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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."

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 One of the most horrifying and depressing codifiers for the Dystopian genre, ever, notwithstanding its now-outdated title.note 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" or "groupthink").

The book is set in London, the capital of Airstrip One and part of the superpower of Oceania. Life sucks. Oceania is ruled by the totalitarian regime of "the Party", personified by the omnipresent figure of "Big Brother". Standards of living are low due to the Forever War Oceania is engaged in alongside their ally Eurasia against Eastasia (or is it the other way around?). Sex is banned for all Party members except for procreation purposes. Media, entertainment, and art are all heavily controlled and censored by the Party. And most importantly, Sinister Surveillance is omnipresent: nearly every space has some sort of monitoring device and it's impossible to tell whether you are being watched or listened to at any time. The novel's protagonist is Winston Smith, a member of the middle-class "Outer Party" who lives a dismal existence working for the Party's Propaganda Machine, secretly nursing thoughts of rebellion. Until one day, a chance encounter with a woman might prompt him to do something about it...

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; one of the deeply ironic things about it was that the CIA changed the film to suit the needs of the government. 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. In 2013, this novel was adapted into stage in West End, with a Broadway run premiering in June 2017. Other adaptations include 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.

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.)
    • In the Radford adaptation, the ironically named Ministry of Plenty is renamed Ministry of Production, or Miniprod.
  • 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.
    • a major aversion of the common 1950s versions of this trope. Despite reference to a “nuclear exchange in the 1950s.... dropping a nuclear bomb on Colchester” (a minor, historic English County Town with a long history as a base for the British Army) there is no reference to radiation poisoning, nuclear winter or any such thing.
  • 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, a Classical Anti-Hero, to be exact; 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:
    • "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."
  • As Long as There Is One Man: Subverted. Even after withstanding torture for weeks on end, Winston tells O'Brien that the Party will someday fall due to the "spirit of mankind," a conviction he holds onto with desperate faith alone. O'Brien responds coldly, by showing Winston his battered and malnourished body in a mirror and using it as a metaphor for Winston's idea of humanity. What happened to Winston, he explained, is what would happen to anyone who would dare defy Ingsoc. "If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man."
    • O'Brien's revelations about the Brotherhood or the future of the world may or may not have been lies designed to demoralize Winston and facilitate his brainwashing but still relevant even if they were, since the bad guys think it's important members of the resistance feel alone, isolated and the last of their kind.
  • 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.
  • At Least I Admit It: O'Brien claims that their version of totalitarianism is superior to the regimes of Hitler and Stalin because the wicked means is the end goal in itself.
  • 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.
  • Betrayal by Offspring: The Party encourages children to turn their parents in to the Thought Police for subversive behavior. Parsons is arrested after his daughter (allegedly) hears him whispering "Down with Big Brother" in his sleep.
  • 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.
    • While O'Brien is the only visible Big Bad, he outright states that even the Inner Party are slaves (at least to a certain degree) to the nebulous idea of Big Brother. He implies that the only real difference between the Inner and Outer Party is that the Inner Party has accepted losing their freedom and identity and thus can be fully trusted.
  • 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.
  • Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: In the Radford film version, there's a loudspeaker constantly announcing the various production quotas that have been met or exceeded.
  • 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: All the Party members. Winston eventually comes to the conclusion that the proles, ignorant as they may be, are morally better than Party members, because they haven't been dehumanized by the regime. He tells Julia: "The proles are human beings. We are not human."
  • 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 Emmanuel 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.
  • 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:
    • Good God. 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 — or imagines the end of his life — in stupid ecstasy, after 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), he finally professes unconditional love for Big Brother as he's shot through the back of the head. 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.
    "He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."
    • The Michael Radford movie has a similarly bleak ending, foregoing the execution and instead having Winston look at the image of Big Brother, then thinking, "I love you."
  • 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. This is almost certainly by design because people are far less likely to rise up if they're too busy and/or exhausted to do so, and the endless back-breaking labour is just another way of crushing the spirit of the Party's subjects.
  • 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 States of America: Played with. The story is set in dystopian Britain, but Oceania is primarily an American-based superstate. The other two superstates (successors of Russia and China) are just as totalitarian and imperialistic, however.
  • 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...
      • To clarify: Not only does the Appendix place the Party and its creations in the past tense, but it's dated 2050 (well after the action in the book), mentions the name of Winston Smith (which the Party swore would be forgotten), and even references Party-verboten things such as the Declaration of Independence in its examples.
