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US-12-Becker: 1984: Assignment




Assignment: Orwell’s vision in 1984 portrays a government that relies on aggressive manipulation to control Party members like main character Winston Smith.  Although life in OW is not as oppressive as it is in Oceania, parallel control techniques abound. Consider the many ways that our media its news stories parallel Orwellian Party and propaganda practices, then select one media focus as described below.  Develop an essay in which you explore HOW your media focus exhibits one or more of the following Party Control Techniques: Newspeak, Doublethink, Propaganda, Hate, Extreme Surveillance, False News, the Revision of History.


Sample Topics

A.Analyze a Contemporary News Story in Orwellian terms.  Choose a contemporary (current or recent) news story and explore how it has been developed and delivered by our news media.  As you discuss the story, explain how the STORY ITSELF and the NEWS MEDIA’S REPORTING PROCESS (different news outlets) display some of the Orwellian techniques listed above. Paragraph topics should be driven by Orwellian techniques. Details from the news story are essential to a successful essay. Sample stories include Russian manipulation of information to sway our election, political leaders asserting falsehoods and getting backing from mainstream media,  journalists or news outlets producing fake news (Jayson Blair), and Comrade Ogilvy-like propaganda (Jessica Lynch story).


B.The Party=The Media

  1. Note how Media & Technology today function as Orwellian surveillance tools. Explore how the many instances of contemporary data collection about our habits could add up to an extremely Orwellian scenario.


  1. Discuss HOW the novel’s strange comments about The Party could be applied to the Media in our world.  Specifically, compare the Party’s tactics and/or the EFFECTS of these tactics to Media tactics or Media effects.  How does our Media “hollow [us] out” and make us incapable of feeling normal emotion?  How is our Media dumbing us down, distracting us like proles, and making ignorance our strength?  Do we live amidst a narrower range of words and thoughts?


  1. Compare Winston’s self-destructive quest to behaviors portrayed and encouraged by OW media.  Discuss HOW the Media Party (or another Party in OW) lures us to follow a self-destructive quest just as the Party does in the novel.  You might examine technology itself, considering screen time and consumption habits, or you could examine media content (glorifying insane behavior on “reality” shows or fail videos). You might even focus on the marketing of unhealthy products like alcohol or tobacco or fast food or nutritional supplements.

Contemporary Examples: Doubleplusgood essays will rely on original examples of contemporary parallels as opposed to those examples reviewed in class. Writing a rough draft and conferencing with your teacher will help you focus your thinking and your editing!


Organization: In your introduction, be sure to establish the Orwellian principles relevant to your analysis.  In the body of the essay, you might cover 1984 in a detailed paragraph at the beginning and then briefly refer back to the novel in subsequent paragraphs. Or you might introduce several Orwellian principles as the essay progresses.  In either case, you should begin with the Orwellian practice then move to your contemporary examples, not the reverse.

Emphasis: More attention should be given to your contemporary examples since they demonstrate your own thinking about your topic.  Be sure to use precise examples from BOTH the novel and the OW. Note that general comments about technology or people’s habits or a television series or a kind of media are fairly superficial. Here is one ex. of a bland and obvious generality: “Everyone today is addicted to an iPhone, so people are practically clones looking at their screens all the time.”  Refer to specific news stories, news outlets, apps, tech functions, games, places, movies, television episodes, ads, distinctive habits of use, or distinctive groups of people and specific human habits.  The more precise your example, the better your essay!

Due Dates

Tuesday Feb. 13-Topic Selection and Outline Due

Thursday Feb. 15-Draft of Body Paragraphs Due (all quotes included)

Wednesday Feb. 21 –Complete final draft DUE AT BEGINNING OF CLASS  

A successful essay will have:

·      A precise Media focus and a clear explanation of its Orwellian qualities. This is your thesis.

·      An introduction which establishes a media context for your analysis.

  • A clear explanation of the Orwellian principle(s) that will be the focus of essay.
  • Body paragraphs containing clear topic sentences, meaningful quotes from the novel, and quotes from articles describing your media subject.

·      Use of TWO HIGH STAKES SOURCES! These must be cited in your text.

·      A conclusion that establishes the larger significance of your analysis.

·      Mature tone, dynamic word choice, and varied sentence structure.

  • Careful proofreading to eliminate sentence fragments, comma errors, and basic drafting errors.

·      Proper use of MLA format for all aspects of the paper, including citations.


Questions? Ask Ms. Stuart