Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel by English writer George Orwell published in June 1949, whose themes centre on the risks of government overreach, totalitarianism and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviours within society. The novel is set in an imagined future, the year 1984, when much of the world has fallen victim to perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, historical negationism and propaganda.
In the novel, Great Britain ("Airstrip One") has become a province of a superstate named Oceania, which is ruled by the Party, who employ the Thought Police to persecute individuality and independent thinking. The Party's leader is Big Brother, who enjoys an intense cult of personality, even though he may not even exist. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a rank-and-file Party member. Smith is an outwardly diligent and skillful worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother. Smith rebels by entering a forbidden relationship with coworker Julia.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic literary novel in the genres of political fiction and dystopian science fiction. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered into common usage since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four also popularised the adjective Orwellian, which connotes things such as official deception, secret surveillance, brazenly misleading terminology, and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state, as described by the author. In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels, reaching #13 on the editors' list and #6 on the readers' list. In 2003, the novel was listed at #8 on The Big Read survey done by the BBC.
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date of publication: 1949
genre: dystopian novel, social science fiction, political novel, science fiction novel
main subject: surveillance state, human rights, freedom of thought, totalitarianism
narrative location: London
characters: Winston Smith, Julia, Big Brother, O'Brien, Emmanuel Goldstein
follows: Animal Farm