Here's a letter from a reader:
I recently finished reading 1984 which I found an excellent book. The novel makes me ask several questions. One of which I was hoping you could help me on is why does Orwell write the novel with such a distinct setting. Why does he leave it so bare, even though four decades have passed since the war? What signifigance does the setting have and what role does it play in the novel?
I would love to hear your professional insight on these questions, please get back to me ASAP
Thank you, a fellow 1984 fan, Stuart Bell
Orwell Today answered:
Winston says, "Nothing is efficient in Oceania except the Thought Police".
In describing his living conditions he describes the inefficient plumbing etc etc in Victory Mansions and how impossible it is to get anyone to fix anything. He also describes how horrible the food is - implying it's genetically engineered when he describes its "strange evil tastes". He also talks about the shortages of essential items like razor blades etc etc. And of course there's the observation you make which is that even the rubble from the damage done by the atomic bomb that fell on Colchester forty years ago is still there for everyone to see, as well as the rubble caused by the bombs that continually fall on London - which are blamed on either EASTasia or EURasia - depending who the enemy of the moment is - but which Julia thinks are dropped by the Party itself to keep everyone in a state of fear and terror.
Orwell explains that these conditions are prevalent for two reasons - to keep the people psychologically and physically oppressed . It also keeps the hierarchy intact when you have distinct classes of people - ie members of the Inner Party live better than the Outer Party who live better than the Proletariat who live better than the Slaves in the Disputed Territories.
Orwell tells us that for the hierarchy to survive the people have to work but not benefit from their work. Therefore, the main industry is WAR. That keeps the people busy building weapons which get used up by wars inside each Superstate and against the Disputed Terrirotires.
I hope this helps and thanks for your comments and questions. It's great to communicate with fellow '1984' fans.