1984 Essay Topics Vce

  • 1

    Compare and contrast Julia and Winston. How does each rebel against the Party, and are these rebellions at all effective?

  • 2

    Trace Winston's path towards destruction. Where do we first see his fatalistic outlook? Is his defeat inevitable?

  • 3

    Discuss the role of technology in Oceania. In what areas is technology highly advanced, and in what areas has its progress stalled? Why?

  • 4

    Discuss the role of Big Brother in Oceania and in Winston's life. What role does Big Brother play in each?

  • 5

    Discuss contradiction in Oceania and the Party's governance, i.e. Ministry of Love, Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Plenty, Ministry of Peace. Why is such contradiction accepted so widely?

  • 6

    Discuss and analyze the role O'Brien plays in Winston's life. Why is he such a revered and respected character, even during Winston's time in the Ministry of Love?

  • 7

    Discuss the symbolic importance of the prole woman singing in the yard behind Mr. Charrington's apartment. What does she represent for Winston, and what does she represent for Julia?

  • 8

    1984 is a presentation of Orwell's definition of dystopia and was meant as a warning to those of the modern era. What specifically is Orwell warning us against, and how does he achieve this?

  • 9

    Analyze the interactions between Winston and the old man in the pub, Syme, and Mr. Charrington. How do Winston's interactions with these individuals guide him towards his ultimate arrest?

  • 10

    Analyze the Party's level of power over its citizens, specifically through the lens of psychological manipulation. Name the tools the Party uses to maintain this control and discuss their effectiveness.

  • 11

    Outline the social hierarchy of Oceania. How does this hierarchy support the Party and its goals?

  • To what extent is Winston a man from the past – a loser and a loner.?

    • Winston smith is a loner and a loser.
    • Julia is a rebel. Discuss

    Winston is a loner because he lives in his own world and does not fit into the party’s world. He is described as the “the last man standing”. He refuses to conform to the Party’s rules and regulations because he wants to think for himself; he wants to record his personal history and also events of the past – standards etc. Winston wants to “squeeze out some childhood memory that would tell him whether London had always been quite like this” (5). Even though the proles can think for themselves he does not company with them. They do not share his rebellion. This is because they are not aware of their oppression.

    Winston is also a loner because he wants to choose his relationships and he searches for personal happiness. In contrast, the party chooses partnerships and requires that party members have children for the sake of the party. He develops a relationship with Julia which is against the rules. The party seeks to “remove all pleasure from the sexual act” because it is outside their control. They find very lonely spots where they can communicate and have sex such as the bush and Charrington’s room. However, even with Julia there are times when he is still lonely because she is only interested in fighting the party as a game. She is not interested in holding onto the past.
    She just wants to “break the rules”.

    Winston is not a loser because he fights for an important cause. He fights to protect people’s freedom. It is a heroic battle. He fights extremely hard. He knows the stakes are high. He knows that writing in his diary is likely to lead to death or at least 25 years imprisonment. He knows that to mark the paper is a “decisive act”. He knows the party will destroy him; it is just a matter of time. He knows that he will share the same fate as the three traitors who were betrayed by the party.

    From the party’s perspective, Winston is a loser because they defeat him in the end. …. Leading to Room 101. The party uses power for their own ends and will always get to you. They are not interested in the individual. Winston betrays Julia and himself. He “wins .. the victory”. He gives up his individuality. He accepts that 2+2 = 5. He believes that the photo of the traitors never existed.

    THE THEME IN POWER: Those in power will always use power for their own ends.

    Orwell is cynical about power because Big Brother is only interested in maintaining power and not improving the life of its citizens. The purpose of the party is to enjoy power. “The party seeks power entirely for its own sake”. Power is an “end in itself”. The party is not interested in improving the life of its citizens in anyway. Orwell paints a frightening picture of power because the party is determined to be as ruthless as possible. O’Brien Cynically states, “if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever” according to O’Brien the individual must submit to power of the party. The party wants power “over the body but above all, over the mind”.

    “We are the priests of power”. The party wants to ensure that the only power is that of the collective. The individual has no power. He must give up his identity and merge himself with the party, so that he “is the party”. Accordingly, the party makes everyone dependent upon the state. It rules through fear. It ensures that there are no “erroneous” or individual thoughts.

