, as the title alone testifies, Nineteen Eighty-Four remains one of the best and most horrific dystopian works ever.The BBC adapted the book for television in 1954 with Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. 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 changed the ending, completely ignoring Orwell’s point (on purpose, it turns out), although to some extent proving it. 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, 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.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 fearcontrols us, while Brave New World shows that what we lovecontrols 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. Contrast Fahrenheit 451, where dystopia came about from the people while the government was less involved.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 thought that both extremes were bad and would inevitably lead to the same thing. The original political leaning of the Party is deliberately vague.
This novel provides examples of:
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".
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:
He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.
"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 Phobia: The Room 101 scene was inspired by Orwell's personal fear of rats, and the name "Room 101" itself was inspired by a conference room where Orwell had to sit though boring meetings.
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, both Julia and Winston are bald, toothless, and soulless.
Bread and Circuses: The Proles, because "Proles and animals are free". The Ministry of Truth has a section that produces crappy entertainment for them: 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 fuck about their orgies, until one of them proves intelligent enough to organize revolutions and thus gets marked down by the Thought Police.
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.
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.
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).
Crapsack World: Living in the world of 1984 is 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).
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.
Diesel Punk: The tech level of Oceania at least is permanently stuck here.
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.
And also 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 that the Inner Party is not as omniscient as it believes.
The Michael Radford movie ended with a subtler bleak ending, forgoing the bullet to the brain ending, and instead has Winston looking at the image of Big Brother, then thinking, "I love you! I love you!" Meanwhile, the CIA-funded version of ''1984'' had Winston and Julia rebelling in a hail of gunfire. Not surprisingly, the Orwell family and everyone else pretended it never existed. Talk about irony.
The Brotherhood is this. Although O'Brien implies that it's a myth, it must be borne in mind that O'Brien is lying - the party is not known for its truthfulness. Also possible is a resistance movement that the party does not control (although O'Brien rejects this notion as impractical).
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".
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, blacks and Indios in their ranks, if only to avoid people feeling oppressed by specific other races/cultures/nationalities within Oceania.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fat Bastard: Subverted with Parsons, who despite his blind following of the Party seems to be pretty affable.
Faux Affably Evil: O'Brien talks to Winston in a calm, sometimes cordial tone throughout his torture in the Ministry of Love.
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.
Grand Inquisitor Scene: Pretty much the entirety of 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.
Pretty much the entire second part, and later on in the appendix.
In the third part there is one caused by a typo: after Winston is released, at one point he subconsciously writes "2 + 2 = ", hinting that he may not have been completely conditioned. According to the foreword of one of Penguin Books' recent editions of the book, this is actually a typo that has spread to several translated editions. What he wrote was "2 + 2 = 5". Talk about a downer.
O'Brien does mention the possibility of a resistance group outside Party control, but dismisses the idea as impractical. However, he could be overconfident, unaware of such a group (the Party will hardly publicize it), or lying.
Winston briefly wonders if Oceania really exists, or if Airstrip One is all that it is composed of. This is a fairly popular interpretation among fans— that "Oceania," far from being a colossal superstate, is actually just the British Isles, an isolated and penniless North Korea-style nation using propaganda, patriotism and control to compensate for impotence.
Huge Holographic Head: The face of Big Brother is displayed on huge screens to comfort the citizens after the Two Minutes' Hate is over.
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.
Winston's job is to receive reports of new articles that do not match the current party line, and to fix the mistakes or to write a new article as a replacement of the Unperson. 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. As in mid-speech (the speaker is handed a note with the change). And — as Winston notes with horror — his audience instantly goes along with it, because Big Brother is watching them and Big Brother is always right. The rally in question took tons of preparation, which involved creating banners damning Eurasia, among other propaganda. Once Eastasia has been named as the enemy, the crowd becomes aghast that their banners now falsely name Eurasia and believe Goldstein's heretical group is to blame for them being wrong.
The Ministry of Truth (the past is rewritten), The Ministry of Peace (in charge of the armed forces), and The Ministry of Plenty (rationing to maintain Perpetual Poverty) and worst of all (on a personal basis) 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.
"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, according to the Party's faux-egalitarian ideology. It's unclear whether he exists at all, but if he did, he would be near-omnipotent.
