Tag: Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell’s “1984″: Discussion Topics ANSWERS

It’s taken a while … but for those who’ve been hoping for suggestions of possible points to be covered in the various discussion tasks, here they are!

I’m not calling them ‘answers’, since I think any teacher teaching the book should have read it and know the ‘answers’ that they are aiming for their class to reach, but here are some ideas anyway!


George Orwell’s 1984

Task 1


  • The novel uses technology-based surveillance in both public and private spaces, they also have a greater impact on the individual.
  • The person-based measures of surveillance make the existence of private space impossible (family/neighbors have an impact on the behaviour of the individual), while in our world family and neighbours don’t play such an important role
  • The novel doesn’t use technology such as means of personal communication, it also does not include the media as a public mean to watch and control people



Task 2

  • Orwell’s concept of surveillance is all encompassing and supports a specific ideology
  • Technical surveillance is accompanied by personal surveillance through individuals.
  • Surveillance is omnipresent and sometimes invisible
  • Lack of laws, mistrust of people and threat of becoming an unperson increase insecurity
  • Allusion to the possibility of reading people’s minds (O’Brien) è telescreens etc. not just used to control behavior but more importantly to control thoughts
  • But: Relative freedom from surveillance for proles
  • Orwell’s predictions are not entirely applicable to today’s situation
  • Surveillance technology exists (CCTV etc.) but no threat to people’s lives should something deviating be thought or said
  • No connection to the stabilization of a Party/Government ideology, rather prevention of terrorism etc.
  • Yet, it some instances surveillance has led to people being publically denounced as in the case of the American diplomat Victoria Nuland
  • In the next 20-30 years the technological possibilities of surveillance will increase but radical government shifts, increase of terrorism or shifts in public opinion of issues like privacy must accompany mass surveillance


Task 3

In both cases the checks and balances must be considered.

Government Corporation
o   In democratic systems it must be enabled by the public and have a basic order based on freedom and democracy (Totalitarian systems may employ surveillance in an Orwellian fashion)

o   Monitoring by transnational organizations (EU, NATO, UN)

o   Need to be able to account for what the material is used

o   May be able to enforce access to private homes

o   Control of public spaces

o   Not subject of public scrutiny

o   Question of what the material us used for (e.g. is it sold to governments, other people, corporations etc.)

o   In transnational environment, it is hard to appeal to a court

o   Economy orientation makes complete deviation from public demands difficult

o   No legal possibility to access homes or public spaces without permit


Task 4

The media is always a positive as well as a negative medium.

Positive Negative
o   Maintaining order through public scrutiny

o   Draws attention to problem areas and can rectify problems

o   False accusations and subsequent repercussions for individuals

o   Can be (mis)used to promote a certain political/social ideology


o   Depending on the readership, the media can influence public opinion.

o   Turn to a greater defense of privacy issues possible if false reports are known

o   Relieve and feeling of security when information about fellow workers, citizens etc. are broadcasted


Task 5

Fighting for Peace (War is Peace):

o   Contradiction in terms: How can war, a state of strive, violence and pain, simultaneously be peace, a state characterized by the absence of the former?

o   War means a stability of social/economic order and thus creates peace within society

o   In the novel, this is the background for the events and a defining principle of society

o   In real life, war is often followed by a period of uncertainty (post-WWII) in which war with its clear cut lines is still remembered è background for Orwell’s writing


o   People does usually not go with the prefix “un”: How can a person not be a person?

o   People who committed thoughtcrime are vaporized and effectively erased from memory, yet, they the fact that they are named unpeople hints at the fact that exactly this does not happen

o   In the novel, Winston becomes an unperson but still exists; Goldstein is an unperson that functions as the greatest symbol for hate

o   In real life, the Soviet Union used the term to describe people who were erased from history, yet, most of them are still known

Thought Crime:

o   How can something happening in somebody’s head be a crime?

o   It is not the actual act that makes a person a criminal but actually thinking deviating thoughts that warrant vaporization

o   In the novel, thoughtcrime is committed by mostly everyone but some people like O’Brien still go free; actual crimes such as murder go unpunished


Task 6

o   Mass data transfer from cellphones to servers in the US using Whatsapp and Facebook services. è contact lists and pictures are saved somewhere and can potentially be used against individuals.

o   CCTV as for example in Britain è makes it virtually impossible to go anywhere without being on camera (“Smile, you’re on CCTV)

o   Possibility of not using services such as FB/Whatsapp

o   Hard to escape surveillance in public spaces



For original post with task questions etc, please see here: https://clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/george-orwells-1984-discussion-topics/

George Orwell’s “1984”: Discussion Topics


Guide to level: Reading the unadapted novel “1984” will probably be too difficult for learners below a C1 CEF level. These discussion questions, however, could also work (with more scaffolding) with B1-B2 learners, who, for example, have watched a film of “1984”, acted out scenes, or read certain extracts. Tasks may need to be adapted accordingly.

Introduction: A literary studies class/lesson will necessarily a novel in a different way to an EFL/ESOL class. The tasks below are basically discussions which link some key themes from George Orwell’s “1984” to students’ modern lives and provide practise in oral communication. Other skills such as comparing/contrasting, debating, finding examples, expressing one’s own opinion, and justifying one’s own opinion, are also trained, and the discussion tasks can be used to recycle lexis or grammar structures from previous topics of study on a course.

