YMMV: 1984


  • Adaptation Displacement: Despite being credited as the Trope Codifier for dystopian fiction, George Orwell was inspired to write this novel after reading the Russian novel We.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Given that the Party's doctrine is that of Alternate Reality Interpretation, and that the viewpoint character is repeatedly mind raped in the end, it can be argued that we don't know what really happens post-Room 101. All that can be trusted is what Winston sees with his own eyes up until the cage snaps shut.
    • Also, since he doesn't leave Airstrip One, we have no clue as to the state of the world — is Oceania real? Is it the entire world? Is there a Brotherhood after all? Nothing can be taken for granted, even the Info Dump book that pops up halfway through (especially the book, given that one of the Inner Party members claims credit for its authorship, and hands out copies).
      • It's a little bit of a stretch but we can't be exactly sure if Party even controls all of the British Isle. Could be half of it, just England or hell, maybe only London and its imminent surrounding. Which might explain whole "running out of resources" thing.
    • A common suggestion is that the 'scholarly' appendix on Newspeak is written in a manner that deliberately subverts this Downer Ending, given that it is written in the past tense...
      • When 1984 was to first be published in America, the publisher wished to remove the appendix, but Orwell refused to have it published without, saying that the book would have to be reworked if such a large chunk was to be cut out. This incident, along with a few hand-picked statements of Orwell around the time the book was written, form the basis for including the appendix into the work.
      • We explicitly never do learn if there's a Brotherhood or not. An alternate, admittedly optimistic interpretation would be that the Brotherhood did exist and that O'Brien was part of it, and that Winston and Julia's capture and death were in fact due to the latter's refusal to give up everything for the Brotherhood. Granted, that'd just make the Brotherhood no better than the Party. Or, alternatively, they just messed up somehow and got caught, and O'Brien couldn't say anything, because Big Brother is watching.
    • The Ministries may actually be true to their names from a certain point of view, and using The Party's way of thinking. The Ministry of Truth can be justified with doublethink, you may be able to consider the rations you are given by the Ministry of Plenty to be "plenty" from Big Brother's logic, the Ministry of Peace is justified through "WAR IS PEACE" and the Ministry of Love is where you learn to love Big Brother.
      • The Ministry of Truth manufactures truth as defined by the party. The Ministry of Peace makes a state of internal peace in Oceania by depleting resources.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Fascist, yes, but stirring.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Entirely deliberate on Orwell's part to point how the methods of one's own "good" nation are Not So Different from "evil" nations.
  • Fandom Berserk Button: Lots of people think this book depicts a society where you're under surveillance all the time. You aren't, not all of the time. You just don't know when you're being watched and when you aren't.
    • There's also the misconception that everyone is watched and under the government's heel. Only government officials are watched; the 80% of the population that is the Proles are essentially "free" (hence the slogan "Proles and animals are free.")
    • Though the latter misconception about Proles being spied on is not completely unfounded as it is stated that the Party finds the brightest Proles and eliminates them.
  • Fan Wank: Much has been made of the Newspeak appendix being written in the past tense. Many think it points to the eventual fall of The Party, but Orwell never confirmed nor denied it.
  • Genius Bonus: In the final scene when Winston is playing chess in the Chestnut Tree Café, he picks up a White knight from the board and contemplates a move. The arrangement of the pieces on the chess board suggests that he is considering the tactic of going around and hitting the opposing Black army from behind. Only minutes later, the telescreen announcer reports that the Oceanian forces had just defeated the Eurasian enemy in Africa by using the same tactic.
    • Also, Winston's ulcerated ankle is a metaphor for repressed sexual energy.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: By 2007, Britain was home to more than 4.2 million CCTV cameras monitored by government or civil authorities. 32 of them are within 200 yards of Orwell's London flat, and at least four have a direct line-of-sight to his property, including direct views through the house's rear windows. These numbers have certainly increased since then.
    • The totalitarian society the book describes has been more or less realized by North Korea, which managed to create a state similar to the condition of Oceania a few years after the book was published.
    • Following Snowden's revelation of the extent of the American surveillance state and the complicity of its Western allies, the sales of this book has skyrocketed. At one point, the sales jumped at 10,000%. It even spawned a meme, '1984 is not an instruction manual.'
    • Also, O'Brien's speech to Winston and Julia in his apartment.
    • Plenty of people have commented on how the constant monitoring and citizens spying on each other makes Oceania look a lot like North Korea, but Winston's backstory also bears some disturbing similarities to the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person to ever be born in a North Korean labor camp (for either the crimes of his parents or grandparents, he isn't sure which), and escape. Shin claims to have turned in his mother and brother for execution when they tried to escape. He did this because he saw them as competitors for food, and was hoping the guards would let him eat a full meal for the first time in his life (to this day he says he doesn't know what "love" means, and his entire concept of "freedom" is based around being able to eat as much as he wants.)
    • With a dose of Reality Subtext thrown in, Richard Burton was dying as the film was being made and his health was so bad that he had to wear support braces during rehearsals. It makes O'Brien's speech to Wilson about the frailty of the flesh and the strength of the Party much sadder in the case of Burton and more terrifying in the case of O'Brien.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: It's briefly discussed that the Minitrue has a section dedicated to producing porn, which Julia works for. The porn is barely considered sexual or erotic, and is more So Bad, It's Good than anything else. Then the internet happened.
