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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. Review the following list of Party practices, then review the many parallels and news stories covered during our unit on 1984. Select ONE DOMINANT Party control practice as your focus, then develop an essay that demonstrates its presence in OW.

Choose a contemporary focus that allows you to explore how OOW effectively practices one of the following Party Control Techniques: Newspeak, Doublethink, Propaganda, 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.Demonstrate the Presence of Newspeak in OOW. Find examples that fall under one or several categories, including political language, corporate language, and advertising speak.

C.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 to an extremely Orwellian scenario.

  1. Discuss HOW many of 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.  Do we have generic media forms? Are they dumbing us down or misleading us?  Are they conditioning us to enjoy only a narrow range of primitive emotions and simple language?

  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. Highlight the ways that both the Party and our media encourage these behaviors (encouragement may take the form of disguising the behavior as fun or “comedy” or “rebellion” or “mature action”).

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 an Orwellian principle as the driver of 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 in different paragraphs, as the essay progresses.  In either case, you should begin with the Orwellian practice then move to your contemporary examples, not the reverse.

In terms of 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

Monday Dec. 4-Topic Selection

Tuesday Dec. 5- Two High Stakes Sources Are Due

Wed. Dec. 6-Introduction, Principle Summary, & Complete Outline Due

Thursday-Revision Exercises in Class

Friday Dec. 8 –Complete final draft DUE AT BEGINNING OF CLASS for final revision exercises

A successful essay will have:

·      A clear assessment of the 1984-OW connection.  This is your thesis.

·      An introduction establishing a meaningful context for your thesis.

  • Clear explanation of the 1984 principle that will be the focus of essay (either in one careful section of the essay or at the beginning of each body paragraph).
  • Body paragraphs with clear topic sentences, effective quotes from the novel, and precise examples of parallels that are supported by quotes from contemporary sources.

·      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