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Ampleforth in 1984

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Instructor: Liz Breazeale

Liz Breazeale received a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Breazeale has experience as a graduate teaching associate at Bowling Green State University for a Craft of Fiction and Academic Writing courses.

In George Orwell's novel 1984, the character Ampleforth refuses to obey Big Brother and edit the word God out of a poem. Learn about Ampleforth, Ampleforth as poet, and Ampleforth's end. Updated: 11/30/2021

Who Is Ampleforth?

Ampleforth is a poet character in George Orwell's incredibly popular novel, 1984. He works at the Ministry of Truth, which is the government ministry that churns out all the propaganda and rewrites history and fine art. He's a colleague of the novel's protagonist, Winston Smith, in the Records Department. Ampleforth's job is to rewrite old, pre-Big Brother poems, in order to make them total propaganda.

He must remove all religious references and any positive references to things besides Big Brother; every poem, after Ampleforth has finished rewriting it, must solely glorify Big Brother and the government. He does his job well because he enjoys language.

Ampleforth is characterized as being smart but a bit of a dreamer. You can tell this job pains Ampleforth a bit because he struggles through his day, constantly scratching away. Winston shares an office with Ampleforth and often gets annoyed with how often Ampleforth sighs. Later, the reader learns that Ampleforth truly enjoys his work, adores the written word, and is a poet in his heart of hearts—not some Party stooge, as evidenced by his unfortunate end.

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  • 0:04 Who Is Ampleforth?
  • 1:18 Ampleforth the Poet
  • 2:46 Ampleforth's End
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Ampleforth the Poet

The beauty of a character like Ampleforth is that the reader can learn so much chilling information about the Party's views from his mere inclusion and existence in the novel. Maybe you're not a huge fan of poetry—it can be a bit confusing, after all—but just think about how scary Ampleforth's job is for a second. The government has a staff of people, poets, who rewrite old poetry, which is supposed to be a prime example of self-expression and true feeling...and what do they turn it into? Love poems to Big Brother. That's right—basically love poems to the symbol of a government that routinely imprisons and tortures its citizens and constantly watches them in their daily lives.

So what does Ampleforth's job mean, really? Well, he reads old poems every day and rewrites them, which does take a bit of poet finesse. He takes out any mention of God or religion, any public figure pre-Big Brother, and basically anything that has nothing to do with Big Brother or the Party. He then has to rewrite the poem, sometimes almost entirely. He might have to take out words or even whole lines or phrases.

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