This is the dust jacket of the first edition of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, published by Secker & Warburg in 1949. In the novel, the Great Britain of the future – renamed Airstrip One – is depicted as a dystopia, a repressive totalitarian society whose citizens are constantly monitored. Published four years after the critical and commercial success of Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four was equally well received. It was Orwell’s last published novel before his death in 1950.
Surveillance and state control
Nineteen Eighty-Four presents a chilling description of a totalitarian state in which the government exerts complete control over its citizens. The inhabitants of Airstrip One are continually monitored by telescreens and microphones installed in all buildings, as well as by informants. This information is used by the government to control and suppress people. The terrifying Ministry of Love uses its knowledge of its citizens’ greatest fears to torture them more effectively.
State control affects every aspect of society, and even historical sources are manipulated to fit political purposes. Winston Smith, the novel’s protagonist, works correcting old newspapers so that they match the official version of the past endorsed by the government.
Orwellian terms in everyday language
Many of the words and expressions coined by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four have entered into the English language, bearing witness of the immense cultural impact of the novel. This includes the term ‘Big Brother’, the name of the totalitarian leader of the state of Oceania, but also expressions such as ‘Thought Police’, ‘Memory Hole’, ‘Newspeak’ and ‘Doublethink’, which are used regularly in discussions about the restriction of personal freedom and media manipulation.
- Full title:
- Nineteen Eighty-Four
- 1949, London
- Secker & Warburg
- George Orwell
- Usage terms
Front cover: © Reproduced by permission of The Random House Group Ltd. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
George Orwell: © With kind permission of the estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
- Held by
- British Library
- Wilson 301
- Article by:
- Katherine Mullin
- Capturing and creating the modern
The alienated modernist self is a product of the big city rather than the countryside or small town. Katherine Mullin describes how an interest in the sensibility associated with the city – often London, but for James Joyce, Dublin – developed from the mid-19th century to the modernist period.
- Article by:
- John Sutherland
- Power and conflict, Literature 1900–1950
George Orwell’s Animal Farm combines animal fable with political satire targeting Stalinist Russia. John Sutherland describes the novel’s genesis, its struggle to find a publisher, and its eventual success.
- Article by:
- Matthew Taunton
- Capturing and creating the modern, European influence, Power and conflict
Russian art, dance and music influenced many modernist writers in the first half of the 20th century, while the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 heightened both communist and anti-communist feeling in Britain. Matthew Taunton explores the influence of Russia on British modernism.
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Nineteen-Eighty-Four is a novel published by George Orwell in 1949. It was his last work, written shortly before his ...