Orwell's 1984: Rewriting the Future

Michael Wilding


Of the many ironies of 1984, one of the neatest is the way in which the novel's protagonist, Winston Smith, serves as a model for Orwell's own procedures in writing the novel. Winston's occupation is rewriting news items to accord with changes in the society's political requirements. And it is the contention of this article that Orwell's procedure in 1984 is a calculated, conscious rewriting of the political futures predicted in earlier utopian and anti-utopian novels. The point is not to say that nothing is original in 1984 but to show the literary context in which Orwell was working and to indicate how he adapted and transformed its materials to achieve a bleaker vision than anyone before had ever managed.

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