Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.

Following

Nightmare Fuel / 1984

Go To

MOMENTS PAGES ARE SPOILERS-OFF.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/1984_nf.jpg
When you're reading a book about a society whose highest goal is to be "a boot stamping on a human face — forever," it's hard not to find something that unsettles you to your very core.
Advertisement:
  • Holy hell, EVERYTHING about the Ministry of Love. It gets introduced as "the really frightening one" for a reason.
    • The four Ministry towers are intimidating enough, but Miniluv takes it Up to Eleven by having no windows whatsoever and much, much tighter security than the other three; for example, its perimeter is caked with barbed wire fences and guards can be seen in areas a good distance away.
  • Room 101. Imagine a Place Worse Than Death where you are tortured with whatever you fear the most, right up to the point where you will betray literally anything just to get it away from you, and subsequently go irreversibly past the Despair Event Horizon.
    • As Julia later puts it, "You really do mean it, and nothing is ever the same afterward."
  • The whole third act is quite possibly one of the most horrific mundane Mind Rapes ever put to paper. Earlier, Winston and Julia agree that the Thought Police "can make you say anything, anything, but they can't make you believe it. They can't get inside you." The third act proves that yes, they can.
    • Hell, the whole part where O'Brien tortures Winston into becoming a mindless follower of the Party. One that sticks out in particular is where he tortures Winston into believing that he is holding up five fingers instead of four.
      O'Brien: How many fingers, Winston?
      Winston: Four.
      The needle shot up to sixty.
      O'Brien: How many fingers, Winston?
      Winston: Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!
      The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.
      O'Brien: How many fingers, Winston?
      Winston: Four! Stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!
      O'Brien: How many fingers, Winston?
      Winston: Five! Five! Five!
      O'Brien: No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?
      Winston: Four! Five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!
    • Advertisement:
    • The torture that finally breaks Winston is the threat to release a starved rat to devour his face while he is still alive, made even more effective by his phobia of rats.
    • We don't even know how long he was in there. Weeks? Months? Years? Even Winston doesn't know, as he's imprisoned in such a way that he can never tell for sure what time of day it is. It's amazing how Oceanians can withstand so much pain, even without O'Brien's moments of kindness.
    • When Winston sees himself in the mirror and realizes how much damage has been done to him, and then later in the more comfortable cell when he tries to regain some of his strength, realizing just how weak he has become. It really hits home how powerless he is to stop this or escape.
    • The entire speech leading to the "boot stamping on a human face — forever" line is quite possibly the most horrific part of it all, as it effectively serves as the Motive Rant for the Party.
      "Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy — everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human facefor ever."
  • Advertisement:
  • The ending. Both Winston and Julia are left as soulless, brainless shells with no free will after the Party's re-education. All of their humanity has been snuffed from them. Of course, Julia has an extremely tiny shred left. Winston? He loves Big Brother. He worships the Party. All of his old personality is now gone, replaced by a soulless robot filled with propaganda and gin. And he is very shortly going to be shot.
    "You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves."
  • Near the beginning of the novel, Winston starts his diary with a frantic, semi-coherent paragraph about his experience at the cinema with the audience enjoying a movie about a refugee boat in the Mediterranean being blown up and people trying to escape from it being shot and bombed to death. People guffaw at a scene of a fat man trying to swim away in desperation being shot to bloody pieces with the water turning pink around him. Mass applause is had at a scene of a lifeboat full of mothers trying to comfort their terrified children being blown up with a bomb sending the children's dismembered limbs flying into the air. The only one who criticizes the film is some prole woman who is promptly arrested. What it says about the sheer level of fanatical indoctrination of Oceanian citizens is truly horrifying.
  • In one scene, Winston recalls once walking through a street hit by a bomb and kicking someone's severed arm into the gutter without a second thought.
  • Another example of how life has warped Winston is his bitter misogyny, including toward Julia. Before they start hooking up, he despairs that she'll never fall for him, so his bitterness over that curdles into fantasies about torturing, raping, and killing her! Nowadays, this bit is even more horrifying, as Winston's thoughts here are not so far from those of incels who have gone on to commit mass shootings.
