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First, we learn that the society struggles economically. The fact that Winston lives in an apartment building that smells badly of food associated with the poor (boiled cabbage) and mats made from left over items (rag mats) tells us that economic conditions are not good. Also, the elevator, we are told, seldom worked even in the best of times. The power, however, was currently cut to preserve energy being saved for a government event. That tells us that the government holds great control over the citizens if it can determine that an elevator is unnecessary, but its celebration of something it deems important is necessary. Obviously, there is little regard for the citizenry. Then, we realize that the government not only controls how much electricity the people may use, but it reminds people that they are being watched. In every one of the 7 landings Winston must pass in order to get to his apartment, there is a large poster displaying the face of "Big Brother" with the words beneath, "Big Brother is watching you!". This clearly is meant to manipulate the people by making them paranoid and fearful.
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