Literary Devices In 1984

What are all the literary techniques in 1984?

HELP! I have a report due and I am soo confused.  I need things like flashbacks, humor, vivid descriptions, unexplained twists. Basically anything that makes the book the way it is!

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator


Several literary techniques that make 1984 the novel it is include the following:

Point-of-view: We identify strongly with Winston Smith, an ordinary citizen of Oceania, as he rebels against the ugliness, surveillance, and mind control in his society. We see the world through Winston's eyes, memories and consciousness, and this influences us to reject the totalitarianism of Big Brother and to root for Winston to make a successful stand against repression. 

Characterization: Characterization ties closely to point-of-view. Orwell develops Winston as a character. Winston moves from anger and hate to love and self-sacrifice as he falls in love with Julia. We sympathize with his growing humanity and his desire to share a simple, everyday life with the woman he loves. We also feel his fear of exposure, which is almost constant.

Backstory: Unusually for a novel, Orwell includes within 1984 long portions of THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM by Emmanuel Goldstein. This provides both Winston and the reader with the goals and rationales of the government. Since this novel is a cautionary tale, warning readers that 1984 could happen to them, this explanation of Oceania's government's quest for power for power's sake makes sense of the grindingly bleak lives of most of Oceania's population. 

Descriptive detail: The novel comes alive, and arguably has remained popular, because of Orwell's gift for the descriptive detail. For example, he describes an old-fashioned paperweight as follows:

It was a heavy lump of glass, curved on one side, flat on the other, making almost a hemisphere. There was a peculiar softness, as of rainwater, in both the colour and the texture of the glass. At the heart of it, magnified by the curved surface, there was a strange, pink, convoluted object that recalled a rose or a sea anemone

This Victorian object becomes a recurrent symbol of a world the government of Oceania is destroying.

This is a literary novel, and Orwell uses allusion through  rhyme and song to make a larger point. One example is the nursery rhyme "oranges and lemons." Throughout the first part of the novel, Winston is both attracted by the rhyme and unable to remember how it ends. Its end, in fact, is a chilling reminder that Winston's desire for the world of the past, of poetry and of human feeling, is also what will destroy him: 

 Here comes a chopper to chop off your head

Suspense: From the beginning, Orwell builds suspense by making the audience aware of the deep risks that Winston is running. Winston has plunged into a life or death struggle the moment he buys the journal, and we turn the pages, in part, because we wonder what will happen to him. 


amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Writing about all the literary techniques in 1984 would be almost as long as the novel itself.  However, I will pick out some of the major ones for you!.

First, the use of the oxymoron.  An oxymoron is use of contradictory terms to present a statement that generally contains an element of truth.  The three mottos represent oxymorons.  "Freedom is Slavery," "War is Peace," "Ignorance is Strength " all contain what appear to be opposing terms, yet the meaning behind them is true for the world state.  Keeping the country at constant war does lead to peace among the people of Oceania.  Ignorance is Strength is also true in that an uneducated, easily manipulated populace is easy for the government to use for its own power.

Another technique is the use of Big Brother as a symbol.  Big Brother, the ultimate figure of Oceania, is everywhere.  A mustached man who is always watching.  This symbol strikes both loyalty and fear in the people.  They worship this icon, but are continually kept afraid of his power.

Similarly, 1984 creates links to history through the use of allusion.  The posters of Big Brother strikingly resemble Adolf Hitler.  The supposed leader of the underground movement is Goldstein.  The obviously Jewish name of Emmanuel Goldstein and the name of a man responsible for the death of millions of Jewish heritage set up the conflict by relating it to a key turning point in the history of the world.

These are just a few of the techniques that Orwell employs in his novel.