain , Australia and the southern part of Africa , Eurasia roughly from continental Europe , Turkey and Russia , altogether from the Iberian Peninsula to the Bering Strait . East Asia consists of China , Korea , Mongolia, and Japan . Oceania is always at war with at least one of the other two powers; However, it is all about the distraction of the population and never really about the contested territory or the annihilation of the enemy. The latter seems impossible anyway due to the absolute balance of forces. Eurasia is protected by its vast land areas, Oceania by the expansion of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, East Asia by the willingness to give birth and the hard work of its inhabitants.


Logo of the Engsoz (Eng. Ingsoc )

The novel itself explains little about the history of Oceania. However, in the second part of the novel, Winston receives a copy of Goldstein's book critical of the party from O'Brien. Even if it later turns out that this book was actually written by the party itself, it conclusively explains the concept of the party and the history of Engsoc (English socialism, in the original Ingsoc , derived from English socialism ). According to this, shortly after the Allied victory in World War II in the United Kingdom, a socialist revolution should have occurred.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union launched a massive invasion of Europe and took over the entire continent with the exception of the United Kingdom . A third - this time nuclear - world war broke out between Oceania (led by the former USA), Eurasia (led by the former Soviet Union ) and East Asia (presumably led by the former China ); atomic bombs were dropped over Europe, western Russia and North America. In the later war, the use of nuclear weapons was abandoned because the superpowers feared that further atomic bombs would collapse the social order and with it their power.

In the novel, Winston recalls a time when an atomic bomb was dropped on Colchester and caused a mass panic. The three great powers finally realized that the annihilation of the enemy is not possible without one's own annihilation. Instead of ending the war, however, they first decided to fight for supremacy in Africa in order to then be able to defeat their opponents by exploiting the raw materials and people of Africa. Although all three sides are aware that this plan will never work because as soon as a power threatens to achieve something like domination, the other two sides would ally against them, all sides adhere to this agreement. Because in the meantime they have recognized that the constant war allows them to keep the population in a state of constant fear and hustle and bustle without ever having to raise the standard of living in their countries, since the hard-earned goods are repeatedly destroyed at the front could. The party believes that a population that is constantly busy worrying about the essentials of life has no time for critical thoughts and is therefore easy to control and manipulate.

The three great powers seldom fight on their territory, only the rocket bombs that hit them (which may only be detonated by the party itself) terrorize the population.

In the late fifties, the revolution was betrayed by Big Brother, who created a terrorist state with his theory of “English socialism” until in 1970 all functionaries disappeared next to him in large waves of purges and built up a gigantic personality cult around himself . Not even his own existence was secured, as hardly anyone has ever seen him. In 1984, “ Airstrip One ” ( Airstrip One , formerly Great Britain, also translated as “Landefeld One” in recent editions) became the third richest region in Oceania, but that doesn't mean much.


The Social Pyramid in Oceania: Big Brother, Party and Working Class (Proles)

The oligarchical society of Oceania is structured like a pyramid and, based on the conditions in the Soviet Union, is divided into three hierarchical groups: Inner Party, Outer Party and Workers (Proles)

  • Inner Party members make up two percent of the population. They represent the upper class and hold all leading positions. They enjoy many privileges and are definitely not subject to the strict rationing that applies to the rest of society. You can switch off the tele screens in your work rooms (possibly also living rooms) yourself. The official O'Brien consumes wine at home; a luxury that other people do not have. Julia also steals coffee, tea, and sugar on occasion - all things that only members of the Inner Party generally consume. Of course, these too are not immune to falling from grace overnight and becoming a non-person. All Inner Party members wear glasses.
  • The members of the Outer Party represent the middle class and make up about 13% of the population. They exercise executive functions in the service of the party and only serve to maintain them. Some of them are engaged in intellectual fields (for example falsifying history or working on the new edition of the Newspeak Dictionary ) and thus find themselves in a position in which they can be dangerous to the party. Many of them disappear sooner or later without a trace (expression in the novel: "vaporisiert" ("evaporated")), such as Syme , a friend of Winston who is working on the Newspeak dictionary.
  • The proles , the workers, make up 85% of the population, but are deliberately kept stupid and passive by poverty and the media and pose no risk to the party's position even with the obvious nature of the party's dictatorship. This is achieved by using enormous economic resources not benefit the poor, but will be destroyed in a permanent war (z. B. construction of "floating fortresses", eng. floating fortresses ). This war also serves as a justification for the fact that the country is constantly in an emergency and cannot afford any “luxuries” such as democracy, freedom or the fight against poverty. In addition, the state constantly produces cheap punk songs , dime novels , porn films and other things that can only be consumed by the proles. The state also organizes a lottery in which the big winners are fictitious - but the proles, for lack of other occupation, are carried away by these simple-minded activities. They have no time or no ambition to criticize the state, but still this caste is the only one that would be able to bring about an overthrow. If there is still hope for change after the failure of the protagonist, it comes from the proles. While members of the Inner and Outer Parties more or less accept one another, they see the proles as nothing more than animals; in fact no one can rise from the class of proles. The proles also have the lowest standard of living in society.