    The party uses every means it can to ruthlessly and cleverly control people’s hearts and minds. The reason is because it wants people to be completely dependent upon big brother.. The party wants to ensure “utter submission”. The individual must escape from his own identity and “merge himself” with the party. This will ensure that the party has completely control “over the body” and also “over the mind”. The party uses a variety of tactics to control its citizens.

    Room 101 symbolises the brutality of the party and the very worst use of power as an end in itself. The party uses a person’s very worst fear to make them accept party rules. The fact that Winston is destroyed means that as readers, we lose hope in an individual’s chances of fighting against Big Brother. In Room 101, Winston scores a victory over himself in the name of Big Brother. He is defeated by his own worst fears, which proves that the party can use people’s fear to destroy them. Winston fears the rats. He betrays Julia thus betraying his own humanity. “He had won the victory over himself. He loved big brother.” During the process he comes to “accept”. Again, this is very depressing because he refused O’Brien’s attempts to tell him what to think. Winston comes to believe that the photos of the traitors at the New York function never existed. He eventually believes that 2+2=5. This means that the party can tell you anything and you will believe it. This is a dangerous situation, but after so much fear Winston now gives in.

    Winston’s goal is to “stay human”. Does he succeed?

    In George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother is determined to suppress an individual’s happiness and freedom. This is critical to the party’s desire to wield absolute power. Winston refuses to submit. He values his individual freedom and clings to what he believes is important to his humanity. He wants to think for himself and chose who he loves. He becomes a target of Big Brother who uses a variety of tactics to complete stamp out any sign of individuality. Whilst Winston puts up a good fight his spirit is destroyed.

    Winston’s object is not to stay alive but to stay human. To what extent does he succeed?

    Being “human” for Winston is to think independently without the Party’s control. It is to cling to his thoughts and memories and to know that the party cannot control external reality. It is to know what is truth and lies without having to resort to double think.
    Winston resists the party’s control because he knows that the party wants to completely destroy his capacity to think for himself. He knows that this very threatening to his own rights. Big Brother knows that “who controls the past controls the future”. This is because if people do not have any standards of comparison then they do not know just how much they are being oppressed. They do not know if their life is getting better or worse. Such a situation encourages blind obedience and acceptance. To Winston, such obedience is about just staying alive. This is not good enough; he wants to think. This is why the fate of the three traitors is important to him. Chestnut tree… right up until the end he still subconsciously puts up a good fight and attempts, with all his strength, to cling to his independence.

    Winston’s relationship with Julia is also part of being “human” because he wants to fall in love and have sex with a person of his choice. The party despises personal feelings or instincts that are outside its control. Instead, it uses Hate Week to channel people’s feelings. As Winston says, this is a form of “sex gone sour”. His relationship with Julia is a threat to the party. The sex instinct creates a world “of its own”. Choosing each other, and staying human, also goes against the party’s rules about procreation, relationships and trust.

    In the end, Winston does not succeed despite a tremendous struggle. He is defeated in the infamous Room 101. There he scores a victory over himself in the name of Big Brother. He is confronted with his very own worst fears. These are the rats. He betrays Julia thus betraying his own humanity. “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” During the process he comes to “accept”. This is to believe that the photos of the traitors at the New York function never existed. It is to believe that 2+2=5. This means that the party can tell you anything and you will believe it. This is a dangerous situation, but after so much fear Winston now gives in.

    ‘Nineteen Eighty – Four is a disturbingly cynical novel: Orwell has lost all faith in humankind.’ Do you agree?

    1st Par).
    Orwell is cynical about power because Big Brother is only interested in maintaining power and not improving the life of its citizens. The purpose of the party is to enjoy power. “The party seeks power entirely for its own sake”. It is not interested in improving the life of its citizens in anyway. Orwell paints a frightening picture of power because the party is determined to be as ruthless as possible. O’Brien Cynically states, “if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever” according to O’Brien the individual must submit to power of the party. The party wants power “over the body but above all, over the mind”

    2nd Par).
    1984 is disturbing because the party ruthlessly and cleverly uses a variety of tactics to control people’s hearts and minds. Big Brother’s world is based on fear and it is impossible for people to escape the telescreens. Winston knows that he can only hope to dim – never shut off the telescreens. The set maybe turned down, but is never shut off completely. There was ‘no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.’ This creates a sense of fear in people. People know that the Thought Police are constantly watching your every movement and even families are spying on each other.