Karma Houdini: See The Bad Guy Wins. The Party, O'Brien, and Big Brother all go off scot free due to the way the system is set up. Unless you believe the Newspeak Appendix implies the Party's fall...
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.
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.
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.
Light Is Not Good: "The place where there is no darkness" is not a place you ever want to end up. Ever.
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.
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 Lev Trotsky. He even has a Jewish surname.
No Name Given: Julia's last name and O'Brien's first name are not revealed.
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 trying to remove the orgasm to prevent any pleasure being derived from sex.
Not So Different: The rival countries. Oceania may be bad, but the implication is that the two other superstates, Eurasia and Eastasia, are almost exactly identical to it. The three states are always at war with each other, with nobody ever winning. If you live in one of the areas the three states are always fighting over, you are a slave in both body and mind to whoever has power over the area at the current time.
It is heavily implied that an unspoken gentleman's agreement exists between the three states that they will never make a serious effort to destroy the others - this is the reason no state ever uses mass conscription or WMDs - because the war is part of the Evil Plan for the three of them to keep the standard of living down and mobilize the hatred of the population. Goldstein's book even mentions that Oceania could probably conquer all of Europe up to the Polish frontier, or that Eastasia could likely seize Australia, but that neither state does so for fear of upsetting the Balance of Power.
In fact, the actual state of the world is so poorly known that (a) the idea that Oceania dominates the entire world, and the existence of the other states is simply a fiction to justify a war with which to keep people's expectations of a better life crushed, and (b) the idea that Oceania is little more than a Banana Republic consisting of only Airstrip One, and is applying propaganda to make its position on the world stage sound grander than it really is, are both equally valid interpretations of what might really be going on. The "Three states making only token attacks on each other" is just one other possibility which may or may not be the truth.
Of course, we don't actually know anything of the other two powers, or indeed how finely balanced the Balance of Power actually is. A real-life example of how this could play out is Taiwan being claimed by China.
Oh Crap: Winston and Julia's reaction to the fact that there was a telescreen in their hiding place the whole time.
O'Brien later convinces Winston that he is more like the "Only Insane Man". The scary part about this is that it's technically true; because social norms define sanity and insanity and most people believe the Party, in Oceania, knowing the truth makes you insane.
Pointless Civic Project: Oceania constantly builds things like monuments, both to inspire mindless nationalism, and to soak up excess resources and keep living standards so low that the people are too worn down to resist.
Pragmatic Adaptation: Since the movie obviously cannot devote itself to lengthy info breaks like the novel does, it spends more time cultivating atmosphere and showing just how miserable life is in Airstrip One. Also, many of Winston's thought processes are lost, making him more of an Audience Surrogate - the fact that he's magnificently played by John Hurt (who even looks like George Orwell) is an added bonus.
The ending is subtly different, changing the meaning but not the outcome. Winston writes "2 + 2 =" (as opposed to "2 + 2 = 5," which was Orwell's intent; "2 + 2 =" was a typo in many editions), and thinks "I love you!" (after Julia leaves, but while staring at Big Brother, so it could go either way; whereas the book directly states that he loves Big Brother). Whilst the film doesn't depict his brainwashing as absolute, it shows him in an enforced state of doublethink – he subconsciously remembers that 2 + 2 isn’t 5 and that he was in love with Julia, but has been broken into unconsciously repressing both memories. Downer Ending indeed.
Reality Subtext: The 1984 film. Richard Burton was dying during filming, and it shows.
Room 101: The Trope Namer, where Winston and Julia are faced with their worst fears and made to betray each other.
Schizo Tech: The Party has a machine that writes trashy novels (to keep the proles happy) but farms are still worked by using horse plows. Justified in that working the farms keeps the proles busy and poor and writing trashy novels the old fashioned way would potentially lead to dangerous thoughts in the writers.
Sex Is Evil: The Party wants to suppress the sex drive. O’Brien says that their neurologists are working on the abolition of the orgasm. One of The Party's prominent youth movements is the Junior Anti-Sex League, who want all reproduction done by artificial insemination.
Silly Love Songs: The Party mass-produces them for the proles with a machine known as "versificator". Winston hears a prole woman singing one of these; while the song is "dreadful rubbish", she sings it with so much feeling that it almost becomes beautiful.