  • 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. However, Party members are so intensely monitored and their lives so tightly controlled that they are effectively prisoners, whereas the apathetic Proles are allowed to cavort and debauch in relative freedom, just so long as they don't start asking awkward questions.
  • 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.
    • Parsons using lavatory in the cells of Miniluv qualifies as this
  • 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."
  • Future Food Is Artificial: In the Radford adaptation, Parsons comments that the meat in their stew likely isn't meat at all. But still doubleplusgood.
  • Genericist Government: The dystopian state in the novel doesn't have a specific ideology beyond naked totalitarianism. Oceania officially practices Ingsoc (English Socialism), while its rivals Eurasia and Eastasia respectively practice Neo-Bolshevism and an ideology that can best be translated as "Obliteration of the Self". However, there's no practical difference between them, and any illusion of such is just to keep the state of war between them active. A government agent of Oceania specifically defies the notion that they are successors to the Nazi Germans or Soviet Communists, since those groups still couched their murderousness behind utopian goals. Big Brother's regime is after power and making people suffer for its own sake.
  • 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.
    • inverted in that O’Brien IS a member of The Brotherhood, in a sense; it’s just that Winston is completely wrong about its nature
  • 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.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Winston's assessment of any individual's loyalty is always completely off the mark. None of the people he puts his trust in are actually deserving of that trust, and everybody he's suspicious of is a rebel. He instantly distrusts Julia, whom eventually becomes his lover, whereas he trusts O'Brien who turns out to be a member of the Inner Party and the shop owner, who is actually a Thought Policeman
  • 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 original book and subsequently, in the film made in 1984, O'Brien claims that the German Nazis and Russian Communists (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 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.
  • Info Dump: 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, he’s probably right; it’s implied that the Party noticed his momentary hesitation when holding a news cutting which he destroys, but subsequently appears again in O’Brien’s hands during the torture sequence. The second-hand shop where he bought his journal, other curios and subsequently rented a room, was operated by a Thought Police agent (Mr Charrington). Winston doesn’t actually KNOW any of this in detail, but he is proven right in general terms.
  • 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:
  • Ironic Nickname:
    • The Ministry of Truth (rewriting the past and spreading propaganda), 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 who wanted to keep the family's scant food rations for himself. 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.
  • Least Rhymable Word: Ampleforth, one of Winston's co-workers in the Ministry of Truth is responsible for rewriting poems to make them align with Party propaganda. Winston eventually meets him in jail; Ampleforth thinks he was arrested because he left the word "God" in a Rudyard Kipling poem (probably McAndrew's Hymn) because he could not find another rhyme for "rod". He tells Winston: "Do you realize that there are only twelve rhymes to "rod" in the entire language? For days I had racked my brains. There was no other rhyme."
  • 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.
  • Multiple Choice Form Letter: "...few people ever wrote letters. For the messages it was occasionally necessary to send, there were printed postcards with long lists of phrases, and you struck out the ones that were inapplicable."
  • 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."
    Tropes N-Z 
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The "Blind Idiot" Translation of Eastasia's governing philosophy (mentioned in Goldstein's book): "Death-Worship." Its proper translation ("Obliteration of the Self") isn't much more comforting.
  • Neologism: Invented terms like "Big Brother," "Thought Police," and "doublethink" and popularized "unperson." Just look at all the tropes this book has named...
  • Newspeak: 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 orgiastic rallies.
  • 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 accordance with this, the fighting — if any is even happening — is confined to a territory roughly encompassing most of Africa (apart from the portion controlled by Oceania), the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia; the open oceans; and the polar caps.

    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.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: "Mr. Charrington," a Thought Police officer who pretends to be an old, harmless prole shopkeeper under that alias. The real him is so different that it's disturbing.
  • Oh, Crap!: Winston and Julia's reaction to the fact that there was a telescreen in their hiding place the whole time.
    Winston: We are the dead.
    Julia: We are the dead.
    Thought Police: You are the dead.
  • Only Sane Man
    Winston: Sanity is not statistical.
    • 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.
  • Older Than They Look: Julia in the 1984 film. She is 26 years old, but her physique might pass her off as a teenage girl at best.