The book of the opposition Emmanuel Goldstein describes the emergence of these three classes in such a way that the socialist revolutionaries, who come from the former middle class and from whom the functionaries of the party are recruited, the original idea of Marxism , which envisaged the liberation of the working class , so far perverted that it enables them to maintain their power. Nevertheless, according to the party's official account, all citizens - including the proles - are doing better than before the revolution, although they live in shabby, monotonous tenements and only have the essentials of clothing and food. The picture of society before the revolution, which is conveyed in the history books, describes the oppression by exploitative capitalists , clergy and aristocrats , poverty, homelessness , child labor and the ius primae noctis . This is a caricature of the English class society before the Second World War, but also a reference to the historical image actually conveyed in socialist states, which should serve to divert attention from current problems and to confirm the party slogan of "liberation of humanity".


Orwell describes in 1984 a total surveillance , exercised mainly with the help of telescreens , which no member of the Outer Party can evade (in the case of the Inner Party it is not clear - O'Brien can evidently evade for a short time because he can switch off the tele screen). The tele-screen is both a transmitting and receiving device that monitors the citizens of Oceania in every house of the inner and outer party, in public places and at work. Nobody knows whether you are being watched or not, and you can only speculate about how often or according to which system the thought police intervene in the private sphere. It is therefore even conceivable that she is constantly observing everyone (party members). See also Panopticon , the concept of total surveillance.

Another means of surveillance are microphones , which are mostly used in rural areas. These are especially feared because, unlike the televisions, they are hidden and so you know even less whether you are being monitored or not.

Also patrolling at irregular intervals helicopter of the Thought Police through the neighborhoods and peer directly into the window, but this is less the actual monitoring, but rather a sense of impotence and will cause permanent observation.

In contrast to this open surveillance, there is still the spying of people among themselves. Children in particular are brought up and encouraged to spy on and betray their parents in the youth organization of the informers / spies . Some parents are even proud when their children betray others or even their own parents, for example in the case of Parsons, Winston's neighbor, a conformist, systematically functioning member of the Outer Party. Parsons is denounced by his seven-year-old daughter when he makes negative comments about his big brother in his sleep. In addition, all party members are organized in clubs and are called upon to spend as much time as possible in community houses so that everyone can keep an eye on everyone.

The proles are only sporadically monitored as they are not viewed as people and their views are meaningless.


The structure of the government in 1984 is a parody of a well-known speech by US President Roosevelt before Congress in 1941 on the "four freedoms" ("freedom of speech and religion, from want and fear"): freedom of speech , freedom of religion , the Freedom from deficiencies and fear. George Orwell used this speech, along with his experience at the British Broadcasting Corporation ( BBC ), to create the four ministries of Oceania:

  • Ministry of Peace (Minipax): This ministry is concerned with keeping the perpetual war going. It may also be responsible for the attacks on its own cities in order to maintain the war mood.
  • Ministry of Abundance / Overabundance (Miniflu (ss) / Mini Abundance): This ministry is responsible for the economy and the preparation of the three-year plans which, according to official reports, are constantly being met or exceeded, while actual production is likely to be deliberately kept low . It is said that 145 million boots are produced annually while "half of the population of Oceania goes barefoot". The Ministry also ensures that there are never enough consumer goods or that the quality remains extremely poor (compare Winston's remarks about the poor and even declining quality of chocolate, Victory cigarettes and Victory gin ).
  • Ministry of Love (Mini-Love): This mysterious and feared ministry maintains the Thought Police that track down deviants and bring them there. There they are tortured until they are "turned around", that is, they are fully on the party line again . Some are then released to live in Oceania for some time before being shot. Others are shot immediately.
  • Ministry of Truth (Mini Truth): This ministry deals with the past or with its constant manipulation. All books, films, writings, newspapers, sound recordings, etc. from the past are constantly revised here and adapted to the current line of the party, so that according to all the records that exist, the party is always right and has always been right.
"And if everyone else believed the lie spread by the party - if all the records were the same - then the lie went down in history and became the truth." (Cf. Part 1 from 1984 )
"Whoever has power over history also has power over the present and the future."