  • The telescreens. They are everywhere, from the workplace to your own apartment, constantly watching people. Fortunately, their cameras are relatively limited and don't have any features such as night vision, so you might get away with doing things like making anti-party gestures in the dark, but their microphones are very sensitive to the point that they can apparently pick up a heartbeat.
  • The most scary thing about the setting of this book? Not only does it remain one of the most nightmarish dystopias ever devised, but there is no supernatural element at all and it is all entirely plausible. Want proof?
    • Maybe the most horrifying part of 1984 isn't the literal fictional ideology of Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia so much as the current and recently historical (in 1949) ideas that they embodied. In the early-to-mid 20th Century, there was a very real concept that modernity required totalitarianism. While not as prominent as it once was, it's very difficult to say that this idea is gone. Oceania may only be a major global conflict or an extraordinary economic crisis away from reality, even now.note 
    • One of the most horrific aspects of historical truth in the novel is the concept of the Unperson. Not only is someone quietly executed, but every trace of their existence is wiped away. Photographs, books, articles, and every piece of media that could contain them is altered so that there is no evidence of them. Anyone who mentions them is also eliminated.
    • Also nasty is that 1984's setting is enforcing their surveillance without the help of computers. When you think on real-world programs as China's Social Credit System you can see Orwell got short of what could happen in Real Life.
  • The mere idea that there is no escape from this hellish dystopia. We see Oceania in all its hellishly oppressive detail, but living in Eurasia or Eastasia is pretty much exactly the same. The only place left is the Equatorial Front, which is nothing more than a giant fighting arena where you'll either be gunned down by supersoldiers or taken as a slave by whatever nation grabbed you. And if Julia's theory that Oceania is a One World Order is true, then there's nowhere to run.
  • Something as simple as talking in your sleep can earn you a visit from the Thought Police. Your life will end over something you had as much control over as a breath or a heartbeat. They don't even need proof to drag you away to Room 101. One man gets arrested because his children (falsely?) report that he was saying "Down with Big Brother" in his sleep.
  • A West End/Broadway adaptation ended on a terrifying theory about the appendix: How do we know for sure the Party fell? They could've restructured things to make people think they no longer exist.
  • The Sydney Theatre Company adaptation. Highlights include:
  • The indoctrination of Oceania's children from birth creates little monsters fanatically loyal to Big Brother. Parsons's two children scream about wanting to see a public hanging, set a market woman's skirt on fire because they saw her wrapping up sausages in a poster of Big Brother (something they were taught to do as members of the Spies), and turn their own father into the Party by lying that he was saying "Down with Big Brother" in his sleep.
    With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy. Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it. The songs, the processions, the banners, the hiking, the drilling with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship of Big Brother — it was all a sort of glorious game to them. All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak — 'child hero' was the phrase generally used — had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police.
    • It is strongly implied that Parsons said nothing of the sort and they lied about the whole thing For the Evulz. Parsons is so indoctrinated into the ideology that he goes along with it even if it means his own death. What an insane world.
  • As part of his job, Winston invents a story of the life of a war hero named Comrade Ogilvy, whose entire short life from birth to death revolved around serving and worshipping Big Brother. At 3 years old, the only toys he would play with were a drum, toy gun and helicopter. At 6, he joined the Spies a year early, becoming a troop leader at 9. At 11, he turned his uncle in to the Thought Police. For the rest of his life he was a soldier until he died in action at 23. He had no hobbies, no recreations, no friends or family to speak of, no desire or purpose except to serve Big Brother. This is considered ideal and even enviable. Imagine this being your life...
  • Arguably the Oceanians, thanks to all the years of indoctrination, starvation and overworking, coupled with the removal of any conflicting or disloyal elements, border on Our Humans Are Different. They're almost completely devoid of empathy for others, totally numb to violence or absolutely reveling in it. They're encouraged to hate their designated enemies, with each generation growing more desensitized to suffering and more thoroughly indoctrinated by the Party. They've also developed mindsets bordering on Bizarre Alien Psychology, capable of actions like Doublethink nearly without question. They go beyond Humans Are Bastards and closer to humanity if we were Always Chaotic Evil.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine reading the Nightmare Fuel pages — for ever.
Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report