What is a basic summary of George Orwell's "1984?"?


Quick Answer

"1984" follows the life of Winston Smith, a low-ranking member of the ruling Party, in a dystopian London where a totalitarian government controls the lives of its citizens with an iron fist. It is Orwell’s most well-known political science fiction, written as an allegory of Soviet-style dictatorships.

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Full Answer

The novel is set in a dystopian Britain, a province of the superstate Oceania, which is perpetually locked in war with its neighbors. Headed by the omnipresent Big Brother, the government uses surveillance, public manipulation and brute violence to persecute individualism and independent thinking, so as to control a large, downtrodden population, the "proles."

Defying governmental bans on "thoughtcrime," party member Winston Smith dares to express his hatred for Big Brother in a diary, and begins his own trek towards political awakening. Along the way, he is disgusted by the spying, ultra-nationalistic tendencies of his fellow proles and sickened by the Two Minute Hate that epitomizes the rhetorical hatred which permeates society. Winston becomes ever more isolated and paranoid towards the oppressive society in which he exists. He meets and pursues a relationship with a woman named Julia, becoming sexually intimate despite the party's official negation of sex.

Eventually, Winston and Julia are caught by the party and "reformed" through physical and psychological torture, so thoroughly broken that they are no longer able to recognize their past relationships or contemplate their past rebellions.

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