  • Painful Rhyme: invoked One of Winston's co-workers is responsible for re-writing famous poetry to make sure it aligns with Party propaganda. Winston notes it is generally gibberish.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated: Minitrue, Miniplenty, Minipax, and Miniluv. The three ministries of Oceania are dedicated to the exact opposite: Minitrue is dedicated to propaganda and distorting the truth to make the state seem infallible, Miniplenty is dedicated to economic destruction and rationing resources, and Minipax is dedicated to ensuring perpetual warfare to keep the people in a constant state of terror. Miniluv is Metaphorically True: they are dedicated to ensuring that citizens only love Big Brother by wiping out all rival forms of loyalty.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: Those who are too openly intelligent are quietly eliminated, both from the Party ranks and the proletariat. This happens to Winston's friend Syme — even though he's a vociferous supporter of the regime, he "sees too clearly and speaks too plainly," and simply disappears one day.
  • Personal Horror: This is what the horror of Room 101 is all about. Using your greatest fears to get you to betray the most important thing about yourself, to destroy your self-image by making you betray everything and anything that's left of what you valued before they arrested you.
  • The Philosopher King: Subverted. The philosophy embraced by the ruling party is one of utter and complete self-interest.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Julia attempts to invoke this trope. In the Michael Radford adaption, the dress is ill-fitting and not very flattering, as presumably this was the best she could get.
  • 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. Also inverted: It's heavily implied that the war is merely a way to justify how little the government spends on its population. Throw a few token rockets at them and tell them you're dropping thousands more on the enemy, and they won't complain about bread shortages.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The 1984 movie is extremely faithful to the book, but the shift in medium means that Orwell's detailed narration on the history of Ingsoc is lost. 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, because all of Winston's thought processes (save for his diary entries) are lost, he ends up as more of an Audience Surrogate — the fact that he's magnificently played by the incredibly aptly named John Hurt (who even looks like George Orwell) is an added bonus.

    The ending is also 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). "2 + 2 =" is arguably more powerful, since O'Brien says in both versions that the answer to 2 + 2 is whatever he decides it is, and could be 3, 6, or all at once. With regard to Winston thinking "I love you!," if he had simply said "I love Big Brother" (translating the famous closing line from third person to first person), it would have sounded a lot more awkward.
  • Propaganda Hero: Winston Smith invents the story of the heroic "Comrade Ogilvy" out of whole cloth to replace a story about an unperson in the newspaper archive.
  • Public Execution: A few happen in Oceania, with enemy nations' spies and prisoners of war.
  • Rage Within the Machine: Winston is a party functionary who doesn't really believe in the party, and seeks to rebel.
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: When Winston asks an elderly prole what life was like before the Party, he's unable to get a straight answer because the man keeps lapsing into these.
  • Room 101: The Trope Namer, where Winston and Julia are faced with their worst fears and made to betray each other.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: Played with. Big Brother is not so good about things like ensuring a decent quality of life for all the little brothers and sisters in his care, but he's amazing when it comes to things like keeping the monitoring system up and running, identifying and rooting out possible dissidents, and just generally averting Evil Will Fail.
  • Russia Takes Over the World: One of the world's three superpowers is Eurasia, the Russian-derived successor state that controls the former Soviet Union and continental Europe (but not the British Isles). They are allied with Oceania against Eastasia until Oceania betrays them by teaming up with Eastasia against Eurasia. Apparently practices "Neo-Bolshevism" and according to the propaganda of Oceania is currently leading a campaign to conquer all of Africa. This is a subversion, since neither Eurasia nor any of the other two superstates really desire world domination, only to control their own peoples.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Winston's duckspeaking colleague.
  • Scenery Gorn: Oceania in the 1984 film is filled with these. The Golden Country however, is a Scenery Porn.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the 1984 film version, where everything looks like it was either nuked or abandoned. In addition, the filmmakers use a processing technique called 'bleach bypass' to take out the bright colors from the film reels, giving the film a washed-out effect. The green color of The Golden Country, however, is emphasized as a contrast to the city's scenery.
  • 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.
  • Screens Are Cameras: The telescreens.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The Party has a recurring habit of depicting whoever their eternal enemy is aiming or firing their weapon directly at the citizenry.
  • Secret Police: The Thought Police.
  • Sex Is Evil: The Party wants to suppress the sex drive and channel it into war hysteria. O’Brien says that their neurologists are working on the abolition of the orgasm in Party members. One of The Party's prominent youth movements is the Junior Anti-Sex League, who want all reproduction done by artificial insemination. Sexual enjoyment is looked down as only for proles and animals.
