Significant Allusions

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Last Updated on November 12, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 369

Historical Allusions: Throughout the novel, Orwell uses allusions to historical events, individuals, and locations. As a result, the story’s dystopian setting underscores its criticism of actual totalitarian states and makes an effective case for the threat of totalitarianism. 

  • Ingsoc: Oceania is ruled by the English Socialist Party, or Ingsoc. The Party, as Orwell portrays it, vilifies the tenets of socialism while simultaneously professing that it does so in the name of socialism. Ingsoc is an allusion to the pro-Stalin Spanish communists who, during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), turned on a non-Stalinist militia group called the Workers’ Party of the Marxist Unification (POUM)—despite the fact that they were both fighting Francoist fascism. Orwell, who was a member of the POUM and a staunch democratic socialist, tried to share his experience of socialism turning on itself after he returned home to England; however, leftist publishers were reluctant to associate socialism with totalitarianism because they did not want to risk vilifying anti-fascism.
  • Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia: The concept of the three superstates in 1984 was inspired by James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution (1941), in which managers and bureaucrats divide up the world and become its overlords; however, the three superstates of 1984 are more of a reaction to the Tehran Conference, in which Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill discussed what the post–World War II order would look like. Orwell saw the plausibility of the three men dividing the globe into three superpowers just as Burnham imagined.
  • Emmanuel Goldstein: Every day in Oceania, all Party members must sit through the Two-Minutes Hate, a short film vilifying the Party’s enemies. The most infamous Enemy of the People is Emmanuel Goldstein, an exiled former Party member. Goldstein is the alleged leader of the Brotherhood, a secret organization dedicated to overthrowing the Party. He is also the author of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. Orwell likely based Goldstein’s character on Leon Trotsky, a prominent Russian Revolutionary who was exiled from the Soviet Union that he helped establish. Furthermore, Goldstein’s book is suspected to be a parody of The Revolution Betrayed (1937), in which Trotsky criticizes the development of the Soviet Union after Vladimir Lenin’s death in 1924.

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