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Syme in 1984

Lesson Transcript
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 '1984,' Syme is a language expert at the Ministry of Truth. Explore the importance of this complex character, specifically looking into his work toward changing consciousness with language. Updated: 11/30/2021


George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 is set in a frightening future in which people live under constant surveillance. A dystopia is a fictional world infused with suffering or paranoia, often due to cataclysmic future events. The main character of the book is Winston Smith. He lives in Airstrip One, which was once Great Britain, and now a part of the super-state Oceania. Oceania is ruled by the Inner Party, a secretive faction who work behind the scenes. The Inner Party control the masses around them through propaganda, withholding resources, and brute force. Big Brother is the symbol of the Party, a mustachioed gent who appears in their propaganda.

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  • 0:03 1984
  • 0:46 Who Is Syme?
  • 1:17 Language & Consciousness
  • 1:59 Syme's Importance
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Who Is Syme?

Syme is a language expert and colleague of Winston Smith. They work together at the Ministry of Truth where all of the propaganda is produced. We first meet Syme in Chapter 5 of Part 1 of the novel when Winston sees his comrade in the dining hall and they sit together and chat. Syme is outspoken and shows little discretion. Winston thinks the man is too clever for his own good. He thinks that people who are as intelligent as Syme never stay in the Party's good graces for long, so there's a chance Syme's life is in danger.

Language & Consciousness

Syme is one of the men working on the new edition of the Newspeak dictionary. Newspeak is the official language of Oceania, a language created by the Party through the revision of Oldspeak, or English. Syme never criticizes the Party or Big Brother. He even shows great interest in their public executions! In conversing with Winston, he mentions several Newspeak terms, such as 'doubleplusgood' and 'duckthink.' Syme tells Winston that the ultimate goal of Newspeak is to manipulate the language of the populace to such an extent that they change consciousness and eliminate even the possibility of 'thoughtcrime.' He tells Winston, 'The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect.'

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