1984 by George Orwell
Type: Reading
Originally published on February 4, 2023 and last updated on May 16, 2023

“1984” is a classic novel that remains relevant today, as it provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of government control and the importance of individual freedom. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in political science, dystopian fiction, or the power of language and propaganda. The novel’s themes continue to resonate with readers and continue to be studied and discussed in schools and universities around the world.

Ask your students to read the following text, or listen as you read it to them. When finished check their understanding by asking the questions directly below the text before moving on to discuss the conversation questions.

Summary of 1984 by George Orwell

“1984” is a dystopian novel written by George Orwell and was first published in 1949. The novel is set in Airstrip One, a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. The story revolves around the life of Winston Smith, a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in Oceania. Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to manipulate historical records to fit the Party’s propaganda.

Winston begins to rebel against the Party when he starts to question the truth of its principles and becomes interested in a fellow worker, Julia. Together, they engage in a forbidden love affair and rebel against the Party by secretly writing in a diary and seeking refuge with a mysterious figure known only as “O’Brien.” They hope that O’Brien is a member of the Brotherhood, a legendary group of rebels who are working to overthrow the Party.

However, Winston and Julia’s rebellion is short-lived, as the Party uses its vast network of spies and torture to catch them and “re-educate” them. Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love, where he is subjected to brutal torture and brainwashing techniques until he fully conforms to the Party’s principles and is completely devoted to its leader, Big Brother.

The novel is a powerful commentary on the dangers of totalitarianism, government manipulation, and the loss of individuality. The Party’s use of language manipulation, propaganda, and psychological control is meant to illustrate the lengths to which a totalitarian regime will go to maintain its power and control over its citizens.

Orwell’s “1984” is also a warning against the power of technology, as the Party uses advanced methods of surveillance and control to monitor and manipulate its citizens. The novel serves as a reminder of the importance of critical thinking and the dangers of blindly accepting information without question.

Answer The Questions Below To Check Your Understanding

  • Who is Winston Smith and what is his role in the government of Oceania?
  • How does Winston's relationship with Julia lead to his rebellion against the Party?
  • What happens to Winston during his time in the Ministry of Love?

Conversation Questions

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  • Do you think Winston is a likeable character?
  • Does the novel "1984" provide an accurate portrayal of the dangers of totalitarianism?
  • What lessons can we learn from the events and characters in "1984"?
  • Can technology be used for both good and bad purposes, and if so, what measures should be taken to control its potential harm?
  • How do you think the Party in 1984 uses language manipulation to control its citizens?
  • In what ways does 1984 reflect our current society?
  • Is it ethical for a government to control and manipulate the information its citizens receive?
  • Should individual freedom be protected at all costs, even if it means going against the interests of the state?
  • Is it necessary for a government to control every aspect of its citizens' lives in order to maintain order and stability?
  • How can a society ensure that its leaders are held accountable for their actions and decisions?
This conversation topic was prepared by Gregory

Gregory is a qualified TEFL teacher who has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (ESL) for over a decade. He has taught in-person classes in Spain and to English learners around the world online.