A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 1984 presents an unblinking portrait of life lived under constant surveillance and stands as one of the great dystopian satires of the 20th century. Author George Orwell also wrote Animal Farm, a satirical allegory about the abuse of power.
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What's the story?
In a dystopian future where nuclear war has divided the world into three repressive superstates, middle-aged Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in the superstate of Oceania, in the city called Airstrip One (formerly London). He has no hope of escaping the watchful eye of Big Brother until he meets Julia, a younger woman who persuades him to sneak away with her and become her illicit lover. Even though he knows they will be caught, Smith cannot imagine what awaits him once he is captured and taken to the Ministry of Love for interrogation.
Is it any good?
Narrated with infinite precision, 1984 is one of the most famous dystopian satires in the English language. Its vocabulary -- "doublethink," "Big Brother," "down the Memory Hole," "Thought Police," "unperson" -- has become part of popular culture. Winston Smith's quest for freedom under the gaze of all-seeing, all-knowing Big Brother still resonates strongly today, when privacy is hard to come by and governments adopt intrusive policies, supposedly to keep their citizens safe.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how being constantly watched and listened to affects how people conduct their lives and what it does to their mental states.
1984 is an inversion of 1948, the year in which Orwell began writing the novel. What historic events were happening in the world at that time, and how might they have influenced the construction of 1984? Is the future Orwell imagines completely made up, or is it based on real-life situations?
Three slogans adorn the entrance to the Ministry of Truth: WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. How is it possible for anyone to believe such paradoxical statements?
Orwell includes "The Principles of Newspeak" as an appendix to the novel proper. Why do you think he wanted to include this information? Why is the control of language so important to the Party in the novel? Can you give examples of how authority figures today manipulate language to their own advantage?
1984 is considered a classic and is often required reading in high school. Why do you think that is?
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