1984 Discussion Questions and Answers
Which of Orwell's eerie predictions have come true in the present day?
- List examples of predictions come true in 1984.
- Who controls the present controls the past. For example, Big Brother claims that Oceania has always been at war with East Asia even though months before it was at war with Eurasia.
- The proliferation of the media: part of Big Brother's ability to control thought rests in the ability to infiltrate all aspects of life through giant TVs, state controlled radio, and hidden microphones.
- Real World Examples: It's difficult to go anywhere--the grocery store, public transportation, dentist office--without seeing a giant TV transmitting messages. As of yet, these messages are not controlled by government, the barrage of media resembling Fahrenheit 451 more than 1984; the apparatus, however, is in place. Think The Patriot Act, for example, on how government can monitor your actions.
- The concept of government as Big Brother. Part of the party's ability to earn loyalty from party members is the notion that government can solve all their problems, much like a Big Brother.
- Real World Examples: Governments justify their expansion by promising to solve all your problems and in doing so making useless personal responsibility: let us provide your health care; let us take care of your retirement; let us take care of the unequal distribution of wealth; we'll fix everything. Just give us more money and give up a little freedom.
What is Newspeak?
- What is Newspeak?
- Newspeak was a simplification of language to render thoughtcrime impossible. It eliminates words that symbolized illegal things--god, family, love. It eliminates shades of meaning--atrocious and awful could be represented by one word, doubleunplusgood. It contracted words and combined them--duckspeak, speakwrite, Minitruth, Minilove.
- What is the purpose of Newspeak?
- The purpose of Newspeak is to render thoughtcrime impossible. If the word god does not exist, for example, then there would be no way for an individual to express thoughts that included a power higher than government. Documents such as The Declaration of Independence, therefore, would be impossible to understand even if it remained in existence.
- What are some modern examples of Newspeak?
- Terrorists have become enemy combatants. Wars have become military operations. Wartime civilian deaths have become collateral damage. A failing grade has become an inability to meet standards. Wasteful spending and high taxes are now economic stimulus plans.
How is Society Kept Under Control?
- What techniques do the party use to control thought?
- Physical torture, endless wars, state controlled media, spying.
- How does Ingsoc differ from authoritarian regimes of the past?
- The main difference between Ingsoc and authoritarian regimes of the past is their ability to eliminate martyrs. All thought criminals repent before their death; hence, the powerful last line of the book: "He (Winston) loved Big Brother."
- How are the Proles the only hope and how much hope are they?
- The Proles are the only segment of society that is not controlled every second of the day. Unfortunately, they do not have enough sense to realize they're being controlled; they are satisfied with simply surviving (this could also qualify as a prediction above).
Hopefully these sample discussion questions have sparked some of your own original thoughts to add. Let us know what other questions or observations you have in the comments.