    • So what does the future feel like according to O'Brien? A boot to the head.
    • In the 1984 film adaptation, John Hurt plays Winston, a man oppressed by a totalitarian government. 22 years later he plays Adam Sutler, the head of a totalitarian government in the film adaptation of V for Vendetta.
  • Ho Yay: Winston is pretty obsessed with O'Brien.
    • To be fair, Winston was fairly certain O'Brien could get him out of Hell on Earth.
    • The feeling can be seen as mutual, particularly after it's implied that O'Brien has been working on Smith as his "pet project" for seven years.
  • Magnificent Bastard: O'Brien. He's an Affably Evil Genius Bruiser Chessmaster Manipulative Bastard who comes off as very charismatic even while he's torturing Winston and ensures the Party's endless victories against all would-be rebels.
  • Mary Suetopia: A Straw Dystopia, where one of the members of State Sec even thinks that The Party will last forever, despite that in reality, there obviously would be corruption, revolts, sabotage, and failures in surveillance system, inefficiency and crises of economics, lack of professionals and social lifts which will lead to failures in the work of state... The list can go on.
  • Memetic Mutation / Fountain of Memes: Screw "The Cake Is a Lie," this is the work that informs modern life, with "Big Brother" and "Big Brother Is Watching You," "doublethink," "Unperson," "thought crime," and "thought police," and "Room101". While we're at it, there's the the war with Eastasia Eastasia is our ally. We were always at war with Eurasia. Really, the government in the novel communicates to the public almost entirely through memes.
    • Artifacts of the pre-Party times survive as memes too: "Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement's..."
    • "1984 was not an instruction manual!", is a common reaction to whenever a group is acting overly censoring.
  • Misaimed Fandom: If you think Orwell was solely attacking Dirty Communists (or, worse, liberals), you've missed the point. Fascist totalitarian regimes and religious theocracies can grow from other movements as well. The reverse is true, as well.
    • There are those who believe the novel is an attack on socialism, ignoring the fact that Orwell was a committed socialist.
    • Some people consider the character of Emmanuel Goldstein to be a symbol of rebellion against tyranny because of his status in the book as a boogeyman for the Party. However, it's likely Goldstein was based on Leon Trotsky, whom Orwell considered not much better than the Communists he rebelled against.
  • Misaimed Marketing: The extremely famous 1984 Super Bowl Ad for Apple Computers.
  • Music to Invade Poland to: Oceania, 'Tis of Thee from the 1984 film.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Vicious propaganda, endless war and all, culminating in Winston's hideous Mind Rape at the hands of the Ministry of Love, with the last few lines deserving to be in its own category of terror.
    • Room 101 embodies Nightmare Fuel, as it takes the biggest fear a person has and exploits it fully.
  • Older Than They Think: Many of the themes from Nineteen Eighty-Four appear earlier in Orwell's work. The idea of "the truth" being whatever the ruling elite says (including the specific example of '2+2 = 5')? Chapter Four of Looking Back on the Spanish War. Political jargon constricting thought? Politics and the English Language, and before that, his As I Please column for March 17, 1944. The world being divided between a small number of super-states? He cribbed it from James Burnham. History being an endless cycle of the "Middle" deceiving the "Low" in order to depose the "High?" Ditto. Doublethink, 'the power of holding simultaneously two beliefs which cancel out'? In Front of Your Nose. The aversion of Evil Will Fail? Chapter Four of Looking Back on the Spanish War, again. The working class (Proles) as the only hope against a totalitarian government, but also very stupid and shallow? Chapter Five of Looking Back on the Spanish War. The metaphor of a totalitarian government as a boot stamping on the face of humanity? From Jack London's The Iron Heel.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Almost certainly, the worst part in 1984 is that it's plausible.
  • Praising Books You Don't Read: Ironically, especially given how often just about any development in how the government works will be met with comparisons to 1984, according to a British survey it's also the book most people lie about having read.
  • Sci Fi Ghetto: Many literature professors will get very angry if you call this "Science Fiction," even though it's set in the future, with a level of surveillance impossible at the book's writing central to the plot and tone and the climax clearly relying on some sort of ultra-sophisticated psychological profiling.
    • The otherworldly pyramid architecture of the Ministry buildings. While not necessarily containing an outright sci-fi element, their description evokes a futuristic, utopian feel.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • "Do it to Julia!"
    • In the final chapter, a sweet memory floats into Winston's mind from his childhood about a happy afternoon when he played Snakes and Ladders with his mother. It's a memory he would've treasured earlier, but now he pushes it out of his mind, declaring it to be false.
    • The fact that some elements in the book — including constant surveillance of citizens and disproportionately severe punishment for the slightest interest in rebellion — have become elements of some Real Life governments is horrifyingly depressing.
  • True Art Is Angsty: The book is considered one of the greatest ever written, and it's one of the most depressing ones you'll ever read.
  • Values Resonance: As noted in Harsher in Hindsight, The War on Terror created a world where government-enforced surveillance gets uncomfortably close to what Orwell wrote.
  • The Woobie: Winston and Julia, especially in the movie.