In George Orwell's 1984, what imagery is depicted in the first chapter?

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brodertj eNotes educator| Certified Educator

George Orwell’s 1984 begins with poignant imagery.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Anyone familiar with Britain’s unpredictable weather can relate to the first part of the sentence. In this way, Orwell sets up a familiar world only to have it come crashing down words later. In reality, clocks do not strike thirteen times to announce 1:00PM. By using the number thirteen, Orwell is telling the reader that something is terribly off about the London which Winston Smith inhabits.

For British readers who picked up 1984 the year of its publication, 1948, they saw more reflections of their present as Winston enters his shabby apartment building, “The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats.” London, along with all of Britain in 1948, was still recovering from the Second World War. The boiled cabbage alludes to the rationing that lasted for years after the war’s end. As Winston looks out his window, Orwell makes sure to mention other sights that wartime Londoners knew all too well: craters pockmarking the city and decaying Victorian buildings.

Taken as a whole, the imagery in 1984’s first chapter makes the novel’s dystopia realistic because it is a reflection of living conditions present in Britain during the immediate post-war era.