Orwell describes a dystopian state that out of pure lust for power individuals and individuality, e.g. B. Julia and the protagonist Winston, destroyed. Winston's varicose ulcer is a physical symptom of the regimen psyche.

"Golden Country" stands in contrast to the dead reality and symbolizes Winston's longing for a better past and a better future. As long as Winston kept this dream, he was not completely reeducated. Only when the last torture, the last re-education step has been carried out in Room 101 , does he no longer remember any “Golden Country”.

The paperweight initially served Winston as a symbol of a past in which there was, among other things, beauty. This item symbolizes his disregard for the present, which he is guilty of as a thought criminal. The paperweight was the room he was in, and the coral was Julia's life and his own, fixed in a sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal. (P. 154). But the glass paperweight also points to the fragility of their glass world; in the course of the capture it is brutally destroyed and thus shows itself as an illusion.

The dust in London was created in the permanent state of war that prevailed there. At the same time, it can be seen as symbolism: "Down to the smallest grain of dust" the citizens are penetrated. The dust remains until the end, when Winston writes the equation "2 + 2 = 5" with dust on the table after his re-education at Cafe Kastanienbaum.


1984 becomes public domain in the European Union from January 1, 2021 . In the USA, the work will only receive public domainTemplate: future / in 5 years status after 2044 , which it already has in Canada, Russia and Australia, for example.

Reception and entrance into contemporary culture

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) met Leopold Kohr (winner of the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, spiritual father of "small is beautiful" ) in Valencia in 1937 for one week every day in a café, while both were reporters for international newspapers about the Spanish Were civil war. There they discussed the trend towards ubiquitous surveillance in centralized societies.

Orwell's novel is regularly cited, or often only the title 1984 or just the name Orwell is mentioned, in order to critically point out tendencies towards a surveillance state . Similarly, the term of the Big Brother used, such as the Big Brother Awards .

Since about 2009 this happened, for example, often related to the research project INDECT the EU to "crime prevention" means automatic evaluation of surveillance camera images of public space. The British Daily Telegraph called the project the Orwellian Plan in 2009 . Friday asked rhetorically with reference to the project whether Orwell was a "naive optimist".

The GDR rated Orwell's work as anti-subversive inflammatory pamphlet and imposed high penal sentences for reading it and lending it out because, according to a judgment, it vilified and vilified socialism and defamed the Soviet Union and the leadership role of the Marxist-Leninist party dictatorship .

After the secret, comprehensive PRISM surveillance program of the US secret service NSA became known in June 2013, the book experienced a revival in the USA and Great Britain. According to media reports, it rose to 66th place in the list of best-selling books of the Internet bookseller Amazon.com in the US and 42nd in the UK. In January 2017, it even ranked first in the US after the advisor to the US President Donald Trump , Kellyanne Conway , used the term “ alternative facts ” in an interview in relation to statements made by press secretary Sean Spicer about the audience figures at Trump's inauguration , a phrase characteristic of Orwell's “double-thinking”.

The 1974 album Diamond Dogs , which David Bowie also made a breakthrough in the US, was originally designed as a musical of the novel. After four songs had already been written, Bowie learned that Orwell's widow would not give him the rights to carry out the project as such. On the finished album, there are direct references to the book in the titles 1984 and Big Brother . Certain lines of text also indicate constant monitoring and the associated consequences, as in We are the dead .

References to the present are also drawn on various occasions in the debate about political correctness , which reminds us of Orwell's “Neusprech” and “Gutdenk” through taboos and euphemisms .

