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Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell-Free Book Notes
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This is Orwell's chance to talk ideology with us. Let's study the major points.

Chapter 1 - IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

The opening section divides the world into three orders of people: High, Middle and Low. They've always been divided; they've always had opposing and irreconcilable aims. The names have changed over the centuries but "the essential structure of society has never altered."

Orwell is going to have Winston skip to another chapter and then return to this one. He spells out the class divisions here so that he can go on to Goldstein's discussion of the High order (in Oceania, called the Inner Party), or hierarchy, with this eternal division established. In 1984, O'Brien, the privileged, sophisticated inner Party member, represents this High order. The Middle order includes Winston and Julia and the various bit players (minor characters) like Syme, Parsons, and Winston's other colleagues at work. This group takes orders from the High order and has to scrape along without the High order's luxuries or authority; yet it's still better off (according to Goldstein) than the Low order. Naturally the Low order in 1984 is made up of our friends the proles.

Orwell is clearly exaggerating to make his point, but you may want to remember that Orwell was the poor boy in a rich man's school, which must have formed his ideas on the High order. In his "down and out" days he went among the lower class as a kind of sightseer. He was not one of them; he only wrote about them. This may account for his portrayal of the proles as more or less mindless masses ill-equipped to rebel.


As Orwell lets Winston skip to Goldstein's Chapter 3, remember:

1. The book is drawn from many real-life sources, including the ones named at the head of this section in your guide.

2. Orwell is drawing both on his knowledge of

Communism in Stalin's Russia, and his memories of Hitler's Germany.

3. As he was writing, in the years after World War II, the

U.S. and Great Britain were already allied. The Soviet Union was beginning to consolidate its power in Eastern European countries. The phrase "Cold War" had entered the language. British leader Winston Churchill had described the division between Eastern and Western European countries as the "Iron Curtain."

4. Orwell is using Goldstein's analysis to underscore his warning against allowing any government to gain too much power.

Since Goldstein repeats himself, it's useful to look at his argument point by point, as Orwell spells it out.

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Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell-Free Book Notes
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