In 1984, Orwell makes excellent use of symbolism to further enhance the novel’s theme and to reveal character. He wrote 1984 as a political message to warn future generations about the dangers of totalitarian societies. He relays this message through various themes and characters, in turn utilizes powerful symbols to give them further significance. His symbolism is very vast but it can be classified into three categories: characters, places and objects.
Orwell uses different historic figures to reveal characters in 1984. First, Orwell’s character Winston Smith a hero, symbolizing the British statesman, Winston Churchill. Smith was name of common man in England. Presenting him as a commoner portrays this character both as common soul, and yet uncommon in many ways. Through Winston, Orwell highlights the controls imposed on individual freedom in totalitarian society. Second, Emmanuel Goldstein, the main enemy of Oceania, is a portrayed as a Jew:
“It was a lean Jewish face…”(p. 14)
Using Goldstein – a Jew – Orwell connects to other totalitarians, like Hitler, who had anti-Semitic ideas. They used Jews as scapegoat, i.e. according to them Jews were responsible for all evil. Similarly, in the novel, Goldstein is made a scapegoat, when a bomb goes off; the blame was on Goldstein’s party. Third, Orwell’s Big Brother symbolizes Joseph Stalin:
.”..with heavy black moustache…”(p. 3).
Big Brother’s party is symbolized as communist. The author warns about the dangers of totalitarian havocs and reminds the reader of the dark side of history. Interestingly, Orwell’s character not only develops the theme, but also symbolizes places.
First, Orwell divides the imaginary superpowers that existed during the cold war, i.e….
… Winston and Julia were searching for this freedom. Orwell wants the reader to see the disadvantages and the lack of liberty given to the people in the totalitarian society. He wants the reader to see what’s going to happen to the freedom of a common man.
In conclusion, these symbols intensify deep insight into the theme and the characters of the novel. Orwell uses Winston to create a hatred for the society. In fact he has so well used the symbolism that the reader is compelled to empathize with all of his thoughts and feelings about the party. Orwell warns about the dangers of totalitarianism through objects, places and characters to prove his point. He through Winston’s eyes and thoughts gives the reader an idea of the new society, which has no place for freedom, truth or human emotions.
George Orwell: 1984. New York, Penguin Books, 1949.