George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is considered an influential novel. Terminology such as doublethink, Newspeak and Big Brother have become fixed within the English language. Terms such as propaganda, surveillance, authoritarian politics or perversions of truth are synonymous with Nineteen Eighty-Four. At the time of its first publication in 1949 nobody could have predicted the enduring relevance of this book.
In the years after its publication each generation has been able to relate to aspects of the book that reflect the times in which they live. How might the interpretive communities of the 1950’s interpreted Nineteen Eighty- Four?
The atrocities of World War II left behind psychological and physical scarring for many. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi party and one of the most powerful and notorious dictators of the 20th century. Germany invasion of Poland led to the out break of WWII. Hitler was feared due to his propaganda campaign’s and virulent anti-semitism.
In 1950 the legacy of the Second World War was still everywhere to be seen, particularly in London. The destruction caused by the air raids was apparent with the vacant bomb sites and damaged properties. After a decade of war and its political and financial legacies had left Britain with a deluge of state regulations and high taxation. Rationing continued for basic commodities such as butter, meat, tea, coal and chocolate. In Nineteen Eighty-Four rationing existed basic items such as shoelaces and razors were hard to procure. The make-do-and-mend wartime culture continued into the 50’s as there continued to be a shortage in consumer products.
A 1950’s interpretive community may have recognised feelings of anxiety and fear. These people lived through WW II, they lived in fear of invasion by foreign soldiers. As did the population of Oceania. Espionage was a crucial factor in the advance of WWII. Britain, Germany, U.S.A and the Soviet Union all put intelligence at the forefront of military operations. Espionage created an atmosphere of distrust and fear amongst the population of Britain. Nineteen Eighty-Four has three categories of spies: government surveillance, Thought Police and domestic informers. The use of technological devices in Nineteen Eighty-Four for surveillance such as the telescreen, may be a far fetched notion for a 1950’s audience and something which may cause alarm or fear, it may also be conceived as a concept that can only exist in fiction.
Drink: QC Ruby Red Sherry, just a little tipple
Song: Forget Me Not, Vera Lynn