What is the significance of 1984 plot structure broken up into 3 sections?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three is a Magic Number:

  • 3 act structure: beginning (problems), middle (climax), end (resolution)
  • 3 geographical settings (Oceania, Eastasia, Eurasia)
  • 3 types of people according to Goldstein's book:

Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered.

  • The three slogans of the Party:
  1. WAR IS PEACE
  2. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
  3. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
  • 3 main characters (Winston, Julia, O'Brien)
  • 3 is often used as a literary device to provoke a feeling of unnaturalness, as twos are much more common in nature (limbs, hemispheres, eyes, etc).  We realize that O'Brien is third wheel, unnatural.
  • 3 verb tenses: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE.  Winston has a hard time distinguishing one from the others.
  • The Party has rolled out nine "3 Year Plans"
  • 3 political prisoners (Rutherford, Jones, Aaronson)
kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By breaking the novel into the three distinct sections, Orwell allows the reader to focus on and track the development of Winston, the story's protagonist.

In Part One, for example, we see Winston in the early part of his rebellion against the Party. He begins to privately express his discontent, for example, and realizes that the proles are the only people who possess true freedom. It is also in this part that Winston meets Julia, a woman who will have a profound effect on his development.

In Part Two, we see a different side to Winston. Energized by his meeting with Julia, he begins a sexual relationship with her. He also makes contact with O'Brien and receives a copy of Goldstein's book. What we see, then, is that Winston's confidence is growing. He is ready to rebel against the Party and do whatever he can to destroy Big Brother.

In Part Three, Orwell gives us a glimpse into how the Party clamps down on rebellion. Through Winston's experience in the Ministry of Love, we see how he is "reconditioned" to become the ideal Party member. By the end of the story, he has come to love Big Brother, and thus, the course of his rebellion is halted.

The separation of the novel, therefore, allows Orwell to clearly mark out these crucial stages of Winston's development.