  • Shadow Dictator: Big Brother. He probably doesn't even exist as a real person; O'Brien describes him as "the embodiment of the Party" and says that he'll never die.
  • 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.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Syme, who Winston sees as too intelligent for the Party to allow to run free, is also a member of the "Chess Committee"... until his name abruptly disappears from their list of members.
    • Winston himself is quite intelligent, and comes back to chess on more than one occasion.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: O'Brien, especially as played by Richard Burton in the 1984 film adaptation. He never raises his voice above a shout during the breaking of Winston.
  • So Happy Together: Winston and Julia in Part Two.
  • 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).
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • 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 Can't 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.
    • The books is also a successor of sorts, to two non-fiction essays by Orwell, Politics and the English Language and You and the Atomic Bomb, building on the ideas set forth in both of them.
  • 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.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: The Party imposes this on its members, including Winston, in the end.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Newspeak, though it isn't used often in the novel.
  • Straw Hypocrite: The principle of "doublethink." Every party member must believe that Ingsoc will win the war even if they know there is no war because their lives depend on it.
  • Strawman Political:
    • The entire point of the book. Big Brother is the Strawman Totalitarian. He's also a Strawman Communist or a Strawman Fascist or Strawman Theocrat 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 reality is meaningless outside their heads, and they only live for power for power's sake and its sadistic exertion over others, 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.
  • Survivorship Bias: Averted. The protagonist ends up being just another would-be rebel who's brainwashed back into a model citizen (so he can't even be a Doomed Moral Victor) and quietly terminated. It's left up in the air if there was even a rebellion for him to join.
  • Tempting Fate: The two protagonists really set themselves up for disappointment.
    Winston: If they can stop me from loving you, that would be the real betrayal.
    Julia: That's the one thing they can't do.
  • Title by Number: Nineteen Eighty-Four. In-universe, the protagonist thinks this is probably the current year, but due to the totalitarian state he lives and the nature in which it controls all information, he can't be sure. Out-of-universe, George Orwell planned to name it 1948 (the book was released a year after he finished it, in 1949), but he just flipped the last two digits to indicate a 20 Minutes into the Future timeframe.
  • To the Pain: O'Brien's explanation in the Ministry of Love of exactly what is going to happen to Winston is pretty discomforting.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Infant mortality is up to over one in six.
  • Torture Always Works: Inverted. The Party's torture is specifically designed to get the victim to give false information, a purpose for which it is extremely effective. They don't stop until the victim is willing to say, do, and think anything the Party wants them to without question.
  • Torture Technician: O'Brien, in Act Three.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: The Party inverts this: Their ideology is obsessed with causing suffering for its own sake as the purest, rawest exercise of one's power over another.
  • The Treachery of Images: A relevant part of O'Brien's conversation with Winston revolves around whether the Party could, pragmatically speaking, change reality itself, with the torturer arguing that he could "float like a soap bubble" if he wanted to. After all, if Winston perceives (forcibly) such a thing, and it is on record, in what sense is it untrue?
  • Too Long; Didn't Dub: Few foreign translations bothered rendering the original's cumbersome title faithfully, instead settling on the more convenient numeral representation of "1984", occasionally attaching the word for "year" to make it look neater. In fact, pretty much every time someone mentions the novel in an Internet comment, you can bet they will write the title numerically rather than verbally.
    • Hell, even the 1956 English-language film adaptation did just that.
  • Truth in Television:
    • "Newspeak" had a direct precedent. The basic concept and many of its specific characteristics are a parody of "Basic English," an actual proposal for an international language based on a version of English with a restricted vocabulary and "rationalised" grammar, which Orwell considered aesthetically ugly, and politically repressive in its choices for necessary subject matter to be covered.
    • The overall shifts and inconsistencies of Oceania and IngSoc's party line reflects the build-up of World War II and the sudden shifts in political alliances which Orwell working in the BBC information bureau found bewildering. The Soviet Union was anti-fascist and then signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of neutrality, America was neutral, the British Empire was anti-fascist and then Hitler declared war on the Soviet Union, which led the English to welcome the Soviet Union into the alliance, invade Iran together, Sell-Out Poland to Stalin, to say nothing of the anti-communist Americans suddenly palling around with the USSR and then ending the war as enemies again with Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech. Orwell in the bureau realized that overnight and as new information came, a new party line emerged and inconsistencies were papered over for realpolitik reasons.
  • 20 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. Winston comments that he can't be sure what year it is, due to the Party's constant editing of history.
