1984, Book Summary

Are you doing a book report on 1984?
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Writing a Book Report

If you're writing a book report on the novel 1984, you will need to include a summary of the story line, as well as all of the following elements, like title, setting, and characters. You must also make sure you include a strong introductory sentence and a good conclusion, as well.

Title, Author & Publication

1984 is a novel by George Orwell. It was first published in 1949 by Secker and Warburg. Currently it is published by the Penguin Group of New York. 

Setting

1984 is set in the fictional future state of Oceania. This is one of three totalitarian super states that have come to control the world. In the world of 1984, the government controls every aspect of human existence, especially individual thought.

Note: A totalitarian government is one that is strictly governed by a dictator (or strong leader) and expects complete subservience to the state.

Characters

Winston Smith – the protagonist of the story, Winston works for the Ministry of Truth revising historical events to favor the Party. His dissatisfaction with his life and the love he finds cause him to rebel against the Party.

Julia – Winston’s love interest and his fellow rebel. O’Brien – the antagonist of the novel, O’Brien traps and captures Winston and Julia.

Big Brother – the leader of the Party, Big Brother is never actually seen, but exists as a symbol of the totalitarian regime.

Plot

Winston Smith, disillusioned by the oppressive nature of the Party, begins a romance with Julia. Thinking they have found a haven of safety from the prying eyes of the Thought Police, they continue their affair until they are betrayed by O’Brien. Julia and Winston are sent to the Ministry of Love where they are tortured into betraying each other and accepting the truth of the Party indoctrination.

Questions to Ponder

1. Consider the use of language.

  • What irony exists in the naming of the Ministries?
  • How does Orwell’s use of language contribute to the idea that language is power?
  • How does Orwell’s use of misnomers contribute to the satire of 1984?

2. Examine theme of the Individual vs. Society

  • What is a dystopian society?
  • What does Orwell seem to be saying about the power of individual action?
  • In what way does 1984 reflect the real political systems of the time, i.e.
  • Communist Soviet Union or Fascist Nazi Germany?

3. What events or people could have influenced Orwell?

  • Although the title is 1984, the book was published in 1949. What events around that time could have influenced Orwell?
  • The Diary of a Young Girl was published in 1947, how could this work have influenced Orwell?
  • 1946 saw the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, did Orwell draw anything from this?

Possible First Sentences

The list of statements below are meant to help you develop a strong introductory paragraph. The statements may also help you construct an effective thesis statement for your paper.

  • Big Brother is watching has become a common term in our modern language, but the phrase has lost some of its potency. 
  • George Orwell’s 1984 is a novel of social science fiction.
  • The danger of totalitarianism rests in its power to suppress the individual.
  • The conflict between courage and betrayal is a central one in the novel 1984.