The author, George Orwell, creates an extremely realistic vision of a dystopian world. The story begins in London on April 4, 1984. London is the capital of Oceania which is run by INGSOC. The novel is set in a British society, years after a nuclear war has occurred. The opening image of Nineteen Eighty-Four sets a bad omen that prevails throughout as the reader is introduced to Winston Smith, the fatalistic protagonist of the novel. It starts off on a “cold day in April,” when “the clocks were striking thirteen.” Immediately, the author portrays a society in decay by describing a setting of “gritty dust,” and “hallways of boiled cabbage and old rag mats.”
Elevators are not working and there is an electrical current that is turned off during daylight hours. The setting that is established is depressing, dull and diseased. This is also interpreted in the example used before, “it was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Instantly the imagery is calm and bright however it is then brought down to being dull and depressing by the use of the word ‘cold’ and the fact that it says “the clocks were striking thirteen” gives it a sense of paranoia.
The society of 1984, which is Airstrip One, lives in poverty, hunger and disease which symbolises depression, feelings of fear and death. 1984 depicts a totalitarian society which means relating to a system of government by a single party which allows no opposition and which demands complete obedience. It is ruled by an omnipresent dictator, which is a figure that is everywhere but is not seen, called ‘Big Brother.’ Also, there are big bold words in capitals saying “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” This gives paranoia as it is reminding you that your every move is being watched.
In this society, people’s thoughts are controlled as tightly as their actions. The government is called “the party” and maintains an organisation called the “thought police” and engages in constant propaganda by deliberately spreading such information. The government try to scare the society which helps them gain control over them therefore gives them more power by making the society fear them. This society is also to do with socialism as it is a system which aims to create a classless society by removing the nation’s wealth out of private and into public hands. The author had his political views shaped by his experiences of socialism and totalitarianism all over the world.
As you have been already told, 1984 is a novel about using power to control the society. This is established by the use of control that is described in the opening chapter. The ruling class controls its people by taking away their ability to think and act as individuals. Additionally, they control them by limiting their communication with one another, wiping out personal relationships and spreading propaganda. These are all factors in which contribute to the party’s goal to create a senseless society that follows orders and also lacks the confidence to question the world around them. As said before, a big factor in which revolves around the use of control is the semi-mythical leader of the party ‘Big Brother’ that is everywhere however cannot be seen. Images of his face are omnipresent in society.
The words ‘BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU’ is a use of control as the citizens very much fear it and are very paranoid by this therefore they listen to the orders they have to follow, they don’t make mistakes because if they do they know there will be consequences to their actions. The telescreens, helicopters, guards and the ‘thought police’ are also a use of control from the party as they watch the peoples every move every minute of the day. Additionally, the form of language that is used as a control mechanism is Newspeak which broadens the party member’s vocabulary. Finally, every aspect of a party members life is controlled by the party, individual freedom does not exist therefore the party have a very effective use of control amongst the society.
In the opening chapter of this novel, the first character to emerge is 45 year old Winston Smith who is the protagonist in the story, a party member who resents the control that the party exerts. Winston works in an office where he retires the newspapers. Winston is a very frustrated and depressed person as he always brings the depression from the outside inside with him therefore it’s like the depression is stuck with him. From the first impression that is described of him is that he is quite old, his body is decayed as it says in the book that he has an ulcer and also he is diseased mentally and physically. He is a traitor of the party and another point is that he is rebellious, against the system therefore he despises of it. He is outraged by the demands that the party makes on peoples intellects and is outraged by the party’s attempt to destroy sexual instinct. Winston starts to write a diary about his feelings towards things which are against the party’s orders to not think therefore this is thought crime. This activity is difficult for Winston because the activity of diary writing becomes impossible due to no privacy existing.
The author’s use of technique and devices create an intriguing and exciting opening to the novel, the language used engages all the reader’s senses. In the opening paragraph, George Orwell’s craft with language is instantly noticeable.
An example of this is when we are told, ‘it was a bright day, yet it is gritty and there is dust.’
These cleverly chosen words illustrate the whole novel. Furthermore, the impression of life being very controlled and limited is created by the language used such as adjectives like ‘rubble,’ ‘decayed’ and ‘crumbling’ which are very convincing words that indicate it is not a decent place. Also due to the war it has ended up like this in a devastating way therefore this perfectly gives a feeling that it represents a ruined world.
In 1984, the author makes excellent use of symbolism to enhance the novel’s theme and to reveal a character.
An example of this as used before is when it says, “hallways of boiled cabbage and old rag mats.”
This symbolises death, diseases and much unhappiness which is very clever as it links with everything else such as the character Winston as he is diseased and is wrapped inside with unhappiness.
Furthermore, the author’s character Winston Smith, a hero, symbolises the British statesman and political figure Winston Churchill who led Britain to victory in World War Two. Smith was the name of common men in England at that time. Lastly, George Orwell is very clever as everything links together. He relates the past with what he writes in this novel which makes it very effective. In the opening we get the idea of a nightmare world however by making the main character Winston a hero it creates some kind of hope and faith that there could be another side to this story.
There are many themes that emerge from the opening chapter of this novel. Governments manipulating mind and body in a variety of ways to get what they want and control over the society is the main theme. Also the party controls everything in 1984, e.g. Winston wakes up, exercises and goes to work all while Big Brother is watching him. The telescreens, thought police and ministries of truth, plenty, love and peace all contribute to the government manipulating the mind to get what they want. Another theme is that the ruling class controls citizens by taking away their ability to think for themselves. There are also many similar themes such as destruction, disappearance, paranoia, fear, war, death and violence. All these words fall into the lexical field of death which highly summarises a dystopian world that George Orwell creates from the opening chapter.