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In 1984, what does the telescreen symbolize? Please note specific quotes.

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aertviation | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 8, 2011 at 10:35 PM via web

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In 1984, what does the telescreen symbolize?

Please note specific quotes.

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ajonu79 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted May 8, 2011 at 10:59 PM (Answer #1)

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The telescreen in 1984 symbolizes the constant monitoring of the government's citizens, and also how a totalitarian government misuses technology in order to monitor its citizens instead of using it to better society.

Quote:

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

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kipling2448 | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 19, 2015 at 6:35 PM (Answer #2)

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In George Orwell's classic novel of a futuristic dystopian society, 1984, the "telescreen" is an ubiquitous symbol of the government's omniscient presence in the lives of its citizens. Orwell foresaw (perhaps presciently) a future in which government would never trust its subjects and the implementation of a totalitarian political system would serve to supplant any prospects of insurrection against those who ruled.  As Orwell noted early in his first chapter, "[t]he instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely."  The telescreen's presence, as the novel's narrator would observe, was designed not just to project a constant stream of images and words intended to manipulate and control the population but to actively monitor the population, as is evident in the following passage, also from Chapter One:

"The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork."

Orwell's description of the telescreen and its role in monitoring and brainwashing the population on behalf of the "Thought Police" provided his novel's most enduring image of an autocratic regime determined to prevent the free expression of thought and the exercise of any activity that could potentially be construed as threatening to the ruling regime's hold on power.  The telescreen has continued, as suggested, to serve as a metaphor for a ubiquitous government that increasingly acts without the consent of those it purports to represent while slowly but surely manipulating emotions to its benefit.

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