Literature / Nineteen Eighty Four

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"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever."
O'Brien

This is the book. One of the most horrifying and depressing codifiers for the Dystopian genre, ever, notwithstanding its now-outdated title.note 

After reading Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian thriller We, George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four as a Pragmatic Adaptation of the novel for non-Russian audiences, with the addition of the then-new technology of television. Finished in 1948 note  and published the next year, it became one of the most iconic stories in the English language, and introduced the phrases "Big Brother Is Watching You," "thoughtcrime," "Thought Police," "Newspeak," and "doublethink" into the English lexicon (but not "doublespeak").

The BBC adapted the book for television in 1954 with a script by Nigel Kneale and Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. It resulted in probably the earliest large-scale eruption of protests about "taste and decency" involving a British TV programme. Questions were asked in the House of Commons when it was alleged that one viewer had actually died of shock while watching.

Two film versions were made, in 1956 and (appropriately) 1984. The 1956 version was directed by Michael Anderson and featured Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence, Jan Sterling and Michael Redgrave. The brilliant and depressing 1984 version of Nineteen Eighty-Four, starring John Hurt as Winston and Richard Burton in his final role as O'Brien, with a soundtrack by Eurythmics, is far more true to the original novel, but is often compared unfavorably to Terry Gilliam's surreal dystopian movie Brazil (which came out one year later, in 1985), which takes a much more subversive and blackly humorous view of Orwell's themes. According to IMDb, Tim Burton is working on another adaptation of this movie. In 2013, this novel was adapted into stage in West End, with a Broadway run premiering in June 2017. Other adaptations includes audio dramas, an operatic production, and a ballet.

David Bowie had plans of a musical adaptation of the novel in The '70s, but plans were rejected by the George Orwell Estate through Orwell's widow herself. note 

Also, this book is frequently compared to Brave New World as a way of showing the perspectives of the dystopia-esque society. Note that Nineteen Eighty-Four shows that what we fear controls us, while Brave New World shows that what we love controls us.

Compare also with Jennifer Government, another Dystopian novel in which it's not the state or a single party, but corporations who control everything; and with The Handmaid's Tale in which the suppression of sex for any reason other than breeding is also a major element. Contrast Brave New World where hedonism instead of terror is used instead to control the populace, and Fahrenheit 451, where dystopia came about from the people while the government was less involved.

Interestingly, sales of the novel tend to skyrocket following political scandals involving wiretapping or mass surveillance.

All spoilers below are unmarked. Reader beware.

NOTE: Do not identify this book as being anti-communist or anti-fascist anywhere on this wiki. It's anti-totalitarianism. Orwell was personally a socialist, but detested authoritarian regimes that had been put in place in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. The original political leaning of the Party is deliberately vague, and their sole concern is retaining power — no more, no less, as stated In-Universe by O'Brien near the end.

This novel provides examples of:

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    Tropes A-M 

  • Adaptation Expansion: The 1954 BBC adaptation notably added a scene not present at other adaptations where we get to see how a novel is being produced and made in the Pornosec.
  • Adaptational Name Change:
    • Syme was given the first name of 'Harold' in the 1984 adaptation. Before that, he was referred to as "Syme. B" in the 1954 BBC Adaptation
    • Julia was given the last name of 'Dixon' in the 1954 BBC Adaptation. In the book, her last name was never revealed. (see No Name Given below.)
  • Adjusting Your Glasses: O'Brien constantly does this. The narrator remarks about the "curious, disarming friendliness that he always managed to put into the gesture."
  • Adult Fear: Ultra-pervasive surveillance and the death penalty for so much as expressing the slightest bit of rebellion? Very much real in today's world.
  • Affably Evil: O'Brien is the most nightmarish version of this trope imaginable. It could veer towards Faux Affably Evil, but he genuinely wants his victim to obey the party and the ideals of Double Think, as he believes they are the truth.
  • After the End: Takes place after a nuclear war. The Party has permanently stalled all human progress, and even history itself:
    Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.
  • Airstrip One: Trope Namer. It's the name given to Great Britain under Ingsoc.
  • The Alcoholic: Winston in the end. That is to say, he's even worse by the end. He seemed to drink a lot even before the Ministry of Love got hold of him.
