Back To Course1984 Study Guide
9 chapters | 78 lessons
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George Orwell's hugely popular novel 1984 tells the story of one man attempting to fight an oppressive government in a futuristic dystopia. A dystopia is a fictional society in which the citizens are miserable due to some factor, whether it's a totalitarian government, human-killing androids, or zombies.
Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984, attempts to fight the super-oppressive and controlling Ingsoc Inner Party that controls the superstate Oceania, where Winston lives. The Inner Party is made up of a tiny group of men who run everything from behind the scenes. Their systematic oppression of the citizens of Oceania means people have no privacy and are constantly monitored by telescreens, which are televisions that can both be watched and can watch the viewer in return.
Citizens must be completely devoted to the Party, and they basically must worship the symbol of Ingsoc: Big Brother. Big Brother is a mustachioed man appearing on almost all propaganda in Oceania. He probably was made up by the Party. So is there any opposition at all to Ingsoc or to Big Brother?
Emmanuel Goldstein is the number one enemy of the state and a mysterious, enigmatic former Party member who went rogue at some point in the past. This is all very good and interesting, but here's the thing about Emmanuel Goldstein: he may or may not actually exist. He may, in fact, be a creation of the Party's propaganda machine, created in order to drum up support and affection for Big Brother. This means you never get a clear, fully-formed picture of the guy throughout the novel.
Although Goldstein was once a close ally of Big Brother, it's rumored that he split from his former comrade shortly after the Party took power and fled to go into hiding. There's also a rumor that, after the split, Goldstein formed a Brotherhood to oppose Big Brother. The Brotherhood supposedly fight for freedom from the oppressive government. Goldstein is portrayed as the enemy of Big Brother and, therefore, the enemy of all right-thinking Oceanians. According to Ingsoc propaganda, Goldstein is a wormy, slimy, good-for-nothing traitor. In artist renderings, which appear on telescreens across Oceania, he's ugly too. Not only this, but Goldstein is used as a scapegoat. Someone betrays Party secrets? Must be Goldstein's fault!
There's got to be a catch, though, right? It all seems too perfect. If you're thinking that, then you're absolutely correct in your suspicions. Goldstein is supposedly the head of an anti-Party, anti-Big Brother group that may or may not actually exist. He's supposedly written an anti-Ingsoc book that may or may not be churned out by the Party in order to catch traitors. He's supposedly this sinister, evil man, bent on throwing out Big Brother.
Goldstein is portrayed as Big Brother's complete opposite. He's the foremost enemy of the state, and is to be hated and derided by everyone in Oceania. Big Brother, on the other hand, is portrayed as a kindly, gentle, big brother type, who only wants to protect his citizens. That's the thinking behind scapegoating Goldstein: make the Oceanians hate and fear Goldstein so that they won't realize it is actually Big Brother who should be hated and feared. Smart move, guys.
The Two Minutes Hate really helps solidify everyone against Goldstein. The Two Minutes Hate starts promptly at 11:00 a.m. It's exactly what it sounds like: a period of two minutes in which a picture of Goldstein appears on the telescreens and every Oceanian must shout and scream and hate him vehemently, all while listening to Goldstein supposedly talk trash about Big Brother. And everyone really gets into it. They curse and throw things at the telescreen. The citizens of Oceania are channeling their anger at Goldstein rather than at the real source of oppression in their society: the Party and Big Brother, the people they are defending right at that very moment.
Goldstein is scapegoated in yet another way. He's said to lead an evil brotherhood constantly working to overthrow Big Brother. Winston Smith and his girlfriend Julia believe they've joined this Brotherhood when they meet at the house of O'Brien, an Inner Party member who inducts them into the Brotherhood. O'Brien asks them tons of questions and the interview basically culminates in Winston and Julia agreeing that they'll risk everything they have, including their lives, to overthrow Big Brother. They're also given, at a later time, a copy of the book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism which Goldstein is supposed to have written. This book is revolutionary and details the secrets behind the Party's policies and relating all the insidious ways by which the Party keeps the masses under its foot.
Ultimately, Winston is betrayed by O'Brien, who ends up torturing him at the end of the book in order to 're-educate' him into loving Big Brother. While Winston is tortured, O'Brien tells him that the Brotherhood may or may not exist, and by extension, the reader can intuit that Goldstein and his book may or may not be real. O'Brien then plays back every word Winston and Julia said when joining the Brotherhood.
George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984 portrays a world completely oppressed. Oceania, the superstate in which the protagonist lives, is ruled by the Inner Party, the tiny group of men who run everything, and Big Brother, a man who is probably a mere symbol created by the Party.
Emmanuel Goldstein is the number one enemy of the state and of Big Brother, who also may be a fabrication of the Party. After splitting from the Party early in its existence, Goldstein supposedly began an anti-Party group called The Brotherhood that fights the government's oppression. He's scapegoated for everything that goes wrong and everything that goes against Big Brother.
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Back To Course1984 Study Guide
9 chapters | 78 lessons
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