  • 2 + Torture = 5: Though George Orwell used it before in essays, this is it's most remembered from.
  • Two-Way Tapping: When Winston and Julia have a quiet conversation after one of their illicit encounters in Charrington's flat, Winston muses about a Prole woman they're observing outside, "Hers is the future, we are the dead," and Julia echoes "we are the dead." A voice from the direction of a painting on the wall immediately responds "you are the dead," revealing that there was a telescreen hidden underneath and that they'd been caught in their forbidden activities and discourse. Moments later the Thought Police arrive in helicopters and arrest them.
  • The Unfettered: Part of the oath The Brotherhood makes new members swear is that they will do anything, absolutely anything - even, say, throw acid in a baby's face - if it becomes necessary to overthrow the Party. The Reveal that they're actually Party sting-ops turns it into a Deconstruction - when Winston attempts to assert moral superiority over O'Brien and the Party, the latter just plays a tape of Winston swearing his oath, specifically the "acid in a baby's face" part.
  • Unnamed Parent: Winston's mother.
  • Unperson: Trope Codifier; Josef Stalin used the term long before this book was written.
  • Unreliable Expositor: 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.
  • The Unreveal:
    • Whether or not a resistance movement actually exists is left completely ambiguous.
    • As is whether Big Brother is a real person or not.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means:
    • 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.
  • Villains Never Lie: O’Brien’s breaking speech to Winston is a completely honest description of the Party’s motives and power. Winston is actually comforted at times by finally getting honest answers to many of his nagging questions. In fact, the only time that O’Brien gets notably upset with Winston is when he asks Winston why the Party does what it does, and Winston flippantly says that it is for the good of the people. O’Brien responds by more vehemently torturing Winston and explaining that the Party is motivated solely by power.
    • When Winston defiantly states that the Party still hasn’t coerced him into betraying Julia, O’Brien actually acknowledges this is true. Winston is relieved and comforted by O'Brien's honesty, until he visits Room 101 …
  • We Will Use WikiWords 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.
  • Wham Line:
    • Winston receives a note from Julia, which he fears contains something ominous, like an order to kill himself. It actually says, "I love you."
    • At the end of the second portion of the book, Winston and Julia are enjoying each other's company and the scene is described in a calm and peaceful way. The narration reveals that Winston thinks they might actually survive for a few more years. Then he says "We are the dead," referencing something he's been saying since the love affair started, and out of nowhere an "iron voice" repeats "You are the dead." The scene immediately becomes hectic as Winston is nearly paralyzed from fear.
    • "It was behind the picture." A telescreen, that is.
    • O'Brien, coming to Winston in the Ministry of Love, says in response to Winston's belief that they "got" him as part of the resistance, says: "They got me a long time ago."
    • "You do not exist."
    • "Do it to Julia!"
    • The book ends with a rather chilling one: "He loved Big Brother." In the film, Winston tells the image, "I love you."
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Winston is terrified of rats which is used against him in the most horrible way possible in Room 101.
  • Wicked Cultured: O'Brien.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Poor Winston. Apparently even falling in love is considered wide-eyed idealism in and of itself.
  • 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 Worker bureaucrats), 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?
  • With Us or Against Us: Why "War is Peace" literally works.
  • Working Class People Are Morons: 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. 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... However, 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.
    • The same goes for Mr. Charrington's shop. Presumably, its sole purpose is to lure dissidents into a deceptively safe space so the Party can spy on them more easily.
  • You Are Worth Hell: This is Winston's attitude about Julia until it's subverted by what happens to him in Room 101.
  • You Cannot Kill An Idea; Double subverted: The Party can and does kill an idea. While it does its best to stamp out dissent in individuals, it keeps the means, motive, and opportunity for dissent alive deliberately to justify its own existence. Doublethink in action.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Winston Smith's worst phobia. It is used by O'Brien to completely break him.
  • You Keep Using That Word:
    • 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 (the latter of which often happens in cases in which a term such as "freedom" is used disingenuously), 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.
  • Zeerust: Justified in-universe, as the Party suppresses all research not directly related to weapons technology, so technology has stagnated at about 1950's level.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Played with in an interesting fashion in the Michael Radford film, which of course was made in the real 1984. Winston's office equipment looks exactly as described in the novel, however there is a modern helicopter used in one scene.

"We shall meet again in the place where there is no darkness."

Alternative Title(s): Nineteen Eighty Four