    • Except when he's getting laid with Julia.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Because in Oceania, there's only one crime: Thoughtcrime, or failure to serve The Party with the utmost of one's labor and devotion. All other crimes as we'd know them are simply considered different expressions of this single offense.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Because of the nature of the world and the Party's iron grip on all information, anything and everything that Winston doesn't personally witness is open to interpretation.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Everything the Party does is for the sake of endlessly acquiring more power for itself.
  • Anti-Hero: Winston himself; he's suspicious, bitter, cowardly and, initially at least, demonstrates few outward desires besides basic gratification. But given that he's the product of a society that instils those qualities in its citizenry on purpose, the mere fact that he contemplates rising above them makes him a hero, of sorts.
  • Apathetic Citizens: The Proles are deliberately conditioned to not give a damn about anything except their daily lives, the state lottery, and all sorts of trashy, disposable fiction.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Big Brother is watching you," and on a different level:
    WAR IS PEACE
    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
    • "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER."
    • "Two plus two equals five."
    • ""Oranges and lemons," say the bells of St. Clement's."
    • "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past."
    • "If there is hope, it must lie in the Proles."
  • Assimilation Plot: The Party claims to be doing this.
    "You know the Party slogan 'Freedom is Slavery." Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Slavery is freedom. Alone -free- the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal.
  • Author Tract: Orwell was never the slightest bit shy in admitting that he wrote primarily in defense of democratic socialism and against totalitarianism.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The whole point of this book is that moral and/or ethical standards are irrelevant to Realpolitik, and thus the good guys never will remake the world in their image. Ever.
  • Bald of Evil: After Room 101, Winston is hairless, toothless, and soulless.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Winston estimates half the population of Oceania goes barefoot, even though 57 million boots had supposedly been produced in the last quarter.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted. Everyone in Oceania is hard looking and rough around the edges. Winston is not even in his forties yet and he's already out of shape and seemingly decrepit. Julia is only in her twenties, and yet Winston says that her lips are probably the only part of her he could genuinely call pretty. They fall in love, anyway. Meanwhile, Winston describes at length O'Brien's friendly, disarming demeanor and mannerisms, along with his 'prize fighter figure.' But this is probably because O'Brien is a member of the inner party, and therefore lives a relatively easier lifestyle than just about everyone else.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: A key component of doublethink is to "tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them."
  • Beneath Suspicion: The Party tends to have this attitude towards the Proles.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: It never crosses Winston's mind that Charrington, the quiet, friendly little man he and Julia rent their room from is actually a member of the Thought Police.
  • Big Beautiful Women: Winston finds the prole woman who sings the "Love Song" outside his apartment to be beautiful in her own way.
    Julia: She's a meter across the hips, easily.
    Winston: That is her style of beauty.
  • Big Brother is Employing You: Winston works for the Party.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The Trope Namer. The party has surveillance measures in every home and prosecutes everybody who shows the slightest of suspicious behavior.
  • Big Bad: O'Brien, who is the most significant villain seen in the story, and responsible for both Winston's and Julia's ultimate capture and Winston's conversion to Ingsoc.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Winston and Julia say that they are prepared to commit atrocities in order to topple Ingsoc, which does commit atrocities because it is utterly evil.
  • Blatant Lies: The whole purpose of the Ministry of Truth and the scary thing is no one questions them.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The original Finnish translation, but it was later remedied by a much better and accurate one.
  • Bread and Circuses: The Proles, because "Proles and animals are free." The Ministry of Truth has a section that produces crappy entertainment for them (called "prolefeed" in Newspeak): newspapers that only contain crime, sports and horoscopes, sensationalistic novels, films "oozing with sex," sentimental songs made by machines, and porn. They can also do as they bloody well please, and Big Brother doesn't give a crap if they have orgies, until one of them proves intelligent enough to organize revolutions and thus gets marked down by the Thought Police.
  • Break the Cutie: O'Brien explains that this is the pure, final reason why they allow hopeful wide eyed idealists to exist.
  • Breather Episode: The whole of Part II (especially Chapters II and IV), when nothing threatening happens, and even a Hope Spot or two begins. Within Part II itself, special breather episodes are when Winston reads the book, because by definition there can be no threat.
  • Call Back: At the end, the newsreader comments that the Oceanian war maneuver to bring the whole of Africa under its control "may bring the war within measurable distance of its end" — exactly the same thing said about another maneuver in the beginning. Whether this is meant to imply that the news report is just pure propaganda, or an actual coincidence, is up for debate.
