To Orwell Today,

I need help understanding one thing about George Orwell's 1984. How are the prophecies in the novel 1984 connected to the events in the 1980s?

Mohammed S. Ali

Greetings Mohammed,

Orwell didn't choose the title "1984" until after he'd finished writing the book. While he was working on it he had "The Last Man In Europe" in mind but his publisher didn't like that title and so Orwell changed it to "1984".

No one knows for sure why he chose that title. Some people think it's because he finished the book in 1948 and just reversed the last two numbers, turning it into "1984".

I sometimes think "1984" was a cryptic reference to Karl Marx's book THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO which was published in 1848; so add one hundred years and you get 1948, then reverse the last two digits and you get "1984". Communism is allegedly modelled on Marx's theories and as "1984" is in large part a description of totalitarianism as practiced in communist Russia under Lenin, Stalin et al, this theory has some merit.

Another theory I kind of think could be the reason Orwell chose "1984" is to honour his wife who wrote a poem entitled "End of the Century, 1984"* based on a time period fifty years hence from 1934 which was when she read "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. As a point of interest, Huxley taught for a short period of time at Eton (during WWI) and was actually one of Orwell's teachers.

written by Orwell's wife in 1934
projecting life 50 years in the future

'Shakespeare's bones are quiet at last,
...No book disturbs the lucid line,
For sun-bronzed scholars tune their thought
To telepathic Station 9
From where they know just what they ought,
...mental cremation that should banish
Relics, philosophies and colds'

Another reason Orwell may have chosen "1984" as the time period when life in Oceania was as he described it was to alert people to the fact that it wasn't too far in the future that such a totalitarian system could be set up. Part of what makes "1984" so much more powerful than most futuristic novels is that everything he says in it is credible. People can relate to it.

As far as answering how the prophecies of "1984" relate to actual events in the 80s all a person needs to do is think back twenty years or so and try to recall whether some of the things Orwell describes were happening. When I think back to that time period I remember that it was when the first computers instead of typewriters started being used in offices (I had to learn on an Apple at the time) and also in the 80s was when video games and video machines to watch movies at home came out. Those are two major Orwellian events bringing "telescreens" (above and beyond television) to our lives.

I hope that gives you some help in understanding what "1984" has to do with the 1980s.

All the best,
Jackie Jura


END OF THE CENTURY, 1984, by Eileen O'Shaughnessy

Reader sends a link to the 1984 Superbowl ad for Apple Macintosh

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~