    Again, the world of Big Brother is disturbing because, as Orwell shows, the Party can control people’s thoughts through language and control of the past and it becomes impossible for people to maintain their individual thoughts. It is impossible to have “erroneous thoughts” or be unorthodox.

    4rd Par).
    Winston’s defeat in the infamous Room 101 is depressing because he put up such a heroic fight and was so determined that he would not give into the party. The fact that he is destroyed means that as readers, we lose hope in an individual’s chances of fighting against Big Brother. In Room 101, Winston scores a victory over himself in the name of Big Brother. He is defeated by his own worst fears, which proves that the party can use people’s fear to destroy them. Winston fears the rats. He betrays Julia thus betraying his own humanity. “He had won the victory over himself. He loved big brother.” During the process he comes to “accept”. Again, this is very depressing because he refused O’Brien’s attempts to tell him what to think. Winston comes to believe that the photos of the traitors at the New York function never existed. He eventually believes that 2+2=5. This means that the party can tell you anything and you will believe it. This is a dangerous situation, but

    Big Brother is a constant threat to everyone.

    Big Brother is a threat because it seeks to control the way people think. The party discourages independent thought, which, as Orwell shows is a very dangerous situation. Newspeak is the official language of Oceania. It deletes a lot of words from the dictionary. The remaining words are rigidly defined. By reducing language, Orwell shows that this then narrows people’s range of thought. This means that they will not be able to think certain concepts like freedom and independence. It is called “cutting language down to the bone” eg. Syme p 54 As Syme states sarcastically, “it’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” It eliminates “thoughtcrime” which is the ability to “know the truth” but believe in lies. AS Orwell states, the party knows that it is better that people do not have the ability to think two opposing thoughts.

    Furthermore, Big Brother is also a constant threat to the citizens of Oceania because it seeks to control the past. One of the party’s famous slogans is “who controls the past controls the future”. As Orwell demonstrates, the party realises that people will not challenge them if they know that the party is always right. For this reason, the party constantly changes historical records to prove that “whatever was true now was true for everlasting”. Winston is also part of this process because he works in the Ministry of Truth which is responsible for changing all the documents. Winston is so horrified that he is determined to keep a diary. He wants to record his thoughts about the present. He knows that it is important for people to be able to make comparisons in the future. For this reason, the telescreen constantly watches him. He knows that he is committing a dangerous act by writing in his diary. It is a direct threat to the party.

    Big Brother is a constant threat to people because it controls people’s emotions, loyalties, trust and relationships.

    The Party despises any individual or personal feelings or instincts that are outside its control. The Party wants to control people’s feelings. People’s anger and rage towards Goldstein transforms into love and adulation for Big Brother. Peoples’ emotions are controlled through the hate sessions. The Two Minutes Hate is a form of brainwashing. People gather in front of a telescreen for two minutes. People are encouraged to show their love towards the Party by demonstrating disgust for Goldstein, the Enemy of the People. People are taught to hate the enemy, like Goldstein or Asia. This gives an emotional outlet, which often reaches the frenzied heights of hatred. 16 – 18 Hate Week is also “sex gone sour”. Love, feelings, sexual instincts are channelled into war fevour and leader worship. p 139 Often the hate sessions make people very excitable. They reach a “hideous ecstasy of fear” . People end up loving Big Brother totally. BB is transformed into an “invincible, fearless protector”.

    People are reduced to robots like Katharine. She shows horror of personal attachment that is not geared towards child-rearing. She appears frigid (138) The Party believes that love should only be shown towards Big Brother and therefore does not support love or sexual relationships. It does not support people development relationships with each other, such as Julia and Winston. They want to control relationships and they want to control family ties. (Chapter VI) However, she and Winston cannot have children and they separate. Separation is allowed by not divorce. He has not seen her for about 9 years. As a “human sound track”, she despises sex and is completely brainwashed by the party. She has a “stupid, vulgar, empty mind” and swallows all the party’s slogans. The Parsons’ children are typical of those who are completely brainwashed. As Hitler’s Youth army, they become spies for the party.