  • Came Back Wrong: Crossed with Irony. The Party did a good deal to erase various things both good and ill (capitalism, nationalism, liberty and even peace) supposedly for the purpose of bringing about true proletarian power... Only to re-purpose and regurgitate them all (including the "War is Peace" idea) for upholding the Party's power.
  • Can't Stop the Signal: Yes, they can. They started it in the first place.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: O'Brien asks Winston at one point why the Party puts its totalitarian policies in place. Winston says that it's Brainwashing for the Greater Good, thinking that that's what O'Brien wants to hear. O'Brien tells him he should know better than to say things like that, and that in reality they just make people suffer to prove they can.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Winston's freakout when a rat shows up in the hiding place.
  • The Chessmaster: O'Brien.
  • Clock Discrepancy: The book plays with this idea. The main character looks at the clock which reads 8:00. He thinks it's still 8 PM, but instead it was actually 8 AM. In a broader sense, there might also be a calendar discrepancy, as Winston is not even sure the year is 1984. He believes he was born in 1944 or 1945 and is fairly sure his age is 39, but it all remains an estimation as nobody can be absolutely certain of the year anymore.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Ministry of Love specializes in this.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Everyone.
  • Conversation Cut: Julia and Winston call this "talking in installments." They will sometimes abruptly cut off their conversations mid-sentence if they think someone could hear them, and continue talking as if nothing had happened the next time they crossed paths.
  • The Constant: Notable London landmarks which exist in the year 1984 include Victory Square, which features a monument to Big Brother consisting of a large column with lions around the base and a statue of Big Brother on top, as well as a statue of Oliver Cromwell on horseback. A mere stone's throw away is a Party museum which showcases bits of war propaganda. Contrary to the lies of oldthinkers, all of these places have always been exactly the way they are now.
  • Control Freak: The party as a whole, thoughtcrime in general is the crime of not being controlled by the party.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: Winston is reading Goldstein's book, and is just about to learn why the Party is so brutal and totalitarian — upon which he stops because Julia's fallen asleep, preventing both him and the reader from learning the reason (until later).
  • The Corrupter: The Party doesn't just kill dissenters: they brainwash then utilize them prior.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The story has many of the hallmarks of one. The world is dominated by a faceless, all-seeing and all-knowing entity that will find you and Mind Rape you and bend you to its will, that will never die, and can bend reality as it wishes; the protagonist on the other hand is just an ordinary man and a meaningless speck.
  • Crapsack Only by Comparison: Discussed; Goldstein's book within a book notes that it's much easier to oppress someone and get away with it when they have no metric of comparison and don't know they're being oppressed.
  • Crapsack World: Living in the world of 1984 is a Fate Worse Than Death even worse than living in a Cosmic Horror Story. At least in a Cosmic Horror Story you lived just like a Prole with privacy and freedom because the gods don't care about your thought-crimes (unless, of course, your curious mind actively seek them out with punishments galore).
  • Deconstruction: Of My Country, Right or Wrong and Patriotic Fervor. Orwell shows how easily the people can be manipulated into mindless patrotism and xenophobia.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The entire world, although Winston doesn't realize this until Room 101.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: In discussions with Winston during his "re-education," O'Brien drops all pretense that the Party is out for anything other than pure, unrestrained Power. See the page quote for a sampler.
  • Diesel Punk: The tech level of Oceania at least is permanently stuck here.
  • Disappeared Dad / Missing Mom: Both of Winston's parents disappeared; his mother when he was around 11, his father much earlier. He has many memories about his mother, but remembers little about his father. He knows nothing of their fate; they might have been executed or sent to a forced labor camp.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The hell Winston Smith is put through is astonishing, considering that his rebellious acts — keeping a diary, having an affair and enjoying it — are so trivial and furtive that he would pose no threat to the Party at all if he were only left alone. Very likely he would not agitate, or publish samizdat tracts, or even whisper thoughtcrime to his acquaintances. He would just go on and on, writing lies for the Ministry of Truth and meeting up with Julia and wondering wistfully if there is a Brotherhood, until his natural death. But for the Party, mere obedience is not enough.
    Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death
  • Don't Think, Feel: The Newspeak term for this is "bellyfeel," as in feeling Ingsoc in your belly.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Actively defied by the party in two ways. Normal operating procedure is to torture dissidents until they have no hatred of or resistance to the party left in them. They also have sting operations with Inner Party members posing as Goldstein supporters, and the oath they make them take is to renounce all ethics; this oath is recorded, and played back during Winston's time in Room 101.