Procedure: One way of using the tasks in a lesson would be to divide the class into small groups, each of which can work on one of the discussion tasks. To ensure that everyone in the small group participates in the discussion, you could either assign roles, or use the ‘placemat method’ to gather ideas before they begin to discuss. Each group can then present their general findings and conclusions to the class and discuss these in plenary. For classes in an EFL setting, you can also encourage students to use English-langauge press and media to find out about current affairs/events which might connect in to their discussions, and then make the project longer to include a web-quest or similar activities.

Depending on your class and course, you can choose a language focus. For example, you could look at polite phrases used in discussions (e.g. for agreeing, disagreeing, adding an example, expressing an opinion, etc) – then display these in the room whilst students are discussing tasks in small groups and encourage them to use a phrase from the list each time they speak. This may, at first, seem rather artificial, but the more often they use the phrases, the more natural this kind of language will become for them.


Task 1) Draw up and complete a chart highlighting issues surrounding privacy in the novel and today’s society. Do you see any similarities? Which situation do you think would be/is worse to live in, and why?

e.g. in the novel, Telescreens are everwhere  –  in our society, there are lots of CCTV surveillance cameras

Task 2) Compare and contrast the concepts of technological surveillance that Orwell predicted in “1984” and the forms of technological surveillance that are used today. How accurate were his predictions? What further developments do you predict we will witness in the next 20-30 years?

Task 3) “The impact of a privacy violation differs if the policy is implemented by a government or by a corporation.” Discuss –  Does it matter who is violating your privacy? Why (not)?

Task 4) Discuss ways in which the news media may shape public opinion regarding privacy issues. For example, what might be the effects of a nightly news feature that discusses economic losses due to employee drug abuse? What if it featured an employee who had a false positive drug test and was subsequently fired?

Task 5) Why are the following terms from the novel ironic? Find examples of where these ironies are highlighted in the novel and real life.

– fighting for peace
– ‘unpeople’
– thought crime

Task 6) Have you ever felt that your privacy is threatened by the government, corporations, the media, or anyone else? Have you ever had any experiences in which you felt that your rights to privacy were violated? Have you ever been in a situation that is reminiscent of a situation that occurs in “1984”? Can individuals do anything to protect their own privacy?

See also:

George Orwell’s 1984: Comprehension & Revision Questions

George Orwell’s 1984: Comprehension & Revision Questions


George Orwell’s novel “1984” has long since been one of my favourite novels, and has even had an influence on the English language. Many of Orwell’s coinages, such as Big Brother, Room 101 and Newspeak, are now comonly used when describing totalitarian or overarching behaviour by an authority. Even the author’s name has come to be used in adjective form: “Orwellian” can be used to describe any real world scenario reminiscent of his novel “1984”. In the novel, Orwell portrays a snapshot of how the various mechanisms of a totalitarian state affect individuals among the population. Many literary analyses have also highlighted parallels between behaviours and events in the story and recent or current real-world situations. With this novel, Orwell predicted the intrusion of technology into people’s everday lives, for example, and some fans even see modern inventions (e.g. surveillance cameras) as Orwell’s propechies coming true.



For EFL/ESOL teachers, the novel is not only an interesting read, but has plenty of potential for use in the classroom. In its unadapted form, the novel is probably too difficult for all but the most advanced learners, but lower-level learners could also work with excerpts or simplified versions. Film versions of the story can also aid comprehension.  Reading the novel can either be set as homework (checked regularly with comprehension or vocabulary and other language tasks), or made into a class project, where students act out different scenes.

The following tasks are intended to be completed after the entire novel has been read, and will check that students have understood the plot. The tasks will also provide opportunities for them to practise skills such as summarising, defining, and justifying their own opinions. Further follow-up tasks and discussions will follow in a later post.



Characters Match the character on the right to the characteristic on the left. One character and one characteristic are not used. Justify your decisions with an example from the story.
a. Antique Dealer/Thought Police                        Parsons

b. Winston’s “instructor”                                     Syme

c. War hero                                                      Goldstein

d. His children turned him in.                             Charrington

e. Wrote Newspeak                                           Latimer

f. Worked in Newspeak                                      Rutherford

g. Memorised Shakespeare                                Winston

h. Seen in the Chestnut Tree Cafe early              Julia

i. “The last man”                                               Comrade Oglivy

j. Arch-enemy                                                   O’Brien



Events Put the following events in the order of their occurrence within the novel.Link the chronology of events using adverbials of time and other transitions.
Winston begins to love Big Brother

Winston first sees and hates Julia

Winston is shot

Julia and Winston meet in the woods

Julia and Winston are arrested in the buff

The Old World battles with nuclear weapons

Julia passes Winston a note

O’Brien places the rats in Winston’s face

Winston’s Mom and Sister disappear

Winston is taken to Room 101


Quotes Identify the following quotes: Who said it and why is the quote important or significant?

1. “If you keep the small rules, you can break the big ones.”

2. “Of all the horrors in the world-a rat!!”

3. “You do not exist.”

4. “It’s a beautiful thing-the destruction of words.”

5. “…for the souls of men awaited the coming of the stars.”

6. “We are the dead.”

7. “I betrayed you.”

8. “We will meet again in a place where there is no darkness.”

9. “I hate purity. I hate goodness.”

10. “I tried to do my best for the party, didn’t I? I’ll get off with five years, don’t you think?”


Definitions Define the following words as they were used in “1984”.

1. Crimestop

2. Doublethink

3. Duckspeak

4. Ingsoc

5. Oldspeak

6. Doubleplusungood

7. Miniluv

8. Joycamp

9. Sexcrime

10. Unperson