1984: Symbols and Allegories

1984 is an astounding classic by George Orwell. Contained in this marvelous book are motifs, themes, and plenty of allegories. However, there are three things that George Orwell does in the book that particularly stand out to me: His ability to show the changing mental and emotional thoughts of the main character, Winston, throughout the story, his portrayal of human motivation in the grassland scene, and his depiction of human weakness in the final scene in the Ministry of Love.

Throughout the novel, Orwell shows how Winston’s psyche is constantly changing and evolving, ultimately reaching a point of conformity. Winston is a 39-year-old worker in a totalitarian government. The government’s control, referred to as the Party in the novel, often troubles him even though he is among only 15% of the population which gets to be a member of the Party. He ardently believes in a secret organization known as the Brotherhood, which he hopes will overthrow the Party. Although he has the beliefs and wishes, he is very active in keeping them silent even in his own head. He buys an empty book to write his thoughts in but rarely writes in it out of fear that he will be caught by the Thought Police, an organization of the Party which makes an effort to control people’s ideas, and attempts to keep their ideals in line with the party.

However, this only represents Winston’s thoughts at the beginning of the novel. As Orwell transitions into the middle part of the novel, a new major character is introduced: Julia. Julia is another rebellious character but prefers to think in a different manner from Winston. While Winston was very contemplative of the Party’s motives, Julia was much more inclined to rebel only for the sake of her own pleasure – making her an overall more selfish character than Winston. Eventually, these thoughts rub off on Winston, and he begins to question whether the correct way to rebel is in small ways such as the way Julia had been doing, or whether he should hope for a large scale organization to slowly rise and overthrow the Party by working collaboratively.

In the final stages of 1984, Winston’s inner thoughts and ideals completely changed. He no longer wishes for the Party to be overthrown, but rather, he wishes the system will flourish. He loves Big Brother, the symbolic leader of the Party, and he has completely conformed with the rest of the population. He even passionately takes part in a celebration of the Party for the first time. This contrasts immensely from the beginning stages of 1984, which causes the reader to be highly inclined to subconsciously delve deeper into Winston’s thoughts so as to understand him better. Whether through writing in an empty book, or by taking part in a large-scale celebration, Orwell convinces the audience of the inevitable changes that the Party will inflict in a human’s psyche.

Another condition that Orwell exemplifies in 1984 is human motivation. He is able to display this in the grassland scene, in which Winston and Julia surreptitiously escape to the country lands in order to be together and experience freedom. Across the novel, the Party is always trying to control the actions and thoughts of people. Telescreens – pieces of technology that record and listen as well as display propaganda – are rampant throughout the Superstate of Oceania, the independent state which the Party controls. Orwell attempts to show how it is the natural human reaction to attempt to escape the authority and dictatorship of the treacherous Party by creating a scene that allows the audience to experience the freedom along with the characters. In the grassland scene, Winston and Julia meet each other in a remote prairie area. When they meet there, for the first time in awhile they are both able to talk freely with one another, something that normally couldn’t be done in urban areas due to the telescreens. If Orwell were to write this scene in earlier during the novel, the effect could not be as well experienced by the audience. By writing it in when he did, the audience was able to understand the true meaning of human motivation and the feeling of freedom.

Finally, Orwell put in an important scene near the end of the novel which epitomized human weakness. At this point in the novel, Winston and Julia had been caught committing Thought Crime, and they were both taken to the Ministry of Love, a place where criminals were brought to be set straight again for the betterment of society. Winston had gone through grueling tests and beatings at the Ministry of Love, and through it, his mind had slowly been shaped to conform to others’. His final task was to learn to love Big Brother – not just to say he loved him, but to truly love him, to feel passionately devoted to him, and to commit himself fully to the Party. Winston was not able to do this, for he had other things that he loved: Julia, the Brotherhood, and hopes of freedom. In order to learn to love Big Brother, Winston is forced to face his biggest fear: rats. The rats were in a cage that was to be placed around only Winston’s head, allowing the rats to gouge out his eyes, his tongue, and his ears. Winston quickly denounced his love for Julia, yelling for the rats to be put on her instead. This may seem like a common human reaction, but the rats were extremely symbolic. They had just stripped everything away, showing the core. And the core was the human weakness. Against his biggest fear, Winston no longer had the strength and devotion to love Julia – everything that he was passionate about was gone and sacrificed in a blink for Big Brother, and the love of the Party. This scene was the crux of the novel, exposing how the Party kept their control, and truly convinced people to love them and Big Brother.

In writing 1984, George Orwell created a moving and thought-provoking environment. He displayed allegories and themes in a swift, seamless manner, and showed his audience a glimpse of his own beliefs and ideas. Ultimately, the book is highly influential and intriguing, which is why it will go down in history as a classic.


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