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Introduction

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Special Commissioned Entry on George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four

See also Animal Farm Criticism and George Orwell Criticism.

The following chronology offers an overview of the key events as they occur in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

1944/1945: Winston Smith is born.

1950s: The Revolution takes place in Oceania. War between Oceania and other powers culminates in the dropping of atomic bombs, mainly upon continental Europe and North America. At least one falls upon Colchester in eastern England. After this, the superpowers wage a permanent “phony” war to prevent total destruction and to maintain power in their respective territories.

1955/1956: Winston's mother and baby sister disappear.

1958: Julia is born.

Mid-1960s: Widespread purges remove most of Oceania's original revolutionary leaders, including Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford.

1970: Big Brother is established as the sole leader of Oceania.

1973: Winston and Katharine are married but soon separate.

1973: Winston accidentally receives evidence of a “true” event, concerning the purges of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford, but destroys it out of fear.

1977: O'Brien first speaks to Winston: “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.”

1980: Oceania ends its declared war with Eastasia and begins “war” against Eurasia.

1981: Winston picks up a prostitute and, despite his revulsion, has sex with her. The episode is so traumatic that he unsuccessfully tries to purge it by recording it in his diary three years later.

April 4, 1984: Winston begins his diary.

April 1984: Winston and Julia begin their sexual relationship.

May 1984: Winston and Julia's relationship haltingly proceeds because of the difficulty of meeting.

June 1984: Winston rents the room above Mr. Charrington's shop, where he and Julia meet more frequently

Summer 1984: O'Brien makes contact with Winston and then meets Winston and Julia to discuss the revolution of “The Brotherhood.” He arranges for Winston to receive Emmanuel Goldstein's manifesto.

Summer 1984: Hate Week is held. On the sixth day, it is suddenly announced that Oceania is at war with Eastasia rather than Eurasia.

Summer 1984: With Julia in the room above Mr. Charrington's shop, Winston reads the Goldstein manifesto. Minutes later, he and Julia are arrested and taken to the Ministry of Love for torture, “confession,” and re-education.

Evolution Of Nineteen Eighty-Four

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

W. Scott Lucas

SOURCE: Lucas, W. Scott. “An Analysis of Nineteen Eighty-Four.” In Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 129, edited by Scott Darga and Linda Pavlovski. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group, 2003.

[In the following original essay, Lucas examines Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four on a number of levels, assessing the plot, characters, themes, evolution of the work, the novel's historical significance, and how the work has been studied since its publication.]

THE HISTORY OF NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR

In 1943 George Orwell outlined a novel titled “The Last Man in Europe.” It is possible that this was being sketched as part of a trilogy. As early as 1940, Orwell was writing friends of “incubating an enormous novel, the family saga sort of thing.” “Last Man” could have been the culmination of the saga in which “The Quick and the Dead,” described in 20 pages of the 1943 notebook, would have described the collapse of the old order, and Animal Farm followed with the tale of the revolution betrayed. The hypothesis conveniently ignores the far different literary form of Animal Farm—how does the reader move easily from the human family of Book 1 to the animal allegory of Book 2?—but the notebook does illustrate that Nineteen Eighty-Four was only part of a broader approach that Orwell was taking towards both his fiction and his politics.

The existence of the notebook may also undermine the argument that the direct inspiration for Nineteen Eighty-Four was the trauma of Orwell's childhood experiences at a boarding school. In the essay “Such, Such Were the Joys,” submitted for publication as he was writing the first draft of

(The entire section is 36,811 words.)