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S E R I E S E D I T O R S :W. GEIGER ELLIS, ED.D.,UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA, EMERITUSandARTHEA J. S. REED, PH.D.,UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, RETIREDA T E A C H E R ’ S G U I D E T O T H E S I G N E T C L A S S I C E D I T I O N O FGEORGE ORWELL’S1984By LISA SESSIONS, Asheville Junior High, Asheville, NC
I N T R O D U C T I O NGeorge Orwell’s1984offers a thought-provoking learning experience for high schools students. It provides challenging reading,stimulating themes of dehumanization, isolation, repression, loneliness, social class disparity, and abuse of power, and a basisupon which students can form their own opinions about today’s society.1984’s relevance to today’s world makes it anexcellent choice for secondary school readers who hold our future in their hands, whether as tomorrow’s leaders or as followers.Some years ago, Americans envisioned a future that would evolve predictably from the past as a type of extension of the familiar.With the sixties, however, our idyllic dreams were shattered and new visions began to form.1984, written in 1948 andpublished in 1949, was intended as a warning against totalitarian tendencies rather than as a prophetic work. Now thatthe year1984has passed, many may scoff at the warning, but those who do would be wise to look at the present a bitmore closely. Currently, we have subliminal messages, two-way televisions, computer viruses threatening to endanger ourmuch depended-upon information systems (with possible global impact), and countries all over the world committingatrocities against their own people. Recent political campaigns have shown us explicitly the extent to which propagandahas corrupted our own language. Politicians have perfected their own type of “Newspeak.”Examine our postmodern style in literature and you will find themes of isolation, repression, and loneliness. The charactersof postmodern literature lead surface lives that are mere facades put up for the benefit of appearances. Unfortunately, thisis the only fantasy to be found in the writing. It is as if imagination has given up, crushed by the weight of the world’sproblems. Like the citizens of Oceania, many postmodern writers have become mere recorders of a hopeless world ratherthan creators of a new one.Of those of us who do not scoff at the warning, few think that we will actually be overtaken by a totalitarian intruder;rather, it is the creeping, small things that scare us. Like spiders and snakes, they approach unnoticed.1984depicts adystopia, a world that went wrong, a world of manipulation and control which uses its people against themselves likepawns. A look at our corporate business world today provides a startling comparison to1984‘s world of control andpower plays. On the international scene, it has always been easier for us to sit back and criticize the Soviet Union than todeal with our own problems. Perhaps the changes coming about in that country and in the other Soviet bloc nations will