    Party is a definite threat because it seeks to “cure” people of any thoughts or emotions that exist outside its control. O’Brien explains to Winston that it does not want to shoot traitors as the Russians did during the purges. It must ensure that heretics genuinely love the party, “heart and soul” (267). The Party wants to ensure that the heretic is “one of ourselves”. It wants to reshape and remodel the individual in the party’s image. This ensures that the dead victim does not become a martyr to an opponent’s cause. Big Brother ensures that all confessions are “true”. To this end, the Party courageously realises that it is using power for power’s sake. The object of power is “power”.

    To this end, the party uses several fear tactics. It humiliates and degrades the victim. In addition, it uses the person’s worst nightmare. He is completely converted in Room 101 through his fear of the rats. Significantly, he betrays Julia, which shows his acceptance of his defeat. He is now free to love Big Brother.

    Learning, understanding and accepting
    • In Room 101, O’Brien tortures Winston. He uses methods of fear etc. to suffocate his free thoughts and free emotions. p 296. “The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”
    • Winston hates rats more than anything. In Room 101, Winston goes insane. He becomes a “screaming animal”. There is only one thing that will save him. He must put a person between himself and the rats. That person has to be Julia. This form of torture works and Winston betrays Julia.
    • He screams frantically, “Do it to Julia. I can’t care what you dot to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia. Not me!” 300
    • Winston’s rebellion is over. He becomes emotionally and physically dead.
    • He is now free to love Big Brother. When he sees Julia after his release he does not feel any emotion. Both tell each other that he betrayed each other.

    Orwell’s comment on power for power’s sake

    “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever.” (280) The case of Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford foreshadows Winston’s downfall. Eleven years ago they were party members and a photograph shows them attending a party function. However, Winston must now admit that the photograph does not exist and that they were traitors. O’Brien states that they were humiliated during their “conversion” process; before they were shot, they confessed their love of big brother. They were “shells”; there was nothing left by sorrow and love of Big Brother. (268). The same happens to Winston.

    Nineteen Eighty – Four is the gripping and tragic story of a man caught between two worlds

    Winston is a man from “the past”, living in the world of Big Brother, which is a dictatorship. Its attitude towards power is that “it is an end”. It is not interested in improving the lives of its citizens; rather it simply wants to use power for its own sake. Accordingly, the party rules by absolute fear and uses a range of tactics to ensure complete control of an individual’s thoughts and feelings. There are posters everywhere that state: “Big Brother is watching you”. Winston knows from the beginning that “you might dodge successfully for a while even for years but sooner or later they were bound to get you.” All the attacks happen swiftly at night. The party also uses telescreens to watch people. The telescreens are monitored by the thought police, who are searching for a sign of unorthodoxy or independent thought. There was ‘no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.’ This creates a sense of fear in people. Also Winston knows that the thought police can plug into people’s every movement. “It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time”

    In Big Brother’s world, the party seeks to control people’s thought processes so that they cannot think freely. The party seeks to control both language and the past. In the Ministry of truth Winston rewrites historical records and documents to make sure that the party is always right. The process of “continuous alteration” of the past is applied to any document that has political or ideological significance. The party is also cutting “language to the bone” to control people’s thoughts. People express their thoughts in language. If they do not have the concept then it is difficult to have “erroneous” thoughts.

    In such a world, Big Brother also controls people’s emotions and relationships. People’s emotions are controlled through the hate sessions. As Orwell states, hate week is also “sex gone sour.” This means that feelings of love and sexual instincts are channelled into leader worship. People’s anger and rage towards Goldstein transforms into love and adulation for big brother. Often the hate sessions make people very excitable. They reach a “hideous ecstasy of fear”. During the hate sessions, the figure of big brother merges with an enemy soldier, who is larger and threatening. It makes people thankful for big brother who looks after them they have confidence in big brother who protects them from these terrible enemies.

