Dear Orwell Today,

I am a year 9 student from New Zealand. I am sitting an exam in a few days on Nineteen Eighty-Four. I am a bit uncertain about how settings help the reader understand the theme(s). I can think of Winston's appartment linking to the theme of control as it holds telescreens that deliever propaganda; posters of Big Brother in the hallways.

I would really appreciate if you could help me explain how major settings in the novel link with the themes.


Greetings Peter,

The opening scene of the novel is set in Winston's apartment which links, as you say, to "control". More specifically, the telescreen and posters of Big Brother link to the themes of "surveillance", "thought police" and "Big Brother", as in the government (the Party) spying on its citizens as in "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!"

Another scene set at Winston's apartment is where he is helping his neighbour, Mrs Parsons, unplug the kitchen sink and her children are tormenting Winston. This links to the themes of loss of "love instinct and family" and "crimestop" wherein children are taught at school to spy and report on their neighbours and parents.

Another scene set at Winston's place of work, the "Ministry of Truth", links to the themes of "falsification of the past", "prolefeed", and "newspeak" because this is where books, magazines, newspapers, textbooks, television programs, etc are created and altered. Winston's job there, in the "Records Department", is to sit in front of the "speakwrite" machine (computer/internet) and alter old editions of The Times newspaper (then throw the evidence down the "memory hole") and make up stories and articles acording to orders that come down from "the anonymous directing brains who co-ordinate the whole effort".

Another scene is set at Victory Square (alias Trafalgar Square) where Winston and Julia secretly meet and have to speak without moving their lips in case they are seen committing "facecrime" or are overheard by the microphones that are hidden in the pillars, again linking to "surveillance" and "thoughtcrime" themes.

Another scene is set in the "Cellars" and "Room 101" in the "Ministry of Love" which links to the themes of "interrogation and torture" where O'Brien explains the "how" and "why" of the Party's obsession with power, as outlined in "the book" by Emmanuel Goldstein.

I hope those few examples will help you in your assignment. To come up with more of your own, I suggest you use the forty-five themes listed down the left side of the "Orwell Today" homepage. There you will find the settings already placed in their themes.

All the best on your exam,
Jackie Jura

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~
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