1984 - Inspiration of Russia and Britain

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In the opening pages of his novel 1984, it is made clear that George Orwell drew upon the harsh realities of both Russia and Britain during the period in which he lived – specifically, World War II and its aftermath – in order to express his disapproval for what he saw as the dangerously oppressive manner in which both governments were treating their people. In these opening pages, the audience is introduced to the protagonist, Winston Smith, and the dystopian society he inhabits. The conditions most people in Russia were forced to live in clearly influenced Orwell, with the Winston’s home life a clear indicator of this. At the time Orwell wrote the novel, the Russian people were being forced into communal living, in which large buildings were converted into apartment buildings, with each family being given two rooms for eating and sleeping and a shared bathroom for their entire floor. These conditions were horrific – the rooms were small, cramped and smelt awful, with people resorting to using their own sink as an alternative to the shared toilets. The walls often didn’t reach the ceiling, completely removing any privacy and increasing the likelihood of people informing on each other for expressing views that were against the state. In the novel, there are echoes of these dreadful conditions and the disquieting sense of paranoia in one’s own home. Winston himself inhabits a tiny flat in a building which smells “of boiled cabbage”, and included in his room is a “telescreen”. This invention of Orwell’s is a screen that “receive[s] and transmit[s] simultaneously”, meaning that any sound or movement he makes can be examined by the authorities. Much like the people living in Russia at the time, Winston cannot express his true thoughts or opinions in his own home, lest he end up in jail or executed by the “Thought Police”. Orwell based the idea of the “Thought
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