1984 by George Orwell Points to Ponder

There is a great deal of symbolism in the names Orwell chooses. For example, Winston Smith is a combination of Winston (likely from Winston Churchill, who led England through World War II) and Smith (the most common English last name). What is Orwell’s intention with this symbolism? Is he trying to make Winston Smith a character people can relate to? What kind of people specifically (rich, poor, educated, uneducated)? Similarly, think about ulterior meanings behind the name choices of Big Brother (paternalism?), O’Brien (Irish roots?), Emmanuel Goldstein (Emmanuel literally means “God” and Goldstein is a very common Jewish last name), Room 101 (101 is the usual code for “basic information”).

There is also a great deal of foreshadowing in the novel. Can you think of some objects/instances which turned out later to have been possible signs of events to come? For example, what is the significance of Winston being stumped by the nursery rhyme that Mr. Charrington tells him with the fact that both Julia and O’Brien knew some of the verses of the same rhyme? What is the last line of the rhyme? (“here comes a chopper to chop off your head”) – is this also foreshadowing Winston and Julia’s ultimate downfall? What about the glass paperweight? Why does Winston take it as a symbol of (his beautiful relationship with Julia)? What happens to the paperweight later on (it is smashed by the Thought Police agents)? What about the incident in the Chestnut Tree Café that Winston remembers early on? How is this significant to the last chapter of the novel? (There are many others: rats, 2+2=4, etc.)

One of the most famous lines from the novel is “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” What does this mean? Think carefully and analytically about this statement. Why does Winston feel this particular freedom is important, as opposed to the freedom of speech, etc.? (Consider how Winston feels about the Party’s alterations of history. For Winston, what is important to be preserved for future generations?) Do you think that Winston is really de-humanized when he believes that “2+2=5”? What led him to that state? Would you also feel this way, if you were in Winston’s position? What do you think about Winston’s attempts to reform himself in Part Three, like when he practices “crimestop” in his cell before he is brought to Room 101? At what point in Winston’s rehabilitation does he begin to noticeably “crack”?

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