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Oceania in 1984

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
In this lesson, we will explore Oceania, the setting of George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984. We will learn how the social structure within Oceania dictates the lives of the characters and its relationship to similar lands.

Three Worlds

In George Orwell's 1984, the previous boundaries of states and countries have been destroyed. Instead, three massive states seem to compete in a constantly-changing set of battles that are in reality, a stalemate. The simple fact is that we're not sure if the states of Eastasia and Eurasia actually exist, nor if that chunk of land in between is actually fought over. We don't even really know if there is an Oceania beyond Great Britain. However, this is the world as it is perceived by the Outer Party in 1984.

Cover of 1984
Cover of 1984

Where is Oceania?

According to the official teachings of Oceania, the state came into being after the last round of nuclear wars. Comprised of the Western Hemisphere combined with the British holdings in Australia and Southern Africa, it is the largest of the three states. It is also the most geographically wide-ranging. At one point, Winston Smith, the protagonist who works at the Ministry of Truth, acknowledges that these were once countries known as England and the United States, among others. Specifically, he points out that Great Britain is now Airstrip One. However, he does state that London must have always been London. Therefore, London itself seems to pass through the ages and remains a symbol of a connection to the past.

What is Oceania like?

The London of today would be utterly unrecognizable to anyone from Oceania. In the years before the war, the British Commonwealth and the United States seem to have absorbed one another, with each taking over the smaller states within its realm of influence. However, somewhere in the shuffle the ideas of freedom and democracy were lost. Instead, they have been replaced with the idea of Ingsoc, an English Socialism that serves only those who live at the highest point of the social pyramid. In short, Ingsoc exists for one purpose - to continue to allow the Inner Party to hold power. In order to do this, the society maintains constant wars with the other two superpowers, Eastasia and Eurasia, so that no one will challenge the party's right to rule. However, the wars are always changing, but no one could clearly define the changes: But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one (Book 1, Chapter 3).

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