    O'Brien: If we ask you to splash acid in a baby's face, would you do it?
    Winston: Yes.
  • Downer Ending: After his "rehabilitation" in the Ministry of Love and betraying Julia to his own Fate Worse Than Death, Winston callously and casually assists the Party's war department by allowing them to use his tactical mind through the medium of self-versed chess to economically distribute Oceania's forces in Africa more effectively. His love for Julia is nonexistent, and she reciprocates. After reading reports that the attacks he coordinated have succeeded, he forsakes his first and earliest childhood memory and replaces it with pure hot-blooded devotion to the truly-proved-meaningless cause of war on the Party's behalf. He ends his life in stupid ecstasy, confessing to crimes he did not commit in order to alleviate guilt from the Party (the same lie of which others partook at the start of the novel being the incitement of his intellectual rebellion), and finally professing unconditional love for Big Brother as he's shot through the back of the head.
    • The Michael Radford movie has a bleak ending, foregoing the execution and instead having Winston look at the image of Big Brother, then thinking, "I love you."
    • Perhaps the worst part of the ending is the fact that Winston's re-education is so successful that he actually mistakes it for a happy ending.
  • Droit du Seigneur: A rare modern example, in which one element of The Party's propaganda is the claim that before Ingsoc there had existed a law "by which every capitalist had the right to sleep with any woman working in one of his factories."
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe. Winston sees horrible Newsreel footage of refugees being murdered, including a woman with a small child. The audience at the picture theatre laugh. A prole woman loudly objects to this, and is taken out of the theatre by the police.
  • Dystopia: Trope Codifier.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: Nothing is efficient in Oceania except the Thought Police.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: Overlapping with Despotism Justifies the Means, The Party defines "power" as the ability to make their fellow man miserable.
  • Electric Torture: And every other kind of torture you can think of.
  • The Empire: Oceania controls the entirety of North and South America, Australia, and parts of the other continents as well. At least, that's what's claimed. Perhaps Airstrip One is all there is to Oceania, perhaps it dominates the whole world and bombs its own citizens to keep up the appearance of war. It's kept ambiguous.
  • Empty Shell: The Ministry of Love mass manufactures these out of dissenters.
    "You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves."
  • Enfant Terrible:
    • Parson's kids, the son in particular. They're little hellions whom Winston believes will kill their own mother one way or another within a couple of years. And that's before they turn their father — who is staunchly loyal to the party, at least in his conscious thoughts — over to the Thought Police.
    • There is an evil version of the Boy Scouts, who get specialized training to teach them to be fanatically loyal. And the only activity they do is stalk people who they think are suspicious and turn them over to the authorities, often regardless of whether they actually did anything or not.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Goldstein's book tells that the Party accepts Jews, note  blacks and Indios in their ranks, if only to avoid people feeling oppressed by specific other races / cultures / nationalities within Oceania.
  • The Everyman: Winston Smith. See Meaningful Name.
  • Evil Will Fail: This book is an infamous aversion of this trope: The evil Big Brother governments of the world have things so completely under control and so tightly locked into their plans, that the book ends with the "resistance" depicted as a myth and the protagonist of the story successfully brainwashed into obedience.
    • Of course, there's always the Newspeak appendix written in the past tense, which may or may not be in-universe...
  • The Evils of Free Will: This seems to be one of the few things that the Party actually believes in, besides their utterly cynical For the Evulz motivation. Remember, "Freedom is slavery" and "Proles and animals are free."
  • Evil Overlord: Big Brother is very much a traditional one - although, again, he may or may not just be a fictitious vehicle for the Party.
  • Expanded States of America: Of the "Transcontinental American Empire" subtype, as apparently the USA absorbed Britain and the British Commonwealth along with the rest of the Americas to form Oceania.
  • Extreme Speculative Stratification: Probably one of the Trope Codifiers: the proles, who make up most of the population, are manual laborers with no privilege who live short and brutal lives, while party members get all the perks.
  • False Flag Operation: It is heavily implied that Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia are basically ruled by the same ideology, and are bombing each other/themselves to create a Pretext for War and totalitarianism, and that the Party is using the Brotherhood to bait dissidents for capture.
  • False Friend:
    • O'Brien, as revealed in the third act.
    • Also, Charrington.
