Symbols in 1984 – George Orwell 1984 Symbol Overview

1984 Symbols – Introduction

This novel takes place in a futuristic and fictionalized version of London. The exact time in the future is technically unspecified, but the title leads one to believe it takes place in the year 1984, showing that the possibility for a technology-led totalitarian takeover was not unfathomable at the time the novel was published (1949). Even the novel’s main character, Winston, does not know the exact year. The new nation is named Oceania and is one of three major powers in the world.

The novel has several motifs that speak to the overall symbolism. For example, the idea of “doublethink,” which is the ability to think about two contradictory ideas at the same time, and happens as a result of The Party often offering their citizens directly contradictory information and demanding that they believe both, or rapidly change their beliefs from one thing to another without questioning why. Another motif worthy of note is the urban decay of Oceania. Winston notices that the poorer districts where the proles live are the least supervised and thus the most likely to be the catalysts for revolution. There is the potential for the decay that The Party caused for the city to be their actual downfall, but the proles do not seem to be taking any action.

Symbolism in 1984

Here’s a list of the major symbols in 1984.

  • Big Brother
  • The apartment in the prole district.
  • The Place Where There Is No Darkness
  • Telescreens
  • The prole woman outside the apartment

Big Brother – What Does Big Brother Mean in 1984?

what is the glass paperweight in 1984Big Brother – Big brother is the face of The Party, and all over the city there are posters that read “Big Brother is watching.” He is supposedly the leader of the nation but there is no proof that he actually exists. Either way, the idea of Big Brother and his posters all over the city symbolize The Party’s constant supervision over the nation’s people and the total oppression that they live under. Big Brother also serves to symbolize the mystery of the Inner Party—who is in it, and what they do. The government does not reveal much about themselves to their citizens, an intentional tactic to keep them afraid and compliant.

The Apartment Meaning

glass paperweight 1984 quotesThe apartment in the prole district – When Winston begins his affair with Julia, they rent an apartment in the prole district as a safe, unmonitored location where they can be themselves. The city around them is full to the brim with propaganda so they make the apartment something just for them. In the apartment, there is a glass paperweight and a poster of St. Clement’s Church. While the poster was already in the apartment, Winston purchases the glass paperweight from the antique shop and it symbolizes his desire to reconnect with his past, before the violent revolution took place and separated him from his family. The poster symbolizes the lost past as well.

The Place Where There Is No Darkness Meaning

The Place Where There Is No Darkness – These words come to Winston in a dream and he imagines meeting O’Brien, a character who he believers is also anti-Party, in this place. The words and the dream first occurred to Winston in the beginning of the novel and he revisits them over and over throughout the story, building up their significance as he ventures more and more into anti-Party activities. These words start to symbolize the hope in the future for Winston, as he envisions living a life in which he can be free.

Telescreens Meaning

big brother symbolTelescreens – These are devices that are in every home in Oceania. They are a way that The Party can watch over and talk to every single citizen. Telescreens symbolize The Party’s constant surveillance of citizens and the abuse of technology for the sake of control.

The Prole Woman Meaning

The prole woman outside the apartment – Winston and Julia’s apartment is in the prole district and he notices several times a woman with red arms singing as she does her laundry. He sees the prole woman, and the prole population in general, as the holders of the key to a revolution. They appear to live in the moment, and to be the start of future generations that will take down the oppressive government. In noticing this woman, he imagines a happy future for himself and the rest of the people.