Theme, Setting and Symbolism in 1984: an Overview of Orwell's Novel

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For this 'Theme, Setting and Symbolism in 1984' essay the task for an author is to discuss how effectively Orwell uses one of the following literary devices in 1984: symbolism, theme, setting or point of view. 

In the hard hitting and some could say most advanced novel “1984”, by George Orwell, the main character and protagonist, Winston Smith, takes the reader through what could have been an outcome of reality if totalitarian regimes had engulfed the world with their policies. Orwell was able to effectively explore this idea of complete totalitarianism through utilizing different literary devices such as symbolism, theme, setting and point of view. The use of symbolism; however, was able to enhance the understanding of totalitarian conditions to a greater and more effective degree than its various other literary counterparts. The symbols such as the paperweight, telescreens, Victory gin, Winston's diary, Julia's red sash and the overall omnipresence of Big Brother were essential elements that contributed to Orwells effective explanation of the extremely possible reality of totalitarian regimes.

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The paperweight was one of the most significant symbols in Orwell's “1984” because of its advertently obvious connection to to the past. This is known due to the note which accompanied this paperweight which also outlined the importance of the paperweight to the previous owner before it was donated. The letter explains how the person felt about the object and discussed reminiscence of the past, a past without the consistent watch of Big Brother.

Throughout the time in which Winston owned the paperweight he would often look at it and try to recall and piece together the past, a past without the party and Big Brother. The paperweight also directly links Winston's relationship with his forbidden love, Julia. Like the paperweight, Julia and Winston’s love is rare and beautiful; however doomed to an inopportune fate in which there is no future. When the police invade their apartment above Mr. Charrington's shop, the paperweight is thrown on the ground and crushed to pieces symbolizing the end of Julia and Winston's relationship. Just like the shattered pieces of the paperweight one can infer that their relationship was also broken due to the watchful eye of Big Brother. The breaking of the paperweight not only symbolizes the end of their relationship but also the end of any connection Winston has with his past. From that point on he is unable to recall such thoughts and memories due to the treatment he had undergone in room 101. Although short lived, the moments before the paperweight was smashed the connection it held with freedom and love was sweet andsincere the smashing also symbolized an end to a past before big brother and his watchful eye. Which one can conclude is a clear portrayal of the abuse of extreme power and complete control within a totalitarian state by the oppression of the people.

The next significant and almost equally important symbol is the telescreen due to its recurrence in almost every part of the book. It is always present and turned on, recording and analysing never failing to watch except for that one corner in Winston's room in which another symbol is exemplified, Winston's diary. The telescreens signify that people in society were never free from Big Brothers watch and due to the fear evoked by thinking of what would happen if one were to disobey Big Brothers commands. It is for that reason that the telescreens were an effective method of maintaining totalitarian rule amongst the people. Big Brother was always present watching to make sure there wasn’t any sort of crime, thought, sex, or otherwise. The Victory gin and cigarettes also coincide with the telescreens to symbolize how much control the party has over the people of Oceania, and also the false sense of freedom Big Brother exhibits. The party new in terms of goods and services that people require alcohol and cigarettes as they are addictive substances. Knowing this they have eliminated every other form of these objects as to remove any and all opposition to the parties control. This meant that the party was still ultimately in control of the “freedoms” to drink and smoke.

Winston's diary symbolized how much Winston longed to be free in his life of government oppression. Winston felt as though he couldn't do anything with constant threat of big brother and the fear that nay last bit of freedom that he had left would be taken away from him. Writing down his thought gave him a sense of belonging and ignited a fire within him to search for the brotherhood and find out more about his fragmented past. Winston’s diary directly relates to Julia’s red sash which most can infer symbolizes chastity and the oppression the mature men and woman of Oceania faced when it came to basic human necessities. Julia allowed her comrades to believe she was strictly following the parties rules and regulations while she was actually just covering for her actions and hiding her duality.

In conclusion, the use of symbolism was a key factor in Orwell's effective portrayal of totalitarian regimes. Symbolism was able to enhance every reader's understanding of totalitarian conditions to a greater and more effective degree than its various other literary counterparts. Orwell utilized many different objects and the omnipresence of Big Brother signify the horrors of a fully totalitarian regime. The paperweight and diaries direct link with the past, the omnipresence of big brother through the telescreens, the bittersweet ounce of freedom derived from victory gin and the duality of Julia's sash are all coupled together to convey Orwell’s message of the dangers of totalitarian regimes.

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Theme, Setting and Symbolism in 1984: an Overview of Orwell’s Novel. (2023, May 02). WritingBros. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
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