  • Fan Disservice: Winston's visit to a prostitute, in the book and especially the 1984 film.
    Winston: There was no one else on the street, and no tele-screens. She said: 'Two dollars,' so I went with her. She had a young face, painted very thick. It was really the paint that appealed to me: The whiteness of it like a mask, and the bright red lips. There were no preliminaries. Standing there with the scent of dead insects and cheap perfume, I went ahead and did it just the same.
  • Fanservice: In the film. Julia is quite clearly naked in some scenes. It's then inverted into Fan Disservice when the Thought Police enter the room while she's still naked, beat her up and drag her away to be tortured.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Played with. The only efficient organizations in Oceania are the Thought Police and the Ministry of Love. Every other aspect of society is left neglected and crumbling because of the Inner Party's apathy of anything other than exerting its power over its citizens and their belief that a prosperous society would overthrow the ruling oligarchy.
  • Fat Bastard: Subverted with Parsons, who despite his blind following of the Party seems to be pretty affable.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: It is the Trope Namer for a subtrope, after all. The Proles are an exception.
  • Faux Affably Evil: O'Brien talks to Winston in a calm, sometimes cordial tone throughout his torture in the Ministry of Love.
  • Female Misogynist: Julia says that she hates women.
  • Fictional Political Party: 'The Party.' Simply 'The Party' since they've long since gotten rid of the competition, forming a totalitarian regime.
  • Fictionary: The Newspeak dictionary.
  • Flowers of Romance: Winston picks a bunch of bluebells for Julia when they meet in the countryside for the first time.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Big Brother.
  • Foe Yay:
    • Invoked. The purpose of the Two Minutes' Hate is to channel the citizens' sexual impulses into their hatred for the state's enemies.
    • There's also a disturbing subtext of this between Winston and O'Brien.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Winston fatalistically accepts towards the beginning of the novel that the very fact he has bought a journal and dared to think for himself will eventually doom him. Turns out he's right, as the Thought Police were on to him even before the novel even began. He also ends up dooming Julia along with him (assuming the Thought Police had not already been on to her too).
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Julia, albeit unintentionally. "I bet that picture's got bugs behind it."
    • Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me...
    • O'Brien telling Winston and Julia about how they will risk being captured, tortured, etc. after joining The Brotherhood.
    • In the Ministry of Love, Winston sees one of his fellow prisoners get called to go to Room 101. As he frantically resists the guards, he tries to convince them to punish someone else instead of him, thereby prefiguring what Winston ends up doing.
      • More specifically, the prisoner asks to punish the man who attempted to share his last piece of bread with him (and who got a beating because of that already). Room 101's job is not complete until it makes a person betray the people who actively show care and compassion towards them.
  • Forever War: Causes a totalitarian Hell.
  • For the Evulz: A member of the Inner Party admits that unlike the older totalitarian movements of the early 20th century such as the Nazis and Communists, who still clothed their rhetoric as fighting for a utopian cause, the Party of Oceania is openly nihilistic and completely unapologetic that it isn't looking forward to improving the world, only seeking power for the sake of power, oppression for the sake of oppression.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: O'Brien turns out to play it straight, though Winston initially considers his glasses and his habit of resettling them on his face to be disarming — "if anyone had still thought in such terms, [the gesture] might have recalled an eighteenth-century nobleman offering his snuffbox".
  • Freud Was Right: Invoked. Julia theorizes that the Party keeps people in a state of warlike hysteria and power hunger by subjecting them to sexual deprivation. She even calls it "sex gone sour."
  • Genius Bruiser: O'Brien.
  • Genre Blind: Winston, in some respects. His first impressions of Julia and O'Brien is that they are members of the Thought Police and the Brotherhood respectively. He couldn't be further from the truth.
  • A God Am I: Collectivist variation. In Ingsoc's ideology, the Party is completely omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, existing at every point in space and time. O'Brien boasts that they, as the Party, are a collective Reality Warper that can distort and rewrite the past and even material reality itself, and everyone is forced to believe the absurdity lest they be tortured into believing it. Two plus two equals five if the Party wants it to. In George Orwell's own words:
    A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible.
  • Ghibli Hills: The 'Golden Country', a countryside landscape that appears often in Winston's fantasies, and the place where he and Julia had their first tryst.
