History of the Text
Publication History and Reception: Eric Blair, who wrote under the pseudonym George Orwell, was already a respected writer when Nineteen Eighty-Four—commonly written as 1984—was published in June, 1949. Many critics were impressed by Orwell’s originality and skill with suspense and pacing—qualities that, according to V. S. Pritchett of New Statesman, made it “impossible to put the book down.” Along a similar vein, TIME deemed the novel “absolutely super.” However, the novel’s grim premise and pessimism did not appeal to everyone. C. S. Lewis found the story to be “odious,” while Edward Shanks claimed that it “breaks all records for gloomy vaticination.” Nevertheless, 1984 has made a significant cultural impact and remains an important milestone for dystopian literature.
A Condemnation Of Totalitarianism: George Orwell wrote extensively about the human tendency to commit atrocities in pursuit of power. He became a staunch supporter of democratic socialism after his experiences in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), where he fought as a militiaman against the fascist general Francisco Franco. His two most famous works, Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949), harshly critique the authoritarian regimes of Stalin and Hitler while also implying that such conditions could arise anywhere. 1984 illustrates the horrifying effects of total government overreach into every aspect of citizens’ lives.
- Post-War Fiction: 1984 was published shortly after the end of World War II. Orwell was inspired to write the novel after the Tehran Conference of late 1943, in which Russian Premier Joseph Stalin, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill convened to discuss their military strategies against Germany and Japan. They also made significant decisions about how to rebuild after World War II ended. Orwell envisioned the three men dividing up the world into three superstates, depicted in 1984 as the constantly warring nations of Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia.