In 1984 the protagonist, Winston, attempts to “stay human” in the face
of a dehumanizing, totalitarian regime. What, according to Orwell,
does it mean to be human? How does the governing body in 1984 exploit
certain tendencies, weaknesses and even strengths that human beings
possess in order to, ironically, control and dehumanize humankind?
Based on Winston’s fate, what is Orwell ultimately arguing
(advocating, criticizing and/or warning against)?
*Some of your ideas/topics that can be addressed using this prompt or
some version of it:
• How can human nature work for as well as against political oppression?
• What does being human consist of? What qualities define “human”?
• What is necessary to remain human, to protect the qualities that
make us human?
• Exploration of different kinds of love in the novel (romantic love
for Julia, exploitative/manipulated love of O’Brien, selfless
compassionate love of a mother) and their larger importance
• How does the Party exploit human nature/human characteristics to
maintain control over the citizens of Oceania? – what does this say
about political power and individual freedom? Why does it matter?
• The importance of various forms of human expression – art, language, etc.
• How is it possible to turn a rebel into a faithful supporter of the
government, and, more importantly, why is it important to understand
this? Techniques of surveillance, oppression and torture and how these
are related to human nature
• How is emotional connection with political figures potentially
threatening to political and personal freedom?
• The significance of Winston’s moral ambiguity – how does Winston’s
moral ambiguity relate to Orwell’s larger point/meaning?
• Exploration of the power of fear and the power of love
• Why does Orwell emphasize the various facets of human nature – e.g.,
the ability to reason/think rationally as well as the ability to feel
a range of emotions independent of outside manipulation – and how does
this more complex view of human nature relate to the question of
Source: Northshore School District
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