  • Good Bad Girl: Julia.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: O'Brien takes on both roles in his interrogation of Winston. In one moment he will be applying torture and relentlessly beat into Winston's skull the despair-inducing state of the world, in the next act grandfatherly, kind and even pleading towards him. This is probably part of the whole brainwashing process — by crushing all the prisoner's hope for the future of the world, he'll make submission to and assimilation by the Party seem sweet and comforting by comparison. (It also shows just how steeped in doublethink you'd have to be in order to be an Inner Party member — many of O'Brien's statements blatantly contradict one another).
  • The Good Guys Always Win: Completely inverted; not only do the bad guys win, it's heavily implied that they will always do so.
  • Grand Inquisitor Scene: Part III is about O'Brien telling Winston about how the Party controls the populace, and where it is going in the future. Winston had also read part of Goldstein's book covering the same topics.
  • Great Off Screen War: There is supposedly a vast war raging between the three superstates, but it has no actual bearing on the novel's plot. It could just be made up to make the party's rule seem legitimate.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Big Brother is never seen in person, and it's ambiguous whether he even exists as an individual or is just an icon of the Party.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: And you love Big Brother and we are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia.
  • Heel–Face Mole: O'Brien.
  • He Knows Too Much: Syme, who gets purged because he fully understands that the purpose of Newspeak is to eliminate the ability to articulate dissent, even though he is a fanatical devotee of Big Brother who finds this completely acceptable and right. Really drives home the point that nobody is safe under totalitarianism.
  • Hope Spot:
    • The entire second part has Winston wondering if his intellectual rebellion can be extended or shared by others to overthrow the regime. He believes it seems possible with a resistance group outside Party control. Not coincidentally, this is the part of the book where he is having a love affair with Julia.
    • Within the 'Oranges and Lemons' motif. When O'Brien continues Winston's recitation of the rhyme a couple of lines beyond Winston's recollection of it, he exclaims 'You knew the last line!,' and O'Brien agrees. But the rhyme as normally told continues a little more ("I'm sure I don't know, said the great bell of Bow," — that is, interestingly, Bow Bells, the Cockney Londoner's central point.) suggesting to an educated reader that the Inner Party is not as omniscient as it believes.
  • The Horseshoe Effect: A major theme:
    • The ideology of the Party is called Ingsoc (English Socialism), yet the society it governs is a dystopia with a strictly regimented class system based upon a subservient working class and a hierarchical, dictatorial system of rule. Goldstein's book, which describes the society, puts it rather baldly:
    ...the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism.
    • The premise of the book postulates an ongoing Forever War between three superpowers, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, the political ideologies of which are, respectively, Ingsoc, Neo-Bolshevism, and what roughly translates as Obliteration of the Self. To the extent that the citizens of each superpower are aware of the other superpowers' political ideologies, they deride them as monstrous outrages upon common sense. However, as Goldstein notes, the three ideologies are functionally indistinguishable, as are the societies they support.
  • Huge Holographic Head: The face of Big Brother is displayed on huge screens to comfort the citizens after the Two Minutes' Hate is over.
  • Humans Are Bastards: It really does say something that Nineteen Eighty Four is one of the most horrific and depressing stories ever written, and has no supernatural elements. All the world's suffering can be pinned on a bunch of insane, power-hungry psychopaths who happen to run everything.
  • Hypocrite: In the film made in 1984, O'Brien claims that the German Nazi's and Russian Communist's (in his mind the closest groups of the past resembling Ingsoc) were hypocrites, arguing that they propagated their atrocities served a greater purpose, while openly admitting that the Party is only cruel for the sake of pure power, while, in this adaptation, Ingsoc tries to sell itself and Big Brother to the nation as benevolent and perfect, using Doublethink as justification.
  • Industrialized Evil: While the party has very specifically created tortures for dissidents, the entire apparatus is one huge example of human degradation for its own sake.
  • Infodump: Goldstein's book.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Anyone who swallows the Party line without question.
    • Parsons expresses nothing but admiration for his daughter when she denounces him to the Thought Police for whispering, "Down with Big Brother" in his sleep. It doesn't even occur to him that his daughter probably made the whole thing up and he actually said nothing of the kind.
    • Winston doesn't even question that O'Brien and the Thought Police have had him under surveillance for years, and were aware of his treason at every stage. Actually, there's no textual evidence that anyone in the Party was paying special attention to him before he started renting the room over the shop.
  • Internal Reformist: Julia, who works for the Party to survive but does things considered illegal when she is not being monitored. Winston tries to be this, but fails.