    Winston refuses to let go of the past and constantly clings to a world before the Party controlled the individual’s thoughts. He writes in his diary because he wants to remember past events. He uses a pen which is an old instrument. He likes the paperweights in Charrington’s room because they remind him of books. He knows that the past is important because it gives him a standard of comparison. He can reflect upon what was better or worse in his lifetime. He also becomes obsessed with the Proles because they, too, live in the past and in a world where the party does not search for total control.

    Winston’s world is a world of personal happiness and wellbeing based on choice and opportunity. It is a world where people are free to choose their relationships based on trust and their own personal sense of wellbeing. They can have sex, not just as a means of producing children for the party but because of love for another person. Of course, this is not allowed in the Party’s world because the sex instinct would have a “life of its own”. Winston and Julia seek to develop their relationship in a place beyond the party’s control. They try to escape the telescreens; they go to the countryside and then try to escape in the past in Charrington’s room.

    The party controls people through constant war. There is no purpose for war it is not a war about ideas. It is also not about resources. The three larger continents have sufficient raw materials. War is about “continuous shortage of consumption goods”. It is about using up the surplus of goods. It is to use up the “products of the machine” without raising the general standard of living. If people are hungry and deprived they are more dependent upon Big Brother. The party fabricates an enemy, such as Goldstein, in order to control people’s emotions. The arty uses Goldstein as the enemy and scapegoat. He is presented as the person who is responsible for the party’s woes. Goldstein is the “primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the party’s purity”. He organises all the attacks on the party. Many spies and traitors action on his behalf were eventually “unmasked by the thought Police. Goldstein is in charge of the brotherhood, the opposition. Nobody knows whether it really existed.

    It is not W’s torture or confession which are depressing; it is his conversion. Discuss.

    Why is conversion important to the party?

    Winston’s conversion is depressing because he gives in totally to the Party. Through his conversion O’Brien shows that the Party will always win. O’Brien explains to Winston that conversion is important because the Party does not tolerate any thoughts or emotions that exist outside its control. O’Brien explains to Winston that it does not want to shoot traitors as the Russians did during the purges. It must ensure that heretics genuinely love the party, “heart and soul” (267). The Party wants to ensure that the heretic is “one of ourselves”. It wants to reshape and remodel the individual in the party’s image. They insist that the victim’s confession is “true”, which prevents people turning into martyrs and heroes of an opposing cause.

    Why is this depressing?

    Winston’s conversion is also depressing because Orwell encourages readers to have hope in Winston. Orwell portrays a character who has a lot of courage and although it seems impossible, we dare to hope that he might defeat Big Brother. Also, Winston is aware of how the party is destroying his individual freedoms. Winston detests the party’s system. He is determined in his attempt to resist and defy the Party. (Comment on the past) He seems determined to cling to his personal memories and to insist on external reality. Winston knows that “who controls the past controls the future”. Winston wants to maintain a record of the past, because he knows that this is the only way that members of the party will be aware of how Big Brother is destroying their freedom. The party wants to keep changing the past and alters historical documents so it can prove that the Party is always right. Winston realises that if people do not remember what the past was like, then there can be no standards of comparison. People are not aware of their oppression. In addition, Winston withstands a great deal of torture. Winston knows exactly how the party is trying to oppress individuals and he seeks to resist. (LINK) He puts up a courageous fight against the Party. The fact that he gives up his fight is very disappointing to readers.

    Why is it depressing: Significance of Room 101

    Sadly and after so much resistance, Winston gives up the fight in Room 101. The Party uses Room 101 and the “fear of the worst thing in the world” as the ultimate weapon in the conversion process. When Winston gives up the fight, the party proves that Room 101 will always work. There is nothing a person can do to rebel against the Party’s theory and system of power will always triumph. Winston betrays Julia who was a beacon of light and a symbol of his resistance. She gave him hope to love and trust another human being outside of the party’s control. He fears the rats, the “worst thing in the world” and states, “Do it to Julia. I can’t care what you do to her.” Orwell shows through this conversion that the Party’s use of power for power for power’s sake is successful. The Party courageously recognises that the object of power is “power” and this helps to defeat all its enemies.

    The end result:
    Orwell depicts a very cynical picture of power because Winston eventually comes to love and accept the Party. His acceptance is genuine. He becomes a shell of a person. He is “emotionally” dead. He becomes completely submerged in the Party. “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

    Return to 1984: Summary notes

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