Questions of Nineteen Eighty-Four

They are questions for Nineteen Eighty-Four to help students read and understand the great book; all problems are presented in interactive web pages that are easy to get answers and refer to context.

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Excerpt of Part 1 - Chapter 1 (1)
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Totalitarianism or Communism, what did Nineteen Eighty-Four talk about?
1. Orwell Said It's Based on Communism
Many commentators and teachers introduce the book as a masterpiece to anti-totalitarianism. Some left-wing activists even think the book is a thought weapon to hit the right-wing policy and call their political opponents totalitarians. In recent decades, in some countries, like France and USA, many readers open the book not because of criticizing communism but of hating their own administration, so-called totalitarianism.

However, this is a book about communism, or say, a book to criticize communism. Orwell himself once wrote:

Nineteen Eighty-Four was based chiefly on communism because that is the dominant form of totalitarianism, but I was trying chiefly to imagine what communism would be like if it were firmly rooted in English-speaking countries.

Western countries intentionally hide the book's backdrop of communism, whereas eastern countries forbid or cancel the book from public view. Although it is always on the top reading list, its readers more or less misunderstand the tremendous and serious book that thinks about how communism can change people and society.

A few commentators categorize the book as social science fiction. It's not correct. The book isn't to foresee the future but to describe the current. When it was published, USSR's communist regime was existing over thirty years.

2. Orwell Was the Origin to Fade Communism from the Book
Why do people avoid linking the book with communism? The answer is in the book: fear, fear due to communism. Because of fear, we are losing more and more freedom generation and generation.

For people in the book, freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. For people in reality, freedom is the freedom to say that 1984 is a novel about communism.

Unfortunately, Orwell was the first man to lose that freedom. Although he mentioned multiple times in letters or speeches the book was based on communism, he never used "communism" even once in the book; and just used "communist" twice. It is the main reason readers accept its replacement "totalitarianism."

In Orwell time, communism was a superpower. Lived in Britain, still he felt Big Brother was watching him from another country. We respect his writings and understand his trade-off. The freedom to criticize communism started to lessen from Britain, from 1948, and from Orwell.

Half a century is gone; more and more read it but less and less get it. Communism, Orwell hid reluctantly that year, is hidden deeper now. The trend is much beyond Orwell's image.

3. Things Are Becoming Worse
Now people need more courage to criticize communism than in Orwell time. It is still a superpower, changed from Eurasia to Eastasia. Big brother and his cousin are watching every corner of the globe. 

People use "totalitarianism" to replace "communism" just like wizards used "you-know-who" to replace "Voldemort." Wizards feared the name because of weakness. Softening 1984 with "totalitarianism" has more complicated factors.

Some are because of evil. They live in free air but take communism as an alliance to fight against whatever they dislike or make money from communist countries. So they do their best to hide any ugly story about communism. The book is canceled in some areas and distorted in other places, even as a stone to smash law, order, and police, the latter are called "totalitarianism."

Some are because of the coward. They can feel the power of communism from every aspect. Like Orwell, they have to disguise themselves as neutral and not radical. "Totalitarianism" is an acceptable word having less offensive to communist regimes. When we see remarks and comments referred the book topic as totalitarianism, we should feel what Orwell and Winston felt. Communism is watching all.

However, most readers misunderstand the book because few people tell them the truth. It isn't social science fiction or anti-totalitarianism fable, but a book based on the freedomless life of the first communist country, the USSR. Currently, real communism isn't exactly the same as the description in 1984 and some scenarios in 1984 never happened or occurred in history too. However, a few flaws wouldn't shake its success to uncover the suffering under a communist regime.

To help students worldwide peep communism through the book, we will develop more questions and answers on the website.

Newspeak's nature is to destroy free thought
Newspeak isn't a funny thing in the book and has been misunderstood by its common readers for more than half a century.

1. Syme Uncovered the Nature of Newspeak
In a lunch talk with Winston, Syme uncovered the nature of Newspeak:

You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We're destroying words--scores of them, hundreds of them, every day.

