What are some examples of foreshadowing in 1984?

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1984 is a book that, from its earliest pages, creates an oppressive feeling in the mind of its reader. In answering this particular question, I'll be drawing on a few examples which can found in its first chapter, but which prove to be of critical importance much later in the...

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1984 is a book that, from its earliest pages, creates an oppressive feeling in the mind of its reader. In answering this particular question, I'll be drawing on a few examples which can found in its first chapter, but which prove to be of critical importance much later in the book.

First, consider that when Orwell first discusses the Ministries, Winston notes:

The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometer of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.

This memorable passage stresses the oppressive elements of the Ministry of Love in vivid detail (and note that, far more than any of the other Ministries, this is the one which awakens horror for Winston). The Ministry of Love will later be critical to the events of 1984's final book, where Winston himself will be taken to the Ministry of Love to be tortured and broken by the State.

Orwell's use of foreshadowing extends into the realm of characterization. A very different form of foreshadowing can be found in Orwell's introduction of O'Brien, also found in the first chapter:

A momentary hush passed over the group of people round the chairs as they saw the black overalls of an Inner Party member approaching. O'Brien was a large, burly man with a thick neck and a coarse, humorous, brutal face. In spite of his formidable appearance he had a certain charm of manner. He had a trick of resettling his spectacles on his nose which was curiously disarming—in some indefinable way, curiously civilized.

This physical description actually mirrors much of O'Brien's true personality, hidden beneath the friendly facade which he presents to Winston. He pretends to be a member of the Brotherhood, but in fact, he is a loyal Party Member. O'Brien is depicted as simultaneously highly intelligent (we see this in his conversation with O'Brien, and his depth of understanding concerning the Party's goals and methods, emerging as a walking incarnation of its nihilistic message). But he is also extremely brutal, as shown by the way he mercilessly tortures Winston. In this introductory description, Orwell draws attention to those two key facets which shape his character: physical brutality joined with an intellectual civility. Thus, his physical description mirrors the true personality which lies beneath his deception.

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One particularly effective example of foreshadowing comes after Winston writes down the highly subversive thought "Down with Bog Brother!" in his diary. This isn't just a collection of words; this is a thought crime, for which Winston could end up in serious trouble.

Not long after committing this risky act of subversion, Winston enters into Mrs. Parsons's apartment, where her two children are playing a game in which they chase each other around, shouting "traitor!" and "thought criminal!"

The children's game foreshadows Winston's fate later on in the story when he will be accused of being a traitor and a thought criminal. As soon as he hears the children screaming these words, Winston starts feeling paranoid, worried sick that at any moment he will be arrested and vaporized for crimes against the Party.

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There are many layers of foreshadowing in 1984, some more subtle than others. A very straightforward example is Winston's strong associations with certain events that he cannot place, like the woman covering the boy in the theater or the smell of chocolate. These events are foreshadowing because they eventually add up to Winston remembering his long-repressed memory of hoarding a chocolate ration from his mother and sister.

A more subtle example comes in the form of song lyrics:

Under the spreading chestnut tree,

I sold you and you sold me

This is a foreboding reference to the Chestnut Tree Cafe, where George has his final encounter with two men before they are unpersoned, or erased from existence. "Sold" is a reference to the idiom "sold out", which means "betrayed," or, in this case, informed on to Big Brother.

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