Symbols

Big Brother

Big Brother is a key symbol in Nineteen Eighty-Four. He shows up in various ways throughout the story, even though we never meet him in person and it is doubtful whether he actually exists.

Big Brother is a symbol of the Party and its complete control of the people. In the minds of the citizens, he is often associated with positive qualities. He appears as protector, always appearing as a reassuring f…

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“Oranges and Lemons”

The old British nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” plays a significant role in the story, as Winston gradually tracks down its lines.

You can read the full text of the rhyme here

 

The symbolism of this rhyme has several different layers. For most of the book, Winston’s efforts to track down the entire poem represents his fascination with the past before the Party, and the image of a London free from their control. The rhyme therefore seems to symbolise something beautiful and nostalgic in the early sections of the story:

It was curious, but when you said it to yourself you had the illusion of actually hearing bells, the bells of a lost London that still existed somewhere o…

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The coral paperweight

The paperweight that Winston buys at Mr. Charrington’s shop is described as follows:

It was a heavy lump of glass, curved on one side, flat on the other, making almost a hemisphere. There was a peculiar softness, as of rain-water, in both the colour and the texture of the glass. At the heart of it, magnified by the curved surface, there was a strange, pink, convoluted object that …

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2+2=5

This twist on a basic mathematical problem is a symbol of the Party’s ability to manipulate the truth. Since the Party controls all records and has influence on all human minds, their logic is that they have full control of what the basic facts of life are - even mathematical truths may be altered if the Party wishes.

Winston, on the other hand, clings to the idea that there are actual truths about the world independent from the Party, and that to be free means to…

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Light and darkness

Traditionally, light is used to symbolise something that is good and positive, while darkness is used to symbolise something evil and negative.

However, Orwell sometimes reverses this symbolism in Nineteen Eighty-Four, playing with the reader’s expectations and reinforcing the ironic tone of the novel.

We see an example of darkness representing something positive early on, when it is clarified that only darkness prevents the telescreen from observing people: “…

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