Sinister Surveillance: Surveillance cameras, hidden microphones and two-way "telescreens" exist in every home and in every street, spying on citizens, monitoring their every move and showering them with propaganda slogans. The Proles are lucky in that they have no telescreens, and only members of the Inner Party are able to (temporarily) turn their telescreens off.
Space Filling Empire: The whole world has been split into three superpowers: Oceania (North and South America, Great Britain, South Africa and Australia), Eurasia (the Soviet Union, mainland Europe and North Africa), and Eastasia (China and surrounding Asian nations, down to India and the Pacific Islands).
1984 is heavily influenced by Zamyatin's We, from where it seems to draw many of its dystopian elements. Orwell began writing 1984 eight months after he read the now lesser known We.
To Sinclair Lewis' It Cant Happen Here, published fifteen years before Nineteen Eighty Four. Both novels depict a formerly democratic western nation that succumbed to totalitarianism. The protagonists of both novels chafe under totalitarian rule and rebel through the written word. Both men find solace in secret romantic relationships with women who are both their soulmates and co-conspirators; Winston falls in love with Julia while Doremus has a secret affair with Lorinda. Finally, both protagonists find themselves incarcerated and tortured for their rebellion against the state.
Staged Populist Uprising: The "resistance's" book claims that all revolutions are just the middle class using the lower class as a tool to supplant the upper class. IngSoc is designed to prevent this with the meritocratic Inner Party selection process and intense surveillance of the Outer and Inner Parties.
The entire point of the book. Big Brother is the Strawman Totalitarian. He's also a Strawman Communist or a Strawman Fascist depending on what aspects of IngSoc you focus more on.
There’s a sort of Lampshade Hanging on this when O’Brien explains that, unlike previous totalitarian regimes in history, the Party is knowingly out for power for itself without any delusions of Utopia Justifies the Means.
Straw Nihilist: The antagonists. The few sincere beliefs they have - when not subjected to double thinking - consist of the notion that power for power's sake and its sadistic exertion are the only things worth living for, and that well intentioned extremists (and everyone else, for that matter) are deluded power-seekers.
Super Fun Happy Thing of Doom: Played very un-comedically with the Ministries. The Ministry of Plenty’s business is to maintain shortages; the Ministry of Truth concerns itself with censorship and propaganda; the Ministry of Peace maintains perpetual war; and the Ministry of Love is… housed in a windowless building with swaths of barbed wire all around it, and is a secret prison with torture chambers.
To the Pain: O’Brien’s explanation in the Ministry of Love of exactly what is going to happen to Winston is pretty discomforting.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea seems to have taken many, many cues from Orwell. In a bad way. Christopher Hitchens, after his visit to North Korea, described it by saying “it was as if someone had taken 1984 and said 'Can you make it as much like this as possible?'”
Even going so far as to build a giant pyramid building. And by law, North Korean libraries may not stock books older than fifteen years – the books must be re-edited and reprinted. Wonder where they got that idea…
During the Stalinist era in the USSR, children had to paste new pages into their history books as the official view changed. If any classmates were taken away and "vaporized", the kids had to scratch out their faces in all the yearbooks.
Big Brother isStalin. Never say to a survivor of Stalin's regime that 1984 is an exaggeration of those times; children much like Winston's next door neighbors existed in droves, enjoyable sex was discouraged, and most importantly, thoughtcrime in its purest form existed — it just wasn't called thoughtcrime.
The most terrifying part of all of this is that it is all plausible. There are no far-fetched sci-fi elements in it, and they had 30ish years in the book – long enough to raise a generation who've never known anything else. Orwell lifted most of Big Brother's tactics from Stalin and Hitler and provided a reason (war) for otherwise rational men and women to accept the same tactics from their own government. Though this also provides some hope, as North Koreans flee to China all the time, and when the Soviet Union collapsed people lined up to leave, and they were a generation that knew nothing else.
Twenty Minutes into the Future: Although apparently this was a case of Executive Meddling, Supposedly Orwell wanted to set the book in 1948, but was told he couldn’t, so he just switched the last two digits around to arrive at the new date/title. The fact that Winston himself isn’t sure what year it is is remarked on several times.
2 + Torture = 5: Though George Orwell used it before in essays, this is the book it's most remembered from.