See also



Secondary literature

  • Bernd-Peter Lange : George Orwell: 1984. Fink, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-7705-2066-1 .
  • Robert Plank : George Orwell's "1984": A Psychological Study . Translation of Leopold Spira . Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​1983 ISBN 978-3-518-37469-6
  • Michael Rademacher: George Orwell, Japan and the BBC. The role of totalitarian Japan in the creation of "Nineteen Eighty-Four". In: Archive for the Study of Modern Languages ​​and Literatures , 149th Volume, 1 (1997), pp. 33–54, ISSN  0003-8970 .
  • Michael Rademacher: Orwell and Hitler: "Mein Kampf" as a source for "Nineteen Eighty-Four". In: Journal for English and American Studies , Volume 47, 1 (1999), pp. 38–53, ISSN  0044-2305 .
  • William R. Steinhoff: George Orwell and the Origins of 1984. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1975. ISBN 978-0-472-87400-2
  • Maria-Felicitas Herforth: George Orwell: 1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four). Bange (King's Explanations and Materials 108), Hollfeld 2002, ISBN 3-8044-1769-8 .
  • Kathleen Ellenrieder: Reading key to George Orwell: 1984. Reclam ( Reclams Universal-Bibliothek 15362), Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-15-015362-X .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b George Orwell: 1984 . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1983, ISBN 0-547-24964-0 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  2. Biography of George Orwell. In: george-orwell.org. Wikipedia.org, accessed February 3, 2016 .
  3. ^ Novel history ( Memento of July 12, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) , web.archive.org, accessed on April 22, 2019.
  4. ^ A b Ian Johnston: EU funding 'Orwellian' artificial intelligence plan to monitor public for. In: Telegraph.co.uk. September 19, 2009, accessed February 3, 2016 .
  5. a b INDECT: Was Orwell a naive optimist? In: Friday . August 11, 2009, ISSN  0945-2095 ( freitag.de ).
  6. In more recent German editions: Doppeldenk.
  7. In more recent editions: Delstop.
  8. Hans-Christoph Schröder : George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck, Munich 1988. pp. 254f.
  9. Part 1, Chapter 5 of the book "1984"
  10. George Orwell: Why I Write. In: resort.com. Retrieved February 3, 2016 .
  11. Shelden, Michael (1991). Orwell - The Authorized Biography. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-092161-7 , pages 430-434
  12. ^ "The real room 101". ( Memento of January 5, 2007 on the Internet Archive ) 2003. BBC.
  13. ^ Principles of Newspeak. (No longer available online.) In: newspeakdictionary.com. Archived from the original on February 17, 2013 ; Retrieved February 3, 2016 .
  14. Although this is not directly mentioned in the book, it is obvious, since the self-designation of East Asian ideology is a Chinese word: "In East Asia it [the prevailing worldview] is expressed by a Chinese word that is usually translated as 'death cult'" ; quoted from Goldstein's book, chapter 3.
  15. Hans-Christoph Schröder : George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck, Munich 1988. p. 255.
  16. In older German versions of the novel, telescreen is translated with Televisor .
  17. Herforth, Maria Felicias: King's Explanations George Orwell 1984, Bange Verlag, pp. 197-198
  18. Herforth, Maria Felicias: King's Explanations George Orwell 1984, Bange Verlag, p. 101
  19. Herforth, Maria Felicias: King's Explanations George Orwell 1984, Bange Verlag, p. 99
  20. ^ O. Dag: George Orwell - Public Domain. In: orwell.ru. Retrieved February 3, 2016 .
  21. Cf. the concluding remark on Leopold Kohr's speech on the eve of 1984 on the occasion of the presentation of the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) 1983: On the eve of 1984 · The Eve of 1984 ( memento of March 18, 2014 in the Internet Archive ). On: Leopold Kohr Academy. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  22. Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk : The 101 most important questions - GDR. CH Beck, Munich 2009, pp. 68-69.
  23. Wolf Lepenies: Anyone who read Orwell's "1984" went to the GDR jail. In: Welt Online. June 8, 2009, accessed February 3, 2016 .
  24. Prism scandal: Orwell's "1984" is again a bestseller in the USA and Great Britain. In: Spiegel Online. Spiegel Online, accessed February 3, 2016 .
  25. Orwell's classic "1984" becomes a bestseller again. In: Spiegel Online. Spiegel Online, accessed January 25, 2017 .
  26. ^ Cf. Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray: David Bowie: An Illustrated Record , New York and London 1981, p. 64.
  27. ^ Josef Joffe: Language: "Newspeak" new . In: The time . January 23, 2016, ISSN  0044-2070 ( zeit.de [accessed January 19, 2017]).
  28. FOCUS Online: In the beginning there was the breakout of templates . In: FOCUS Online . ( focus.de [accessed on January 19, 2017]).