A simple definition of tone is the expression of an author’s attitude toward a particular subject. George Orwell’s novel 1984 is a perfect example of how the tone of his work reflects his personal sense of his extreme distaste for the abuses of communism and any form of totalitarianism.
1984 is a dystopian novel. It is a work of fiction that represents an imaginary world with a projected disastrous future because of the technological, social, and political structure of a society or a community. Dystopian societies have certain commonalities: They are ruled by oppressive governments with controlling technological superiority. There is a loss of individualism in favor of conformity, which forces people to fight for their survival and freedom. The oppression and loss of freedom usually result in environmental destruction. These characteristics are found in Orwell’s novel in the concept of “Big Brother.”
Anti-utopian (dystopian) novels like 1984 are by definition pessimistic and negative. They offer little hope for the future. This book is no exception. It is set in a future bomb-ridden and war-torn city of London which has been reduced to a slum. The author portrays a totalitarian society where life is miserable, dark, and gloomy. Citizens have been forced to conform to life without decent amenities and basic human rights. Privacy is non-existent and the mood of the people in the city is fatalistic. Numerous oversized posters haunt the city, designed in such a way that “the eyes follow you about when you move.” They are plastered throughout the community, inescapable. The posters read, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” Residents of the city are scrutinized by the “Thought Police.”
Orwell uses a pessimistic tone to criticize his own society. He describes a community ruled by fanatics, and he uses a satirical tone coupled with exaggeration to warn his readers that their own society might someday face the same brutal realities.