Symbolic interpretation of 1984
1984 is a revolutionary political novel written by George Orwell which conveys many significant messages to the society. Although written in 1949, the story portrays the possible future of a society if suppressed by the totalitarianism of a government. The novel progresses through the process of a totalitarian governing body and how they change a country’s social, economic and behavioral pattern, but it is a highly symbolic novel. The list of symbols is exhaustive and has multiple interpretations. Here are some of the symbols discussed below.
Glass paperweight symbolizes the human nature to connect to the past.These items are remnants of the past and Winston was fascinated about these items to get him connected with the thought of some immutable past and their real existence which was totally destroyed during the ruling of the totalitarian government. The glass paperweight is a symbol of hope as well, so at the end when the party comes in and arrest Winston and Julia, it indicates loss of freedom and hope.
The coral inside the glass paperweight is a representation of Winston and Julia and their hope. As the Coral looks big in the glass so as they think they are safe and free inside the apartment. But when the glass shatters they discover the tininess of the coral which symbolizes how insignificant they truly are when compared to the power of the party.
Old picture of St Clements’s church which Winston places the in front of the telescreen in his rented room hides the telescreen which is in use to spy on his activity by the Party. So here the picture depicts a notion of freedom.
The red-armed prole woman is a symbol of hope and freedom. Her singing demonstrates the individual’s undefeated inner spirit within the “proles”. Her tireless laundry working shows her physical strength. These signs convince Winston and Julia to consider this woman as a beautiful source of future hope who can give birth to future generation rebel who can overtake the ongoing party’s rule.
Big Brother represents a totalitarian government or party. Its ruling style indicates a loss of civilization and symbolizes threat in the society. They set specific rules to the society and controls people emotionally as well physically. The messages everywhere “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” clearly indicates the complete intrusion in human’s privacy in life. They are the symbol of vagueness.
Telescreen is the visible symbol of a totalitarian government and abuse of modern technology. It has been used in a dual way, as a means of telecasting party’s propaganda and to vigil the activities going on inside a civilian’s room.
Winston’s mother is a symbol of a peaceful past. She comes in Winston’s dream and memory. She also represents Winston’s sense of guilt of murdering his parents. His recognization of mistake.
The place where there is no darkness represents a society full of double meaning. In the novel, Winston wants to meet O’Brien in a place where there is no shadow or darkness. It indicates his thought of freedom. But ultimately they meet at the cell full of artificial light.
Winston’s varicose ulcer above his ankle represents the state of one’s identity. It represents how a self is repressed by one’s state and how a human can reaffirm with love, freedom etc.
Memory holes in the novel symbolize the destruction of past to control the thoughts of people. In the novel, the party destroys all the paper evidence like newspapers, important documents etc to mutate the past and establish the facts towards people in their own way.
Rats are considered as most beastlike creatures in the world. They carry disease and they are marked as a symbol of hell. Winston dreams about Rats which is the most feared item for him. It symbolizes depravity. Winston and his fellow citizens are like trapped rats in Big Brother’s cage.
Victory Gin symbolizes the pain inflicted by the party on the physical and mental health of an individual. It is an attempt to control the frustration through intoxication by dulling of the senses. This also represents the emptiness of Winston’s life.
Golden Country – this is the pastoral landscape which Winston dreams often with Julia discarding her clothes in an “uncivilized” and “carefree” manner. This represents a thought of freedom, peace, beauty, natural quality of life free of Big Brother, Party and Police and of any rules and regulations.
Room 101 symbolizes the torture. This is the place where a person is tortured in a way so that trapped by fear and pain they can break down psychologically easily.
The novel indeed carries very complex political and social messages. The actual evolution of 20th-century society is very similar to the one which Orwell has depicted in 1984.Each of the symbols mentioned in the article can be analyzed with different views.