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1984 Commentary

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George Orwell’s 1984, is a novel about the life of Winston Smith living in a totalitarianism state where Big Brother has control, power and dominates the lives of citizens. There are many significant paragraphs which stand out in the book however I extracted the passage on pages 127, 128 from “Folly, Folly, his heart…..” to “…the absence of a telescreen” because it has great literary insight and significant elements of symbolism behind it.(This is where Winston heard the prole women singing for the first time.)

The first line starts of with “Folly, Folly” which is a repetition of the word twice. The word folly basically means the trait of acting stupidly or rashly. This depicts the protagonist’s emotions towards his opponent which is the Big Brother. The word folly could be used as a repetition to convey Winston’s confusion on who to blame for their stupidity. Either his frustration for the Party for dominating, controlling and shutting various paths in his life. The repetition of the word could depict Winston feeling petrified for what yet he’s planning to commit. In the passage his heart kept saying, “conscious, gratuitous, suicidal folly” which all means that he is aware that his act is without cause and is exceptionally risky. His heart is repeating these words which convey that Winston’s heart belongs to the dominating party. Winston is already transformed into a sincere controlled member of the party in which his emotions are determined by the Party’s strict rules which dominate his life. This foreshadows what occurred at the end in which he had to surrender to the Party because his heart already belonged to the Party from the utmost beginning.

Next the vision floated, from guilt to the image of the ‘glass paperweight’. The paperweight symbolizes, Winston’s desire and obsession to reconnect with the past which made him rent a room above. His reoccurring vision of the paperweight in the book symbolizes his craving for him to be living in the past which is inside the paperweight glass where he could be free and gain a life with the most valuable, delicate and precious life. Inside the paperweight is a coral which represents the beauty and delicacy of life in the past. However, the glass surrounding the paperweight signifies the Party where it can easily overthrow the coral and take control over it and closes pathways for people to have a lifestyle and freedom just like the past.

The vision of the glass paperweight ‘mirrored’ which just means like, it is represented and reflected as a ‘gateleg table’ which is a drop-leaf table with leaves supported by extra legs that swing out like gates. This symbolizes as the Party being the legs the gateleg table which means that with the control of the Party, Winston has no right to stand on his on feet and his life is based on how far the Party let him stand up for himself. It also depicts that not until the ‘party’ falls (legs of the table fall), Winston won’t be able to reach the floor and able to determine his own path in life.

Another interesting phrase is ‘Privacy, he said, was a very valuable thing.’ This sentence gives in an insight of the theme of the passage which is oppression. The protagonist is unable to have privacy which is a very vital part in one’s life, where one develops, learns and discovers their talents and clarifications to which path in life they would like to pursue. As the Party’s aims are to have full control of the citizens of their state, they forbid privacy. Hence people aren’t able to recall how they are living and aren’t able to find new techniques and ways to disrupt the Party. Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper, before he fades away states that ‘they are two entries to the house, one of them through the backyard, which gave on an alley.’ This could symbolize that Winston’s pathway in life is still a choice, one which is simple, by just supporting the Party and using the front door of the house, while the other is like an obstacle through the backyard where he struggles and fights against the party but later gives on an ‘alley’ in which he desires for in life.

In the next paragraph, is the description of how Winston spotted the prole woman singing. The ‘window’ symbolizes a closure for freedom on the outside world. So basically, the women ‘sings’ to the outside world as a call for freedom. The motif sun, used twice in the sentence, ‘The June Sun was still high in the sky, and in sun-filled court’ represents how far light is at reach for the women and citizens of the country. The sun is a motif which represents light, brightness and hope which brings happiness, however it is out of reach therefore they still yet to live in the dark. The descriptions of the women, ‘a monstrous women, solid as a Normal pillar, with brawny red forearms’ is visual image of how women and people living in the state are unattractive as there isn’t time to polish themselves and are only dutiful and filling their responsibilities for the Party. The prole woman is also seen as a reproductive virility as she is ‘pegging out a series of square white things which Winston recognized as babies diapers’.

The diapers represent the prole women giving birth to the future generation. The prole women’s children are a symbol for hope as Winston hopes that there will be change in the future with hope that the proles will eventually come to realization and rebel against and overthrow the party. The lyrics of her song foreshadows the future as it says, ‘it was only a hopeless fancy, it passed like and ipril dye’ which could foreshadow that the people can keep having high hopes as Winston does but in the end it only passes by and there is still no change. But then the next two lines imply different meanings, ‘But a look an’ a word an’ the dreams they stirred, they ‘ave stolen my ‘eart awaye!’ This could represent that ‘look’ means ‘facecrime’ and a ‘word’ could mean words not in ‘Newspeak’ are able to create dreadful nightmares’. Hence nobody can be their true selves and have to remain immortal because the Party has, ‘stolen me ‘eart awaye!’.

In this passage, there is also alliteration such as ‘the woman singing and the scrape of her shoes on the flagstones’ gives a feeling of pity and disgust for the lifestyle prole women have to live with a lower standard living. George Orwell also used alliteration to convey the busy life and chaotic atmosphere where somewhere in a ‘far distance a faint roar of traffic’. The sound of the ‘f’ represents a harsh and busy city. However, George Orwell ended the passage very well as he said ‘the room seemed curiously silent, thanks to the absence of a telescreen’. This depicts that no matter how busy and chaotic the place is, people are still living normal lives without having the telescreen which is the Party monitoring and controlling and observations of the citizens. The proles are given their privacy without a telescreen. The telescreen symbolizes how the totalitarian government abuses technology for its own ends instead of exploiting its knowledge to improve civilization.

Overall, this passage mainly focuses on themes, objects and people which symbolize the protagonist desire for freedom and craving to overthrow the party. However, it is clear in every way that the Party has the power and force over citizens and freedom would be very difficult to achieve.

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