Unreliable Narrator: Do Eurasia and Eastasia actually exist, or are they made up by the Party, which actually controls the whole world? Alternatively, does Oceania even exist, and does the Party actually control less than it says does? The whole point is that the information given out by the Party is unreliable, and seeing how the only information the reader receives comes from the Party, nobody knows for sure any details about “the world” of 1984. The Party may not control any territory outside the British Isles. It may not even control the whole of the UK. Seeing as Winston never leaves London, we'll never know.
Inverted. Winston believes that despite the horrible atrocities the Party has done, its mission is this, but what the Party actually wants is only power.
Winston and Julia agree to do whatever the Brotherhood requires them to topple the Party, including distributing addictive drugs, giving others sexually transmitted diseases or even throwing sulfuric acid in a child’s face.
We Will Use Wiki Words In The Future: One of the main purposes of Newspeak; condensing words makes it easier to utter them automatically without much thought, and to make communicating against the party impossible.
Wine Is Classy: Not only do the members of the Inner Party (the political elite of the totalitarian state) get assigned much better dwellings, clothes, food, coffee, chocolate and tobacco than the members of the Outer Party (i.e. the mere White Collar Workers), but also while the members of the Outer Party drink gin (and the blue-collar proles drink beer!), the members of the Inner Party drink... wine, what else?
The proles are completely useless and indeed, according to Goldstein’s book, the poor lower classes always have been. To be fair, though, the Party refuses to educate the proles well and deliberately keeps them ignorant.
Justified. The Book explicitly says the Party finds the brightest proles and eliminates them. In contrast, the brightest, most ambitious Outer Party members are allowed to rise into the Inner Party, and hence become harmless.
Despite his left-wing views, Orwell was often criticised for his negative views of the English working-class, in particular the idea that they would just naturally degrade into ignorance and filth. Chalk it up to that Eton College education…
The fact that Winston sees them as the best hope for the future says something.
Wrench Wench: Julia, who is a mechanic that works on the automatic writing machines that churn out prolefeed.
Wretched Hive: The prole neighbourhoods, in sharp contrast to the mechanistically controlled Party neighbourhoods.
An interpretation is that the Wretched Hive is way better than the mechanical And I Must Scream of the Party because in said Hive you kept your freedoms and humanity.
Xanatos Gambit: Goldstein’s Brotherhood seems to be set up by the Party itself in order to identify possible dissidents; either people reject Goldstein and are loyal Party members, or they try to join Goldstein, alerting the Party to their treason. This also has precedent in real life, as the Cheka, forerunner of the KGB, did the same thing in the ’20s when the party was cementing its power over everyday life. Mao Zedong tried the same thing with the Hundred Flowers Campaign.
You Are Worth Hell: This is Winston’s attitude about Julia until it’s subverted by what happens to him in Room 101.
Orwell preferred to use precise language when talking politics and didn’t really like the (over)use of metaphors because they lost all their meaning and became just another way that thought was restricted. It's doubtful that he'd like the way his name gets thrown around by people today. See also: Politics and the English Language.
For any proposed change in government policy, the opposing side will call it “Big Brother” or Orwellian, especially if it has anything to do with collecting information or regulating industry. An explanation is unlikely, a citation of the book even less so.
Inter-office communication is sent on paper in glass tubes (no computers).
The Ministry of Truth uses 'novel-writing machines' to keep churning out low-grade literature to keep the proles busy. You can tell who works in the Fiction Department by the oil-stains on their overalls.
This makes sense in the context of the story though: the Party doesn’t encourage the development of labour-saving technology (except for surveillance/law-enforcement purposes and some plans for new weapons of war which really aren’t likely to produce anything) because half their time is spent intentionally trying to burn resources to make the war seem more real.
Also a case of Truth in Television. Pneumatic Tube Transport (the system described in the novel) was used in many offices from the early twentieth century right up to the late nineties. It’s still used in many banks and supermarkets to transport cash. E-mail has supplanted it completely for the transfer of documents, though.
When Julia and Winston meet in the woods, they know that they’re safe from listening devices because the trees are too small to hide a microphone. By the actual year 1984, microphones were sufficiently miniaturized that they could be hidden even in small trees.
We shall meet again in the place where there is no darkness.