Where can I find metaphors, similes, allusions, and personification in the novel, 1984?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For figurative language, one need look no further than the beginning of Orwell's futuristic novel that haunts the twentieth-century in its parallels. 

Here are some examples of allusions, or references to something in history, literature, or the Bible, to add to those previously given for an earlier question:

  • In Chapter One, Orwell alludes to the London bombings of World War II in his descriptions of the buildings that are dilapidated, "And the bombed sites where the plaster dust whirled in the air...."
  • The Thought Police come and seize people much like the SS of Nazism and the secret police under Russia's Stalin.
  • The Two-Minute Hate uses the vision of Emmanuel Goldstein as the composite of all that is loathsome. This Jewish man's face is recalls the propaganda posters of the Jude which the Nazis hung as the cause of their economic woes. Here Goldstein is also the target of the people's hatred.
  • When Winston sees the young woman behind him at the Two-Minute Hate, he transfers his hatred onto her, imagining that he commit atrocities upon her and then "tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian" (early Christian martyr, tied to a stake and shot with arrows).
  • In Chapter Two, there is a film of refugees in lifeboats. A woman, a "jewess" tries to shield her child from seeing the massacre of these refugees as they are shot down from the air; then, the boy's arm is severed and flies through the air, depicting similar horrors to those of the Holocaust. 

Here are examples of personification, or the attributing to inanimate things or animals the qualities of humans:

  • In Chapter One, Winston sees "gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms"
  • In describing the poster of Big Brother, Winston finds it "one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about"
  • The huge posters of Big Brother "watched Winston "while the dark eyes looked deep in Winston's own."
  •  "the world began to look more cheerful."

Here are examples of similes, or stated comparisons of two unlike things that use the words "like" or "as." By comparing something to that which is greatly different, a simile creates a very vivid, and sometimes extremely emphatic, comparison:

  • In Chapter Two, "a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle" [a blowfly with a metallic blue body]
  • "and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish."
  • "his mother's memory tore at his heart"
  • "It [the gin]gave off a sickly, oily smell, as of Chinese rice-spirit."
  • In Part II, Chapter 5, Winston thinks, 

...the fact of impending death seemed as palpable as the bed they were lying on....

Here are examples of metaphors, stated or unstated strong comparisons between two very dissimilar things or persons. It is also defined as a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

  • The motto of the society of 1984 is


The slogan seems paradoxical, but is true. By keeping the people at war, there is no time for discontent among the citizenry.  Keeping the populace ignorant ensures the success of the society's strength to control the masses.

  • In Chapter 1 Winston does not know what caused him to pour out "this stream of rubbish."
  • "Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading...."
  • In Part II, Chapter 4, Winston thinks,

The paperweight was the room he was in, and the coral was Julia's life and his own, fixed in a sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal.

Read the study guide:

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question