How does Orwell create a dystopian setting in 1984?

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amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Dystopia is the converse of utopia, an unrealistic attempt at creating a perfect society.  Dystopian novels arose out of the fear that many societies may be heading in the direction of chaos and oppression.  The society of 1984 is George Orwell's idea of a society devoid of privacy, liberty and even individual thought.

This post-apocalypic society hinges upon every member's devotion to the concept of Big Brother, a figure in name and picture only bwho supposedly loves and guides each of them.  Unfortunately Big Brother does the opposite. 

The setting is dim, dark, and depressing.  Even the most basic necessities of life are rationed.  Oceania is constantly at war, though the enemy does not seem to matter much.  Citizens are constantly told how lucky and happy they are.  Even if they don't feel as such, the thought police are everywhere, waiting for a simple blink, breath or twitch to betray a person's true feelings.  Thus, the citizens live in an emotionless state, fearing to reveal any emotion at all.

Language is an expressive component to humanity.  The Inner Party seeks to demolish this expression by removing words from existence, particulary words such as freedom, justice, and equality.  The Newspeak dictionary seeks to shave the language down to a mere fraction of its previous words in order to reduce the possibility of people actually thinking "illegal" words.

Words are not the only thing being systematically struck from existence.  People who are deemed thought criminals are simply erased from existence.  Their pictures, references, anything that might prove their existence are "vaporized," leaving no trace. People live in constant fear that they may be next.

Clearly this society represents the result of an overzealous attampt to rebuild a society that will not fail.  By keeping such tight reins on people, people cannot get out of line.  Unfortunately, these very reins are those that create oppression and start rebellion anew.

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