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1-Page Summary of 1984
1984 (also published as Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel) was originally published in 1949. It was written by Indian-born English novelist and critic Eric Arthur Blair under the pen name George Orwell. The author supported democratic socialism and opposed totalitarianism—political stances that come through in his most famous works, which include Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949).
In this novel, the main character is a man named Pip. He was born into poverty but eventually becomes rich and famous. However, he realizes that it’s better to be happy with what you have rather than want more things.
Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party. He lives in London, which has been divided into three countries: Oceania (ruled by an oppressive totalitarian party), Eurasia and Eastasia. The future looks bleak because there’s constant war between these countries. Winston dislikes the government but he can’t talk about it or act against it for fear of being killed. Although they’re at the bottom of society, Winston believes that if anyone can topple this government then it will be the proletariat class, who are described as filthy and subhuman.
Winston believes that O’Brien, a member of the Inner Party, shares his anti-Party sentiments. Winston is also worried that a dark-haired girl might be following him to report him for his anti-Party thoughts. However, it turns out that she’s interested in starting an affair with him because she feels attracted to him and thinks he’s cute. Despite the dangers of having an affair with someone who could be an agent for the Thought Police (an organization responsible for monitoring citizens), Winston and Julia regularly visit a rented apartment above a shop in the proletarian district. The shopkeeper seems accepting of their love affair and even offers them some privacy by allowing them to use the apartment whenever they want as long as they don’t steal anything from his store.
Winston and Julia are arrested by the Thought Police, who have been following Winston for years. They’re taken to O’Brien’s apartment where he tortures them until they confess their love of Big Brother and the Party. After that, Winston is released but is a broken man with no thoughts against the Party or its leader.
The novel ends with an appendix that explains the history and usage of Newspeak, which is the official language in Oceania. The appendix also discusses how it may not be used anymore in the future. However, this leaves readers unsure about whether or not they should have hope for a better tomorrow.
Part 1, Chapter 1
The protagonist, Winston Smith, arrives home at his dismal apartment. He walks up the stairs and rests on each floor to relieve a varicose ulcer he has on one of his legs. The building is dirty with wind that pushes gritty dust into it as well as the smell of boiled eggs and cabbage overpowers the hallway. There’s also a poster of Big Brother who watches everyone in society everywhere they go.
In the year 1984, Winston Smith lives in a flat where he can’t turn off his telescreen. He observes that police patrols are nothing compared to the Thought Police, who might be watching anyone at any time. Posters of Big Brother and another with the word “Ingsoc” dominate the landscape outside his window, and a police patrol helicopter drops among buildings to spy on occupants.
The Thought Police, Big Brother, Ingsoc and Newspeak are all aspects of the future. Winston lives in London which is now part of Oceania. The year is approximately 1984 but it’s not certain because there aren’t any formal laws. There are repercussions for disobeying Party rules and Winston has acquired a diary which he uses to write about his life under the Party’s rule. If you’re caught writing things like this or having them you’ll be punished with death by the Thought Police (a secret police branch).