Jamestown Databases: You are automatically logged into the following databases from school. If you are elsewhere you will need to use the login information provided.
Williamsburg Regional Library Databases: WJCC students can access these using wjcc+student number. The first two listed are under the Books, Reading and Literature section. However, it is highly recommended that you choose “See All Databases” as there are several others listed below that are helpful.
Additional Resources: JSTOR and Google Books: JSTOR is a subscription library of digital articles that virtually every college and university uses. You can sign up to get up to three articles but it can also be useful to locate scholarly books.
For example: Searching JSTOR using search terms “great gatsby” and “racism” gives one result of a brief book review but not the text itself. However, you can search for that book in Google Books. Google Books previews gives you about 85% of a book and you can search within them.
George Orwell’s 1984 has been defined as the “definitive” dystopian novel. Dystopia is defined as “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, extreme oppression, disease, and overcrowding”, the opposite of utopia. Do you agree with this assertion and if so why? If not, what would you argue is the main theme of the novel?
When Winston reads from Goldberg’s book it supposedly tells him how the current society originated. What do you find interesting about the history that Orwell describes? How does this history compare to our own culture?
Aside from Goldberg’s book, do you think there are other factors that influenced the creation of this society? Do you think the leaders in Orwell’s society truly believed in these concepts, or wanted to use them only to dupe the lower classes into a reversal of classic logic?
In what context do you think Orwell intended this novel? As a premonition? As a warning? As pure fantasy? As entertainment?
Do you think Orwell’s society could occur in the present? Or in the future?
There are many mechanisms in place in the electronic age today that people view or might view as invasive. Orwell’s society clearly had no compunctions about invading every aspect of their workers’ lives. Do you think there are comparisons with today’s society? If so, do you find his novel eerily accurate? If not, why?
How does the telescreen operate in this novel? Can comparisons be made with any mechanisms in our modern society?
What is 1984’s view on love and sex? Do you think those strictures could occur in a future society? Why? It is interesting that at the end of the novel, despite these strictures, Winston is described as “loving” Big Brother.
Do you find Orwell’s graphic descriptions of torture and interrogation extraneous or gratuitous? Or do they add to the picture Orwell depicts?
Who is Big Brother and what is his role? Do you think that role compares to any in today’s political age? Why?
- Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
- Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
- Dick, Philip K. Minority Report (1956)
- Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother (2014)
- Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World (1932)
- Kafka, Franz. The Trial (1925)
- Twelve Hawks, John. The Traveler (2005)
Orwell was a British journalist and author, who wrote two of the most famous novels of the 20th century ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.
Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on 25 June 1903 in eastern India, the son of a British colonial civil servant. He was educated in England and, after he left Eton, joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, then a British colony. He resigned in 1927 and decided to become a writer. In 1928, he moved to Paris where lack of success as a writer forced him into a series of menial jobs. He described his experiences in his first book, ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, published in 1933. He took the name George Orwell, shortly before its publication. This was followed by his first novel, ‘Burmese Days’, in 1934.
An anarchist in the late 1920s, by the 1930s he had begun to consider himself a socialist. In 1936, he was commissioned to write an account of poverty among unemployed miners in northern England, which resulted in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ (1937). Late in 1936, Orwell travelled to Spain to fight for the Republicans against Franco’s Nationalists. He was forced to flee in fear of his life from Soviet-backed communists who were suppressing revolutionary socialist dissenters. The experience turned him into a lifelong anti-Stalinist.
Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary editor of the Tribune, a weekly left-wing magazine. By now he was a prolific journalist, writing articles, reviews and books.
In 1945, Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ was published. A political fable set in a farmyard but based on Stalin’s betrayal of the Russian Revolution, it made Orwell’s name and ensured he was financially comfortable for the first time in his life. ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ was published four years later. Set in an imaginary totalitarian future, the book made a deep impression, with its title and many phrases – such as ‘Big Brother is watching you’, ‘newspeak’ and ‘doublethink’ – entering popular use. By now Orwell’s health was deteriorating and he died of tuberculosis on 21 January 1950.