Historical perspective

Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949, and George Orwell often refers to major events that took place in the first half of the 20th century, particularly in relation to the totalitarian states that emerged at the time.

For example, the novel contains multiple references to Soviet Russia (which was still a major world power in 1949) and its version of Communism. We learn that the Party was originally founded on something resembling Socialist principles, and Oceania clearly has some form of planned economy in place, as the government has extremely tight control of the means of production and the flow of goods through the Ministry of Plenty (p. 215).

The reference to frequent “Three-Year Plans” (e.g. p. 4) is also an obvious parallel to Josef Stalin’s Five-Year Plans for Soviet Russia’s economy. There are also parallels between the rebel leader Emmanuel…


Current issues

Within the past decade, several major events and developments have invited comparisons to Nineteen Eighty-Four - and often caused its popularity to go up at the same time.

Real-world surveillance

One of these events was the NSA scandal in 2013, in which whistleblowerEdward Snowden revealed that an American intelligence organization collected information about people to an extensive and even illegal extent, supposedly in its efforts to combat terrorism. Many commenters compared this situation to the situation Orwell described in Nineteen Eighty-Four, because it pointed to a society dominated by government surveillance.

Comparisons to the novel have also been made in connection to …

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