The purpose of Newspeak was to cancel old words that were once used to express thought or ideas that possibly challenged the Party's ruling. Syme quickly became an unperson because he figured out the secret that shouldn't be known widely.

In English or any other language, new words appear from time to time, like bitcoin or gongfu. In general, none connects them with Newspeak. However, in some circumstances, we still see various Newspeak, and misguides, arguments, or blames regarding it.

As mentioned, none will point a finger to bitcoin, gongfu, or even Brexit as Newspeak; they are to express new things or concepts without matter of politics.

As we said, the nature of Newspeak isn't to create new words but to cancel other words. Big Brother and his cousins like it; so do other political forces. When we examine new words with the criteria, some are indeed controversial.

2. Half-blood Newspeak
Some words aren't Newspeak from the beginning. They appear in our language as a normal lexical development. But after when people publicize them, they are used to canceling other words or even thoughts. In the latter usages, they become Newspeak. Because their original meanings are still reserved and in use, we call them half-blood Newspeak.

Let's see two examples.

Fake News originally just means a piece of news isn't actual. The word was applied to express this idea in the Trump campaign: all information from mainstream media isn't trustworthy, especially from CNN and New York Times. It didn't cancel these media directly but impacted their users more or less. So it's Newspeak of right-wing.

BLM is a new social movement. But now, it also means to cancel and rewrite American history or say, a piece of history. When novels like "Gone with Wind" have to leave shelves because of the word, it stands multiple social and political meanings and tries to cancel all the reverse factors. So, it's an effective Newspeak of left-wing.  

2. Pure-blood Newspeak
If a word is created to cancel other words, it's a pure-blood Newspeak. Newspeak seems only a story in the book, but it still happens in the current world. As long as communism exists, pure-blook Newspeak wouldn't disappear. Big Brother and his cousins are not only watching us but creating new words to impact our thoughts.

Do we need examples? In the worldwide epidemic, everyone knows the word COVID19. WHO invented the word to cancel the other names of the epidemic, such as the Wuhan virus. So the virus name is also a Newspeak, pure-blood.

Omicron virus is another example. There should be a preceding one, "Xi virus," before the Omicron virus by WHO's convention. Why does WHO skips Xi? The explanation is not to offend anyone named Xi. The question is there are more called "Delta," and WHO never cares to offend them. If Xi virus is there, Omicron virus is a normal word. Otherwise, it must be a Newspeak. The word cancels the Xi virus or even hides more things behind it.

The two examples are from WHO; Big Brother is watching it? Or his cousin or agent is watching it? (Here, I didn't point a finger to WHO itself, but it should feel guilty for millions of people who lost their lives in the so-called COVID 19.)

Who is more important in 1984? Winston, Julia, or Parsons?
In 1984, Winston and Julia took most of the pages, but they aren't the base of a communist society. At least, in the view of leadership or O'Brien, they are just tools, like trucks, computers, or even horses, to serve and build society. Winston, Julia, the proles having names or not, and even O'Brien would live in a similar class and style in either communist or capitalist society. The true exception is Parsons.

Parsons and his kids represent the power and source of communism. They are the foundation of communist society and really love it and enjoy it. Freedom is much lighter than money for some of them as people are still in Hong Kong today. If there is a slight chance to make money e beyond their skill and contribution, they are willing to follow anyone, Big Brother or Little Sister; none cares.

The worse case is that some low or poor people under the power's exploit don't protest the rulers but adore the power. They are the natural followers of communism. As long as they get a little force to control others, especially those wealthier or smarter than them, they will do their best with high self-satisfaction.

All societies have this kind of people who want to slay but avoid any risk. Executing a death sentence is an ideal job for them. In a communist society, these people have more job chances and get much more rewards. Parsons is one of them, and his kids are educated to become them. They just want to be better than others, than neighbors, than coworkers, or at least than family members.

Parsons will follow anyone who gives a little benefit. He loves Big Brother, who gave him a platform, and the latter uses him as the foundation to run the whole society.