“Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell

Title: Nineteen Eighty-Four
Author: George Orwell
Cover artist: Michael Kennar
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Dystopian, political fiction, social science fiction
Set in: London, Airstrip One, Oceania
Publisher: Secker & Warburg
Publication date: 8 June 1949
Media type: Print (hardback and paperback)
Pages: 328
OCLC: 470015866
Dewey Decimal: 823.912
Preceded by: Animal Farm

  • 1950 – Banned and burned in communist Russia under Stalin and USSR, ownership meant possible arrest for its anti-communist views. Allowed back in country after editing in 1990.
  • 1981 – Jackson County, Florida – challenged for being pro-communist and contained “explicit sexual content.”
  • Wrenshall, Minnesota – teacher was fired for refusing to remove it from reading list (unconfirmed)
  • 2009-10 – Amazon deleted it and Animal Farm from users kindles sparking controversy. Amazon found that the “copies” deleted had been published illegally from an independent publisher that had ignored copyright laws (1984 is under copyright until 2020) and the money spent was refunded. This was more of a recall to protect copyright than a ban or censorship case.
  • 2017 – Idaho – book is under scrutiny after being challenged by a Jefferson County parent for having “violent, sexually charged language.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four (also stylised as 1984) is a dystopian social science fiction novel and cautionary tale written by English writer George Orwell. It was published on 8 June 1949 by Secker & Warburg as Orwell’s ninth and final book completed in his lifetime. Thematically, it centres on the consequences of totalitarianism, mass surveillance and repressive regimentation of people and behaviours within society. Orwell, a democratic socialist, modelled the totalitarian government in the novel after Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. More broadly, the novel examines the role of truth and facts within politics and the ways in which they are manipulated.

The story takes place in an imagined future, the year 1984, when much of the world has fallen victim to perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, historical negationism, and propaganda. Great Britain, known as Airstrip One, has become a province of the totalitarian superstate Oceania, ruled by the Party, who employ the Thought Police to persecute individuality and independent thinking. Big Brother, the dictatorial leader of Oceania, enjoys an intense cult of personality, manufactured by the party’s excessive brainwashing techniques. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a diligent and skillful rank-and-file worker and Outer Party member who secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion. He enters into a forbidden relationship with his colleague Julia and starts to remember what life was like before the Party came to power.

Nineteen Eighty-Four has become a classic literary example of political and dystopian fiction. It also popularised the term “Orwellian” as an adjective, with many terms used in the novel entering common usage, including “Big Brother”, “doublethink”, “Thought Police”, “thoughtcrime”, “Newspeak”, and “2 + 2 = 5”. Parallels have been drawn between the novel’s subject matter and real life instances of totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and violations of freedom of expression among other themes. Time included the novel on its list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005, and it was placed on the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list, reaching number 13 on the editors’ list and number 6 on the readers’ list. In 2003, it was listed at number eight on The Big Read survey by the BBC.