Why Orwell Wrote 1984
Unlike many dystopian novels, which are set in distant and unfamiliar futures,
Prior to writing the novel, Orwell had watched the communist revolution in Russia and volunteered to fight against the Fascist government in the Spanish Civil War. At first supportive of the Russian Revolution, Orwell changed his opinions after realizing that behind the veneer of justice and equality lurked widespread famines, forced labor, internal power struggles, and political repression. While fighting in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell became disillusioned with elements within the resistance forces that he felt wanted to replace the Fascist government with an authoritarian regime of its own. These experiences provide much of the political satire of
The Spanish Civil War catalyzed Orwell and made him highly critical of authoritarian tendencies on the left. Much of the Party’s brutality, paranoia, and betrayals are drawn from the Great Purges of 1936–1938 in the Soviet Union. Over 600,000 people died in an official purge of the Communist Party, in an era that also included widespread repression of the public, police surveillance and execution without trial, and an atmosphere of fear.
The rise of Hitler and the scapegoating of Jews and other “undesirables” also had a profound effect on Orwell. He realized that mass media was a key factor in Hitler’s rise, enabling prominent figures and organizations to shape public opinion on a broad scale. The intrusive telescreens and the Party’s frequent parades and events are drawn from Nazi Party public propaganda and its marches and rallies.
Orwell also included everyday life experiences from World War II London. The unappetizing food, inconsistent electricity, and scarcity of basic household goods in
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