  • Internal Retcon:
    • Winston's job is to receive reports of new articles that do not match the current party line and fix their "mistakes" or write new articles to replace Unpersons. He also notices the same being applied to announcements on telescreens, where some rations are cut back but still shown to be greater than last year.
    • At one point during a rally, the Party, having always been at war with Eurasia, suddenly has always been at war with Eastasia, in mid-speech (the speaker is handed a note with the change). And — as Winston notes with horror — the audience instantly goes along with it. The rally in question took tons of preparation, including creating banners and propaganda damning Eurasia, but once Eastasia has been named as the enemy, the crowd becomes aghast that their banners now falsely name Eurasia as the enemy and believe Goldstein's heretical group is to blame for them being wrong.
  • I Reject Your Reality: On a society-wide scale.
  • Ironic Echo: One of the Arc Words lines, "We shall meet again in the place where there is no darkness," turns out to refer to a brightly-lit prison cell.
  • Ironic Nickname:
    • The Ministry of Truth (rewriting the past), the Ministry of Peace (the armed forces), the Ministry of Plenty (rationing to maintain Perpetual Poverty) and the Ministry of Love (torture and brainwashing).
    • Big Brother himself. The friendly, protective family member stereotype is so completely subsumed by the bullying one that, due to the novel's term being a pervasive Ascended Meme in its own right, the term on its own has no meaning: You can't tell whether someone's using it affectionately or making a reference to 1984 without context. Further perverted, as noted by Winston, in that the Party is deliberately breaking down family bonds, as can be seen with his neighbour being handed to the Thought Police by his children.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune:
    • "Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head!"
    • "Under the spreading chestnut tree / I sold you and you sold me."
  • Jail Bake: Winston, after being imprisoned, thinks that the Brotherhood might send him a razor blade hidden in his food, not to escape but to kill himself with. It doesn't happen.
  • Just the First Citizen: Big Brother is this, according to the Party's faux-egalitarian ideology. It's unclear if he's still alive, or if he ever existed at all, but, if he exists, he would be near-omnipotent.
  • Kicked Upstairs: After getting arrested, tortured, and brainwashed unorthodox Party members are allowed to hang around for several years, and are allowed to spend as much time drinking in the controversial Chestnut Tree Cafe as they can while given jobs which sound important but are really sinecures.
  • Kids Are Cruel:
    • Winston, in his youth. During a flashback he remembers how he was driving his family (mother and little sister) out of house and home and was generally a greedy brat. Julia says she shares this perception of his younger self, and says the same seems to apply to all children.
    • The children of Oceania are brought up to mistrust and spy on their own parents. Family values and loyalty are discouraged in favor of sadistically ratting out the other members of one's family.
    • Parsons' kids attack Winston with a catapult, accusing him of being a traitor and a thought criminal, and say they want to shoot him, vaporize him or send him to the salt mines. According to their mother, they're acting out because they can't go to a hanging. They end up turning in their father because they (supposedly) heard him say "down with Big Brother" in his sleep.
  • Knight Templar: Subverted. The party claims that they have the people's best interests at heart, but in reality, they pursue power for its own sake.
  • La Résistance: The Brotherhood, which may or may not actually exist, led by Emmanuel Goldstein, the supposed author of "the book" who also may or may not actually exist.
  • Language Equals Thought: The entire purpose of Newspeak is to reconfigure the way people think by controlling the language in which they express their thoughts; the intended logical conclusion of this is that thoughtcrime will eventually be impossible, because there will no longer be any words in which to express it, and what a person doesn't have words to describe, he can't think.
  • Lie Back and Think of England:
    • Party women are encouraged to do this when they have sex. "Goodthinkful" women are taught to call it "our duty to the Party." Men aren't really encouraged to enjoy it either. The Party wants sex to be seen as a dirty but necessary act, like vomiting or getting an enema.
    • At one point, O'Brien claims the Party plans to abolish the orgasm ("Our neurologists are at work upon it now,") making sex a purely reproductive act devoid of pleasure for anyone.
  • Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: One of Winston's tasks at the Ministry of Truth is to make up statistics, in order to make The Party look good. In one instance, he "corrects" an article that stated 145 million boots would be produced, to say that 57 million would be made. He has been told that 67 million were "actually" produced. Winston thinks it is very likely none at all have been made, as approximately half the population of Oceania goes barefoot.
