In the novel 1984 by George Orwell, there are a number of symbols that occur throughout the novel. These symbols include Big Brother, the paperweight, the “place where there is no darkness,” and the telescreens. These various symbols help to create and symbolize the various types of repression that the characters faced in the novel. However, the symbol of the diary and the red-armed prole woman helps to create hope in the novel. This paper will discuss these symbols.
The most important symbol in the novel is Big Brother. The symbol is so important that the term “Big Brother” has entered the collective consciousness as a symbol of oppression from the government (Cohen). Big Brother seeks to infiltrate the very existence of the people who live in the world. It symbolizes the complete oppression of the people in this society. The term “Big Brother is watching you” (Orwell) indicates the total degradation of the people at the hands of the government.
Another important symbol is the paperweight. Winston attempts to stay connected to the past. In order to do this, he buys a paperweight as a symbol of the past. The paperweight reminds him of the days before Big Brother. As an antique, it symbolizes the past. However, when he is arrested by the Thought Police, it is broken. His ability to connect to the past is broken forever.
The use of the teleprompters by Big Brother is also a symbol of constant oppression. In this symbol, the constant infiltration of rhetoric by the government into the lives of the citizens reminds them that they cannot think for themselves. It is a source of oppression that the people cannot escape, even in their own homes.
Winston cannot escape from his own fatalism. His fatalism is best viewed as the “place where there is no darkness.” He believes that this represents a place of hope. However, it does not. Rather, this is actually a prison cell where the light is never turned off. In this way, the presence of light is used to torture the individual much in the way the constant presence of darkness could be used. However, when Winston hears the name, he mistakenly believes that it is something beautiful. He misinterprets it, just as he misinterprets his relationships with others in the novel. Big Brother served to isolate him completely (Bloom 67-68)
The red-armed prole woman actually represents a source of hope for Winston. He hears the woman as she sings and recognizes that all of the people have not been oppressed. Rather, he realizes that some of the people still enjoy happiness in their lives. Furthermore, he constantly fantasizes that she is giving birth. In this way, he believes that she may actually give birth to a future generation of free individuals. She represents the possibility that the future will be free (Spark Notes Editors).
Winston’s journal also represents the ability of Winston to recognize his right of freedom f thought. At a time when thought police monitored what people thought, Winston’s journal was his place to think freely. His journal offered him the chance to recognize that he still had the ability to think for himself. His ability to think independently had not been completely decimated by the intrusion of Big Brother (Spark Notes Editors).
In Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, a number of symbols represent the denigration of mankind at the hands of the oppressive government. However, some symbols, such as Winston’s journal, indicated that the ability to dream and to think still lived within the human spirit.
- Bloom, Harold, ed. George Orwell’s 1984. Infobase Publishing, 2009.
- Cohen, Margie. “Big Brother is Watching You.” 1 February 2014. 22 November 2015. http://www.globalresearch.ca/big-brother-is-watching-you-beyond-orwells-worst-nightmare/5367023
- Orwell, George. 1984. 1949. Kindle edition.
- SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on 1984.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.