  • Light Is Not Good: "The place where there is no darkness" is not a place you ever want to end up. Ever.
  • Loners Are Freaks: The Party is trying to stamp out "ownlife."
  • Love at First Sight: Inverted, Winston hates Julia on sight, because she appears to represent everything he hates.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Julia, sort of. In keeping with the trope, she is an untamed, free-spirited Love Interest who helps to bring the male character out of himself and overcome the drudgery of his daily life. Subverted by the end of the novel, in which she has become just as broken and defeated as Winston.
  • Manipulative Bastard: O'Brien and the rest of the Inner Party.
  • Meaningful Name: Winston Smith, from "Winston Churchill" and "Smith," The Everyman. Julia from Romeo and Juliet. Emmanuel Goldstein from "Bronstein" (Trotsky's given surname) and anarchist Emma Goldman, who was prominent in Orwell's time.
  • The Metric System Is Here to Stay: Some focus is given to everybody having to use the metric system. Orwell was against the complete scrapping of Imperial, though he supported the use of the metric system in scientific work.
  • Mind Rape: The Party is subjecting the entire Oceanian population to a form of Mind Rape, with the goal of making them mindless and obedient like cattle. Also, the last third of the novel may be the the most disturbing and prolonged Mind Rape ever put to paper.
  • Mind Screw: Doublethink is essentially a deliberately invoked instance of this, as it involves the willful belief in the truth of mutually contradicting statements.
  • Minor Major Character: Big Brother. Though the effects of his dictatorship are seen and felt throughout the entirety of the story, the man himself never makes an appearance (not counting his face on the telescreens), as the narrative focuses solely on Winston, an average drone. Of course, Big Brother could just be a vehicle for the Party and may or may not even exist - or have ever existed, for that matter. There's also Emmanuel Goldstein, the supposed leader of a rebel faction known as "The Brotherhood" who, again, may or may not have ever actually existed.
  • Moment of Weakness: Winston breaking down and screaming Julia's name near the end causes O'Brien to realize that he has not completely broken yet, and send him to Room 101.
  • Moral Sociopathy: Probably the best way to describe the Party's guiding philosophy and the presumed mindset of the most stalwart Inner Party members. The pursuit of power for its own sake is viewed as the highest good of humanity, and the surest path to power is to unite and subsume one's own will within the will of the Party as a whole—and, in doing so, break those who won't get with the program utterly.
  • More Than Mind Control: The Party wants to destroy even the capability of independent thought. They want you to really love Big Brother, and in the end, Winston does.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Winston is a writer, and his job is his greatest pleasure in life.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: While it's not made totally clear in the novel proper, according to Word of God MAD is apparently a large part of the reason why Oceania is so messed up, being based on Orwell's rather pessimistic idea of what world peace, or at least a nuclear-enforced one, would actually be like, as laid out in his seminal essay You and the Atomic Bomb. Because Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia can't go to war without completely annihilating all three of them at once, their leaders have nobody to take out their sadistic tendencies on but their own people.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: Winston to Julia.
    "The more men you've had, the more I love you."
[[folder:Tropes N-Z]]
  • Neologism: Invented terms like "Big Brother," "Thought Police," and "doublethink" and popularized "unperson." Just look at all the tropes this book has named...
  • New Speak: Trope Namer.
  • Necessarily Evil: If O'Brien is correct, the Brotherhood has no choice but to commit the most heinous of acts to defeat The Party.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Aside from Big Brother being a clear expy of Josef Stalin, Emmanuel Goldstein is pretty clearly based on Leon Trotsky. He even has a Jewish surname.
  • No Name Given: Julia's last name and O'Brien's first name are not revealed.
  • Noodle Incident: Exactly how did the Party come into power?
    • Winston, at one point, muses that he doesn't really remember hearing of Big Brother before the 1960's. References are made to a war including a nuclear exchange having taken place in the 1950's during his childhood, leading to the breakdown of government and society and a period of chaos lasting for an indeterminate time (possibly including civil war; Winston remembers the streets being roamed by gangs of youths in different-colored shirts) before the Party finally solidified its control.
  • No Sex Allowed: All intercourse within the Outer Party is strictly regulated only for the development of children. There's a lecture in a part of the book talking about artificial insemination and trying to remove the orgasm to prevent any pleasure being derived from sex. For Julia, all these have a mere purpose of increasing frustration which can be channeled into war hysteria and orgi
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